SPEED TRIALS – Weymouth Speed Trials start in one week! Weymouth Speed Week is the oldest and longest-running speed sailing event in the world. Held annually since 1972, it has challenged sailors of a wide variety of wind-powered craft to sail as fast as they can over a distance of 500m. A competitor’s speed is recorded as the average speed over that distance.
This October we celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary; the fun starts on Saturday the 6th and ends on Friday the 12th with a prize-giving ceremony. To celebrate this milestone in the event’s history, remember to dig out and bring along your old sailing equipment. You never know, that old Speed Needle and Dacron sail from the 1980′s may prove to be a winning combination!
Today’s competitors comprise kite boarders, sail boarders and boaters. They compete over a 500m course laid out in Portland Harbour. The number of courses and their positions can vary each day according to the prevailing and anticipated wind conditions. Each course has a start line and each competitor is free to choose their best angle to maximise their speed. Each competitor’s run is now accurately measured by GPS with the recorded GPS data processed each day to generate the results for each of the competition classes. Competitors are also free to put in as many runs as they can; on a windy day, the course can be a constant buzz as the competitors relentlessly charge up and down to find the best wind.
Sailing fast is not simply about sailing in strong winds; whilst strong winds provide the basis for a fast run, a sailor’s ability to sail efficiently and consistently is highly important. Sailing fast in less-than-perfect winds presents an opportunity to demonstrate a sailor’s skill and judgement.
Weymouth Speed Week is a unique event. All sailors with an interest in speed sailing are invited to compete and there are no restrictions upon the craft you may sail – experimental craft are particularly welcome. There are, in fact, few rules to who can compete; so long as your craft is wind-powered, it is eligible. The event has attracted some of the world’s top professional and record-holding sailors over the years. The event allows first-time competitors to compete with professionals on the same course – not something normally offered by other events.
THE HARBOUR RECORD
The current speed week harbour speed record of 38.48 knots was set by Anders Bringdal in 2008 on a sailboard.
In 2011, four competitors exceeded 35 knots and one, a kite boarder, exceeded 36 knots. With the right wind conditions this year, the harbour record could fall. There’s a prize for the competitor who breaks the record and sets the week’s top speed. Many kite and sail boarders have achieved speeds of over 30 knots in the last 2 events; 49 of the 100 competitors exceeded 30 knots in 2011.
High speeds are, of course, dependent upon having the right wind conditions at the right time; with the event set for a single week to coincide with the best tidal conditions, the wind conditions can make or break a speed challenge.
THE WORLD RECORD
Competitors are challenged to beat not only the harbour record but also that of the outright World Speed Record; that currently stands at 55.65 knots and was set by Robert Douglas (USA), a kite rider, at the Luderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia in October 2010.
The French trimaran, l’Hydroptère, had previously set a record of 51.36 knots over 500 meters in September 2009.
The top windsurfer speed of 49.09 knots was set by Antoine Albeau (FRA) in 2008.
Please refer to the World Sailing Speed Record Council for more information about the past and current world speed records over the distance of 500m.
Portland Harbour has been the location for many of the early speed sailing world records for boats and windsurfers, with Tim Colman setting several notable records with his Crossbow proa and Crossbow II catamaran in the 70′s and early 80′s.
Kite boards have recently presented serious challenges to the dominance of the sail boarders at Weymouth Speed Week and have taken the week’s honours over the last two years:
- In 2010 James Longmuir achieved 33.419 knots on a kite board with sailboarder Kevin Greenslade marginally behind on 32.753 knots;
- in 2011 kite boarder David Williams achieved 36.250 knots and just pipped David Garrel at 35.742 knots on a sailboard to take the week’s fastest speed.
Portland Harbour, Dorset.
Weymouth Speed Week 2012 runs from Saturday 6th October 2012 – Friday 12th October 2012. If you would like to take part, please click here.
Spectators are invited to come and watch; Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, the site of the 2012 Olympics sailing competition, hosts the event and is open to visitors.