This is as much a story of one man’s obsession with speedboats as it is about the development of a radical new water craft — a boat that can match speeds recorded on highways. Trevor Payne grew up in Rhodesia and dabbled with journalism for a while. But, all along, he had dreams of making waves. Bala Murali Krishna reports.
It was way back in 1996 that Trevor Payne first plotted to build a better, and faster, boat. That thought sprang to his mind when, from the balcony of his apartment along Brisbane River, he saw small power boats affecting “the bow waves of ferries and river dredges.”
It seemed obvious to him that if they “failed to slow down rapidly they risked being capsized by the waves created by the bigger vessels.”
Since then, Payne has done little except conjure up ways to make small sea vessels move faster, more so since he took semi-retirement in 2002.
The first of Payne’s prototypes was a small “tinny” with outrigger skis. This was followed by a purpose-built three-metre aluminium prototype. In 2008, he came up with the present, final prototype, measuring 6.4m (21ft) in length, the one that shows the “most significant advance in small sea vessel hull technology ever seen,” delivering speeds of 90 km/h (55mph).
He is now counting on his patented design to reach speeds upwards of 120 km/h (65 knots) when the first commercial models of 9m (30ft) length are launched.
Payne says his Sea Ski technology is simple, and relatively inexpensive. It is a static structure, and, unlike hydrofoils, does not require moving parts or expensive high-tech electronics.
The Sea Ski’s hull rides up on special skis when gathering speed which are then further supported by air pressure building under the hull. So the vessel both floats and skims over the sea surface without hull contact, enabling far superior speeds.
Sea Ski likely to retail for $275,000
Fruits of his labour of love are at hand, though perhaps not in his grasp quite yet.
That is because entrepreneurship poses distinct challenges, and special challenges to what Payne wants to overcome.
He has established a company, Sea Ski Australasia Ltd., which plans to introduce the vessels in Australia and other Asian markets.
But it has been hard to find investors. The boat business, as Payne terms it, is perceived as high risk by investors. Also, Australian laws make it “extremely difficult for small startup companies” to receive funding from small investors unless they are immediate family members or friends, says Payne.
Payne has spent a modest $70,000 in developing the Sea Ski but he has invested many years and much love into his venture.
He hopes a “tremendous number of adherents who live and breathe speed boating” in Australia and New Zealand will help commercialise the Sea Ski by buying the vessels. The 9m recreational Sea Ski is expected to retail at $275,000, making it competitive in the 32-36ft market. McDonald also is hoping to build an 18m (60ft) vessel that can be used by the military or for border protection and rescue efforts, and a high speed ferry.
The Sydney-based entrepreneur now has just one goal: “My specific plan is to get Sea Ski on the world market before I expire.”