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.
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:
- 500 metre (or “outright”) record is held by Paul Larsen. On 24 November 2012 he sailed the Vestas Sailrocket 2 at 65.45 knots in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
- Nautical mile record is held by Paul Larsen. On 18 November 2012 he sailed the Vestas Sailrocket 2 at 55.32 knots in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
- 24 Hour distance record is held by Pascal Bidégorry. On 1 August 2009 he sailed the Banque Populaire V 908 nautical miles (at 37.84 knots). This was while he was breaking the northern Atlantic record.
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||102.45|
|8 November 2009||l’Hydroptère||Alain Thébault FRA||Hyères FRA||50.17||92.91||.|
|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|
A 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
|436 nmi (807 km; 502 mi)||Lightning||James Nolan “Bully” Forbes||1 March 1854||18.16 knots (33.63 km/h; 20.90 mph)|
|465 nmi (861 km; 535 mi)||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)||Formule Tag||Michael Birch||1984||21.33 knots (39.50 km/h; 24.55 mph)|
|517 nmi (957 km; 595 mi)||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)||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)||Lyonnaise des eaux||Olivier de Kersauson||1994||21.91 knots (40.58 km/h; 25.21 mph)|
|540 nmi (1,000 km; 620 mi)||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)||Explorer||Bruno Peyron||1994||22.80 knots (42.23 km/h; 26.24 mph)|
|590.23 nmi (1,093.11 km; 679.22 mi)||PlayStation||Steve Fossett||1999||24.59 knots (45.54 km/h; 28.30 mph)|
|625.7 nmi (1,158.8 km; 720.0 mi)||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)||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)||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)||PlayStation||Steve Fossett||2001||28.63 knots (53.02 km/h; 32.95 mph)|
|694.78 nmi (1,286.73 km; 799.54 mi)||Maiden II||Adrienne Cahalan, Helena Darvelid & Brian Thompson||2002||28.95 knots (53.62 km/h; 33.32 mph)|
|706.2 nmi (1,307.9 km; 812.7 mi)||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)||Orange II||Bruno Peyron||3 July 2006||31.95 knots (59.17 km/h; 36.77 mph)|
|794 nmi (1,470 km; 914 mi)||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)||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
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. 
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.
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).