Ski Yachting – Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica

Excerpt from the book Sports the Olympics Forgot This book describes 40 sports that ought to be played but aren’t, because I made them up.


The windiest place in the world is on the continent of Antarctica. Commonwealth Bay is about 48 km (30 mi) wide at the entrance between Point Alden and Cape Gray and was discovered in 1912 by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

The wind regularly exceeds 150mph and the average annual wind speed is around 50mph. The winds are katabatic in nature and flow along the steep surface of the ice shield towards the sea. The air flow is accelerated by the increasing gradient of the surface of ice and by the Cape Denison cliff monolith.

However, in the summer there are periods when the wind abates sufficiently for the Christmas Ski Yachting race to take place. The race has been held since 1948 and now attracts teams from 20 countries. The race takes place over a distance of 10 miles starting in the interior and finishing a mile from the sea cliffs.

Each yacht is crewed by four people. The boat has to be a minimum of 20 feet long and be fitted with at least six skis. Each yacht must be fitted with three anchors each of which must be strong enough to stop the yacht on its own in a 75mph wind. Two guide ropes are stretched across the ice at the finish line and are designed either to stop the yacht or allow the crew to bail out if the yacht isn’t stopping. As an emergency the crew also have to wear life-jackets just in case the wind proves too strong and the yacht heads over the cliff with the crew still on board.

When the forecast shows the winds for the following day are going to be relatively light, the yachts are towed to the start line in the interior by tracked vehicles.  This towing allows the organizers to see that all the skis on the yachts are correctly aligned and are functioning accurately. Once the yachts arrive they are placed on the starting line downwind. The starter checks the wind speed and if it’s under 60mph he waves a wooden seal in the air. This is the indicator for the teams to rig their yacht and put up the sails.


Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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