Yesterday saw the first wind at Canyon Ferry, in the 2 weeks that I have been here. As a trough moved through the area, the winds picked up at about midday, to 15 mph, then steadily grew, peaking at around 30 mph by 17:00.
I got the Greenbird ready, tested the parachute deployment, strapped in the GPS and camera equipment (2 mini HD cams, one pointing forwards, the other backwards) and set off.
For all of these tests, you must remember it is essentially the same machine that I ran on land, both on tarmac in the UK and dirt in Nevada, so we have good performance figures to compare against. The initial acceleration was impressive and better than on land, reaching 40 mph without me even touching the sail controls. From then on a slight pumping of the wing sheeting pressure system pulled in the wing and we were off. But it very quickly became apparent, that the ice is just way too rough, despite my optimistic idea that we had enough room, it was not the case.
After a few slow circuits I was confident everything was working so pushed a little harder, peaking at 73 mph, but the ride was nothing short of ‘brutal’. Even with the ‘plank’ flexing nicely, hitting a 3inch ice bump at 70 mph in a yacht weighing 850kg, is a rough experience. The yacht bounces around, skips sideways very slightly while it regains its ‘edge’ then off again, pretty wild accelerations in all directions. Shakes the boat to pieces and is definitely not ‘fast’. The problem is that with these bumps every 30 feet, there is no let up. The further offshore you go the worse the bumps (actually old snow drifts) get, so I was confined to a narrow strip at the edge of the lake. However, even in these rough conditions, the Greenbird handled very well, good control of direction and power, no failures, which is a testament to the structure and overall strength.
This picture of my track, overlayed on the lake surface shows how little room we have to play with.
It was so rough, that BOTH onboard cameras malfunctioned, capturing only the first few seconds of each trip. This was a real shame because it was a pretty spectacular ride from the cockpit.
I was initially disappointed with the speed, as the yacht has gone a lot faster on land, but once the wind and GPS data was downloaded, I began to understand the numbers. Due to the confined space, I could only sail at close angles to the wind (into or away from it) and not perpendicular, which is fastest. The wind was coming from the prevailing direction at 320 deg. The fastest speed was 73 mph sailing at 51 deg into the true wind, is about 22 – 24 mph of wind. Now this is actually pretty respectable and proves record speeds are easily achievable sailing at the optimum angle to the wind of 110 deg. I will analyse the data over the next few days and present some performance predictions next week.
So what can we conclude from all this. Unless we encounter some unexpected grip problems at high speed, we easily have the performance to destroy all current records, but you do need almost perfect ice, which it is far from right now. Worse still it is not going to get better until they have a big thaw towards the end of the season (March), so we will have to make a plan whether we hang around for a little more testing experience, or realise there is nothing more to learn, until the ice is better, not decided yet.
I will be analysing the data over the next few days and will report back shortly. I also had GPS recorders on the other, conventional ice boats sailing in the same conditions, so it will be interesting to compare the data. Finally I will try to piece together the bits of the video that are usable, and get this posted.
The speed record: (note 30 Km sailed)
Greenbird speed graph
This is the wind record from our on site weather station:
Blue is 1min avg, Purple is peak gust speed
This is the nice ice, close in, and it certainly was smooth and fast in this area, but unfortunately it is just way too small:
Ice yachts on nice ice
The rough ice further out……