New Zealand team smash wind-powered land speed record

Published: 10:56 AM, 12 Dec, 2022
New Zealand team smash wind-powered land speed record
Caption: Team New Zealand pilot Glenn Ashby posing after breaking the world wind-powered vehicle speed record, clocking 222.4 kilometres per hour on salt flats on Lake Gairdner, in South Australia.–AFP
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A New Zealand-based sailing team said on Monday it had smashed the wind-powered land speed world record, clocking 222.4 kilometres (138.19 miles) per hour in Australia.

The aerodynamic craft "Horonuku" -- meaning "gliding swiftly across the land" in Maori -- was piloted by Glenn Ashby, who races for Team New Zealand in the America's Cup.

Onboard computers recorded a speed that far surpassed the previous wind-powered land record of 202.9 kilometres per hour set by British engineer Richard Jenkins in 2009.

The new feat must be verified by governing body World Landsailing Organisation before it can be confirmed as a record.

"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," said Ashby.

"But we know Horonuku has a lot more speed in it when we get more wind and better conditions."

Team New Zealand principal Matteo de Nora said the new record was the result of improved aerodynamics, construction methods and materials.

The Auckland-based team tackled the land speed record as part of preparations to defend the America's Cup on water when ocean sailing's premium race takes place in Barcelona in 2024.

"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," said De Nora.

The speeds achieved by Ashby on Sunday night on salt flats in South Australia came during a window of good weather after a frustrating few months when heavy rainfall often caused delays at the testing site.

"With rain in the surrounding area, and less wind in the foreseeable forecasts, we were running a fine line," said Australia-born Ashby, who won a silver sailing medal at the 2008 Olympics.

"So managing to thread the needle and do a few record runs is especially satisfying.

"You cannot achieve a result like this without an amazing team around you and a little help from mother nature."

Ashby is confident the Horonuku can go even faster in 2023 after a break for Christmas and once a spell of forecasted low wind has passed.

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