Water is a bad thing for record setting

Published on August 12th, 2022

America’s Cup defender Team New Zealand has been pursuing a pet project to set a new land speed record. Led by core sailing team member Glenn Ashby, the design and build stage is complete, with the craft moved from the team’s New Zealand facility to Lake Gairdner in South Australia to fulfill its mission.

The minimum target to exceed for a World Record run is 204.5km/h (127.07mph) for Ashby to become the fastest wind powered craft on land- ever, however, Mother Nature has other plans as he explains:

On our arrival at the lake, it appears that although Lake Gairdner is mostly DRY, it unfortunately has roughly 200mm of residual water on the specific “race track” area we need to use in the very southern part of the lake. Frustratingly the 168km of dry lake to the north the Salt crust is too thin to use and is unsuitable for any vehicles.

The water levels have actually risen since my last visit 4 weeks ago where they were reducing at a promising trend. So this increase in water has been very interesting given there has been very little rainfall at all over the past 4 to 5 weeks.

The conclusion, after collating information from locals, pilots and our trusty weather man Roger ‘Clouds’ Badham, is the very strong north winds from 2 weeks ago has blown the low lying and shallow residual water over a “hump” (100-150mm) to the north of the “race area” and pushed this water south, where it is now land locked and pooled.

The “race area” appears to be 100-200mm lower than the lake just to the north. This is supported by information from the Gawler Ranges people, locals in the area and surrounding pilots and is a known scenario that this can be the last area of the lake to dry out as it is ever so slightly lower lying.

This water on the “race area” will need to evaporate to give us a dry surface and expose the thickest salt which provides the best land speed surface. The depth has gone up from 50-70mm last month to now 200-220mm measured in the same location which is about 400-500 metres out in front of what will be the team base area.

Ultimately, it seems that patience is required for the roughly 150mm per month average evaporation of the water from this area. Barring further significant rain events, I am aspiring for a dry surface mid to late September.

With this current information collated, supported and reviewed, the decision has been made to put the Land speed program on a “temporary hold” at present for the next few weeks at least.

We will leave the containers in secure storage in Adelaide until it’s time to move up to Mt Ive Station hopefully in September. I will continue to review the Lake and conditions and provide updates. We are in a position to mobilize quite quickly when the time is right.

Being nimble and having an ability to react has always been a strength of the team, and had we needed to pivot to another location would also have been fruitless had we set our sights on Bonneville. This week the Bonneville Speed week was cancelled due to rain as well!

Whilst this information is not what we would ideally like to hear and is hard personally, as a group and a project we are still in excellent shape. We have a craft that is ready to go, we have a team that is ready to go and we are not wasting resource on being “on site” with the inability to sail.

The days are getting longer, windier and warmer from now on and I am confident that we will have an opportunity this year to showcase Horonuku in this incredible location of Lake Gairdner.

The time will come and we will be ready.

Video posted August 11, 2022:

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