222 Kilometres Per Hour — By Wind Power Alone!

By anyone’s standards, 222kph is speedy. If the only thing propelling you is the wind, it’s unheard of — until now.

That’s because pilot Glenn Ashby and Emirates Team New Zealand stoked their land yacht Horonuku up to 222.4kph on a lake bed in South Australia. The still-unofficial feat effectively broke the previous wind-powered land speed record of 202.9kph (set by Richard Jenkins in 2009).

The Horonuku’s crew hit the milestone on Dec. 11 at Lake Gairdner. It took advantage of seasonal 22-knot South Australian winds to push the land yacht to unheard-of speeds. Conditions were gusty, making piloting difficult.

“The team and I are obviously buzzing to have sailed Horonuku at a speed faster than anyone has ever before — powered only by the wind,” pilot Glenn Ashby told the New Zealand Herald. “But in saying that, we know Horonuku has a lot more speed in it when we get more wind and better conditions.”

“So for sure, there is a cause for a celebration, but this isn’t the end,” Ashby continued.

a screenshot from inside the cockpit of the Horonku

Glenn Ashby pilots the Horonku land yacht to a record-breaking wind-powered speed of 222.4kph. Photo: Screenshot


The Auckland-based Māori tribe hapū Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei named the Horonuku. In their language, it means “gliding swiftly across the land.” But was the craft swift enough? Months of weather delays, rainfall, and surface water at the chosen location hampered the team’s efforts.

Awaiting certification

Despite those setbacks, the Horonuku’s internal GPS data indicates it broke the record. But official verification is up to land yachting’s governing body: the Federation Internationale de Sand et Land Yat (FISLY).

According to the Herald, Emirates Team New Zealand has 48 hours after completing the attempt to submit its data to FISLY for verification. In the meantime, the team is happy to be pushing the science needed for wind-powered land speed records toward new horizons.

“The land speed project has been a new opportunity to push the boundaries in aerodynamics, structural forces, construction methods, and materials fields,” Emirates Team New Zealand Principal Matteo de Nora told the paper.

“What is often underestimated is that the technologies we explore in challenges like this or in an America’s Cup campaign — are ultimately the foundation of tomorrow’s technology. Being ahead of the times in technology is what fascinates [us] about all the challenges faced by the team so far.”

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).