FAQs and answers with Nigel Macknight …

This new page aims to answer the questions which most commonly arise. So far I’ve presented around 150 multimedia “talks” to audiences up and down the country, and several overseas, promoting the Quicksilver project and answering questions for those who seek to learn more. And obviously, after a certain period of time a pattern starts to emerge. Some questions will arise quite frequently, and they are clearly the things that are uppermost in the thoughts of people who have an interest in what we are doing.

     So I’d like to focus on the five most frequently-asked questions, and provide answers to those. I’ll start with one and move on to others as my time allows

1oPerhaps the most frequently-asked question of all is, “Where are you planning to go for the record?”

Coniston Water is where we will seek permission to make our attempt, as it is the one and only lake in Britain that has a byelaw structure which enables attempts on the World Water Speed Record to take place, and it has always been our aim to go for the record in this country, where most of our supporters are, so they are readily able to see the boat run at speed.

     However, long before we seek that permission we will be testing the boat at lower speeds to assess its performance and fitness to do the job we have designed it to do. Hopefully, these trials can be conducted on a British lake, but it will not be Coniston, as the rules do not allow that lake to be used purely for testing: there must be a clear intention to build-up the speeds and go for the record within the scope of a campaign, and that certainly will not be what we are doing when we first run the boat to assess how it performs.

     The time interval between us completing this lower-speed testing, provided it has gone to our full satisfaction, and actually going for the record, will be at least a year – to allow us to upgrade the boat to its full (Dash 2) record specification and fulfill all of the acceptance criteria. We will work with the Royal Yachting Association, the Lake District National Park Authority, and others, as part of that process.

     We really want to stage our world-record campaign in the UK, on Coniston Water. That has been our plan from the outset and our boat has been specially designed to operate within Coniston’s constraints. However, if for any reason we are unable to run at this, the lake of first preference, we will stage our bid overseas rather than leave the record challenged in foreign hands.

     Regaining the record for Britain takes absolute precedence over considerations as to where we actually go to accomplish this.

2oAnother frequently-asked question is, “Do you still have to make two runs in opposing directions in order to set a record speed?”

Yes, is the answer. This is a long-established ruling, and is a carry-over from the distant days when land-speed attempts could have been enhanced by running a car downhill, or with the aid of a tailwind. Of course, records speeds on both land and water are now so high that the contribution of a tailwind would be negligible – and, needless to say, no-one has yet found a way to tilt a lake to create a downhill advantage! – but ‘rules are rules’ and they must be respected in any sport, and so the tradition continues, for cars as well as boats, that two runs in opposing directions must be completed within one hour, and the figure that comes from the aggregate of those two runs divided by two is taken as the official speed set.

3oOne question which gets asked a fair few times is, “Why isn’t Quicksilver’s hull made of ‘high-tech’ materials, such as carbonfibre? And, hand-in-hand with that, why isn’t it of monocoque construction? A steel spaceframe seems out of place in a high-performance machine such as this.”

It is an automatic assumption that Quicksilver will be made like a modern-day Formula 1 car, but that is a sweeping assumption! When starting out on the design of a potential World Water Speed Record-breaker, there is a lot of scope, because the regulations are very open in this, the premier water-speed category. It presents a virtually unlimited field for the designer’s ideas, and that is part of the attraction. It surprises many people when I tell them that the current record-holder’s boat was made predominently of wood. Yet, metal-hulled boats and boats made of more advanced materials, such as Kevlar, have also been part of the picture over the past few decadeswhich only goes to graphically demonstrate that there is a great deal of scope. Wood, metal, Kevlar – take your pick.

     With Quicksilver, there’s a steel spaceframe clad with a marine timber, Kevlar and carbonfibre skin for the main central core of the boat, but we have monocoque structures for the bow, keel and stern sections, so what we have is a combination of structures within one overall package. Different materials and methods of construction suit the particular requirements of specific parts of the boat. For the central part, the strong steel spaceframe is a good solution. Think of it as a “subframe” for the engine, picking up the highly-concentated loads in that region. It’s an efficient way to do that particular job. But it doesn’t suit every part of the boat, and that is why we are using different construction methods and materials elsewhere.

     Carbonfibre is a really excellent performer, used properly, but for an application such as ours you would need to do a lot of very expensive research to ensure that the structure was absolutely sound, and that’s just beyond our means, so we tend to stick to materials which are well-proven in this application – although we do use carbonfibre in the places where we are comfortable with it.