Luderitz Speed Challenge

In the build up to this weekend’s forecast of heavy wind, many people are optimistic that this year’s Speed Challenge will again produce new national and international speed sailing records. What many people overlook though, is the fact that these results will only become official records after the governing body, the World Sailing Speed Records Council of the International Sailing Federation, ratifies the results. This is why Michael Ellison, the WSSRC commissioner overseeing the 2009 Lüderitz Speed Challenge, is a very important man.
Michael, himself a master mariner, began sailing when he was a child, and went on to work as a merchant marine for most of his life. Michael first became an official observer in 1973, a year after the WSSRC was formed, when he wrote a letter suggesting some changes they needed to make in order to improve the competition. The council liked his suggestions and invited him to join. This is a man who has now observed countless world record breaking speed sailing runs in the thirty six years he has been officiating. This is a man who knows what it takes to break records, with a powerful sense of what is a fast setup, and what is record-breaking.

I asked Michael today whether he thought it was likely that this year’s Speed Challenge would again produce another world outright speed sailing record.

“Definitely,” he said with the calm certainty that comes with his incredible amounts of experience. “Look, last year, we had three different guys break fifty knots, all on different boards, all using different kites, all of them with different body weights.”

“What this means,” he went on to explain, “is that no-one has found the optimum formula yet.” This year has seen a lot of development on the speed boards - last year the boards were wider with a distinct cut-out at the tail, this year the boards are narrower, with more flex and some concave. There’s also been a lot more training, so the riders have a lot more experience under their belts. “Any one of the these guys, or girls, could have the right wind, blowing in the right direction, with the right water at the right time, and then we could have another two knots. Then we’ll have a new world record,” says Michael.

“What’s important is these guys think they can do it - so they’ll do it”

And if they do, do it, Michael will be right there, helping to make it official.


SOURCE: Luderitz Speed Challenge