Emirates Team New Zealand has broken the wind-powered land speed record with its land yacht Horonuku. Horonuku reached 138.2 miles per hour (222.4 km/h) in 25.3 mph winds on the dry basin of Lake Gairdner in South Australia. The team famous for winning the America’s Cup, yacht racing’s most prestigious prize and the oldest trophy in international sport, broke the record just under ten months after it announced its attempt to break the previous record of 126 mph.
The project was a way to keep its design team sharp in the quiet period between successfully defending the America’s Cup against the Italian challenger Luna Rossa Prada in March 2021 and preparing for the next America’s Cup match in 2024.
However, the ten-month journey from start to finish wasn’t smooth or easy. The project was announced in February 2022. Horonuku, meaning “gliding swiftly across the land” Māori, had completed testing at a Royal New Zealand Air Force base by the end of May. Emirates Team New Zealand had aimed to break the record in August if the conditions allowed. The conditions didn’t. The team arrived at Lake Gairdner, and there was still water in the lake. Rain forced the project to wait months for the lake to dry out and also for the perfect wind conditions for the attempt.
The window finally opened this month, and the opportunity wasn’t wasted. Glenn Ashby, two-time America’s Cup winner and 17-time world champion, piloted the land yacht as the team gradually made faster and faster runs. Eventually, Horonuku broke past the 126 mph mark and shattered it by a 12-mile-per-hour margin. Ashby was elated but confident there was more speed on the table. He said:
“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. 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.
From initial idea and the beginning of this world record attempt, which was pushed and supported by Grant Dalton, Matteo de Nora and the rest of the team at Emirates Team New Zealand, the objective has never been about just beating the record, it has always been about pushing things to the limit and going as fast as we possibly can. We know we can go faster, so we plan to.”
Ashby isn’t alone in his sentiment that he could’ve gone faster. Emirates Team New Zealand has stated that it will attempt another run in 2023 when the conditions are favorable.