Saturday, January 13, 2018

Worlds Fastest Sailboats

I wrote this article on Dec. 4th 2011 and so I thought it's time to update this article as a lot of records have fallen since 2011. The debate about how fast sailboats can go and/or speed differences between monohulls and multihulls can sometimes be a ridiculously contentious debate. It can be like talking about politics. So I think the best way to resolve this debate is to state facts, so here are the facts as supplied by the World Speed Sailing Records Council.

November 2012 off the coast of Walvis Bay, Namibia the Vestas Sailrocket was able to set three sailing records. 1. Top speed, (2.) 500 meet record top speed, and 24 hour record. Currently the Top Speed and 500 meter records is at an amazing 65.45 knots (75.2 mph). The nautical mile record is also by Vestas at an average speed of 55.32 knots. These records are not likely to be broken for some time. It should be noted this sailing craft can only sail on flat protected waters in one direction, so is not able to tack, jib, etc. Watch this amazing sailing craft...

The top speed record for a sailboat that can actually sail in open waters and able to tack, etc. goes to the trimaran l’Hydroptere. For 500 meters it hit a speed of 51.36 knots, which is almost 60 mph (59.33 MPH). They also did 24 hours at an average speed of 50.17 knots. Next phase for the design team is to develop an ocean going model. So look for many ocean records to be broke shortly.

Many felt circumnavigating the globe by water in under 50 days was impossible but that impossibility happened when the Trimaran Groupama 3 did it in 48 days, but then the trimaran Banque Populaire V did it in 45 days. Then the unthinkable happened when the trimaran IDEC Sport 3 skippered by Francis Joyon did it in 40 days, 23 hours, 30 minutes, 30 seconds. So maybe breaking 40 days is possible. This catamaran also set the 24 hour record at an average speed of 37.83 knots/43.53 mph. An interesting note is all three trimarans mentioned here are one and the same boat but was raced under 3 different names. What is amazing is the closest a power boat could get to this record was 60 days with the jet boat Ady Gil. However this was not non stop as they had to stop 12 times to refuel. The USS Navy nuclear-powered submarine USS Triton also did it in 60 days… 2 hours faster and non stop totally submerged.

The fastest speeds around a race course go to the Americas Cup (AC) catamarans. The older AC72 catamarans were fast, clocked at 44.15 knots for the 2013 America's Cup. After the 2013 event the AC cats were reduced to 48 ft but turned out to be faster and were clocked at 46 knots. Certainly these AC cats are the fastest sailboats ever to sail around a racing course, however this class of cats are now dead as a future racing class. When New Zealand won the 2017 America's Cup they announced the next America's Cup event would be raced on slower monohulls. Sad new to some, particularly the younger generation that loved the excitement of the fast high speed formula like racing. If you are sad about this news, no worries as foiling cats are here to say... see the next paragraph to see why.

The Extreme Sailing Series has been going on for years aboard 40 foot non foiling cats and then in 2016 they moved to the smaller but faster GC32 foiling cats. For many the Extreme Sailing Series moving to foiling cats was a big deal with the let down of the America's Cup no longer being raced on foiling cats. So via the Extreme Sailing Series one can still get their high speed foiling fix by watch spectacular racing and crashes. The GC32 top speed is 40.2 knots thus far off the pace of a AC cat but at a smaller size very impressive. Check the racing out at

Another development in course racing is the new SuperFoiler and with this boat comes the new SuperFoiler Grand Prix. This racing series is only happening in Australia currently but will be expanding all over the world. This boat is the first sailboat to be design from a clean slate from the foils up. All other boats were basically already in existence and then foils were added. Such is the case with the GC32, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the SuperFoiler is simply the first its size to be designed this way along with the much smaller UFO noted below on this page. The SuperFoiler is 26 ft long and 16 ft wide. Estimated top speed is over 40 knots, currently in racing the top speed so far is 37.5 knots. Many sailors are watching with much interest if this sailboat can break 40 knots. The Superfoiler employs three trapeze on each side of the boat for its three sailors, something larger foilers typically do not employ, giving it more leverage for better control in strong winds. So the races are on, which boat will be the fastest around the race course, the SuperFoiler or the GC32? Time will tell.

In a smaller size of 18 feet is Flying Phantom that can hit speeds of 34.9 knots. There are several companies manufacturing 18 foot foiling catamarans but the Flying Phantom is the most popular at this point. There is also the Nacra 17 Olympic foiling cat but has yet to break 30 knots.

And finally the smallest and fastest sailboat is the foiling 10 foot catamaran called the UFO. This boat when foiling cat has hit 24.8 knots with a solo sailor. We will be posting more about this boat on FunToSAIL website shortly.

It should be noted that foils take work to maintain and the GC32 sells for $300,000 and the Fly Phantom sells for about $45,000. So for the average sailor these foiling cats are not the best choice for the weekend warrior. However the UFO sells for $7,000 and foils are fairly low maintenance do in part to the boats small size.

The sailboat that started the whole speed junky and off the beach surf craze is the undisputed king of beach cats, the 16 foot Hobie 16. This cat has been clocked at 25.9 knots, with GPS speed reports of up to 27 knots. When it comes to a non-foiling cat which was first built in 1970 its fast and continues to be the most sailed and raced worldwide. In addition with the addition of the Trapseats (wing like hammock seats the attach to either side of the boat) one with a disAbility that has limited mobility can also sail this cat.


Top speed unofficially is 32.45 knots aboard the 140' Mari-Cha IV, sustained for short bursts. Since no monohull is hitting speeds of 40 knots or more the World Sailing Speed Record Council has no records of top speeds other than during monohulls record attempts at 24 hours or longer. Again some large high performance monohulls have hit over 30 knots for a very short time.

New monohull 24 hour record confirmed. The World Sailing Speed Record Council has ratified a new monohull 24 hour record set by skipper Ken Read (USA) and 20 crew on the 100-foot Comanche on July 10-11. While competing in the 2015 Transatlantic Race, Comanche covered a distance of 618.01 nm, averaging 25.75 knots.Jul 20, 2015

The 84 foot Banque Populaire VIII, skippered by Armel Le Cléac'h (FRA) went around the world in 74 days, 3 hours.

A note of interest with the next America's Cup (AC) 36, the sailboats used will be 75 foot foiling monohulls so we should see some new monohull records, maybe. New Zealand designers indicate the new foiling monohulls will go faster than the past AC foiling catamarans. That just is not going to happen. Each foil on the monohulls is large and ballasted creating a lot of drag, etc. which the catamarans did not have to deal with. Also the windward foil will be lifted out of the water creating in many sailors view a hazard to the competing boat with the potential to hit. Simply put the new AC monohulls will not have much more speed than current high performance monohulls, with added hazards, and with a lot of added costs to build such boats. On another note due to the size of the foils, some are seeing the new AC monohulls as more of a trimaran than a monohull. I will post more news about these sailboats as it develops.

CONCLUSION: So there you have it the official records to establish the facts.

And just to get discussion going what is the top speed you had your sailboat going? Make a comment below.

Myself I recorded the speed of 26 knots on my Reynolds 33 catamaran. I bet I have gone faster on this big cat but unfortunately I did not have a GPS with me other than the one time.

Some other speeds I have located was Hobie Co. indicated in the mid 70's of a H16 doing 26.2 mph, and officially advertised a speed of 25.9 mph in the early 80's. Check out the Hobie forum for speed info. A Hobie 21 was recorded going 32.5 knots (proof is posted) . Take a look at this video of a Hobie 16 doing 22.3 mph

An Olympic Tornado catamaran was recorded hitting 36 knots. And a Laser monohull was recorded doing 16.8 knots in a storm.

No matter what speed you are going its slicing silently across the water without the aid of a motor and a well designed sailboat all powered by the wind that makes it all so enjoyable.

By Miles Moore of


  1. My top speed in a monohull,( in my Venture 24 was 7 knots) GPS. Top speed in my ComPac 16,( while running downwind from Powderhorn Bay to Carlin Bay) trying to out run a storm,( wind speeds in excess of 35 mph I must have been somewhere between 8 to 10 knots. No GPS that time. I was not worried about the standing rigging but, had my doubts about the sails. Hope to set a new record with my,( new to me) Hobie 16 next year 2012. Come on Spring.
    Capt. Mitch

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