Hannah White: Sailor seeks speed record in 'boat that tries to kill you'

(CNN)It might be a boat that has been designed and built in a garden shed, but Hannah White has high hopes it will speed her to become the fastest woman on water.

Six months ago, the Briton had never piloted such a craft, which "is the hardest in the world to sail" and akin to a miniature version of the 2013 America's Cup boats.
But by February she hopes to have booked her place in the record books as the quickest woman in history over a nautical mile.
"It's like being on the roof of a car at 75 kph (46 mph), but having to drive it from the roof on an icy road," she says of her perilous challenge.
    "Project Speedbird" started out as a conversation over a bowl of noodles with aeronautical engineer David Chisholm in London, who turned down the opportunity to work with top America's Cup teams to back White.
    The boat in question cost £50,000 ($78,000) to build while the project's entire budget, backed by car manufacturer Land Rover's financial and technical support, is in the region of £250,000 ($390,000).
    The vessel is so small and lightweight it can be folded away and put on the roof of White's car.
    Like a moth dinghy, it uses a hydrofoil -- which makes it appear to fly over water -- and is at the cutting edge of design despite being built in a shed in the back garden of a home in Suffolk, England.
    "This is the dream -- it's like building an airplane that sails, and I get to sail it," Chisholm tells CNN of his creation.
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    Recalling visiting Chisholm's shed for the first time, White. says: "It looks a bit scruffy but, when you go in, it's this Tardis of extraordinary machines. It seems incredible to think he's built this extraordinary boat from there."
    As for the designer, who has previously worked with aerospace company Boeing and Formula 1 team Caterham, he says: "Hannah's quite a force and was like, 'That's a good idea, let's give it a go. I initially thought, 'Let's see what happens.'"
    The women's record is held by Zara Davis, who clocked a top speed of 34.54 knots (63.96 kph) on a windsurfer at a specially-built speed trench in Namibia 10 years ago.
    White's attempt will be done in a mere 90 seconds.
    She plans to set the initial record on the waters surrounding London's City Airport in February before traveling abroad to an, as yet, unspecified destination to go over the 40-knot mark.
    The boat is not designed to turn corners -- just to go as fast as humanly possible in a straight line on flat water, leading White to describe it as "a dragster."
    "It's the first time I've ever thought about a boat in 'what ifs,'" Chisholm explains. "It's a boat trying to kill you every time you put sails on it."
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    Formerly in the Royal Navy and a lifelong sailor who used to take excursions on water with current America's Cup captains Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, Chisholm previously coached White in the finer arts of hydrofoiling. Specialist coaches have since been brought into the project.
    White says she has no doubts "Speedbird" is capable of the record, and her only concerns are whether she has the physical capabilities to do it -- although not for want of trying.
    In training, she has used a traditional moth to get up to a top speed of about 30 knots, but there have been pitfalls.
    "It's hugely dangerous," she admits. "I'd say that one in every three runs I do results in a crash.
    "My fiance has learned to love the cuts and bruises. It's not very feminine but it's par for the course. I turned up to one Estee Lauder event with a black eye. The crashes do shake you, but you get back in the boat pretty quickly."
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    Chisholm says "Speedbird" is the "hardest boat in the world to sail."
    The trick, he says, is for sailor and boat to become one -- a facet that White is increasingly grasping.
    She is also getting behind the science of the project, despite being a "girl who used to flick ink at my physics teacher."
    Initially a solo offshore sailor who has crossed the Atlantic single-handedly on three occasions, White is also a broadcaster and commentator who works with the Extreme Sailing Series among others.
    "I was always amazed by anyone that did anything extraordinary whether fast or high or brave," she says.
    "Six months ago, I'd never sailed a boat like this," she says. "The message in my career is that you can do anything."
    There is often a wacky nature to the litany of land and water-speed records. From a Japanese meal to a garden shed, "Speedbird" has all the prerequisites.
    Despite the surreal nature of of the idea's inception there is no disguising the seriousness for both White and Chisholm.
    The latter says: "This is not just two mates who got together and said, 'This will be easy.' This is properly difficult to do and we know that."