The Believers

Richard Jenkins: Speed Demon

Dec 1, 2005
Outside Magazine


IF RICHARD JENKINS were a betting man, his trifecta would be 116, 143, 56. Those are the respective wind-powered land, ice, and water mile-per-hour speed records the 29-year-old Brit is on the verge of breaking. For the past five years, Jenkins, a mechanical engineer and amateur glider pilot, has built three crafts—on wheels, skates, and hydrofoils—equipped with rigid carbon-fiber sails. The sails, which can tack 35 degrees to either side, act like vertical airplane wings, providing forward motion instead of lift. They offer minimal acceleration in low winds but a serious speed boost in gusts over 50 miles per hour. The land craft unofficially broke records during testing in the UK in 2002, hitting 125 miles per hour, and Jenkins is planning another run at a dry lake bed in Nevada. This winter, he'll sail his ice vehicle on frozen lakes in Wisconsin in a bid for the 67-year-old record. But beating a dozen competitors out for the water title may be his most daunting challenge. "If I thought my chances were marginal," says Jenkins, "I wouldn't be here. I'm just waiting for that one windy day."