Weymouth Speed Week began in 1972 under the direction of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). It was seen as the premier event at which boats could demonstrate their prowess, reach world-record breaking speeds and further the advancement of sailing technology. Speed sailing records have been sanctioned by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) since 1972.
The speed trials of the 1970’s and 80’s attracted many thousands of pounds of sponsorship money and competitors attended by invitation. Several world speed records were set and then broken during these years, firstly with the boats and then, as technologies improved, by the windsurfers. Weymouth Speed Week competitors were some of the first to demonstrate the use of foils to improve speed.
During the second half of the 80’s the increasing popularity and capability of windsurfers came to take and then dominate the speed records. Locations with more favourable and predictable wind conditions became the place to set records, and the importance of Weymouth Speed Week as a record-breaking location began to decline.
Its popularity remained however and, due to the voluntary efforts of a few individuals, Weymouth Speed Week progressed into the 1990s supported by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, the Weymouth Sailing Centre and the Amateur Yacht Research Society who assisted by donating prizes each year. Such was the enthusiasm for the event that some individuals even made their sailing boats available for use as ‘course boats’ during the week. The efforts of all these organisations and individuals has ensured that Weymouth Speed Week is the enjoyable and exciting event that it is today.
Portland Harbour provides a great location for speed sailing. It is bounded on its south western side (the direction from which the prevailing wind blows) by Chesil Bank. Chesil Bank is a huge natural breakwater that stops the waves but not the wind. Shortly after the Autumn Equinox the wind conditions become most favourable; it is at this time that Weymouth Speed Week runs in Portland Harbour to provide the best chance of getting ideal speed sailing conditions, that of smooth, strong winds and flat water.
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