Plain Sailing

Breaking Speed Records

Can you imagine sailing at over 65 knots?! The speeds that some boats can go are absolutely amazing!

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Earlier last week, we tweeted about how if Usain Bolt was a boat, he would be the Spirit of Australia – which is, to this day, still the fastest thing on water.  I say ‘to this day’ because it may surprise readers to learn that the record was actually set in 1978!  That means the record – of 317mph - is over 35 years old.

But when we looked at the picture, we noted that it was (obviously, now I think about it) essentially a glorified sportscar with a massive engine, which just happened to be watertight.

Which basically got us spending time researching the speed records for yachts, and powered by sails. 

Having normally been on a 40 foot yacht, I am used to sailing at about six knots, and, consequently, I consider anything above ten knots to be exciting, and anything over twelve knots is pretty white-knuckle stuff!  So how fast is it even possible to go by wind-power?  You will be surprised! 

I’d always assumed that it was directly proportional to the wind-speed (since harvesting 33% of the speed of the wind is a sign of a decent sailor), but there are some pretty incredible world records.  There are three sailing speed records: two are based by calculating your average speed over 500m, or the nautical mile.  The third is based upon how far you can get in 24 hours.

The fastest 500m is held by Vestas 2, set in 2012, when they managed to get a boat sailing at over 65 knots!??  Incredible!  That’s FAST in anyone’s money!

The fastest nautical mile is held by the same boat (but on a different day), with an average speed of over 55 knots?!

And the fastest boat over 24 hours?  Pascal Bidegorry sailed his boat an astonishing 907 nautical miles inside a day in 2009.  That’s pretty much from London to Madrid.  By sail.  In under a day?!  Madness!