SailGP’s nine-strong flying F50 fleet will break the 100 km/h speed barrier when upcoming technical advancements are introduced, SailGP boss Russell Coutts has revealed.
France set a new SailGP racing speed record at the Range Rover France Sail Grand Prix in Saint-Tropez last month, hitting a new speed of 99.94 km/h during the third Fleet Race. But this record is set to be beaten again when in-progress technical advancements are introduced to the fleet’s foiling F50 catamaran, SailGP boss Coutts said.
Speaking to ROCKWOOL’s Into the Depths, Coutts said: “The constraint at the moment is that once the boats get to 90 km/h+, the teams are struggling to steer the boat with the rudders.”
This is due to cavitation, which occurs when the pressure on one side of the foil becomes so low that the water begins to boil. Cavitation increases drag and reduces lift, causing instability.
“I’ve never been at those speeds in any sail boat,” Coutts said, “but what I’m told is that the boat starts to shake and it feels like an aircraft in turbulence and the faster you go, the less control you have.
“When you’re in a tight situation with a fleet of F50s all trying to gun it down to Mark One, you can imagine it will be pretty intimidating to suddenly lose a degree of control on the rudders,” he said.
However, all this will change with the introduction of new rudders, which are currently in development and will allow the ‘boats to break through the 100 km/h barrier’, even when paired with the current foils. The introduction of redesigned foils, which are currently in production, will further increase the onset of cavitation by around 10-11 km/h, Coutts revealed.
“With the new rudders and the new foils, you will be seeing speeds of 110 km/h, which is amazing in a sail boat and pretty scary.”
As a result, SailGP is currently designing a Halo driver crash protection system similar to those used on Formula 1 racing cars to ‘protect the sailors in the event of a collision’.
“We really want to improve some of the safety areas and develop a Halo,” Coutts said, revealing the current concept is for a ‘semi-circle transparent structure’ which will sit ‘over the top of the outside edge of the cockpits.”
Coutts revealed he discussed the concept with F1 driver Sergio Perez, who joined SailGP in Saint-Tropez alongside Max Verstappen to drive the United States F50 ahead of official racing.
In conversation with Coutts, Perez described the catamaran’s cockpit as 'really open’, Coutts relayed. “I said [to him] we’re developing a Halo-like concept for that and he said - yeah, you should.”
Paired with this is a collision warning system, which is already in use and warns drivers when there is an approaching danger of collision.
SailGP is also developing a Kevlar patch for the side of the F50s, which will ‘stop the bows of other boats penetrating inside the cockpits’.
“That’s improving the collision response of the crash bow, because if a bow is in contact we don’t want that bow to be too inflexible,” Coutts explained. This means the impacted bow will ‘disintegrate to an extent’, controlling the deceleration. “We don’t want an instant deceleration, that will be very dangerous for the boat doing the collision,” Coutts said.
“You’ll see some new exciting components introduced onto the F50s over the next two seasons that I think will be really interesting for the tech fans out there,” he said.
Elsewhere, Coutts revealed more details about the ‘fully fledged F50 simulator’ currently in progress and set to be delivered in ‘about 18 months’.
This simulator will be a ‘mock up a full F50’, Coutts revealed, where ‘a six-person crew will be able to drill everything, including crossing sides’.
The introduction of the simulator will transform the teams’ ability to train off the water and supercharge the development of the league’s female athletes and upcoming youth sailors.
“The whole talent program will dramatically take a step up once we get to that stage - the acceleration and learning of the top talent will dramatically improve.”