A saltlake on the West Australian goldfields is one of the biggest playgrounds on earth for those who land-sail.

Story By Aleisha Orr

People have been making the most of Lake Lefroy for the past 40 years, capturing the wind in their sails and reaching speeds of more than 100km/h. The salt lake that borders the small towns of Kambalda and Widgiemooltha, WA, is attracting land sailors from across the globe and experts rate it as one of the best land-sailing surfaces in the world. Anyone who takes a turn at the lake’s signpost on the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway is in for some good old-fashioned fun – a race day with a bit of friendly competition, socialising over a snag and a few funny stories, and as long as the wind is not too strong, anyone can jump in. Ideal wind conditions can be anything from five knots (for beginners) to 15–20 knots for the more experienced. “After that, it all starts to get a little hairy,” says Paul Day, Lake Lefroy Land Sailing Club member and land sailor of 30 years. The body of a land yacht sits just off the ground, with the sailor inside sitting down, legs straight ahead. There is a wheel at the front, two wheels at the back and a sail on top. Sailors angle the land yacht and pull in the sail so it catches the wind to get going and they sail straight into it to slow down. GPS satellite receivers can be used to measure speed. Paul first came across land yachts at a boat show and, after a chat with an enthusiast, went home and built one. “Back then it was a couple of aluminium poles, a few wheels and a sail; it was pretty crude,” he says. “These days the yachts are slightly more high-tech.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009