Sailing Speed Records

IDEC Sport is the current record holder for the fastest circumnavigationPhoto courtesy of Jean-Marie Liot/ IDEC Sport

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built boats have become a staple in the world of speed records, whether they be race records, course records or outright records. Among these records are a few that eclipse all others in terms of prestige: the Outright, Nautical Mile, 24-Hour, Transatlantic and Circumnavigation Records. Each of these records is currently held by a multihull, some more unusual than others, but all representing the absolute cutting edge of design development. Here’s a brief history of the ultra-fast and how we got here.

Though hardly a speedster by modern standards, Lightning is the first recorded ship to hold the 24-Hour RecordPhoto courtesy of Francis Demanse/DCNS

Outright (500m) Record

Current record holder: Vestas Sailrocket 2 with an average speed of 65.5 knots

The Outright Record is a 500-meter speed test that is notable for the cutting-edge (and sometimes strange) designs that have won it over the years. Some of the more recent designs have even faced criticism about whether they’re technically sailing at all. However, the World Sailing Speed Record Council, which monitors many of the major records, considers a craft eligible if it fits broad criteria, like using exclusively wind and water to influence speed, having at least one person onboard and sailing on liquid water not ice…

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