At various points in the past decade, each of three very different types of watercraft; windsurf, kiteboard, and specialized sailboat, has held the world record for wind-propelled speed on liquid water. So it has been an interesting decade, if you're into that sort of thing. Here's a rundown of the record-breaking from sailspeedrecords.com. This is average speed measured over a 500 meter stretch. A knot is 1.15 mph:
Year, Type of Watercraft, Skipper Name, Venue, Speed
1993, Yellow Pages (wing-sail sailboat), Simon McKeon, Sandy Point, Australia, 46.52 kts
2004, Windsurfer, Finian Maynard, Stes. Marie Speed Ditch, France, 46.82 kts
2005, Windsurfer, Finian Maynard, Stes. Marie Speed Ditch, France, 48.70 kts
2008, Windsurfer, Antoine Albeau, Stes. Marie Speed Ditch, France, 49.09 kts
2008, Kite-board, Robert Douglas, Luderitz Speed Ditch, Namibia, 49.84 kts
2008, Kite-board, Sebastien Cattelan, Luderitz Speed Ditch, Namibia, 50.26 kts
2008, Kite-board, Alexandre Caizergues, Luderitz Speed Ditch, Namibia, 50.57 kts
2009, Hydroptere (hydrofoil trimaran), Alain Thebault, Hyeres Bay, France 51.36 kts
and just the other day...
2010, Kite-board, Alexandre Caizergues, Luderitz Speed Ditch, Namibia, 54.10 kts (62.3 mph!)
Wow. I think it's unlikely now that windsurfers will ever recapture the record, since Antoine Albeau's amazing 49.09 knot run in perfect conditions in 2008 is a full 5 knots slower than Caizergues' new kiteboard record. Oh, well. I think it's just easier to get extreme speeds on a kiteboard because of the physics of it. The kite is higher in the air where the wind is unobstructed, the board and fin can be smaller, and the kiteboard can run at a deeper downwind angle. Of course, "easy" is relative. All these record attempts look extremely difficult and dangerous to me, and I wonder how long it will be before someone gets killed smacking into a sandbar or something. Yikes.