Meeting the challenge has been Techno Italia, the maker of the Hydrodrive brand of hydraulic steering. The company has been selected as a technical supplier to the Swiss SP80 project, which aims to smash the current record of 65.45 knots (121.1kph). This was set in 2012 by Paul Larsen on Vestas Sailrocket 2.
“The Swiss-designed SP80 is a 10m carbon-fibre trimaran that will use a kite for propulsion. With speeds of up to 80 knots envisaged, there is no room for error, so the steering has to be precise, with no kickback and absolutely no slack. Hydrodrive has a reputation for solidly-built components that serve the full range of leisure craft, from hi-performance race boats to sailing tri-marans, so was already on the shortlist. But, as CCO Dr Matteo Dadda told IBI, it isn’t just about having a tough piece of kit.
“It’s also about precision,” he explained. “Hydrodrive has come into the marine sector from the aircraft industry. The company is in its second generation of ownership by the Gobbo family who have made steering components for the likes of Rolls Royce, Fiat-Avio and Augusta. The same mindset demanded by aviation has been transferred to boats, which is why our systems are completely different from others. After a lot of testing of a number of systems, the SP80 team chose us.”
The SP80 boat itself is a remarkable piece of engineering, with the carbon hull built in collaboration with North Thin Ply Technology, Persico Marine and Sinergia Racing Group. The use of carbon also attracted a key sponsor, the Swiss high-end watch maker Richard Mille. The bespoke horologist is also a record holder, in this case for the thinnest mechanical watch ever made, at just 1.5mm thick. The secret was to use carbon fibre to enclose the mechanism.
The forces from the kite, which will propel the craft to 3 times the actual wind speed, are directed by a ‘power module’, a kind of articulating arm. This ensures the force of the lift is perfectly opposed by the underwater foils, eliminating the tendency to get airborne. In addition, the Hydrodrive system will keep the trimaran perfectly on course and should be easy for the engineers to install.
“Mr Gobbo has always gone for a philosophy of keeping systems simple,” Dadda explained. “Our hydraulic rams are always under pressure, so there is no leakage from the seals, and everything the installer needs is in one package. We say ‘plug in, fill up the reservoir, purge the air and use’. Whilst some hydraulic systems lose a lot of oil over their service life, ours should never need topping up, which is much better for the environment. That is why we are happy to give each system a 3-year warranty.”
The SP80 project is already enjoying good results from its tests and is scheduled to have a crack at the record next year. More on the project at www.sp80.ch and on the Hydrodrive product range at www.hydrodrive.eu