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. I last updated this article in January of 2021. 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. The design team developed an ocean going model, which capsized so they have not sailed it again. Hopefully they will sail again and break many ocean records.

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 new SailGP F50 catamarans based off the old Americas Cup (AC)50 Cats but much improved. Team Great Britian did 50.27 knots on an F50, making them the fastest racing team ever, but likely this record will not stand with the improved SailGP foils and wing sail, etc. to come. Still the Britian team is the first to break 50 knots. 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 feet but turned out to be faster and were clocked at 47.2 knots (54 mph/87 kph). The new AC75 foiling monohull hit 49.1 knots. The new upgrade F50 cat is expected to hit 53-54 knots. Certainly these F50 cats are the fastest sailboats ever to sail around a racing course and will remain so for years to come. When New Zealand won the 2017 America's Cup they announced the next America's Cup event would be raced on foiling monohulls (AC75). Top speed potential is 50 knots, but have not broken that speed yet but are getting close. These boats are having stability issues. They are 20 feet longer than the F50. With the AC sailboats now being foiling monohulls foiling cat racing has continued via the SailGP racing series.

The GC32 Racing Tour is raced on 32 foot foiling cats (GC32's). These cats are the fastest team foiling sailboat under 50 feet. The GC32 top speed thus far is 39.21 knots thus far (by team Alinghi 2015), not as fast as an F50 cats or AC75 foiling monohulls but at a much smaller size this speed is very impressive (typically the longer the boat, the faster the boat). There is a new cat foiling class developing aboard 35 foot cats called the TF35, mostly French teams. It will be interesting to see if this new class kills the GC32 tours. The TF35 is more expensive class and so that may limit its success. The Extreme Racing series use to be the most consistent yearly racing series for foiling sailboats, but was cancelled in 2019 due to budget issues, luckily the GC32 Racing Tour has continued such racing as well as SailGP world series. Check out the GC32 Racing at this link...

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 but was cancelled in 2018, but there are plans to bring the racing series back. 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 of its size to be designed this way. 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. Only time will tell if this boat can break 40 knots.

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. Also the 15 foot IFly is now the fastest foiler at 16 feet or under, and may challenge the Phantom for outright fastest boat under 20 feet.


And finally the smallest and fastest sailboat is the single handed Moth at 11 feet. It's a developmental class meaning it can change design wise every year. The fastest one design foiler 11 and under is like the Moth and is called the Waszp. This Moth hit 36.5 knots but is not its consistent speed which is typically around 20 to 26 knots. The Waszp hits 25 knots, an can consistently sail at 15 knots.


The Hobie TriFoiler was introduced and started production in 1992 as the fastest foiling sailboat, it's still the fastest production sailboat ever to be built to this day. Demand for the boat dropped and production ended in 1999. Parts are still available via Hobie Cat. Co. The TriFoiler was based off the world record setting Longshot, which set speed records in A, B, C class, and still holds the A class record of 43.55 knots. The TriFoiler is not quite as fast as the Slingshot as it was designed to be more user friendly for the average sailor. Still can hit a stop speed of 40 knots.

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 and the smaller Ifly sells for $31,000. So for the average sailor these foiling cats are not the best choice for the weekend warrior. However the Wasp sells for around $10,00 and the UFO sells for $8,500 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 29 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. With the addition of 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. Due to the constantly ever changing foiling market the Hobie 16 has become a classic, pretty much the only in-the-water/non foiling class of small racing multihulls to survive the ever changing designs. Thus it will continue to thrive and most loved classic beach cat. You also can NOT play in the surf/breaking surf with a foiling sailboat or foil in areas with aquatic plant life, but you can with a Hobie 16.

America's Cup (AC) 36 2021 are being raced on 68 foot (75 with bowsprit) foiling monohulls so we should see some new monohull records for sure. The AC foiling monohulls are called AC 75's, meaning they are 75 feet long, at the water line they measure 68 feet, and 75 maybe with the bowsprit. New Zealand designers indicate the new foiling monohulls will go faster than the past AC foiling catamarans, which happened in 2020 with a speed of 49.1 knots tops for a short burst of speed. It was said they hit 50.25 knots but this is not officially recorded. To be far the AC75 is 20 feet longer than the last AC Cat, with length typically comes with more speed. Each foil on the AC75 monohull has a large and ballasted side foil helping to reduce the boat from capsizing and help with stability. However the boats seems to capsize pretty easy and do not appear to be as stable as the past AC cats or SailGP F50 cats. The windward foil lifts out of the water which means a competing boat most stay clear of it. Simply put the new AC75 foiling monohulls are proving to be very fast for a monohull. I will post more news about these sailboats as it develops.

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 July 20, 2015

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

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 due a friend with one.

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.


Will add a world speed sailing record link to a website when I find one that is kept up to date.

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

  2. used to hit 100 mph in a sonar all the time. planing, literally airing over the waves. those boats are all flow.

  3. i just hit 29.4 knots against the tide in a Danica 16 sloop :) full keel

    1. That is fast. Had a friend hit 36 knots on a Tornado catamaran. Crazy fast for an in-the-water boat.