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Topical Budget 83-2: Novel Seaside Sport (1913)


Main image of Topical Budget 83-2: Novel Seaside Sport (1913)
35mm, black and white, 290 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Co.

Sand yachting on the beach at Berck-on-sea, France.

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Although Louis Blériot (1872-1936) will always remain most famous for being the first man to fly across the English Channel on 25 July 1909, he was also a keen devotee of sand-yachting. Indeed, the year that he achieved his best-known feat, he also recorded a speed of 60km/h on a sand-yacht that he invented himself, mounted on four pneumatic tyres.

However, despite its popularity on the beaches of northern France and western Belgium in the early twentieth century (their combination of broad sandy beaches and frequent high winds made them ideally equipped for the sport), sand-yachting was rather less novel than the title of Topical Budget's item implies.

There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians and Chinese made use of similar wind-propelled contraptions, and in 1600 a Belgian inventor named Simon Stevin constructed a sand-yacht for Prince Maurice of Oranje-Nassau, Holland, that could seat 28 passengers, and legend has it that one of the Prince's machines travelled so fast that the axles caught fire. At the time, it would have been one of the fastest methods of land transport yet invented.

This film captures sand-yachting at Berck-sur-mer, near Le Touquet. Already one of the main centres for the sport, this has remained the case ever since. Many decades later, Bertrant Lambert (the holder of the current land speed record of 150km/h or just over 100mph) would successfully lobby for sand-yachting to be recognised as an official French sport, but in 1913 it was very much a casual pastime for the rich, or those prepared to spend time perfecting their often ramshackle creations.

Michael Brooke

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