Designing and building the Quicksilver craft is a major engineering challenge. The current World Water Speed Record of 317.60 mph would not have stood for as long as it has – 35 years, nearly – if exceeding it was straightforward. Strewn across the intervening years are a great many aspiring speed-record projects. Some built boats but didn’t beat the record. Most never went as far as getting a boat under construction. Our dedicated team of British specialists rose to meet this challenge. It’s a hand-picked group of highly-motivated engineers and participating firms that has demonstrated the sustained commitment needed to compete in this extremely demanding sport.
In common with all ultra-high-speed waterborne craft, Quicksilver is designed to skim over the water rather than ploughing through it. Water conditions must first be near-calm. As the boat accelerates, its hull design must be such that it can overcome water resistance by rising almost clear of the water’s surface and skimming across it. Then, as the boat’s speed swiftly increases as water resistance decreases, its design attributes must be such that stability – and therefore safety – is assured at all times throughout each run.
Achieving a rapid transition from the “displacement condition” (in the water) to the “planing condition” (on the water) has been a crucial design challenge, because the lake of first choice – Coniston Water, with a usable length of a little over five miles – offers a sufficient but not generous course distance, and hull shapes optimised for ultra-high speeds are not usually conducive to making the displacement-to-planing transition rapidly, so a carefully-balanced design compromise has been necessary to avoid the problem of wasting precious lake distance ploughing along at low speed prior to achieving planing.
Quicksilver is the largest and heaviest boat ever to contest the World Water Speed Record, but it is by far the most powerful too. It is also unique in being a “four pointer” – meaning that when it is planing, it will ride on four planing surfaces. All previous planing craft designed for contesting the World Water Speed Record were three-pointers. We believe that the four-point configuration will be inherent more stable than an equivalent three-point design. Actually proving whether this is the case or not is one of many questions that will be answered when Quicksilver takes to the water at speed as part of the research programme that underpins the project.
With a considerable number of objectives already achieved, work continues apace. There is much still to do, but progress and experience is being accumulated at every stage. Initial trials on water, at a location yet to be decided, will have the primary intention of proving the craft’s planing capability and collecting test data. The ultimate aim is to make a record challenge on Coniston, in the Lake District in north-west England, subject to gaining the necessary approvals.
Structural design work and construction are the team’s ongoing preoccupations. Efforts are also continuing to advance the development of Quicksilver’s on-board systems. At present, the front section of the boat is receiving particular attention. This has a vee-shaped keel which incorporates a full-width “step” to assist the boat’s transition onto its planing surfaces at the start of each run. The rear hull section (stern module), which is an aluminium monocoque, will be added later. Both sponsons will also be added, during final preparations for the first trials on water. In this initial waterborne form the craft will be known as Quicksilver Dash 1 and speeds will be limited to 200 mph.
The craft will then be upgraded to its definitive Dash 2 standard and further development in this form during trials will facilitate ever-higher speeds, culminating in the record bid.
Uniquely, Quicksilver has a modular construction. No other machine in speed-record history, on either water or land, has been designed to be modified rapidly, “in the field”, as Quicksilver has. This modular design philosophy will permit us to undertake an on-going development programme – a step-by-step approach which emphasises safety, without detracting from the essential excitement of the challenge of going faster on water than anyone has ever gone before.
Displacement: 3.5 tonnes
Length: 11.8 metres
Beam: 3.435 metres
Height: 3.038 metres
Structure: Aluminium, high-tensile steel, marine timber and composites
Engine type: Rolls-Royce Spey Mk.101 low-bypass turbofan
Rated output: 11,030 pounds static thrust at sea level (approx. max. 10,000 horsepower)
Fuel capacity: 277 litres
Fuel type: Kerosene
Maximum fuel consumption: One litre per second at full power
Electrical system: 24-volt DC
Speed record (average of two runs): 330 mph
Peak speed on record runs: 350 mph
Theoretical maximum design speed: 400 mph