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Monday, June 22, 2020 

Fast ferry builder Incat Tasmania has pointed out that Incat-designed and built vessels have now held the Hales Trophy, which recognises the fastest commercial passenger ship Transatlantic crossing, for 30 years.

A ship built in Hobart by Incat Tasmania, the 74m Hoverspeed Great Britain, left New York on her Transatlantic Challenge voyage 30 years ago, arriving in at Bishop Rock on England’s south coast on 23rd June 1990. The crossing was achieved in 3 days, 7 hr and 54 min.

The previous record was held for 38 years, by the USS United States, in 1952. Two other Incat built ships have since shaved time off the 1990 Transatlantic record, 91m Catalonia (Incat 047) in June 1998, and Catlink V (Incat hull 049) another Incat 91m vessel, in July 1998. The 2 day, 20 hr and 9 min record set by the Danish Catlink V is still held today. It is the first time in the history of Transatlantic records (dating back to the 1860s) that three ships to win the trophy in succession had been built by the same shipyard.

Although the records commenced in the 1860s, the Hales Trophy was created and first awarded in 1935. The original 1m high gilded Hales Trophy is on display in Denmark, however a full replica made in 1990 is on display at Incat Tasmania’s shipyard in Hobart.

Incat says that the Hales Trophy is awarded to "The Ship which shall for the time being, have crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the highest average speed". So it is not simply a matter of reaching the highest speed momentarily, the right to fly the Blue Riband is a test of endurance as well as speed, and the voyage must be without re-fuelling. High speed needs to be maintained over the entire crossing, although a ship will naturally be travelling slower at the beginning with a full fuel load and become faster toward the end of the journey as the heavy load is expended.

The record-breaking Incat ships were fast due to lightweight aluminium construction utilising wavepiercing technology with the advantages of low-buoyancy, long and slender hulls in catamaran form. While a long narrow hull will slice through waves rather than ride over them, in large sea conditions they tend to deck dive. The Incat wavepiercer lessens this by including a centre bow, normally clear of the water, which increases buoyancy during these events thus preventing serious nose-diving at high speed or in high seas.

Catlink V is still in service. Bearing the name FjordCat the ship is operated between Denmark and Norway by ferry company Fjordline. Hoverspeed Great Britain is now owned by Greek ferry company SeaJets (see image) bearing the livery Seaspeed Jet. The former Catalonia, now SuperExpress is also operating in Greece.

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