History of Speed sailing in the Uk
Speed sailing in the Uk began back in 1972 with Weymouth Speed Week under the direction of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). The event was regarded as the key opportunity for boats to demonstrate their prowess, reach world-record breaking speeds and contribute to the development of sailing technology. Speed sailing records have been sanctioned by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) since 1972.
The speed trials of the 1970's and 80's attracted considerable amounts of sponsorship money and only those who were invited could compete. World speed records were continually set and then broken as the craft and competitors improved. Firstly it was the boats dominating the event and then, as technologies improved, the windsurfers began to take the lead.
In the late 80's locations with more constant and predictable wind conditions emerged and the importance of Weymouth Speed Week as a record-breaking location began to decline somewhat.
The lack of rules in the early years provided the ideal proving ground for both experts and dreamers to build the type of boats which, but for Weymouth Speed Week, would never otherwise see the light of day. Many early boat and board designs have since been refined and some of today's fastest craft owe their origins to the people that designed craft for and/or competed in the event.
Weymouth's popularity remained however and thanks to the voluntary efforts of a few devoted individuals, Weymouth Speed Week progressed into the 1990s. The support of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, the Weymouth Sailing Centre and the Amateur Yacht Research Society who assisted by donating prizes each year were also key to the ongoing popularity. Some local sailing club members even offered their boats available for use as 'course boats' during the event. The combined efforts of all these organisations and individuals has ensured that Weymouth Speed Week is the enjoyable and exciting event that it is today.
The last couple of years has even seen Weymouth Speed Week encompass the British round of the International Speed Windsurfing Class (ISWC) European Tour.
Chalkwell - "The Ray"
The Ray is a strip of water roughly 3 Kilometers long which is exposed at low tide in Southend. Divided from the main shipping lane of the Thames Estuary by a sand bar it provides extremely flat water when a wind from the South blows. Part way along there is a dog leg which increases the range of wind directions that work. Pretty much anything from South West to South East can be good here and for those willing to make the 1 mile walk from the shore the Ray will reward them with very quick speeds.
The Speed Weekend event is open to any wind powered sailing craft. Whether you are a Windsurfer, Kitesurfer or sail one of the many classes of boat you are more than welcome to enter this event and see how fast you can go. The format is so simple that anyone who can keep their craft in a straight line can have a go
In recent years we have witnessed World Champion and Record holding professionals sailing on the same course as novices and juniors. This is an aspect of Speed sailing that you don't see in other sports
Competitors are invited to compete with one of three types of craft
- Sailboards (aka windsurfer)
Competition for the highest speed is fierce and recently the kite boarders have reached and even exceeded the speeds of the sail boarders. There are a number of different categories for everyone from first-time competitors to seasoned speed sailors.
Speed, position and distance are recorded by GT31 GPS units; each competitor wears an individual GPS data logger that continuously records their location.
Although the Outright Record (speed sailing over 500m, currently 65.45knots held by "Vestas Sailrocket 2") may be out of reach, the competition is definitely on for setting local records.
Todays Speed Sailing Course
The 500 metre course is the common distance for speed sailing and really challenges the competitor in terms of Strength, Fitness, Stamina and Couarge.
The course is set each day to best suit the actual weather and to aid the achievement of the highest speeds.
Speed Sailing Around the World
Luderitz in Namibia has become the favourite location for record-breaking attempts. The kite boarders sailing at Luderitz were edging towards and then breaking the 50 knot barrier, with a record-breaking speed of 50.57 kt recorded by another Frenchman, Alexandre Caizergues in 2009.
During 2009, even as the British designed boat Sailrocket sailing in Walvis Bay, Namibia was inching towards the speed record, the massive, French D Class hydrofoil "l'Hydroptère" regained the 500m title with a speed of 51.36 knots. For the next few years, higher speeds were set only by kites.. that was until November 2012 when Paul Larsen and Sailrocket 2 edged towards and then smashed the 60 knot barrier.
The current Outright Record of 65.45 knots was set by Paul Larsen (AUS) with the B class Vestas Sailrocket 2 (pictured below) at Walvis bay, Namibia in 2012.
Chasing the top speed and the Outright Record continues; the race is now on to be the first to achieve 70 knots. Will it be a boat, a kite board or a sail board? It could in fact be any of them.