Manta Landsailer Twinjammer: Sailor's Review NotesSun, 22 Apr 2012 00:00:00 -0700
I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a patch of dirt, three wheels, a sail and a foot-operated tiller to steer her by . . .
The Manta is the ultimate environmentally friendly car. It is powered by nothing more and nothing less than the wind. If there's no wind, it isn't powered at all.
This Earth Day cruiser seats two and not only emits no emissions except the dust it kicks up, but some claim it can go 75 mph, given enough of a blow.
Here's how I wound up piloting one. I was on my way to go skiing, driving 468 miles to Utah across the entire Mojave Desert and then some. Before you get to Las Vegas, Interstate 15 crosses Ivanpah Dry Lake. If you look off to your right on the eastern shore of the lake you sometimes see sails whipping across the hardened mud. I had seen them before but I was always on my way to SEMA or CES or some other gawd-awful Las Vegas purgatory and I couldn't stop. This time I was on vacation.
You pull off at the Primm exit, just across the Nevada state line, drive through the parking lot of Buffalo Bill's Resort and Casino, back across the state line into California and onto Ivanpah Dry Lake. The dried-mud surface of the lake is about as hard as cement—as long as it's dry—and after a couple of minutes you see the land sailors' encampment. It turned out that we were there at the beginning of the North American Land Sailing Association (NALSA) Americas Cup, the biggest land-sailing event of the year. Land sailors are a remarkably friendly bunch and were happy to welcome us total strangers into their camp. Within a few minutes, we were all pals.
“You want to try one out,” asked no less than the actual NALSA president Dennis Bassano.
“Sure!” I replied.
They don't do this for you at Indy.
The craft I was to command was a Manta Twinjammer. It is the most popular land sailer in the world. You sit in a hammock-style seat strung over an aluminum frame. The mast is held up by an A-frame of aluminum tubing. The single front wheel is steered with your feet via a very short bar that acts as the tiller.
I had grown up sailing the family catamaran in a place called Hurricane Gulch, so I was familiar with the basic tenants of sail power. Turns out they are no different on land or sea. In fact, the Manta was a lot easier to sail because you steer with your feet and trim the one sail with a single sheet (ropes are called sheets on a ship, land or sea).
It was a piece of cake and incredibly fun. Transferring wind power to the movement of a craft is much more efficient on land than in water. In water the boat has to displace all of that water as it moves along. (Try moving your open hand through the water in a swimming pool.). Plus, when the wind blows against the sail on a boat, the boat leans over, or heels, decreasing effective sail area and slowing you down.
On land you barely displace anything, and while you can tip it up on two of this thing's three wheels, it takes a lot of wind to do that. Thus, land sailors can travel two to three times the speed of the wind, depending on what point of sail they are on.
My sail took place in late afternoon just before sunset, so the wind wasn't that strong. I estimate that I got up to 20 mph at some points. I also stopped completely at other times when the wind died. A Las Vegas Manta dealer, a Wind of Change (www.awindofchange.com) claims that Mantas can go 75 mph. Specialized craft have hit 126 mph on land. Ice racers are even faster.
I sailed back and forth for about an hour, stopping to pick up passengers and then drop them off. Everyone had a good time.
Does this mean that we will all be driving land sailers once the oil runs out? Probably not. When the oil runs out it'll be carnage and cannibalism, perhaps followed by bicycle and mule transportation. But the Twinjammer was really fun.
You can get a brand-new single-seat Manta Windjammer for $1,725 or a Twinjammer for $2,624 at a Wind of Change or at www.windpowersports.com. There are other dealers, too. Used craft cost less but not always that much less.
The NALSA Web site, www.nalsa.org, lists several sailing clubs. There's one that sails at El Mirage Dry Lake just north of Los Angeles on weekends when the SCTA isn't running. Give it a try; it's fun!
2012 Manta Twinjammer
Base Price: $2,624 (one source)
As-Tested Price: $2,624
Drivetrain: 59-square-foot sail, foot-operated tiller
Curb Weight: 105 lb
Fuel Economy: As long as the wind lasts
Top Speed: 75 mph
By Mark Vaughn