News from the London Boat Show today reveals Paul Larsen's latest speed project

It’s not surprising to find Paul Larsen, the man behind Sailrocket, involved with yet another wacky speed project that’s likely to blow away the competition at the Little America’s Cup later this year. Larsen, who was at the London Boat Show at Excel today, was bubbling with enthusiasm about his C Class catamaran one of two British boats that are currently in-build for the Cup in September in Newport Rhode Island.

Larsen is working closely with a team of aerospace engineers known as Invictus from Filton in Bristol who are using their aircraft wing designing skills, and materials and facilities provided by their employer, Airbus to build the boats. Norman Eijker and Mark Bishop are heading the design and build team, while John Downey, who was the last British challenger for the Cup in 1987 sailing Hinge, is heading the two-boat sailing team.

Leading the way in technology, and with few design and build rules (25ft loa, 14ft beam, 300sqft sail area, single trapeze), the C Class cat a true development class and has been experimenting and using solid wing sails instead of sailcloth since the 1970s. Because there are no limitations on weight, materials or cost, the class is incredibly specialised and expensive. As a guide the overall project cost of Steve Clark’s (the current Little America’s Cup holder) boat Cogito was 500,000 US dollars.

The evolution of the class is arguably the closest nautical equivalent to motor racing’s Formula 1 and, with designs reaching speeds of 30kts, it’s definitely no class for the faint-hearted.

According to Larsen, Sailrocket, the craft in which he hopes to break the outright world speed sailing record, is nearing completion and should be on the water by the end of February giving the Sailrocket team plenty of time to prepare for their assault on the record later in the year. In between speeding around trying to reach the 50kt barrier in that, Larsen will be preparing the C Class cat for what he hopes to be a successful bash at bringing the Little America’s Cup back to the UK. Larsen commented: “As well as being exciting in its own right, our C Class project is an important part of the development of Sailrocket because we eventually hope to use solid wing spars on her too and we can use what we’ve learnt here on Sailrocket.”

The wing spar, not surprisingly looks just like the wing of a plane and is every bit as intricate. Built of carbonfibre and birch, there are over 70 pulleys inside to control the flap mechanism and twist of the rig. Needless to say, capsizing is not really an option!

Larsen is hoping the two cats will be completed by the end of March, which gives him and his crewmate Helena Darvelid plenty of work-up time before the September showdown. Although there won’t be a vast fleet on the start line for the Challenge, Larsen hopes to see at least four boats there including possible entries of some of the older boats.

In the meantime, for a close look at a C Class cat, it’s worth taking a trip to the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, Cornwall where Lady Helmsman, the last British winner of the Little America’s Cup is on display.