We woke this morning to find the land covered by a white frost, the sky was turquoise as the sun started its daily climb from behind the black mountains on the horizon – there was not a breath of wind.

Wind, a natural element – it comes in forces such as today when you can hear the silence and then there are times when it blows so strong it will topple 200 year old trees and buildings to boot. In Provence, where we are fortunate enough to live, there is a wind that blows from the north called the Mistral – apparently there is an ancient law that states that if the Mistral blows consecutively for 21 days then a man is permitted to murder his wife. That is no doubt an old wives tale but none the less it does illustrate the point that wind can get on one’s nerves.

But what would a world without wind be like – not much fun for extreme sports enthusiasts – thats for sure! And it was at that point that we started thinking about all the different extreme sports that are so dependent on wind.

One of those extreme sports that we don’t often write or hear about is landsailing and so we thought we would give you a little background information, show you some video footage and report on some upcoming events. We have never been lucky enough to try out land sailing but it sure looks fun and when you think the speed record for landsailing is 108.8 mph or 175.5 kph, set in 1999, it sure has to be considered an extreme sport.


Not surprisingly it is believed the ancient Egyptians first created a vehicle that could be driven on the land and was powered by the wind. These guys were around over 3,000 years ago and it is pleasing to note that they were apparently used for leisure! The Chinese get the next mention as they mounted masts on wheelbarrows in the 6th century. Then came the Flemish, who in the 16th century were again using a wind powered land vehicle for sport but it was the Belgians and French who first started racing the land yacht in the early 1900s. The first known use of land yachts in the United States was a a mode of transport for for goods on the dried lakes in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Development of land sailing in the United States.

We are grateful to Nord Embroden for this information which first appeared in the American Landsailing Federation’s newsletter in 1998.

‘The early production designs were led by NuSport Manufacturing with the Sand Sailer from the late 60’s. This yacht was an assemblage of straight and curved pipes, a plastic seat and a mast standing almost vertically.

The next production yacht to influence the market was the Chubasco. A rugged steel frame and sail sporting a bright red stripe were trademarks of this yacht. It was about 8’ wide and came in a single seat and later a two-seat version. Many Chubasco’s are still being sailed for recreational use today a testimony to their indestructibility.

The introduction of the Friendship in 1973 made a dramatic advancement in commercial yacht technology in the United States. The Friendship was capable of sailing five to six times the speed of the wind with its efficient wing mast and sail combination. Many other homebuilt yachts followed the Friendships lead over the next 10 years.

Don Rypinski is the father of modern landsailing in the United States. Don was the first American to ever compete in Europe. From his experiences and visions he developed a blueprint for the North American Landsailing Association, an organization of landsailing clubs in America. Incorporated on May 22, 1972, NALSA joined together many individuals to work toward a common goal of promoting the sport of landsailing in America. Don affiliated NALSA with FISLY in Europe. His wisdom helped mold our racing classes and rules and coordinate them with FISLY’s. The original sail area classes were Class I , II and III from Europe and a Class IV was added from the United States.

It was in 1974 that Don organized the first America’s Landsailing Cup regatta, yachts from all areas joined together at Roach Dry Lake in Nevada.

In 1973 the Friendship, with a 25% rigid wing mast and soft sail combination lead off in a direction that has continued to date. George Olson designed and built the Pterodactyl, a 30’ long powerhouse Class II yacht. It’s enclosed body and wing mast was manufactured for land-yacht use and later as iceboats. George also developed a small version Pterodactyl II for class III and IV. The iceboaters have brought the flexible mast and sail to the landsailing world beginning in 1975.

The most successful yacht of all times was not a high performance racer but a recreational yacht. The Manta developed by Alan Dimen. The original single provided an inexpensive entry into the sport of landsailing. Easy to assemble and sail the Manta became the favorite choice in the late 70’s. The Manta Twin added more sail and the ability to carry a second person. Today there is higher participation at races from Mantas than any other production yacht.


Over the years several types of racing has been developed in America. The open sail area classes were first introduced in 1972 and have been the core of the racing for the America’s Cup over the years. One design class racing has been promoted at the Nationals beginning in 1976 and continuing today. In recent years one-design classes have been added to the America’s cup including Manta Singles and Twins, Friendships and the Fed Fives.

A unique type of racing was introduced in the 70’s with Pacific Landyacht club’s four hour Enduro. Many pilots went home with blisters and dust after miles of looped course racing. Trophies were awarded for overall distance, team trophies and new record distances from year to year.

Where to go

Most sailing is done on our West Coast dry lake beds found in California, Nevada and Eastern Oregon. Some sailing is done on the beaches of central California, Oregon, Washington, South Carolina and Florida. One of the most unique sailing sites was Randy Harmon’s Iowa cornfields. After the crop was trimmed the corn stubble provided an adequate but bumpy surface.

Several airstrips and parking lots have been used over the years. Half Mile Square in Fountain Valley is probably the most notorious. Originally the three triangularly placed ½ mile long runways provided a unique sailing experience and was occupied every weekend. As time went on other activities limited the landsailing area to only one single strip. The crush of other users eventually forced the full size yachts from the area.

Current clubs

  • North American Landsailing Association ~N.A.L.S.A. continues today as the governing body of landsailing in America controlling classes, U.S. numbers and racing rules with seven member clubs.

  • Heart of America ~ Iceboating and landsailing club from the Wisconsin area.Organization for 5 Square Meter pilots in the U.S. Landyacht Club centered around the southern Oregon area. Club from the San Francisco area hosting Manta events. setup for the promotion of landsailing in the United States.

  • American 5 Square Meter Association ~

  • Northwest Landyacht Club ~

  • Bay Area Landsailing Association ~

  • American Landsailing Federation ~

  • Sierra Area Landsailing Association, SALA ~ Provides racing and recreational activities in the Reno Area. One of the original N.A.L.S.A. clubs still in existence. Hosts recreational events on the full moon weekends. A unique group of individualists who ebb and flow with the travels of time. SASSASS continues today with sponsored events on the Black Rock desert. An active group in the high desert of southern California. Wind Wizards meet every other weekend during the year with some time off in winter. This club provides activities for a wide variety of yachts. Organization for the Manta fleets. Provides Manta fleet regulations.

  • Lunar Landyacht Club ~

  • Sunny Acres Sipping, Sailing and Soaring Society, SASSASS ~

  • Wind Wizards ~

  • United States Manta Association ~

Upcoming events

America’s Cup And PAC Rim Championships at Ivanpah,
March, 2009 (March 20-28. Racing days March 22-27)
Race Notice, Schedule, Entry Form (PDF) (Word .doc)

Spring Small Boat Rally
April 25/26, 2009 Ivanpah Dry Lake

Cow to Cow at Smith Creek,
Late May 2009 or more or less.

Nord Nationals at Superior #3,
late May 2009

Holy Gale
June 17th to 21th 2009 Smith Creek Dry Lake, NV

Fall Small Boat Rally
September 5/6/7, 2009—Del Mar Dry Lake

Well there is not a lot more to say for the time being except if you want more details can we suggest you visit NALSA’s website the link for which follows:

Oh and err perhaps we should add – thank the good Lord for wind!

The video below shows some excellent action from Ivanpah dry lake where the upcoming America’s Cup will be held. The video is by us64328.