Alex Calzegues dream to barrel across the waves at 150km/hr powered only by the wind has led to a commercial proposal for shipping as it struggles with efficiencies and emissions.
Alex Calzergues once held a world speed record for kite boarding and sailing, being the first person to top 100km per hour, even being the fastest person on the water powered by only the wind. And having lost it a few years ago he wants it back. Only the journey to grab the speed record again has led him and a team of specialists to develop a service they say would be ideal for shipping. It is not about speed for shipping, but about efficiencies, but the parallels are clear they say.
Kite boarding or kite surfing is a heady, exhilarating mix of surfing and flying a giant kite on the water. To be a speed windsurfing champion requires a lot of know how about the natural forces of the weather, the structure of the craft and no doubt bravery.
But Calzergues is not content with being a past holder of the record, which for a sailing vessel is held by the Vestas Sailrocket at 121.1 km/hr (which is 65.45 knots), he wants to reach 150 km/h and his next record attempt will be in 2024 in what can best be described as a two man rocket like tube tethered to a massive kite sail and anchored to the water by a unique long hydrofoil blade. It looks somewhat like a black fighter jet body, without wings but with a slender wire stretching skyward to the sail and a thin cable underneath going down to the underwater unique foil to create an opposing force and thrust. The foil itself looks something like a small aircraft with a tin fuselage, wings and tail elements which are there to create an opposite downward thrust to counteract the upwards thrust of the kite.
Calzergues and his team, who are in south France, have formed Syroco, based in Marseille, France, a name honouring one of the most famous predictable winds in the country, albeit not the one Calzergues himself learned to sailboard on. Calzergues grew up kite surfing on the flat waters of the Rhone Estuary near Marseille which are famously influenced by another of France’s regular winds, the Mistral.
The project to make the fastest vessel on water, or slightly above water, does not come without a lot of investment from sponsors, technology research and computational research. It is these latter two elements which Syroco are now building into a product aimed at the shipping sector, using a SaaS model and a digital twin concept where ship data is assimilated and can then be compared to real world experiences onboard.
Syroco is looking to offer the kind of digital services that many other digital companies are now offering. So how can it differentiate itself in a market that some shipowners may find confusing and challenging. The work the Syroco team has done in assessing different craft designs to achieve the speed record has been a help in developing the commercial venture says Yves, and it is this development work and its own software to solve its decision-making dilemmas that will set it apart according to Yves de Montcheuil, co-founder and the brains behind the software development.
He recognises there are competitors, while Syroco’s software has emerged from its speed record work, BAR technologies for example has developed software and a wing sail design that it is also pushing into shipping, an industry that is taking a increasingly serious position on wind assist or wind propulsion as it faces regulatory requirements to reduce energy use and CO emissions.
Syroco’s speed record attempt is probably as far from being a commercial vessel as one can imagine, or even a racing yacht for that matter. It is a capsule, shaped like the fuselage of a air force jet, with a huge kite above it to propel it, and a wire tether below it attached to an airplane shaped foil, bringing the pod to be in equilibrium between wingsail and foil, just above the waterline but being pulled forward at more than 150km/hr.
That is their first moonshot. The promise is of others with reference being made to a world attempt to Bertrand Picard’s solar powered transglobal flight “Solar Impulse”