Speed sailing

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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[edit]

The experimental sailing craft Hydroptère, uses hydrofoils to reduce friction

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.[1] On 24 November 2012, Vestas Sailrocket 2 raised the bar to 65.45 knots, a record which still stands.[2]

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.[1][3]


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,[4] 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,[5] 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.[6] 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[7]


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.[8] Earlier in the event, on 19 September, kitesurfer Rob Douglas (United States) made a 49.84 knots (92.30 km/h) run,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

Around the world records[edit]

Longest distance run in 24 hours[edit]

The records for the longest distance sailed within 24 hours are also recorded by the WSSRC. There are different categories:



Distance Yacht Skipper Crew Date Competition Average speed
436 nmi (807 km)[13] United Kingdom Lightning James Nolan "Bully" Forbes 1 March 1854 18.16 knots (33.63 km/h)
465 nmi (861 km) United States Champion of the Seas Alexander Newlands 11 December 1854 19.375 knots (35.883 km/h)
512 nmi (948 km) Canada Formule Tag Michael Birch 1984 21.33 knots (39.50 km/h)
517 nmi (957 km) France Fleury Michon VIII Philippe Poupon 1987 21.54 knots (39.89 km/h)
522.73 nmi (968.10 km) France Jet Services V Serge Madec 1990 21.85 knots (40.47 km/h)
524.63 nmi (971.61 km) France Lyonnaise des eaux Olivier de Kersauson 1994 21.91 knots (40.58 km/h)
540 nmi (1,000 km) France Primagaz Laurent Bourgnon 1994 22.50 knots (41.67 km/h)
547.3 nmi (1,013.6 km) France Explorer Bruno Peyron 1994 22.80 knots (42.23 km/h)
590.23 nmi (1,093.11 km) United States PlayStation Steve Fossett 1999 24.59 knots (45.54 km/h)
625.7 nmi (1,158.8 km) France Club Med Bruno Peyron & Grant Dalton 14 11 November 2000 26.07 knots (48.28 km/h)
629.5 nmi (1,165.8 km) France Innovation Explorer Loick Peyron 13 2001 The Race 26.23 knots (48.58 km/h)
655.2 nmi (1,213.4 km) France Club Med Grant Dalton 2001 27.30 knots (50.56 km/h)
687.17 nmi (1,272.64 km) United States PlayStation Steve Fossett 2001 28.63 knots (53.02 km/h)
694.78 nmi (1,286.73 km) United Kingdom Maiden II Adrienne Cahalan, Helena Darvelid & Brian Thompson 2002 28.95 knots (53.62 km/h)
706.2 nmi (1,307.9 km) France Orange II Bruno Peyron 2004 29.43 knots (54.50 km/h)
766.8 nmi (1,420.1 km) France Orange II Bruno Peyron 3 July 2006 31.95 knots (59.17 km/h)
794 nmi (1,470 km) France Groupama 3 Franck Cammas 10 20 July 2007 33.08 knots (61.26 km/h)
907.9 nmi (1,681.4 km)[14] France Banque Populaire V Pascal Bidégorry 11 August 2009 37.83 knots (70.06 km/h)


Distance Yacht Skipper Date Competition Average speed
628.5 nmi (1,164.0 km)[14] France Sodebo Thomas Coville December 2008 26.19 knots (48.50 km/h)



Distance Yacht Skipper Crew Date Competition Average speed
596.6 nmi (1,104.9 km) Sweden Ericsson 4 Torben Grael October 2008 2008–09 Volvo Ocean Race 24.8 knots (45.9 km/h)
618.01 nmi (1,144.6 km) United StatesComanche Ken Read 20 July 2015 2015 Transatlantic Race 25.75 knots (47.69 km/h)

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.[15]

Crewed (<60 foot)[edit]

Distance Yacht Skipper Date Competition Average speed
467.67 nmi (866.12 km) Switzerland Armor Lux Bernard Stamm 2001 19.48 knots (36.08 km/h)
468.72 nmi (868.07 km)[16] United Kingdom AT Racing Alex Thomson 11–12 December 2003 Salvador–La Rochelle Défi Atlantique 19.53 knots (36.17 km/h)
501.3 nmi (928.4 km) United Kingdom Hugo Boss Alex Thomson & Andrew Cape 6–7 December 2007 2007–08 Barcelona World Race 20.9 knots (38.7 km/h)
506.333 nmi (937.729 km) France Virbac Paprec Jean Pierre Dick & Loick Peyron 21–22 January 2011 2010–11 Barcelona World Race 21.1 knots (39.1 km/h)[14]
534.48 nmi (989.86 km)[16] France Macif François Gabart 2012 22.27 knots (41.24 km/h)


Distance Yacht Skipper Date Competition Average speed
430.7 nmi (797.7 km)[16] France Union Bancaire Privee Dominique Wavre 2000 17.94 knots (33.22 km/h)
468.72 nmi (868.07 km) United Kingdom AT Racing Alex Thomson 11–12 December 2003 Salvador–La Rochelle Défi Atlantique 19.53 knots (36.17 km/h)[14]
545.3 nmi (1,009.9 km)[17] France Macif François Gabart 9–10 December 2012 2012–13 Vendée Globe 22.72 knots (42.08 km/h)


  1. ^ a b http://www.sailspeedrecords.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=104:wssr-newsletter-no-177-hydroptere-world-records-230909&catid=2:news&Itemid=5
  2. ^ "500m Records". World Sailing Speed Record Council.
  3. ^ "l'Hydroptère".
  4. ^ http://www.sailspeedrecords.com/news/152-wssr-newsletter-no-222-albeau-and-davis-10sq-mwindsurfer-records-311212
  5. ^ "Speedsailing World Records tumble in Saintes Maries de la Mer". 5 March 2008.
  6. ^ "Design".
  7. ^ "Historical List of 500 Metre Records". Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  8. ^ http://www.sail-world.com/Australia/Fifty-knots-broken-again---New-Speed-Record/49448
  9. ^ http://www.luderitz-speed.com/ContentPages/Results/Results.aspx?Filter=Overall&Session=3&Run=9/19/2008[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ http://www.luderitz-speed.com/ContentPages/Results/Results.aspx?Filter=Overall&Session=11&Run=10/8/2008[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Perkins, MacDuff (9 November 2010). "Kitesurfer Rob Douglas on Hitting 55kts". sailmagazine.com.
  12. ^ http://www.sailspeedrecords.com/index.php/kite-sailing
  13. ^ Lubbock, Basil (1921), The Colonial Clippers, Glasgow, James Brown, p. 62
  14. ^ a b c d "WSSRC Records - 24 Hour Distance".
  15. ^ Volvo Open 70
  16. ^ a b c http://www.sailspeedrecords.com/24-hour-distance
  17. ^ "Today's number: 545". Vendée Globe. 10 December 2012.

External links[edit]