Luderitz Speed Challenge

The weather system that brings the nuclear 40+ knot winds to the second lagoon in Lüderitz, Namibia, is building. Moderate winds are expected today, building on Friday and peaking on Saturday, with tides at the right level for many hours of competition speed sailing.

The speed sailors are starting to get edgy with anticipation, because with the lessons learned from the first Big Weekend over the 16th to the 19th September, plus good or better wind conditions, plus some redesign work on the chop killer, expectations are high for even more records, especially to best the 50 knot barrier.

Says Rob Douglas (USA – Cabrina, Amundsen, Dakine, The Black Dog, Lynch), current event leader and outright world record holder at 49.84 knots (92.3kph), “We been testing a couple of things today, tomorrow and Saturday we get ready for the fifty.” Douglas and his coach Mike Gebhardt travelled to South Africa’s Mother City for a few days to repair boards and build some new ones. “We’ve got some new boards to test that we built with Cape Doctor in Cape Town, where we are experimenting with ABS construction. We also have some new boards by Cabrinha, who sent some prototypes.”

Frenchman Sebastien Cattelan (Genetrix, Xelerator, Prolimit, Ocean Eyewear, Dabens), currently running in second place, declares: “Maybe we get fifty tomorrow, the day after it’s even stronger. For sure a page of history will be turned.” New Dutch contender, Rolf van der Vlugt (Airush, Mystic, Protest, TUDelft, X-tremeboards), is also upbeat about the conditions: “It’s going to be good. Today we warm up, Friday we warm up a little bit more, Saturday we’re smoking.”

Many lessons have been learned, both about the conditions, and about what equipment works best. In such a young sport, every run, every practice is a learning experience. Says Jérôme Bila (FR – Genetrix, Procarbon): “I’ve put more weight on the boards, and made the back more flexy to handle the chop, and fitted smaller fins.” He now has 1.7kg in lead weights on the front of the board to keep the nose loaded at high speed, and sanded down some of the four layers of carbon on the top deck to increase flex in the tail.

Major learning also comes from studying pictures and video footage to analyse body positions and how the board behaves, as well as the GPS tracks during the event so far to improve race lines and speed consistency.

“After a few sessions on the spot you adapt, taking learning with you from the first to the last day,” explains Manu Taub (FR – Orange, EXA, Naish, Electric, Radical, Microfin, Mystic, Gath, Pull in), “You’re constantly optimising your equipment and way of sailing.”

Cattelan chips in: “Every morning people are changing fins and weights. We’ve all really progressed from day one, absorbed the positive points from each other.”

Last word from David Williams (Best Kiteboarding), who broke the UK kitespeed record last week: “I’ve not touched my kit, I’m very happy with the way its riding. Tomorrow or Saturday I’m most definitely going to break the outright UK record.”

Roger Hislop

Some figures

49.84 knots Rob Douglas (USA): new outright world speed sailing record over 500 metres.
49.59 knots: Second fastest speed of all time for Sebastian Cattelan
49.09 knots: Outright world speed sailing record by French windsurfer Antoine Albeau in March 2008 in the “trench” of Saintes-Maries de la Mer
48.70 knots: Outright world speed sailing record on 10 April 2005 by windsurfer Finian Maynard in the “trench” of Saintes-marie de la Mer
47.92 knots: Kitesurf world speed record in Luderitz by Alexandre Caizergues in 2007
46.82 knots: Outright world speed record by Finian Maynard in Autumn 2004, ending several years of domination by sailboat, Yellow Pages
46.52 knots: Outright world speed sailing record set by sailboat, Yellow Pages Endeavour, on 26 october 1993 at Sandy Point in Australia
1986: Pascal MAKA is the first windsurfer to establish a new world record with 38.86 knots


SOURCE: Luderitz Speed