Lake Gairdner – 5th October 2022
Emirates Team New Zealand’s land yacht ‘Horonuku’ has had its first day of sailing on Lake Gairdner, in South Australia, with pilot Glenn Ashby behind the wheel in his bid to eclipse the 2009 wind-powered world record speed of 202.9 km/h.
The moment has been a long time coming for the team after a prolonged wait for the lake to dry out. There has been unprecedented surface water that has remained on the lake all year, only just drying out in recent weeks.
The first sail marked the first of many new steps in the team’s bid to set a new benchmark, turning theory into practice, swapping simulations for salt, as the work to build up to the record speed begins in earnest.
“Its pretty surreal to be honest, it is not super windy today. Just an 8-10 knot breeze.” explained Ashby. “We just did a little tow to check in on the craft, to get a feel for the salt versus the last time we were on the runway at Whenuapai. So, to be here and to be into it is a dream come true.”
Horonuku was last run at Auckland’s Whenuapai Air Base back in May, and has since been transported to Australia, then trucked to Lake Gairdner, specially chosen as the flattest and fastest venue in Australasia suitable for the speeds Ashby will be aiming for.
But the day wasn’t just about getting rolling on the salt, there are significant challenges just to get Horonuku down to the lake surface and to get its 10m rig up in the air before starting to sail.
“Our goal for our first day is just to put the craft back together again and implement some of the new rigging systems and techniques that have been designed for rigging the craft on the salt itself.” explained Ashby. “In Auckland we had the luxury of forklifts and cranes to get set up but here we have to get the craft down to the lake and the rig in and upright without the use of cranes and forklifts. We wanted to do a test sail and get rolling to get a feel for the surface, and get it commissioned again.”
The isolation of the venue and realities of operating on the harsh salt-lake environment mean taking aim at the record will be no easy feat, but the first day was a momentous occasion in the campaign.
“We have had our first run on Lake Gairdner, it is interesting to understand the conditions we are working in now. But for everyone here today, thumbs up. But plenty of work to go that’s for sure.” said Shore Manager Sean Regan.
In the coming days and weeks Ashby and the Emirates Team New Zealand support team will test everything from tyres, trim and traction, then it’s a matter of waiting for Mother Nature to deliver the perfect conditions for a record attempt- wind, and lots of it, to claim the world record crown.
However, an unwelcome delivery of 11mm of rain and thunderstorms overnight has seen a return of surface water to the lake, a reminder of the volatility of the conditions on the Lake that are not entirely controllable.
Increased temperatures, clear skies, and a change in wind direction should see the water cleared again in the coming days.
Hamish Hooper, Emirates Team New Zealand