America’s Landsailing Cup

Published on March 11th, 2013

By the editors at
Imagine sailing at 80 mph (nearly 68 kts!) in 30 mph of TRUE WIND. Now imagine it’s your first time landsailing and you catch a puff – the landsailer instantly accelerates to over 40 mph (approximately 35 kts!). You continue sheeting in as the yacht accelerates even more to almost 50 mph . . . this is landsailing! Helmets are required!

Your first time landsailing may be a HOLD TIGHT, SHUT UP and START PRAYING experience! These speeds are regularly attained by sailors who sometimes call themselves DIRTBOATERS. They can be found several weekends out of the year sailing on dry lakes called PLAYAS. The western United States is dotted with numerous playas having names like El Mirage; Superior Dry Lake #3; Smith Creek; Misfits Flat; Alvord Dry Lake and least known (to ocean sailors) but most notorious for its combined large flat surface and windy conditions is Ivanpah Dry Lake. Just possibly the fastest sailing surface on the planet!

A short history of landsailing speed records:
2009 – Richard Jenkins – GREENBIRD – 126.2 mph – Ivanpah Dry Lake, California
1999 – Bob Schumacher/Bob Dill – IRON DUCK – 116.7 mph – Ivanpah Dry Lake, California
1999 – Bob Schumacher/Bob Dill – IRON DUCK – 108.8 mph – Ivanpah Dry Lake, California
1992 – Bertrand Lambert – 94.7 mph – Beach / sand, France
1976 – Nord Embroden – FRIENDSHIP #1 – 88.4 mph – Superior Dry Lake, California

How do they sail so fast?
To understand how these “wind powered sailing vehicles” attain such high speeds is to understand sailing at its most basic level. The rolling resistance of tires on dirt (or skates on ice in iceboating) is much less than the friction of a conventional sailboat hull passing through water. The extreme width of the rear axle resists tipping over as a keel on a sailboat does but without carrying the extra weight in lead.

Since the landyacht is free of the conventional friction and mass of a water boat, the next step is to convert true wind to apparent wind. It’s all about getting the yacht “hooked up” to the apparent wind and holding tight! As the landsailer accelerates, so increases the effective “apparent wind”. The sailor sheets the sail in tighter to match each new moment of acceleration until maximum speed is reached. Nowhere in sailing is the phenomenon of hook up more apparent than in landsailing where from a complete stop it’s possible to accelerate to 35 mph in say 50 yards and to 45 mph in the next 50 yards and onward to top speeds of…

Racing on Ivanpah Dry Lake
Landsailors will gather during the last week in March 2013, on Ivanpah Dry Lake to sail in the premier American landsailing regatta known as AMERICA’S LANDSAILING CUP (March 23-31, 2013). Eighty-plus competitors will race in fleets ranging from Miniclass yachts upward to International Class II yachts. Races will be held daily (wind permitting) and spectators are welcome. Watching (or participating) in racing where yachts regularly round leeward marks at 60 mph is amazing!

Visit the event, check out the landsailers, meet the sailors and watch a few races. It’s quite an experience. After racing ends (daily) there’s usually some time to catch a ride or try out one of the yachts. Later, walk about the campsites and visit some friendly sailors, parties and campfires.

Driving Times
Ivanpah Dry Lake is around 3 hours from all the marinas and yacht clubs and all the sailors in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange Counties and about 3.5 hours from San Diego County and Santa Barbara County! Superior Dry Lake #3 and El Mirage Dry Lake are only around 2 hours away.

Info can be found at See the events calendar for dates and directions to Ivanpah Dry Lake and hotel accommodations in Primm, Nevada.

We hope to see you on the dirt!

Photo above: This is Gerry Lampert from Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club,  in San Pedro, CA. Her speed puck is reading in KNOTS so it is more like 60+ mph. It was on El Mirage Dry Lake, less than 2 hours drive from home! Gerry owns/skippers an I – 14 and when she asked to go landsailing (couple years ago) I asked why she thought she might like to try it and her answer (with a serious face) was “I like to sail really, really fast.” Needless to say – she’s been over 60 mph ! And keeps coming back . . .



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