What is wild sailing: an introduction to exciting wind-powered buggies

Spend some time At Ivanpah Dry Lake, which is at the northern end of Mojave National Park about 30 minutes from Vegas, And you may start to see things. Here in Pleistocene Playa, the bottom of the lake is cracked but covered with a fine sheen; A post-apocalyptic place of dusty mountainous nowhere, and in shocking temperatures, obscured by the watery mirage. So much so that when you see wild yachts — curious three-wheeled, wind-powered wagons that cut through nowhere with shark-like fins — you might think they are actual sailing boats.

And depending on when you visit, you might even spot a flow of boats that don’t float. Because unlike other dry lake beds in the area – they are used year-round for everything from off-road adventures to camping to art festival tricks to filming such as casino– The Bureau of Land Management is taking measures to preserve Ivanpah for the use of non-motorized wind boats. Thus it is considered as one of the smoothest land skating courses in the world, similar to the frozen lakes for ice boating. With winds of up to 50 mph, it’s a regular destination for adrenaline junkies who participate in elite races like the America’s Cup Overland Sailing, a multi-vehicle competition set up by the North American Overland Sailing Association, as well as solo-style Blokart Worlds (the chime with the bandwagon). ).

Quick go on Ivanpah, apparently sponsored by Smirnov. | Bob Martin / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Here in Ivanba, British engineer Richard Jenkins set the land yachting record, hitting 126.1 mph in the elegant space-like Ecotricity Greenbird, which favored a carbon-plane-like wing over a sail (land yachts actually come in all shapes and sizes). It was also here that the latest Blockcart record was set, linked by two competitors – AKA pilots – in 2018.

“They were outside and they looked at each other and could see one of those dust storms coming their way,” says Andrew Sands, co-owner of Bonaire Landsailing Adventures and world-rated pilot. “They’ve given their thumbs up that they’re going to take their chances and keep sailing.” That day, Arizona’s Scott Young and Rhode Island’s Dave Lussier defied the odds by setting a record 77.7 mph—all while flying their tramp a few inches off the ground.

two months agoI’ve never heard of wild sailing, let alone seeing a yacht on wheels. But then I found myself on the refreshing Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire, watching wind-powered go-karts cruising around a reddish oval track. Here, some riders just don’t care about speed. And why are they, when the view invites you to relax? To the right, the sea scattered high on the rocks, while on the left, a dull donkey stood, grazing near a cactus. Every now and then, the iguana would cross the path. “I’m sure there’s an iguana brothel in the middle of the track up there,” says Donna Hodgone, co-owner of the company and Sands’ wife. “I would be surprised if you has not been I saw an iguana.”

Although it’s the first time the Sport and I have met across the trails, some iteration of overland sailing has been largely in place since the wheels became light enough to be packed by wind power. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians rolled their version of the car, while texts and paintings indicate that the Ming dynasty was filled with chariots equipped with sails. During the western expansion in the 19th century, the United States had its own wind-powered carriages, including – in true American style – a resourceful businessman who tried to outrun horses and harness the wind for profit, using it to carry passengers across the rolling plains. She failed on her first flight, but he earned an enviable nickname: Wind Wagon Thomas.

Homemade excavator 1979 in Denver. Maybe going to the grocery store. | Glenn Martin/Denver Post/Getty Images

In 1898, a Belgian couple created what is considered the first-ever recreational land yacht, followed by the first competition in Belgium in 1909. Increased production of vehicles led to the emergence of land yachting clubs on the shores of France in the 1950s. While the rest of the world was supplying their sandy wagons with ocean breezes, when the United States got into the action about a decade later, it brought about a convergence of individual inventors bent on taking advantage of the country’s vast dry lake basins and rugged deserts. . Today, the sport passes by a plethora of titles around the world, tailored to the countries where it plays and the terrain in which they race: from sand sailing to land yachting, beach sailing, wind karting, char à voile (France) and carrovelismo (Argentina) . most popular? Dirt boats. This is all American.

In the United States, you’ll likely come across the local Manta Landsailer, which was first produced in 1974 in Oakland, California. But in Bonaire the vehicles of choice are Blokarts – also by their own doing, blockarting –A relative newcomer in the history of sports and perhaps the easiest for beginners to navigate. The gigs was created in 1999 when Paul Beckett, an avid wild sailor and hang glider, wanted to create an accessible game that would allow regular consumers to roam around New Zealand’s shores.

Competitors earlier this year in Brean Sands, England. | Michael Steele/Getty Images Sport

Unlike the Manta, which you steer with your feet, Blokarts only require your hands to steer and adjust the sail, making them adaptable to a variety of users including paraplegics and lower limb amputees. The wagons also fold neatly into a travel bag, and can be easily assembled once you’re ready to hit the sand. Throw it in your trunk and take it to the beach, or check it out at the airport for your Ivanpah rivals. The sails come in three sizes and the entire rig starts around $4,000 each.

“New Zealanders tend to be very creative, and they are the kind of people who do crafts. There were copies of land yachts, but nothing to be replicated, just something someone put in their garage,” says Hudgeon. So when Blockart hit the scene, that was it. Everyone jumped at him like ‘Hey, that’s so easy.’

For half of the husband-and-wife team at Bonaire Landsailing Adventures, it was definitely love at first sight. “Paul sent me to the track with his Blokart to try it out, and he had to come out at the end of the day to pick me up,” Sands recalls. “I was still cruising around the track.”

Today, Blokart is sold in 27 countries, including Bonaire. Already an ideal destination for windsurfing and windsurfing (Bonaire is a breeding ground for some of the world’s best windsurfers), opening a land sailing venture on the island seemed like a natural fit. Hudgeon and Sands looked at the features of the wind—the space should be flat and breezy year-round—but what decided it was the character of the island itself.

“The thing about Bonaire is that the people who come here aren’t necessarily the type to want to hang out on the beach,” Hudgeon says. “They do people. They are active.”

A scene next to sports in Bonaire. | Courtesy of Bonaire Landsailing Adventures

This is exactly what I am here for: to do. Putting on my helmet and the pair of gloves provided, I’m partially listening for debriefing—things like hustle rope to speed up, let it out To slow down, you have cheerful. But watching the participants go around the track in their little lollipops, I get a little nervous. The truth is, I’ve never been very good on wheels. In fact, I think the word used to describe my driving skills was “disturbing”. Apparently, if you have experience sailing and know your nails from your sarcasm, this might help. I don’t, but I’m sure no experience is necessary.

“We get all kinds,” Hudgeon says. “Sexy people who are like ‘Whoa, this is a lot more fun than I thought it would be’, nervous people who pride themselves on doing something they didn’t think they could do, and grandmothers who showed up and told us there’s no way to go there, they’re just there to take the picture.” However, after some persuasion, those grandmothers come out on the track and it’s a whole different story: “They realize how easy it is and how much control they have, and it’s so funny to see them racing and racing with the grandkids.”

The trick, as I later found out, is to start with caution, and learn the path through two revolutions before you become fancy. The point is to feel the nuances of the wind and the delicate adjustments of the rope. If you lose your strength and find yourself stuck, it won’t be much – someone will be there to push you back inside. Unless of course you try to do too much too soon.

I witness this as a person — a “hot shot,” says Hudgeon — coming rushing very quickly around a bend, trying to overtake a friend. It climbs on two wheels and instantly flips over. Fortunately, he remembered to keep his elbows inside the iron cage – another thing we were told in the debrief. Examining him, Hudgeon found that the only thing bruised was his ego.

Warm like a bug in Blokart. | Courtesy of Bonaire Landsailing Adventures

To start wild sailing, you don’t need to buy your own car now. Donna recommends finding a club or course near you via the North American Land Sailing Association, the Bluekart website, or the International Sandy Yachting Federation. They will have one habit on hand that you can try. Through these sites, you’ll also find retailers and plenty of ways to connect with like-minded adventurers.

I’m taking a note to check this out when I get home – New York and New Jersey have a few club sites that look promising. Back on the track at Bonaire it only takes a few laps, including a little bit of stalling and a lot of hitting the tires lining the track, but I finally get it. The only hurdle I can’t avoid? A resident iguana leisurely makes its way across my path.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist’s Senior Travel Writer. Plot twist: The real daredevil was the iguana.

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