Bid for the world's fastest sailboat starts here

A rendered image of what the wing-borne hydrofoil might look like.

A rendered image of what the wing-borne hydrofoil might look like.
Full Image (59.78K)

Friday, 26 October 2007

University of Adelaide engineering students are building a marine vessel they hope will break the world sailboat speed record.

The revolutionary craft - known as a wing-borne hydrofoil (WBHF) - is the first of its kind in the world and will be one of the dozens of final-year engineering student projects on display to the general public at the University's North Terrace Campus today (Friday 26 October).

A team of Mechanical Engineering students has been designing and building the first wing-borne hydrofoil sailing craft, based on the patented invention of an Adelaide mathematician and scientist, Stephen Bourn.

"The hydrofoil will literally 'fly' more like a plane than a boat," says student team leader Luke Rogers.

"There is a hull, but in place of a sail there is a wing, inclined and offset to the side, and in place of a keel there is a hydrofoil. The wing pulls the hull up to fly just above the waves smoothly, silently and incredibly fast."

Students have completed the hydrofoil's designs and have begun manufacturing the craft. Extensive use of carbon fibre composite sandwich construction, with the latest vacuum resin infusion techniques, are helping to ensure high strength and minimum weight.

Parts of the craft as well as the full designs will be on display to the public today.

Mr Rogers says when completed, the hydrofoil should:

  • sail more than twice as fast as the wind;
  • break the world sailing speed record (currently 48.7 knots = 90.2 kph);
  • become the "Formula One" vehicle of sailboat racing; and
  • create a new extreme sport.

Inventor Stephen Bourn says the design was inspired after a fresh look at the basic principles of sailing.

"An exploration of the absolute limits to performance led to a revelation of a new fundamental 'law of motion' applicable to all sail craft," Mr Bourn says.

"Paradoxically, in light to moderate winds, with the hull still in the water, the wing-borne hydrofoil will be just as fast but easier and safer to sail than the very quickest currently existing boats, because of inherent stability and self-righting properties."

Mr Rogers says: "The most amazing thing about the wing-borne hydrofoil is that after working on the design we know it will work, even though at first sight it looks impossible."

The students and the inventor have already secured a number of sponsors and are currently seeking further support to complete the project next year.

"We'd like to be able to finish the vessel next year so we can challenge the world sailing speed record," Mr Rogers says.

The hydrofoil is just one of many final-year student projects on display at the University of Adelaide today.

Exhibitions being staged by three schools - Mechanical Engineering, Electrical & Electronic Engineering and Computer Science - give students the opportunity to showcase their hard work, technical expertise and innovation to a wide audience, including members of the public, industry and government.

Many of the dozens of student projects have industry and government sponsors, and the exhibitions put students in direct contact with key industry figures, giving them an advantage when entering the graduate employment market.

The projects cover fields as diverse as aerospace, robotics, computer vision, electronic systems, combustion, noise and vibration control, signal processing, networks, evolutionary computing, T-rays and automotive engineering, among many others.

WHAT: School of Mechanical Engineering Final-Year Project Exhibition
WHERE: Level 4, Union Building, and the Cloisters, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN: 10.00am-4.00pm Friday 26 October

WHAT: School of Computer Science and School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering Final-Year Project Exhibitions
WHERE: Room EM205, Engineering and Mathematics Building, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN: 9.00am-4.00pm Friday 26 October


Contact Details

Luke Rogers
Wing-borne hydrofoil (WBHF) student team Manager
School of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: 0402 559 588

Stephen Bourn
Wing-borne hydrofoil (WBHF) inventor
Mobile: 0438 879 379

Dr Ben Cazzolato
Associate Professor
School of Mechanical Engineering
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5449
Mobile: 0402 785 974

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762