How bizarre ? a sailing boat that never has to go about


THIRTY nerve-wracking minutes.

That's how long it took for the Harryproa team's 'Visionarry', a world first in boat design, to land gently in the Kalang River at Urunga yesterday.

But this was not your average boat launch.

This was done by crane and the nerve-wracking part was watching three tonnes of state-of-the-art nautical engineering and two years of labour floating above the trees (close to the watching neighbour's house) before coming down in the water.

For owner John Richards this was the fulfillment of '90 per cent of his dreams'.

"It's fabulous ? it's taken two years and a lot of trust but we're nearly there now," Mr Richards said.

Building a prototype side by side with the designer certainly takes trust.

The only other 'Visionarry' is in Holland and was launched three weeks ago, having been built in parallel with this one.

The moment was no less exciting for designer, Mark Stephens, and his partner in life and business, Michele Balharry, who has watched the boat evolve from the back of an envelope into a sleek machine.

"This is a totally new concept in boats ? nobody has done this before," Mr Stephens said.

What he and co-designer Rob Denney (based in Perth) have achieved is a boat that is built for speed but has the manoeuvrability of traditional Pacific Islands 'proas'.

The 'Visionarry' has two hulls, both of which are designed with bows at either end and instead of tacking, the boat 'shunts', or changes direction without going about, keeping the windward (smaller) hull to windward at all times.

Another revolutionary feature is that the larger hull carries all the structural sailing gear, while the smaller balancing hull contains the accommodation. For further technical details go to:

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