EDP Atlantic Mission - Francisco Lufinha crossed the Atlantic with a WingCommander RC
The Portuguese extreme sportsman Francisco Lufinha had a mission: a solo crossing of the Atlantic in a boat powered entirely by kite. And he did it! In a world-beating time of 21 days, he smashed the previous record held by Frenchwoman Anne Quemere since 2006.
After setting off from Lisbon with a stopover on the Canary Islands, his path led him towards Cape Verde and then west to the Caribbean. His goal: the island of Martinique. With top speeds of over 30 km/h, he whizzed across the Atlantic in his trimaran specially designed for this expedition, powered by kites ranging in size from 7 to 18 m2.
But how was this possible? – boats of comparable size need much larger sails to reach such speeds. In this case, there were two tricks: first, to raise the kite to greater heights on lines extending up to 150 m; and second, to fly the kite in a figure of eight pattern. Together this ensured much faster kite speeds, generating about 10 times the power of a conventional sail of the same size. “That’s a real
advantage when you’re aiming to beat the world record!” says Lufinha. But state-of-the-art technology is essential to be able to handle a kite safely under such conditions.
The innovation that makes this possible comes from the German company Wingit, based in Dresden.
Stephan Schröder, managing director of Wingit Kite Boat Systems, is the pioneer and developer of the WingCommander system. This features an electronically controlled winch unit with which the kite can be easily steered by joystick. The system also has an autopilot that can steer the kite over longer courses. The power needed to operate the system on Lufinha’s boat was supplied by two solar cells. For Stephan Schröder, the extreme conditions on such a small vessel in the mid-Atlantic, with metre-high waves continually breaking over the bow, were “the biggest endurance test our system has faced so far.” He goes on: “To ensure that the boat could be handled even if the batteries stopped working, we modified the WingCommander to enable the skipper to steer the kite by hand in an emergency.”