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 craft (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 4 September 2009, l’Hydroptère broke the world record, sustaining a speed of 51.36 knots for 500m in 30 knots of wind. On 24 November 2012, Vestas Sailrocket 2 raised the bar to 65.45 knots, a record which still stands.
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 holds the windsurfing speed record (on a 500-metre course) with a speed of 52.05 knots (96,40 km/h) from 2012, Lüderitz, Namibia, beating his own previous record of 49.09 knots (90,91 km/h) from 2008, on the purpose built Saintes Marie de la Mer canal in Southern France. The previous record of 48.7 knots (90,19 km/h) 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 3 October 2008 at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. On 4 October 2008 Frenchman Alex Caizergues, also using a kite, broke this record with a 50.57 knots run. Earlier in the event, on 19 September, kitesurfer Rob Douglas (United States) 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 8 September 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 kn, 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 kn, and broken again in 2006 by Rob Munro (GB) at Walvis Bay, 35.65 kn. 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 kn.
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:
- Outright (crewed and single-handed)
- Monohull (crewed < 60 foot and single-handed)
The class VO70 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.
- "500m Records". World Sailing Speed Record Council.
- "Speedsailing World Records tumble in Saintes Maries de la Mer". 5 March 2008. Archived from the original on 17 June 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
- "Design". Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
- "Historical List of 500 Metre Records". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- http://www.luderitz-speed.com/ContentPages/Results/Results.aspx?Filter=Overall&Session=3&Run=9/19/2008[permanent dead link]
- http://www.luderitz-speed.com/ContentPages/Results/Results.aspx?Filter=Overall&Session=11&Run=10/8/2008[permanent dead link]
- Perkins, MacDuff (9 November 2010). "Kitesurfer Rob Douglas on Hitting 55kts". sailmagazine.com. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
- Volvo Open 70