The Fastest Sailor in the World

Richard Jenkins was 19 years old and a lifelong sailor, in small boats and ocean going boats, when fate sent him off on a special tangent—to set a world record for the fastest sailing vessel on land. It took him, oh, only ten years.

The Volvo Ocean Race is not about being sensible.

The young man had been working on an engineering degree in his native UK when a part-time job led Jenkins to notice a record-hopeful sitting neglected in a corner, stuck there by its builders after they realized how hard this was going to be. "I thought, this is a travesty," Jenkins says, knowing now what a journey it has been. He took over the project and within a year had hit 112, "and meanwhile in the U.S. this fellow Bob Dill went 116 mph at Ivanpah Dry Lake in Nevada, which I knew was going to make my job harder."

As you watch the video, place yourself in the cockpit with Richard Jenkins and figure that you have been living on a shoestring for ten years. You have built three ships, learning from each, redefining and then refining the problem each time. You have tried and tried on an airport runway in England. You have tried and tried and had some revelations at Ivanpah Dry Lake ("as soon as you run on dirt, you see everything the wind is doing"). You have been all the way to Australia only to have the weather shut you down with nothing to show for it, and now you are back at Ivanpah riding the third of three wind events in a row. All that wind has allowed you to experiment and get the tire selection just right, tire inflation just right, weight-distribution just right, but with that much wind comes the dust, and the visibility is shot and out on that lake bed, baby, there's stuff you could hit—