Helena Darvelid/VestasSailrocket Photos

Paul Larsen Biography


Speed is no stranger to the Australian-born sailor whose sailing career encompasses everything multihull—from crewing aboard the 86-foot Commodore Explorer in the 90s, to racing 60-foot trimarans, to joining Tracy Edward’s 2002 Maiden II campaign where her maxi multihull set the outright 24-hour record with Paul as watch leader and helmsman. But Paul’s greatest dream was to sail the fastest boat on the planet. It took 11 years, two radical boats, and a couple of frightening flip-overs (see link below to video footage), in the prototype Sailrocket to achieve, but through dogged determination and the unflagging support of his team and sponsors, Paul delivered.

Does the team’s huge accomplishment end here? Not in Paul’s book. “We maxed her out on that day with those settings,” he writes in his blog. “The run was a little loose, the back skeg was dragging a lot (you can see it on the aerial footage) and the pod was way too high (due to new levels of apparent wind). The wing sections were also slightly out of alignment under these new loads. With a little bit of re-configuring I know we could get over 70 knots (80.5 mph).”

Paul’s Blog—Don’t Miss His Blow-By-Blow Account
“We were using all the course this time. We hit it hard and the acceleration was rapid. We went straight into the 60's. The pod was instantly high and I sheeted in as hard as I could to try and get it down. I was now adding a pre-fix to "fast". It was now, "This is f*****g fast". That word is there for moments like this. I believe it ceases to be swearing.” Full blog

Sailrocket 2
Vesta Sailrocket 2 was purpose-built to establish an outright world sailing record. Constructed of carbon and titanium throughout, Harken blocks control the action of this “half boat/half plane” phenomenon. Important features include a main fuselage and beam angled at 20 degrees to the direction of travel for reduced drag and increased stability, a rigid asymmetrical wing sail set-up for starboard tack to suit Walvis Bay, and reduced-cavitation wedge-shaped foils to help prevent the boat from slipping sideways at speed. For lots more technical information about Vestas Sailrocket 2, the team and sponsors check out

Harken: Proud Suppliers of the World’s Fastest Hardware


Pic1_250It was with much excitement that we read our emails back in a cold and wet November to find that Paul Larsen and the Sailrocket team had obliterated the Outright World Speed Sailing record. The powerful carbon fiber craft reached a staggering 65.45 knots (75 mph) average speed as it flew over the 500 metre (.3 mile) course at Walvis Bay, Namibia on 24th November 2012. Peak boatspeed was a mind-bending 68.01 knots (78.02 mph). 

Harken has worked with the Vestas Sailrocket team since the beginning to make sure the right Harken hardware is used in each system to handle the loads at the extreme wind ranges Sailrocket 2 calls home.


What's on board?

Harken blocks, cleats and tracks are used throughout Vestas Sailrocket 2.Paul's aim was to keep the systems as compact as possible, so the blocks are from the small end of the Harken dinghy range-micro, wire, 40 mm Carbo, and 57 mm Ratchamatic®. He fitted a 150 Cam-Matic® cleat in the cockpit beside the steering wheel for the wing and uses it as his primary cleat when at speed. "The 150 is my 'third hand' and I often use it when something else needs adjustment-even whilst going flat out," states Paul.

sailrocket_pics-combined_250pxMost control systems route internally to keep the boat aerodynamically clean and use a variety of Harken blocks to:

  • Raise and lower the main foil from the cockpit
  • Trip the main foil
  • Control the outboard horizontal flap on the wing (regulates how high the leeward pod flies)
  • Sheet the wing
  • Raise the large rear 'skeg' to help VSR2 get started.

Paul installed a 6:1 Harken mainsheet system using 57 mm and 75 mm Carbo blocks to raise and lower the wing.

He raises the wing by pulling the 'strut' base along track recessed into the top of the beam with a Harken 27 mm CB car w/ 1642 pinstop.

A track end-stop fixes it in place.

After the wing is raised, the external 6:1 system and associated turn blocks/rigging is then removed, leaving the boat clean and aerodynamic. "On some runs where we are just checking stuff out and when outright speed is not the main priority, we leave this system in place as it makes the turn-around process between runs much quicker" Paul comments.  

Paul Larsen on Harken

"There are so many ways to break this boat and ruin a record attempt. We are very aware that the systems we have must be reliable from the moment we wheel Vestas Sailrocket 2 out of her tent until we return at the end of the day.

We have managed to reduce the number of people required to launch, rig, handle, sail and retrieve the boat to only 3. I am pretty impressed by this. For a high speed, one tack, winged boat sailing in winds up to 35 knots where the wing needs to be raised and lowered between each run, this is good going.

It also is the result of a lot of refinement but the functionality and reliability of our control systems are critical to our success. As most sailors know, the failure of the smallest component can escalate into the biggest problems.

We have been very satisfied with the performance of the Harken equipment and the great support we have received from the very beginning of our project. It really is great to be able to share the highs with Harken UK after they helped get us back on the 'road' after the lows.

Through the quality of their products and their belief in us and what we tried to achieve, Harken deserves to share the ownership of these fantastic Outright World Records."

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