There might be a time in the future when
humans can’t cover 100 metres by foot any faster than they already have, but it
seems any sport that relies on technology and machinery will always have a good
chance of setting new world records.

Overnight, sailing’s 24 hour distance
record for a monohull boat was broken by ABN Amro Two in the Volvo Ocean Race, pushing
the mark from 546 to 558 nautical miles, a record that will be presented to the
World Sailing Speed Record Council for official ratification.

On board the boat, British navigator Simon
Fisher said: “It has been an awesome 24 hours though,
phenomenal speeds but safe and under control – a testament to how incredible
this new class [of boat] is. What an awesome race.”

The new class of boat he refers
to is the Volvo Open 70s, which superceded the Volvo Open 60s. After the
2001-2002 event, race organisers felt a new boat
was needed to “make full use of the latest in boat design developments,
new materials, and most importantly, in the new communications technology now
available, an even more extreme class of yacht … needed to bring the true
demands of the race to the public eye.”

Well, they seem to have built
just such a machine and now, in only the second leg of this year’s event, the
records are tumbling. Indeed, the record belongs to the boat’s designers and
the developers of the technology it carries as well as those who are sailing
it.

Readers will be well aware that both golf and tennis have struggled with the “improvements”
brought by technology. Tennis players can now generate awesome power but,
paradoxically, can also make the game less of a contest. Likewise golf.
Watching someone smack a tee shot 350 metres is entertaining, but there are pro
golfers who argue it doesn’t serve the sport.

Whatever your view, crossing 558 nautical
miles (approximately 1033 kilometres) by wind power alone is a remarkable
achievement. You suspect these new boats have only just begun assailing the
record books.

Peter Fray

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