Records tumble as Sailing Speed season continues

Vestas SailRocket, Walvis Bay, Namibia, October 2008

The speed sailing season continues with Paul Larson's Vestas SailRocket and Alain Thébault's l’Hydroptère both posting improved speed figures.

Across the sailing spectrum speed is the attraction, from the outright speed record of the kite boarders to the record 24hr distances sailed by the large monhulls and multihulls, speed is the attraction, faster is the goal - the 500m distance has become the equivalent of the athletics 100m in status, the ultimate crown.

Alexandre Caizergues Speed World Cup Port St. Louis
In a flurry of action the kite sailors recently raised the bar with a new outright world speed sailing record of 50.57 knots.

At the Lüderitz Speed Challenge, Sebastien Cattelan of France become the first human being to sail at more than 50 knots (93kph) – a world record he held for only 24 hours before compatriot Alexandre Caizergues snatched it away with three runs over 50 knots – reaching a top speed of 50.57 knots (93.65kph).

In the Volvo Ocean Race, currently heading to Cape Town, the Volvo 70, Ericsson4 broke through the 600-mile barrier with a run that reached 602.66 nautical miles in 24 hours.

The new mark established by Torben Grael’s men added nearly 40 miles to the previous record figure and translates into an average speed of 25.11 knots. Half the speed of that achieved by the kite sailors but a record of a very different ilk.

Dave Endean (NZL) and Joao Signorini celebrate on Ericsson 4 as they set a new 24 hour record
While the outright speed competitors seek specialised conditions of flat seas and strong winds, allowing them to race over measured tracks, the distance records of the big boats are achieved in open sea conditions.

For the crew of Ericsson4 conditions included winds approaching 40 knots with boisterous seas of eight metres and included sailing in pitch darkness through these conditions. This obviously puts great strain on the boat, its equipment and the crew.

The recent attempt of Richard Branson's Virgin Money on the Atlantic Crossing record was aborted after only two days when a wave ripped off a liferaft and damaged the mainsail.

Between the two extremes of the kite surfers and the specialised long distance boats are the projects that attempt to take the outright speed record with specialised craft that do not make use of generally available versions of boards or yachts.

Macquarie Innovation October 2007
. ©
Craft such as Yellow Pages Endeavour, outright record holder from 1993 for eleven years, and its successor the Macquarie Innovation (MI).

On its last outing in October 2007 Macquarie Innovation was timed at 46.48 kts across a 500m course at Sandy Point in Australia.

From the UK, Paul Larson's Vestas SailRocket project continues with recent runs at the speed track in Namibia. Wednesday, they recorded a GPS reading of 45.7 knots, later on the download it read 45.85 whilst the PI Research GPS on the boat recorded 46.28 knots!

This also showed they did 700 meters over 40 knots and managed a 500 meter run of 44.3 knots. Very close to the best of the large foiler trimaran Hydroptere, but it seems that Hydroptere also has more in the locker.

l’Hydroptère has resumed her training for the absolute sailing speed record
l’Hydroptère has been revamped and have just improved their performances and established two new records: an average of 43,09 knots over one nautical mile and an average of 46.146 knots over 500 meters.

At the more accessible Dakine Weymouth Speed Week, hosted by the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in the UK, 100 competitors from six countries took part. This event has taken place regularly since the 1970s.

While the ultimate objective to beat the world record (50.56 knots) remained out of reach, Anders Bringdal set a new harbour record by achieving a speed of 38.48 knots, whilst the majority of competitors exceeded 30 knots. Local Weymouth sailor and member of Skandia Team GBR Nick Dempsey competed early in the week and achieved a top speed of 35.86 knots.