What a Comanche bombshell! Tycoon Jim Clark’s 100-footer (skippered by the great Ken Read), is the new record holder for the distance covered over 24 hours by a monohull: 618.01 miles between last Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 (at an average speed of 25.75 knots) while the superboat was participating in the Transatlantic Race (from Newport, Rhode Island to Cowes, England).
This was the spark that prompted me to document the “planet record.” There are so many records that blur into memory, including multihulls, powerboats, solo, crewed, male, female. So I went to look at the website of the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the body that since 1972 has been collecting data, places, and names from the past and present that have left an indelible mark on the history of sailing. And I was immediately “intrigued.”
QUESTION OF SPEED
Marveling at how over the 24 hours, the 40-meter maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V (now Spindrift), at the mercy of Pascal Bidegorry and 12-man crew covered a whopping 908.2 miles at 37.84 knots average in 2009, a crazy record that stands untamed.
But in terms of absolute speed? The record on the maximum speed expressed on the 500 meters belongs to Vestas Sail Rocket 2 (and it is dated 2012), the boat (if you can call this futuristic bolide) equipped with a rigid wing by Australian skipper Paul Larsen that in Walvis Bay, Namibia, reached a peak of an impressive 65.45 knots: 121 km per hour! The chronology of man’s challenge in pursuit of maximum sailing speed tells how it took thirteen years (from ’75 to ’88) to go from 30 to 40 knots and that it took as many as twenty to break the 50-knot wall. Then, in just five years, it went directly to 65 knots, without even going through 60.
THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE OF ALL
The record of records, par excellence, is that of circumnavigating the world (west to east, 21,600 miles via the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Leeuwin in Australia and Horn in Chile). Among males, the solo monohull one belongs to François Gabart, winner of the 2012/13 Vendée Globe on the IMOCA 60 Macif: 78 days, 2 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. In solo, on a multihull, Francis Joyon ‘s time set in 2008 on the maxi trimaran Idec II endures: 57 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes and 6 seconds, at an average speed of 15.84 knots.
Among solo sailors, one can only bow before the great Ellen MacArthur: the Englishwoman holds both the monohull and multihull records. The first on the IMOCA 60 Kingfisher at the 2000/01 Vendée (where she finished second), 94 days, 4 hours, 25 minutes and 40 seconds. The second on the B&Q maxi trimaran in 2005 (71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds). By far, the fastest so far is Loïck Peyron, who with the aforementioned Banque Populaire V crewed around the world in just 45 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 53 seconds. Then there are the “fools.” Those who the globe decide to face it upstream (a very tough 21,760-mile challenge), from east to west. Like Jean-Luc Van den Heede, who took 122 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes and 49 seconds between 2003 and 2004 on his sturdy Adrien, 26-meter aluminum cutter. Or like Dee Caffari: she on the Aviva Open 60 took 178 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes and 34 seconds. The pioneer was Chay Blyth, who in 1970 took 272 days on the 59-foot British Steel.
THE ALLURE OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC
Competitively, the most fascinating and “classic” crossing is the North Atlantic crossing from Ambrose Lighthouse in New York to Cape Lizard in Cornwall: 2,880 miles. Billionaire Robert Warren Miller on the 42.67-meter ketch Mari Cha IV is still the holder of the best time for crewed monohulls (6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds). The record, although it continues to be challenged by great sailors (including our own Giovanni Soldini), has stood since 2003. So much in the age of oceanic giants. On multihulls it is still Banque Populaire V the boat to beat: 3 days, 15 hours, 25 minutes and 48 seconds at an average speed of 32.94 knots (again with Bidegorry in 2009).
Finally, the “goodies”: the longest-lived record in the history of navigation? It is the one on distance in 24 hours established in 1854: 465 miles at an average speed of 19.375 knots. It was established by a very heavy 77-meter, 2447-ton sailing ship, the Champion of the Seas(we tell you about it here), on its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne. Under the command of Captain Alexander Newlands. The record held until 1984! Finally, Italian pride: the legendary record of Alessandro Di Benedetto, who went around the world (28,360 miles) between 2009 and 2010 on the Findomestic Mini 650, in 268 days, 19 hours, 36 minutes and 12 seconds. Never had anyone succeeded in such a small boat!