Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Land sailing

An early 20th-century sail wagon in Brooklyn, New York.

Land sailing, also known as sand yachting or land yachting, is the act of moving across land in a wheeled vehicle powered by wind through the use of a sail. The term comes from analogy with (water) sailing. Historically, land sailing was used as a mode of transportation or recreation. Since the 1950s it has evolved primarily into a racing sport.

Vehicles used in sailing are known as sail wagons, sand yachts, or land yachts. They are typically three-wheeled vehicles that function much like a sailboat, except that they are operated from a sitting or lying position and steered by pedals or hand levers. Land sailing works best in windy, flat areas, and races often take place on beaches, air fields, and dry lakebeds (playas) in desert regions. Modern land sailors, generally known as "pilots," can go three to four times faster than the wind speed. A gust of wind is considered more beneficial in a land sailing race than a favorable windshift. A similar sport, known as ice yachting, is practised on frozen lakes and rivers.




Land yachts designed by Simon Stevin in the 1500s.

The earliest known use of land yachts was in Ancient Egypt, where they were apparently built for leisure. The Chinese had "wind-driven carriages" since the 6th century AD, during the Liang Dynasty, and eventually mounted masts and sails on large wheelbarrows.[1] The precursor to the modern land yacht was invented in the 16th century by the Flemish scientist Simon Stevin in Flanders as a commission for Prince Maurice of Orange. It was used by Prince Maurice for entertaining his guests. In 1898, the Dumont brothers of De Panne, Belgium, developed a land yacht whose sails were based on contemporary Egyptian sailboats used on the Nile River. The first races were held on the beaches of Belgium and France in 1909. Land yachts were also used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to transport goods on dry lakes in the United States. The modern land yacht, a three-wheeled polyester/fibreglass and metal cart, often with a wing-mast and relatively rigid (full-batten) sails, has been used since 1960.

Modern land yacht classes

A Belgian Class 3 competition land yacht

There are a number of basic types, or "classes", of land yachts. Because of the very different nature of each class, they compete separately in races. The largest class of yachts are known as Class 2, which may have masts as large as 8 metres (26 ft). The massive sail area provides significant power, although the speed of Class 2 yachts can sometimes be limited by their large size. These are sailed mainly in continental Europe and not sailed at all in some countries such as the United Kingdom.

The Class 3 is probably the most popular yacht design, almost identical to the Class 2 in appearance, but significantly smaller. Class 3 yachts are generally made from fiberglass, sometimes in combination with other high-tech lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre, Kevlar, or various composites, with a wooden rear axle. They are capable of reaching speeds up to 70 miles per hour (113 km/h).

The Class 5 is much smaller than the 2 and 3, and is in a very different shape. The pilot still sails the yacht lying down, but unlike the 2 and 3, he lies in a seat that is suspended from or cantilevered off the chassis, rather than inside the body. The chassis is usually made of steel and aluminium, with a fibreglass or Carbon/Kevlar seat. Class 5 yachts are capable of reaching speeds up to 60 miles per hour (97 km/h), and some have been faster, closer to 70 miles per hour (113 km/h).

While Class 2, 3, and 5 yachts must meet certain guidelines, the specifications are flexible to an extent.

The Standart Class is unique in that all yachts are required to be identical. Similar to Class 5 in shape and function, they must follow a special design supplied by the French manufacturer Seagull. This class is popular because it means the outcome of a competition rests entirely with the pilot, as the yacht itself cannot provide an advantage or disadvantage.

Class 7 yachts are built like skateboards with a sail, much like a land-borne windsurfing board. These are often not permitted as part of sand yacht clubs and are maintained as a hobby rather than as a full-fledged part of land sailing race culture. Parakarting, or kite buggying is classified as Class 8.


In recent decades, land sailing has evolved into a sport, shown here on the beaches of Quend, Bay of Somme, France.
  • Land yacht competitors are spread over all continents: from the vast beaches of Western Europe, New Zealand and Brazil, dry-lake surfaces in the USA, Argentina, Australia and Africa to frozen lakes in Canada and Scandinavia (using skates instead of wheels).
  • National landyacht associations are united in the international landyacht federation called FISLY. This organisation sets up the racing rules. Every two years, world championships are organised. Besides that, there are lots of local races and competitions every week and annual European and Pacific Rim championships.
  • Racing yachts are divided in four classes by FISLY: Class 5 and Class Standart have a tubular steel or aluminium frame and mast with a glassfiber seats. The bigger Class 3 and Class 2 yachts have a lightweight glassfiber hull and wing-shaped mast and (mostly) a wooden rear axle.
  • Class 8 Land Yachts - also referred to as kite buggys or parakarts - differ from other classes in that the sail is replaced with a large traction kite, usually flown on 20 - 40m quad lines. The buggies are also considerably smaller and more maneuverable. This relatively new class of the sport is still undergoing rapid development but has become popular in recent years due to its portability, relative low cost and flexibility. Kite buggying also uniquely offers the pilot the possibility of getting real air time as buggies are sometimes launched into the air by the traction kite. Class 8 activities are generally grouped under racing, using large kites and very large and heavy buggies to accelerate to over 70MPH, freestyle where smaller, lighter machines perform freestyle tricks such as airs, spins, wheelies, reverse flying, etc, and endurance or cruising where distances of hundreds of Kilometres are covered in trips lasting several days. Look under Transat des Sables and Gobi Kite Buggy Challenge [1].
  • Racing yachts speed up to 120 km/h (the world speed record is set at 188 km/h (116.7 mph) by Bob Schumacher (USA) in 2001). Even at very low winds, racing yachts ride at up to three times the wind speed, reaching easily 70 km/h. Due to the lightweight and aerodynamic build, racing yachts boost to top speed in about 5 seconds. Turning markers are usually taken at full speed.

European Championships

One of the largest international events in the sport are the European championships, in which competitors of all classes from all over Europe travel to a sand yachting venue for a week long competition. The Wirral Sand Yacht Club, on Hoylake beach, hosted the event in September 2007.[2]. Attendees included local politicians Esther McVey and Stephen Hesford, alongside the Mayor of Wirral, the Head of the International Governing body for Sandyachting, and at least some of the 150 competitors from Argentina, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and the UK.

North American Racing

In the US, annual competitions are held by local clubs and by NALSA, the North American Landsailing Association. The largest regatta is regularly held the last week of March on the playa at the California-Nevada border near Prim Nevada. The classes sailed in the US include several one-design classes, international class 5 (5 sq m class in the US), and open classes solely based on the sail/wing area. The European yachts sail with the appropriate US open class according to their sail area.

Promoting international competition, there are periodic regattas including FISLY and other landsailing nations, mostly on the Pacific Rim. The host and venue of this regatta rotates, and the 2009 event will be hosted by NALSA at the March regatta.

A history of sailing in the US can be found at

Land sailing Locations

  • Hoylake, Wirral Peninsula[3], UK
  • Newborough, Anglesey, Wales, UK
  • Greatstone beach, New Romney, Kent, UK
  • Many beaches in England, France, and along the east side of the North Sea. Saint Peter Ording beach on the North Sea coast of Germany has miles of wide flat beaches where land sailing is very popular.
  • Many dry lakes in the western United States (Ivanpah, El Mirage and the Black Rock Desert[4] are the most popular.)
  • Beaches in New Zealand
  • Salt pans and some beaches in Australia
  • Beaches in Argentina
  • Pampa del leoncito Argentina
  • Salinas El Convento Chile
  • Beaches and airfields in Lithuania


Unknown said...

Great post! There's lots of incredible information here.

We've put together a fun video of our own on kite surfing and kite buggying on Conrad Beach in Nova Scotia, Canada here. said...

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