Speed sailing is the art of sailing a craft as fast as possible over a predetermined route, and having its overall or peak speed recorded and accredited by a regulatory body. The term usually refers to sailing on water, even though sailing on land and ice is progressively faster because of the lower friction involved. The World Sailing Speed Record Council is the body authorized by the International Sailing Federation to confirm speed records of sailing crafts (boats or sailboards) on water (not on ice or land).
Sailing craft used
The craft used vary from single sailor windsurfers or kitesurfers, to multi-hulls with crews of fifteen people. Many short course record attempts are made with boats based on the classic proa boat layout. Recent developments include hulls that rely on hydrofoils or planing hulls, which allow the hull to lift out of the water, and thereby increases speed by reducing friction. An example of a multihull hydrofoil design is the Hydroptère, designed by Alain Thébault. The design is based on experience from a range of hydrofoil sailcraft that Thébault built in cooperation with the late Eric Tabarly since the 1990s. On September 4, 2009, l’Hydroptère broke the world record, sustaining a speed of 51.36 knots for 500m in 30 knots of wind.
Throughout the 1970s, the speed sailing 500 meter and Nautical Mile records were dominated by large multihulls, as typified by the Crossbow and Crossbow II of Timothy Colman. This has changed since to smaller, very lightweight boats. The Yellow Pages Endeavour, a highly optimized one-way proa design using a rigid wingsail lost its decade old 1993 500m record to a windsurfer in 2004. This was followed by frequently changing records, with windsurfers holding the record through 2008, when it was taken by a succession of kitesurfers. In 2009, in a radical shift away from the tiny surfboard based craft, the trimaran Hydroptère, with a length of 18.28 meters and a displacement of 6.5 metric tons, took the 500m speed record back for the D class boats.
Antoine Albeau who holds the windsurfing speed record (on a 500 metre course) with a speed of 52.05 knots from 2012, Luderizt Namibia. (92 km/h) on the purpose built Saintes Marie de la Mer canal in Southern France. The previous record of 48.7 knots was held by Finian Maynard, an Irish born windsurfer who sails for the British Virgin Islands who achieved this speed on 10 April 2005 on the same purpose built canal. Windsurfers are not as efficient as the larger boats used in record attempts. Albeau's 49.09 knot record was set in winds of 45 to 50 knots, while the Yellow Pages Endeavour, which held a record of 46.52 knots from 1993 to 2004, was optimized to sail in a 19 knot wind. Venue has much to do with the windsurfer's success, as all windsurfing 500m records since 1988 have been made at the same canal. Zara Davis holds the outright nautical mile record for a woman. Set in Walvis Bay Namibia an open water venue in November 2006 previous record was held by Valerie Ghibaudo of France
Frenchman kitesurfer Sebastien Cattelan became the first sailor to break the 50 knots barrier with 50.26 knots on October 3, 2008 at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. On October 4, 2008 Frenchman Alex Caizergues, also using a kite, broke this record with a 50.57 knots run. Earlier in the event, on September 19, kitesurfer Rob Douglas (USA) made a 49.84 knots (92.30 km/h) run, becoming the first kitesurfer to establish an outright speed sailing world record – held until that date only by sailboats or windsurfers. Douglas also became the world's third over-50 knots sailor, when on September 8 he made a 50.54 knots (93.60 km/h) run. The current speed record over a 500 meter (1,640 ft) course for a kiteboard, officially ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, is 55.65 kts, held by Robert Douglas, and set in Luderitz, Namibia in October 2010.
The WSSRC Nautical Mile record for kitesurfing was originally set in Walvis Bay, Namibia in 2005 by Dirk Hanel (GER) at 35.44 kts, and broken again in 2006 by Rob Munro (GB) at Walvis Bay, 35.65 kts. Munro remains the current world speedsailing record holder for kitesurfing over the nautical mile. Aurelia Herpin (FRA) holds the women's record of 29.83 kts.
Around the world records
Longest distance run in 24 hours
The records for the longest distance sailed within 24 hours are also recorded by the WSSRC. There are different categories:
Any yacht, any number of crew
Any yacht, single-handed
Monohull, any number of crew
Boat: VO 70 "Ericsson 4", monohull, Torben Grael; date: October 2008; distance: 596,6 nm; average speed: 24,8 kts
Since the launch of the class VO70, it has proven itself to be the fastest distance monohull sailboat class ever built. Today all major distance monohull records are established by VO70's. For example, in October 2008 the yacht Ericsson 4 officially travelled 596.6 nautical miles in 24 hours, establishing a 24-hour monohull record. Skipper Torben Grael and his crew made the record on the first leg of the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race. They sailed Ericsson 4 hard as a strong cold front hit the fleet, bringing winds approaching 40 knots, and propelling the yacht at an average speed of 24.8 knots. 
Monohull, up to 60 foot
Previously : Boat: Hugo Boss, Open 60; Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape ; date: 6/7 December 2007; distance: 500.01 nm; average speed: 20.83 kts, within the Barcelona World Race 2007, and ratified at 501.3 nm; average speed: 20.9 kts.
|9 and 10 December 2012||545,3 miles||22,72 knots||François Gabart||Macif||Open 60||Indian Ocean - within the Vendée Globe 2012-2013|
|December 2012||516,9 miles||21,53 knots||Jean-Pierre Dick||Virbac Paprec 3||Open 60||Indian Ocean - within the Vendée Globe 2012-2013]]|
|December 2012||506,9 miles||21,12 knots||Bernard Stamm||Cheminées Poujoulat||Open 60||Indian Ocean - within the Vendée Globe 2012-2013|
|11–12 December 2003||468.72 nm||19.53kts||Alex Thomson||AT Racing||60 ft||Défi Atlantique solo transatlantic race from Salvador, Brazil to La Rochelle, France|
- "Speedsailing World Records tumble in Saintes Maries de la Mer". 5 March 2008.
- "Historical List of 500 Metre Records". Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Perkins, MacDuff (November 9, 2010). "Kitesurfer Rob Douglas on Hitting 55kts". sailmagazine.com.
- "WSSRC Records - 24 Hour Distance".
- "Today's number: 545". Vendée Globe. 10 December 2012.