The world sailing speed record came close to being broken last week and current weather forecasts suggest that better conditions could be on the way today

Last week saw speed sailor Finian Maynard get within 1.3 knots of the world sailing speed record on a sail board as he clocked up a top speed of 45.22 knots sailing on the man made canal in Stes. Maries de la Mer in the South of France. According to official reports, today could see the world record of 46.52knots, (set by Yellow Pages in 1993), broken if weather conditions pan out as expected.

From the Masters of Speed website on Tuesday night:

‘We are on high alert with gale force winds predicted for tomorrow afternoon and evening. The forecast calls for 25 knots ESE in the morning building quickly to 35 knots at midday. From there we can expect anything between 35 and 60 knots. The entire coastline should get force 8-9 sustained winds with gusts up to force 12!.

‘The ultimate day might be upon us with the perfect direction and strong wind.

‘Let’s hope that the wind comes sooner rather than later. Things can change by morning.’

The fact that the record is so close to being broken is impressive given that many had believed that the basic power to weight ratios that could be achieved with a human and a sailboard meant that it was unlikely that sailboards would be able to regain the record. The result has been a focus on designing complex high speed craft, one of the most recent to be announced being Paul Larsen and Malcolm Barnsley’s Sail Rocket unveiled at this year’s Southampton Boat Show.

Finian Maynard, who is the 4-time defending Speed World Champion, is joined by nine other speed sailors who are currently zipping up and down the 1km French canal. Unlike the conditions required for record breaking in the bigger craft where wind speeds of 25knots are often at the upper range, these sailors won’t leave the beach until the wind speed is well above this figure. On the day of Maynard’s top speed, (which fell just 0.1knots short of the world record for a sail board), conditions were reported to have been, ‘a sustained 30-35 knots in the best runs with gusts of 40 knots in the morning.’

The canal lends itself well to board sailing in such high wind speeds. The trench itself is 1,100m long and just 15m wide. There are three overlapping, 500m courses on each side accommodating the four quadrant wind directions. NW, N/NE, SW & SE. The two most favourable directions are the widely known ‘Mistral’, which blows from a N/NE direction and the ‘Le Grec’, which blows from the SE. This was the wind direction of Thierry Bielak’s record run of 45.34 knots in 1993. Bielak is one of the ten sailors currently attempting to break the record.

To see the Masters of Speed web site: Masters of Speed