Well, it is getting chilly here in San Francisco so it must be getting towards that time of year, the Ice!
I have been working out here during the summer on a radical sailing project, not speed record stuff, but great fun with huge potential…. more on that later. My thoughts are now on the ice record and getting the Greenbird ice yacht up together to take on this season’s ice.
Last year the rough ice (@ 70 mph) took its toll and there are a few bearings, etc that need replacing. I am therefore going to fly to the craft (sitting in its box near the lake) and drive it back from Montana (18 hr drive) this weekend and work on it for a while in our nice hanger in San Francisco. There are a few modifications I would like to do, so when the ice forms in Mid December, I will be ready and only a couple of days drive away from being set up.
So what modifications? Well, there are a number of things I would like to do including a nose job, a modified rig and parachute deployment system.
1) New Nose – this is really a nose extension to try and absorb some of the bumps. Even though the craft geometry has been proven to work well on a smooth surface like tarmac, without the soft tyres, the hard ice transmits severe vibration through the craft (despite the rubber shock absorbers we currently have). Therefore, adding a long flexible ’springboard’ as it is know in ice sailing, helps absorb the bumps and aid steering.
2) Modified rig – This yacht was designed a bit like a drag racer, to accelerate hard in a short distance, on the runway in the UK. This means it has a large sail area and is not necessarily optimised for top speed. Now adapted for ice, it could manage with a fraction of its sail area, so I may make a new mast and remove the lower sail section.
I will explain the pros and cons of this at a later date.
3) Parachute deployment – It may sound silly, but stopping is one of my big worries. The craft is heavy with very little friction (air drag), and unlike the land version, I can’t reverse the sail, so stopping may actually be very tricky. To help this I made a parachute, which made a big difference in last years tests, but I never made a bullet proof deployment system. As the lake has rather hard edges, it is essential that this parachute system works reliably, so a spring loaded ejection system will be incorporated.
So what are the chances of going really FAST? (as in faster than the land record of 126.2 mph) The unsatisfactory answer is that I am really not sure. Despite a huge theoretical drag reduction (loosing wheels for skates) it turns out that conventional ice yachts are actually slower than their land yacht counterparts. The reason for this is unclear and I am determined to find out. The reality is that it may take me a few years of testing, and probably a new craft or more to get to the answer. Either way, when I have finished it will be as close to the fastest wind powered speed on ice as possible, and I will know the answer to my question of what is the fastest wind powered vehicle on the planet.
It should be a very interesting journey and we have never been so prepared to take on the challenge. I will be revealing all my discoveries here and would welcome any thoughts or suggestions that may be of assistance.