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'Sail-plane' to attempt world speed record

  • Story Highlights
  • Half sailboat, half plane will attempt to break the 50-knot sailing speed barrier
  • Pilot Sean Langman crashed dangerously last year but is confident he can make it
  • "Wot Rocket" uses technology called "supercavitation:" sailing just above the water
By Anouk Lorie
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Forty seven-year-old Australian "adrenaline junkie" Sean Langman will attempt to break the 50-knot sailing speed barrier with his half sailboat, half plane, after a serious crash last summer.

The "Wot Rocket"

The half sailboat, half plane uses technology known as supercavitation -- sailing just above the water's edge.

Langman, a shipyard owner and yachtsman, is intent on beating the French-set record within the next few weeks, with the "Wot Rocket," a canoe-style pod with a nine meter-long rigid sail.

The Wot Rocket is waiting for confirmation from the World Sailing Speed Record Council to attempt, once again, an unprecedented technology known as "supercavitation" -- sailing just above the water in a gas bubble created by the deflection of water. This is to to reduce the drag which is around 1,000 times greater in the water than in the air.

"Wot Rocket is so exciting as we push to sail up to three times the speed of the wind," Langman told CNN.

In October last year Langman and his co-pilot crashed when they lost control of the vessel at 42 knots -- over 60 miles per hour.

But after re-building and perfecting the vessel at a cost of half a million dollars, Langman is ready to try again. "The exhilaration of sailing/flying is so big, you don't think about danger," he told CNN.

Langman is certain that this time around he will beat the record. "My only concern is we won't be able to keep control of the craft."

In case the pilots crash again, Langman says the most thing is to remain calm. "Last time I felt a mild panic as we were underwater. I just hoped the paramedics would get there in time.

"But really I feel very safe doing anything on water as that what I've done my whole life. I feel most 'in tune' when I'm on water," he added.

The idea for Wot Rocket was conceived four years ago by Langman after he was inspired by the story of Burt Munro, the New Zealander who set a world land speed record on his modified Indian Scout motorcycle in 1967 -- played by Antony Hopkins in the 2005 Hollywood movie "The World's Fastest Indian."

Do you think the wotrocket can beat the record?

"I came up with the idea in the shower. So I presented it to a group of engineers and said 'this is what I believe.' Most said I'm a lunatic but one said 'I want to work with you'."

Langman joined forces with leading Australian designer Andy Dovell and sought input from Boeing 747 pilots for their aeronautical knowledge. He then had the "Wot Rocket" built using the staff and facilities at his various Shipyards. Finally, he teamed up with Wotif.com founder Graeme Wood who invested in the project because, as he explained, he "likes leftfield ideas."

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"My family think I'm crazy, but every time I've had an idea it's taken me somewhere. It's really about ideas versus science and trying to make it work," Langman explained.

"And no one remembers the second man to walk on the moon."

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