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.”

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Luderitz Speed Challenge

It’s time! Now! Well, in a few days. The forecasts are looking excellent for a huge blow this weekend, everyone is very excited about what looks like some record-setting conditions.

There are few days left to fix everything that the rain and a strong north wind broke on the run last weekend -- it was insane, most of the inhabitants of Luderitz have never seen weather like that! Unfortunately the north wind was good for destruction, not speed sailing. But it stopped, turned around, and is picking up again from the perfect southerly angle.

Apart from repairs to the chop killer, organisers are busy digging a section of channel with a bulldozer to maintain the correct depth.

Three more French riders have arrived: Stéphane Caous, Maxime Richard and Patrice Menossi arrived two days ago, guided by the smell of strong wind. Also coming up for this weekend's action is the “Xelerator” captain, Fred Kloren representing Holland, as well as Marc Avella our Spanish Champion. Rob Munro is also on the way (most famous for being British and holding the nautical mile record in kiteboarding, along with fellow Langebaan resident, Hennie Brendenkamp.

But until the weekend, the riders are alternately tweaking and tuning their equipment, and hanging out like tourists seeing the sites. So for your amusement (until the racing action gets going, check out some pics from around the town, particularly the “ghost town” at an abandoned diamond mine.

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Luderitz Speed Challenge 2009

The wind over the past weekend wasn’t as fierce as it it usually is, but competitors didn’t seem to mind, as they were too busy enjoying many of the other actives Lüderitz has to offer.

Blowing between 15 to 25 knots, at times the wind was strong enough for speed runs, but sometimes competitors were just doing freestyle. That’s not to say that they weren’t kept busy, though.

What better way to pass the time than be renting a catamaran and getting an up-close view of the amazing maritime wildlife that surround this quaint Namibian town.

The waters off the coast of Lüderitz are teaming with some of the cutest animals you’re ever going to see, and the competitors on the catamaran were amazed at the amount of seals and penguins they saw during their scenic catamaran tour.

They were also lucky enough to see a whale and play with the many dolphins who had come by to introduce themselves.

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