From Royal Southampton Yacht Club
Royal Southampton honorary member, and Southampton Solent University graduate Geoff Holt, the first quadriplegic sailor to sail solo across the Atlantic, unveiled the University’s latest technological development – an innovation which it claims could change the face of small boat inshore racing.
This year’s PSP Southampton Boat Show will give the industry its first real look at ‘Solent Whisper’ – a 5.9m sailing catamaran with a cutting-edge hydrofoil system.
Designed and built using the state-of the-art yacht design and engineering facilities at Solent’s Warsash Maritime Academy and city-centre campus, the catamaran’s technology has already attracted attention from world-class sailors during sea trials this summer.
The revolutionary new hydrofoil system provides stability, ease and safety, which along with an affordable projected purchase price, has the potential to offer America’s Cup-style sailing to the masses. The craft’s easy and stable sailing style also mean it could prove popular and accessible for disabled sailors.
Primarily designed with ease and safety in mind, Solent Whisper has also exceeded expectations on the speed front. It comfortably achieves over 25 knots and it can ‘fly’ on its foils in as little as five knots of wind.
The new hydrofoil technology is the brainchild of Ron Price, a Solent yacht and powercraft design graduate who is now Senior Lecturer in Naval Architecture at the University’s Warsash Maritime Academy.
The prototype is the result of months of hard work made possible by the technical experience, support and skills from colleagues across the University and the state-of-the-art facilities at both the engineering workshop at the maritime academy and the composites lab at Solent.
“I was very fortunate to have access to the incredible skill and knowledge of the engineering technicians, the support of staff, and use of the superb facilities at the University,” says Ron.”
It is hoped that a retail production version will be available for the London Boat Show in January 2015.
“We are engineering the boat in a way that the design is smart enough to keep the production costs low,” he says.
“I’m hoping that my design ideas will make inshore and small boat racing more accessible and affordable for the average club racer, those who sail for pleasure and people with disabilities,” adds Ron.
Southampton Solent University has a reputation for leading the world in maritime education and technology, and Ron is one of a long line of design graduates who continue to shape the world of sailing including: Jason Ker, working on Sir Ben Ainslie’s GB America’s Cup bid; Guillame Verdier, who designed the yachts that came both first and second at 2012 Vendee Globe; German Frers Jr; Bill Dixon; Ed Dubois; Rob Humphreys; and Juan Kouyoumdjian.
On the sailing-side world-class Solent alumni include: Helena Lucas, who won Great Britain’s first ever sailing gold at the 2012 Paralympics; Paul Goodison who took gold at the 2008 Olympics; and Herve Piveteau who sailed to victory in the Production Boat Class at the Mini Transat 2008, the French equivalent of the OSTAR.
The designer, Ron Price trained at Sandhurst as an Officer Cadet and then spent seven years in the in the Armed forces, before starting his degree in Yacht Production and Design at Southampton Solent University – alongside Paralympic sailing gold medallist Helena Lucas. Following graduation he started his marine engineering career at Rockport Engineering where he was responsible for Design Systems and Composite Engineering. Ron returned to the University as a lecturer on the Yacht Production degree courses, before moving over to Warsash Maritime Academy as a senior lecturer in Naval Architecture, where he currently teaches.
Solent Whisper Quick Facts
What is it that makes this boat special?
The innovative hydrofoil technology makes the boat simple, stable but still fast – you do not need to be a sailing ‘rock star’ to experience performance sailing.
What makes it so stable?
She has an active ride height control which sets the height above the water that each hull flies at.
Why is it so easy to sail?
As she is light the boat is very responsive, with low sheet loads. This combined with the ride height control – acting on both hulls, makes the boat very stable
How does it perform compared with say, a moth or a 49er?
It is substantially faster than a 49er. At present it is not able to match the speed of a moth upwind, but we are working on this. Right now the moth is still very much the benchmark but we are getting close, with the plan being to equal if not exceed the performance of a moth.
Who do you see racing this boat?
It’s a boat for the average club racer and above. The boat is easy to sail in its stable mode, but at the top level expert sailors will be able to tweak the foil set-up to sail the boat more effectively.
What kind of price point do you envisage?
How and where were the hydrofoils designed?
The hydrofoils were designed using Southampton Solent University software.
Where was the boat built?
The boat was built primarily at the University’s Warsash Maritime Academy. The foils were made in the composites lab at Southampton Solent’s city campus.
What sea trials has it been through, and what were the results?
Initial tests were carried out in light winds and flat water, but as we have learnt more we have increased both the wind speed and sea state conditions. The boat has exceeded expectations at each stage.
During testing the boat was deliberately allowed to lift out of the water, fall off the foils and launch off a wave, to allow the foil to clear the surface. Like the Americas Cup boats we are making foiling gybes and tacks.
What is the top speed it has achieved?
The boat comfortably achieves over 25 knots.
What are the lightest winds it can foil in?
Take off can be achieved in as little as 5 knots, but with winds of 6 to 8 knots the boat flies comfortably and at speed.
What is the next stage of development for the boat?
There are two elements to the development; The University is funding a research project looking at the development of hydrofoils, and at the same time a production boat is being developed to take advantage of ‘smart’ engineering techniques. This will enable the boat to be manufactured in the UK, whilst still keeping the final costs comparable to that of conventional catamarans
When will the boat be available on the market?
The plan is to have a production version available for the London Boat Show in January (2015 NDR).