Fastest venue hiding in plain sight

Published on April 3rd, 2022

When the America’s Cup and SailGP boast about boat speeds, there is a sector of the sport that snicker at the swiftness – land and ice sailors. While sailing on the hard can face more fickle conditions to get up to pace, when they do, they quickly eclipse those with the soggy dollars.

As the designers for the America’s Cup defender seek to create a weapon to break the current land sailing record of 126.2 mph set in 2009 by Richard Jenkins set on Ivanpah Dry Lake, Duncan Harrison takes the opportunity to promote this USA venue and his corner of the sport:

Ivanpah is not well known to most water sailors. The playa lies in eastern California, just west of Primm, Nevada and is bisected by Interstate 15, the highway linking Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Yup, the world’s fastest sailing surface hiding in plain sight!

Ivanpah Dry Lake is around 3 hours drive time from all of the water sailors along the west coast between Santa Barbara and San Diego. Millions of people drive across Ivanpah Dry Lake annually, yet rarely do a handful of curious passersby stop and visit a landsailing event.

Even fewer brave souls ask for (and get) a ride in a dirtboat, but let’s imagine sailing at 90 mph in 30 mph of true wind.

It’s your first time landsailing – you’ve just begun rolling and the sail catches a puff. You’re acceleration shoves you into the seat as the boat speed skyrockets to over 40 mph. Continue sheeting in! The yacht accelerates to over 50 mph! Catch the next puff and accelerate to speeds you never imagined possible – this is extreme sailing!

Seatbelts and helmets are required!

Dirtboats, depending on size and design have top speeds of 50 to 90+ mph. Sailing at these speeds requires a special breed of sailor – we call ourselves dirtboaters.

Dirtboaters can be found (during the cooler months!) blasting about on dry lakes which we call playas. The western United States is dotted with numerous playas: El Mirage Dry Lake, Superior Dry Lake, Jungo Hard Pan, Adobe Dry Lake, Alvord Dry Lake, Black Rock Desert,and Smith Creek to name a few.

The most notorious playa is Ivanpah Dry Lake, California. Ivanpah is hallowed dirt to some sailors. This is the only place on earth where extreme sailors have proven that it’s possible to sail above 100 mph.

For those of you interested in learning more or getting into landsailing. See the links below to find information on landsailing, events, dates, playas and yachts for sale:

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