Sebastien Cattelan

The third annual Lüderitz Speed Challenge will begin in less than two weeks.  This time last year, speed sailors shattered the previously unbeatable 50knot barrier (93kph), setting a string of world and national records in this “Formula One of Sailing”. Throughout the month of November many of the world’s top kitesurfers will once again descend on the remote Namibian town of Lüderitz to compete against each other and the clock to prove what is the world’s fastest wind-powered craft.

Last year’s challenge saw the kitesurfers take over many of the top slots in the international rankings for speed sailing, contested by sailboats, windsurfers and kitesurfers. Alex Caizergues of France set a new outright world record of 50.57knots (93.6kph) over 500m, with Rob Douglas of the U.S.A. and Sebastien Cattelan of France, also breaking the 50 knot barrier, recording times of 50.54 and 50.52 knots respectively.

Speed sailing is becoming incredibly hotly contested in the past year – not only because the technology is allowing previously undreamed of speeds to be reached, but also because with the recent focus on climate change and new, alternative energy sources, wind-power is very much in fashion.

The greatest battle is between two very different worlds – the skill, strength and sheer bravery of the kitesurfers and windsurfers on their tiny boards, set against well-funded sailboat teams making use of the latest computer and materials technology to design ever more outlandish sailboats. Last year the kitesurfers beat the windsurfers, who had before beaten the sailboats. This year the sailboats have come back roaring. 

In September the Swiss/French sailboat l’Hydroptère took the world record back with an astonishing 51.36knots (95kph) at Hyères off the south coast of France. Also in the running is the UK-based Sailrocket, which is currently chasing the record in Walvis Bay, Namibia, and the two Australian sailboat teams, Wotrocket and Macquarrie Innovation based at Sandy Point, Victoria.

Will kitesurfers again achieve high-speed glory on water in this year’s Lüderitz  Speed Challenge?  Will the immense resources and technology of the sailors prove to be too formidable an obstacle to overcome, or will the skill and determination of the lone athletes be enough to reclaim the title of world’s fastest?

The Lüderitz speed strip is located in a lagoon on Namibia’s southern coast and provides absolutely ideal conditions for speed sailing. The event is run under International Sailing Federation (ISAF) rules, with observers from the World Sailing Speed Records Council (WSSRC).

Lüderitz Speed Challenge 2009 is proud to welcome back Alex, Rob and Sebastien as well as South Africa’s Sjoukje Bredenkamp, holder of the women’s outright world record, among the field of international competitors.  Last year’s competition broke the 50 knot barrier for the first time in history.  Join us this year as we attempt to break the mythical 100kph barrier. Updates will be posted regularly to the official site (www.luderitz-speed.com) or join the Lüderitz Speed Challenge 2009 Facebook group.


SOURCE: Luderitz Speed Challenge