Many historians have long suspected that the performance of the Greek triremes as reported by Esculus and others, were overstated. Some have referred to them as “mythological.” The Olympias trireme, built in 1987, designed by the naval architect John Coates, who died last week, has proven to be as fast and maneuverable as the triremes described in the ancient texts.
The performance of the Olympias has been impressive. In trails in 1987 the trireme achieved a cruising speed up to 6 knots when rowed continuously for 30 miles, with an average of 5 knots. It reached 9 knots in sprints, and sailed at 10.8 knots under sail with a following wind.
In the late 1987, John Coates, John Morrison and N. B. Rankov wrote The Athenian Trireme: The History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship describing their research, the design construction and testing of the Olympias. The second addition of the book, published in 2000, reports on what was learned in fifteen years of testing and training with the ancient craft.
Video from the History Channel of the Trireme Olympias