Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Speedbird targets women’s water speed record

Published on August 14, 2015 by   ·   No Comments


Hannah White is one of those people who put the rest of us to shame.

At a mere 31 she has more adventures under her belt than most of us are likely to have in a lifetime. She’s sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic three times (taking second place in the OSTAR in 2009), kayaked across England from coast to coast and cycled part of the Tour de France, so when she says that she is heading for the record books it’s not just a tall tale.

Oh, and you may have seen Hannah on the telly, she was part of the commentary team for the sailing events at the London 2012 Olympics, went on to present her own show on Channel 5 ‘Go Hard or Go Home’ and currently co-hosts BBC’s Countryfile.

Her planned record-breaker, Project Speedbird, sees Hannah attempting the women’s speed record over a nautical mile and becoming the first woman to exceed 40 knots in the process. Hannah needs to beat Zara Davis’ current record for the nautical mile of 34.74 knots.


Project Speedbird brings together a great sailor and a great boat. Hannah will be onboard Speedbird, a modified Moth Class sailing dinghy built by engineer and lifelong sailor David Chisholm. As Speedbird is a one-off, she doesn’t need to adhere to racing Moth standards, which gives Chisholm a lot of wiggle room to improve on the design. She also doesn’t need to turn around or sail upwind. Speedbird is a boat that has been built by Chisholm to go very very fast in one direction.

The first Moth was built in a shed in Australia by Len Morris in 1928. It was a cat-rigged flat-bottomed scow, hard chined (angular), 11ft long with an 80ft² single mainsail. It is fitting that Speedbird was also designed and built in a shed, albeit from higher tech materials.


Speedbird is six metres long and weighs in at an amazingly light 8kg (that’s about the same as a nine-month-old baby) giving it an exceptional power-to-weight ratio. It has an advanced, carbon composite foil which raises the boat a metre out of the water. As she essentially flies, the hull is aerodynamic rather than hydrodynamic.

The project has already got off to a record-breaking start. In order to prepare for the nautical mile speed record attempt, Hannah sailed across the Channel on a Moth, similar in design to Speedbird. The crossing took 3 hours 44 minutes 39 seconds and scored Hannah a place in the record books for ‘fastest crossing of the English Channel in a single-handed dinghy’. This bodes very well indeed for Project Speedbird’s upcoming endeavours.

The nautical mile speed record attempt will take place in February 2016 in the waters surrounding London’s City Airport. We wish Hannah all the best and have every faith in her talents.




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