These sailing craft do not operate on the ocean, but in the air, on the ice, and on the land...


These sailing craft do not operate on the ocean, but in the air, on the ice, and on the land...

Sailing has a powerful allure: the primal joy of crossing an ocean, driven only by the wind in the yacht’s sails and the skills of those who sail her, the beauty and serenity of the surroundings, the intellectual challenges of navigation, meteorology and trimming for optimum performance, the thrill of the race start and the competitive tacking duel. Sailing provides the perfect platform for those with a spirit of adventure, offering them lifestyle rewards few non-sailors can imagine, let alone experience. There can be no better means of enjoying these ocean experiences than aboard a fine custom sailing yacht. But, for those truly addicted to sailing, there are other sailing activities to savour that offer many of the same thrills and rewards.

Sailing the air

Gliding – or soaring as it is also known – is considered by its aficionados to be unique among sports, relying on individual skills, judgement, and expert analysis of weather and terrain to extract height and distance from the elements, extending the sheer pleasure of flying for as long as possible. Its attractions to sailors are obvious.

Like yachts, sailplanes are inherently beautiful craft, aerodynamically shaped, strongly yet lightly built and focused around advanced aerofoil technology. They provide eagle-eye views of spectacular scenery and the exhilarating opportunity to turn, dive and climb again for a closer look before taking a fast elevator ride back to altitude on the next thermal. As with sailboats, noise levels are minimal – almost silent when cruising at 50 knots and generating little more sound than the rush of a spring stream when diving at 70 knots.

Unlike large sailing yachts, sailplanes are relatively inexpensive (prices range from around EUR50,000 to 150,000 for a new plane) and extremely economical to run since there is virtually nothing to wear out.


In fact there is a glider club in Vollenhove, a few minutes drive from Royal Huisman, yet another leisure opportunity for owners and their teams spending time here on their projects.

(an overview of entertainment near the shipyard can be found in “why build at Royal Huisman?”:
News > Inhuis stories & updates: click here)


The freedom and exhilaration of gliding is very accessible. With or without your own sailplane, your flying licence and club membership are a passport to the aircraft and amenities of gliding/ soaring clubs all over the world, whether in the Central European Alps, the lakes and mountains of New Zealand, the plains of Australia and South Africa or across the United States. In fact there is a glider club in Vollenhove, a few minutes drive from Royal Huisman, yet another leisure opportunity for owners and their teams spending time here on their projects.

Training is inexpensive and widely available through club networks. An inexperienced pilot will generally require 30 to 35 flights (probably 10 to 15 individual days) before going solo, an experienced power pilot will probably solo after fewer than 10 flights. Some theory has to be learned and a written exam taken while you build your flying hours and confidence, following which success in the oral examination and flight test will soon secure your licence.

A variety of further training modules can take you up to Instructor level or equip you for competition flying. Cross-country courses and aerobatics are the main classes of competition and enjoy large and enthusiastic participation. Further information can be obtained from national organisations such as the Soaring Society of America, Deutscher Aero Club, British Gliding Association and equivalent national bodies.

Sailing the ice and the sand

Closer to sea level there are some fantastic sailing thrills to be enjoyed without recruiting crew, casting off a mooring line or weighing anchor. Of special appeal to those who came up through dinghy racing, ice yachts and sand yachts (also known as land yachts) offer breathtaking speeds, tight competition and great social interaction in superb natural surroundings.

By its nature, ice sailing largely takes place during the winter months and in northern climes – the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe and Russia are all very active ice yacht racing regions with very large fleets coming together for national and World championships as well as regional events. The 2016 World Championship was hosted by Estonia and featured three major class divisions – sleds, kites and wings. Northern Holland with its many canals and lakes also offers ice yachting opportunities to Royal Huisman’s visitors when temperatures oblige with the required level of chill.

The largest fleet is the DN Class – 3.6m / 12ft oneman sleds with a 4.9m / 16ft carbon rig. They can sail as close to the apparent wind as 7 degrees and as fast as 10 times wind speed. They regularly achieve 48 knots while racing and can reach 60 knots. If this seems fast, real thrill-seekers may be interested to know that ‘Skeeters’ and other large, stern-steering iceboats can exceed 90 knots and that the world record is 124 knots!

The exceptional performance of ice yachts derives from the lateral resistance and low friction provided by their finely-sharpened runners, powerful sails and light weight – not forgetting the boldness of their sailors.

The owners of sand yachts, or land yachts, generally enjoy warmer climes. Racing venues are often extensive flat beaches but can also be salt flats or desert plains. Racing takes place virtually all over the world, with major venues in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, the USA and Africa. Locations such as Brittany in France, with its exceptional coastal beauty, dramatic seascapes and consistent sea breezes, offer near-perfect racing conditions.

Land yachts are generally of sturdier construction than ice yachts and, being a little heavier and subject to increased friction, will normally be restricted to speeds of 3 to 4 times wind speed. Even so, Class 3 land yachts (the most popular class) can reach 112km/h / 70mph and the overall land sailing speed record world is an incredible 202km/h / 126mph.

Most classes of land yacht are built within a box rule that offers scope for individual design and construction development. Wing masts tend to prevail and the largest of these, Class 2, is quite a monster with a maximum rig height of 8m / 26ft. There is also a One Design class, the Standart, which is manufactured in France and recognised as the only international monotype sand yacht. The great attraction of the Standart class to its sailors is that the outcome of the competition is solely determined by the skill and tactics of the individual pilot.

For superyacht owners interested in the leisure side of sand yachting, Miniyachts could be the answer. They use a traditional land yacht rig with a small chassis and body in which the pilot sits to control the sail with a simple main sheet. The smallest and lightest land yachts available, they are very safe and easy to sail. The basic definition of a Miniyacht is “any assembled land or sand yacht that fits inside a continuous loop of rope 5.6 m long” allowing them to fit into the trunk of a large car. Stowage space in the toys garage of a superyacht is therefore unlikely to be an issue.

“Taking a different tack” was first published in a previous edition of “inhuis”