Thirty-four years ago, Hoverspeed Great Britain broke a record that had stood for 38 years, claiming the Hales Trophy for the fastest transatlantic crossing by a commercial passenger ship. It’s a record that Incat Tasmania would claim two more times and still proudly holds. Incat Founder Robert Clifford reflects on this remarkable feat, and how the relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation still drives the company today as it enters a new era of sustainable shipbuilding.

With a career in shipbuilding that spans over fifty years, I’ve been fortunate to achieve many milestones, but the Hales Trophy always stands out in my mind. Awarded to the ship that crosses the Atlantic Ocean with the highest average speed and without refuelling, the record isn’t just a testament to speed but a rigorous test of endurance.

The Trophy has always embodied the spirit of pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the latest technology. From paddle wheels to propellers, and from size to speed, the emphasis has always been on innovation. Our catamarans were a continuation of this tradition, marking the latest in a long line of technological advancements when we won.

Incat’s legacy is indeed unparalleled, having claimed the record three times and with no other shipbuilder having come close to this. Can it be beaten? Probably not with a fossil-fuelled ship. The technology simply doesn’t support it anymore. The future may lie in electric ships, but with today’s technology, an electric ship powered by batteries alone cannot win the Trophy. However, an electric ship powered by hydrogen fuel cells is a remote possibility, provided the technology and hydrogen availability catch up.

Winning the Trophy set a high standard for us. It taught us that with determination, creativity, and a willingness to embrace new challenges, we could achieve great things. Those lessons are just as relevant today as we embark on our next journey in sustainable shipbuilding. As Incat continues to innovate and adapt, our legacy of excellence and pioneering spirit remains strong as ever. The Hales Trophy is not just a symbol of past glory but a beacon that inspires the company’s ongoing pursuit of ground-breaking achievements in the maritime industry and commitment to pushing the boundaries.

While it is nice to reflect on previous achievements from time to time, Incat has always looked ahead, and our transition from diesel-powered ships to zero-emission vessels reflects this. In the past, our primary focus was on speed and efficiency and today, we are equally driven by the concept of sustainability. Our commitment to innovation has not wavered, it has simply evolved to meet the demands of a changing world. As we celebrate this 34 year Hales Trophy milestone, we look forward to many more years of setting records and breaking new ground, all while staying true to the values that have stood the test of time.