Did You Know? Speed Sailing

Who knew?  Well, Wikipedia does!   Today’s exploration, speed sailing, 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.

We found it interesting to scan dates and speeds, with some of the top speeds being almost unbelieveable!  The videos included here give a pretty good idea of how fast they are moving.

By Ludovic PéronSelf-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.5,

l’Hydroptère, the previous nautical mile record holder

Speed sailing records are sanctioned, since 1972, by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC). Records are measured either by average speed over a specified distance or by total distance traveled during a specified time interval. The three most sought after records are the:

Nautical mile records

– To some, most of these wouldn’t be considered boats, per se!  More rockets on the water!

Date Craft Skipper Location Speed (knots) Speed (km/h)
18 November 2012 Vestas Sailrocket 2 Paul Larsen AUS Walvis Bay, NAM 55.32[2] 102.45
8 November 2009 l’Hydroptère Alain Thébault FRA Hyères FRA 50.17 92.91 .[4]
4 September 2009 l’Hydroptère Alain Thébault FRA Hyères FRA 48.72 90.23 500 metre record broken on the same run.
Oct 2008 l’Hydroptère Alain Thébault FRA Port Saint-Louis FRA 43.09 79.80
April 2007 l’Hydroptère Alain Thébault FRA Baie de Quiberon FRA 41.69 77.21
October 2006 Windsurfer Bjorn Dunkerbeck ND Walvis bay, Namibia 41.14 76.19
October 2005 Windsurfer Finian Maynard IRL Walvis bay, Namibia 39.97 74.02
November 2004 Windsurfer Bjorn Dunkerbeck ND Port Saint-Louis FRA 34.44 63.78
July 2003 Windsurfer Bjorn Dunkerbeck ND Aringa, Grand Canaria 33.96 62.89

Day’s run[edit]

Day’s run is the distance traveled by a vessel in one day, normally measured from noon to noon. This was the traditional measure used in the days of packet and clipper ships and varied in the actual time dependent on whether the vessel was sailing east or west. The records certified by the WSSRC since 1994 are based on a 24-hour distance measure irrespective of longitude.

24 hour distance record[edit]

Distance Yacht Skipper Crew Date Competition Average speed
436 nmi (807 km; 502 mi)[5] United Kingdom Lightning James Nolan “Bully” Forbes 1 March 1854 18.16 knots (33.63 km/h; 20.90 mph)
465 nmi (861 km; 535 mi) United States Champion of the Seas Alexander Newlands 11 December 1854 19.375 knots (35.883 km/h; 22.296 mph)
512 nmi (948 km; 589 mi) Canada Formule Tag Michael Birch 1984 21.33 knots (39.50 km/h; 24.55 mph)
517 nmi (957 km; 595 mi) France Fleury Michon VIII Philippe Poupon 1987 21.54 knots (39.89 km/h; 24.79 mph)
522.73 nmi (968.10 km; 601.55 mi) France Jet Services V Serge Madec 1990 21.85 knots (40.47 km/h; 25.14 mph)
524.63 nmi (971.61 km; 603.73 mi) France Lyonnaise des eaux Olivier de Kersauson 1994 21.91 knots (40.58 km/h; 25.21 mph)
540 nmi (1,000 km; 620 mi) France Primagaz Laurent Bourgnon (singlehanded) 1 1994 22.50 knots (41.67 km/h; 25.89 mph)
547.3 nmi (1,013.6 km; 629.8 mi) France Explorer Bruno Peyron 1994 22.80 knots (42.23 km/h; 26.24 mph)
590.23 nmi (1,093.11 km; 679.22 mi) United States PlayStation Steve Fossett 1999 24.59 knots (45.54 km/h; 28.30 mph)
625.7 nmi (1,158.8 km; 720.0 mi) France Club Med Bruno Peyron & Grant Dalton 14 11 November 2000 26.07 knots (48.28 km/h; 30.00 mph)
629.5 nmi (1,165.8 km; 724.4 mi) France Innovation Explorer Loick Peyron 13 2001 The Race 26.23 knots (48.58 km/h; 30.18 mph)
655.2 nmi (1,213.4 km; 754.0 mi) France Club Med Grant Dalton 2001 27.30 knots (50.56 km/h; 31.42 mph)
687.17 nmi (1,272.64 km; 790.78 mi) United States PlayStation Steve Fossett 2001 28.63 knots (53.02 km/h; 32.95 mph)
694.78 nmi (1,286.73 km; 799.54 mi) United Kingdom Maiden II Adrienne CahalanHelena Darvelid & Brian Thompson 2002 28.95 knots (53.62 km/h; 33.32 mph)
706.2 nmi (1,307.9 km; 812.7 mi) France Orange II Bruno Peyron 2004 29.43 knots (54.50 km/h; 33.87 mph)
766.8 nmi (1,420.1 km; 882.4 mi) France Orange II Bruno Peyron 3 July 2006 31.95 knots (59.17 km/h; 36.77 mph)
794 nmi (1,470 km; 914 mi) France Groupama 3 Franck Cammas 10 20 July 2007 33.08 knots (61.26 km/h; 38.07 mph)
907.9 nmi (1,681.4 km; 1,044.8 mi)[6] France Banque Populaire V Pascal Bidégorry 11 August 2009 37.83 knots (70.06 km/h; 43.53 mph)

Note that the nineteenth century records are not strictly compatible as they measure a “Day’s run” which was measured noon to noon regardless of longitude. The two entries above were both eastbound and therefore less than 24 hours.

Instantaneous speed record[edit]

The idea of an instantaneous speed record is not officially sanctioned by the WSSRC and is, therefore, not officially measured or documented. The highest speed ever reported is from the crew of Vestas Sailrocket 2 : on 24 November 2012 they recorded a top speed of 68.33 knots in a 25-29 knots wind. [7]

Previously, the highest speed ever reported was from the crew of l’Hydroptère. During an attempt on 21 December 2008 at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, they recorded a top speed of approximately 61 knots (speed not verified or registered on any onboard instrumentation) during a 45 knot gust of wind. This heavy gust of wind overpowered the sailboat, causing it to capsize at high speed. The crew sustained only minor injuries.[8]

Sovereign of the Seas, 1852, 258 ft, the fastest and longest ship yet built when she was launched in New York, designed and built by Donald Mackay, America’s foremost clipper designer. On her maiden voyage, she sailed New York to San Francisco in 103 days. This ship achieved the fastest ever recorded speed of a sailing vessel (22 knots).

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