Dry lake, Hot sun, Fast boats

Published on April 3rd, 2022

Renee Fields finds her peace sailing 70 mph in a land yacht across a dry lake bed under the hot desert sun.

The 56-year-old Reno woman, a U.S. veteran who speaks five languages and works as a forensic engineer, found land sailing after she was mistakenly diagnosed with cancer in her shoulder in 2012. When she found out it wasn’t cancer, she made tackling her bucket list a priority.

This included trying extreme sports like motorcycle racing and water sailing, which led her to start land sailing in 2014 and compete in races in Germany and Ireland.

“For fun, what I would say is we sail on boats that don’t float, on lakes that have no water — the fastest in the world,” the self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie said.

Land sailors from around the world gathered last month at Ivanpah Dry Lake, a dry lake bed just west of Primm, Nevada, for America’s Land Sailing Cup, the sport’s national championship. Sixty-eight sailors, also known as pilots; 90 boats, and about 120 people turned out for the weeklong, regatta-style competition, a larger group than usual because of COVID-19 canceling the 2020 and 2021 events. Fields was one of only three women competing.

Nevada’s dry lake beds have flat, sprawling playas that are ideal for non-motorized, wind-powered vehicles to glide at speeds that can reach more than 100 mph in 10 to 50 mph winds. Ivanpah Dry Lake is considered the best of the best for land sailing in the nation and world, according to the Bureau of Land Management’s California field office.

“We are the fastest and we have these beautiful dry lakes that just make amazing courses for sailing upwind and downwind on the beaches,” Fields said. “Here we can set a windward lured course and truly have to swim upwind and downwind to the marks.”

The sailors compete unless there is no wind or wind is above 35 mph, depending on the class. They take their place at the starting line after ensuring their land yachts are ready with proper tire pressure and sail flexion. Their yachts, or boats, are steered with their feet, altering the sail through the tension of a rope controlled by their hands.

Experience and consistency are key, said North American Land Sailing Association race director Dennis Bassano, who has been sailing since he was 12 years old. – Full report

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