January 19, 2007 The next running of the world’s most demanding offshore adventure, the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race
(the former Whitbread Round the World Race), features 11 ocean legs, eight inshore races and shorter stopovers in a route which takes in the hitherto uncharted territories of Asia, India and the Middle East. The race will start in the port of Alicante, Spain in the autumn of 2008. There are also changes to crew numbers and one of the most intriguing moves was the introduction of a new position of on-board media specialist – every boat in the race will carry full-time media liaison to improve the quality of interviews and imagery and to facilitate quicker and better editing of the vast quantity of footage. On-board audio and video of the last race helped raise the profile of the event but with the immediacy of new media at the race organiser’s disposal, the new moves are expected to further broaden the appeal of the race. The new rules are also designed to facilitate an all-female crew in the event.
December 21, 2006 The U.S. Navy has approved funding for the construction of a second General Dynamics trimaran version of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) featuring an innovative, high-speed trimaran hull. The 127-meter surface combatant LCS is intended to operate in coastal areas of the globe, and will be fast, highly manoeuvrable and geared to supporting mine detection/elimination, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare, particularly against small surface craft. The LCS's large flight deck sits higher above the water than any U.S. Navy surface combatant and will support near-simultaneous operation of two SH-60 helicopters or multiple unmanned vehicles. The ultra-stable trimaran hull allows for flight operations in high sea conditions. In addition, the deck is suitable for landing the much-larger H-53 helicopters, should that become a future requirement. The Littoral Combat Ship will have one of the largest usable payload volumes per ton of ship displacement of any U.S. Navy surface combatant afloat today, providing the flexibility to carry out one mission while a separate mission module is in reserve.
December 13, 2006 The rapid progress of technology is a two-edged sword, offering an opportunity for all humans to live a life of dignity, with food and water, and free from disease. At the same time it offers a small, disgruntled community the force-multiplication to strike telling blows against much bigger foes as we found on September 11, 2001. There are daily examples in Iraq of technology’s ability to aid a deadly strike against a larger opponent with IEDs and human-driven suicide truck bombs taking a massive toll
. Perhaps the best example of a few men being able to strike at a larger enemy was the attack on USS COLE, in Yemen in October 2000, which amply demonstrated the destructive potential of a surface attack and the vulnerability of ships in port. To ensure the safety of military ships, Foster-Miller is developing an advanced Boat Trap system for the United States Department of Defense Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, working closely with the US Coast Guard. Designed to bolster US harbour security and protect coastal military bases abroad, Boat Trap is a non lethal, ballistic net that is deployed from a helicopter into the path of a threatening speedboat travelling at high speed. It is designed to entangle the propeller, causing the craft to immediately stop. The Boat Trap system has undergone extensive testing, and not once has it failed to stop a target.
December 5, 2006 Innespace Productions
, co-founded by New Zealander, Rob Innes and Californian Dan Piazza, has just unveiled its latest submersible watercraft, the SeaBreacher. The two seat Dolphin (this along with the Bionic Dolphin
constitute a new type of recreational watercraft modelled on a dolphin) was recently selected as one of Time magazine's 2006 Best Inventions
. The second model Innespace has designed and built, the new SeaBreacher is fifty percent larger than the original vessel in order to accommodate two full size occupants and larger engine packages. The current prototype is powered by a 130kW Atkins Marine rotary engine. The supercharged race version will produce over 180kW and an international race series is planned. The 12mm thick canopy on the SeaBreacher is taken from the new F-22 Raptor jet-fighter.
November 15, 2006 Last week yet another successful crossing of the English Channel was made, this time by two Dutton S2 Commander amphibians which made the journey in 7 hours and 5 minutes travelling from Dover (UK) to Calais (France). The attempt fell well short of the Sealegs amphibious boat record of 43 minutes, and the Gibbs Aquada’s amphibious car record
of one hour, 40 minutes but there are a few special attributes that should be considered. For starters, the Suzuki-based Dutton S2
is fully road registrable, has true 4WD capabilities, comes in petrol or diesel engine, right or left drive, and costs less than US$50,000 – it’s your genuine budget, works-out-of-the-box amphibian. Secondly, there was almost no planning involved and the crossing was done in less-than-ideal conditions to draw attention to the plight of a wildfowl reserve (wildfowl being amphibious creatures is the connection) and in ideal conditions a time of better than five hours could be expected. With 90 percent of the world's population living close to the water, amphibians make a lot of sense.
November 15, 2006 Amphibious vehicle manufacturers Sealegs has unveiled a new amphibious rescue boat aimed at search and rescue roles with government agencies, fire departments and civil defence forces. The 6 metre Amphibious Rescue Craft (ARC) is constructed of marine grade aluminium for demanding field deployment applications. The Sealegs ARC has a base price of NZ$89,000 (US$58,850) and made its debut at the Big Boys Toys show in the company’s native New Zealand last week. With international demand for the company’s unique product now accounting for 80% of production, a new production facility is being readied to increase supply by a factor of four.
November 13, 2006 The Urban Legends and Folklore section of About.com
has some fascinating images of an extremely unconventional watercraft which will keep your brain active for hours just looking at them. Don’t let the inappropriate section title fool you – they’re real, and the craft is believed to be this Experimental 100' Inflatable Power Cat
based on an original concept by Ugo Conti of Marine Advanced Research. The cabin is suspended on flexible legs about 15 feet above and between the hulls, allowing them to glide independently over the surface of the water. The vessel is 50 feet wide and powered by twin diesel engines mounted in the rear of the inflatable pontoon hulls.
November 6, 2006 As the knowledge of the world begins to rush rather than seep across the barriers of language and distance via the internet, whole new areas of regionalised human endeavour are becoming visible to the world, and the glorious history of the Russian aerosled is a case in point. H. G. Wells once wrote, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.” Getting from point A to point B has not always been as easy as it is today. Man’s need to cross the deserts, oceans, forests, mountains and the skies above them has seen many fascinating conveyances built specifically for a given task and the aerosled was devised to cross the vast frozen Russian tundra. It evolved from an adapted horse-drawn sleigh powered by a pusher prop 100 years ago to become a thriving ski-automobile industry and with sponsorship from the Russian Military in the Cold War era, developed capabilities that are truly extraordinary. The January Barrett-Jackson Collector Car auction
is to include a fully-restored N007 Tupolev – the vehicle appears to be one of the early prototypes and is the only-known Russian-built aerosled to make it to the United States. Designed by Andrei Tupolev
, one of the founders and key figures of Soviet Aviation, the N007 can propel through and protect its occupants from the sub-zero conditions common in the Northern Russian tundra. Powered by a 365 hp nine-cylinder radial engine it hovers just over water, marshland, ice or snow and given a flat stretch, is claimed to reach 80 mph. Part ground effect aircraft, part boat but mainly a sled, the N007 is a priceless example of human being’s ability to adapt and conquer any terrain. Over 800 examples were produced, but it’s a fair bet that this is one of the earliest and most authentic of this second generation aerosleds. Watch for our coverage of the new third generation aerosled later this week.
October 31, 2006 History suggests humans have always been captivated with the possibility of walking on water with references to it in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. In Egyptian mythology the god Horus walked on water, and in Greek mythology Orion, the son of the gods walked on water. Indeed, Leonardo da Vinci even conceived a set of shoes and stocks which would enable this highly improbable act. Now, thanks to an invention by Massachusetts inventor Yoav Rosen, it seems we may be in need of a new colloquialism for the impossible. Rosen’s Da Vinci-like pontoon shoes have just been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for an “Upright Human Floatation Apparatus And Propulsion Mechanism” and enable him to do just that (video here). Rosen’s company wishes to focus its business activities on its equally remarkable standing kayaks, and is seeking to license or sell its water-walking technology. We spoke with Rosen about his invention. See a video here
October 30, 2006 Last week saw the commissioning of two new boats into the UK’s Royal Navy in the form of two remotely controlled Fast Inshore Attack Craft for use during live firing training exercises. Comprising a rigid inflatable boat capable of moving at speed either independently, or while towing a target, the FIAC RT is operated remotely. This allows its operator to conduct manoeuvres safely and realistically whilst live firing training exercises are conducted with small calibre weapons at close proximity to the Naval platform 'under attack'. The design of the craft exploits the technology developed by QinetiQ engineers that helped the RN to clear a key strategic waterway of mines in Iraq during Operation TELIC - the first time the RN used unmanned surface vessels in an operational role.