Zara Davis: flash windsurfer

The fastest windsurfers and kiteboarders are flocking to the 40th Weymouth Speed Week, to be sailed between 6th-12th October, 2012.

The oldest and longest-running speed sailing event in the world is held annually since 1972 and challenges sailors to sail as fast as they can over a distance of 500m. A competitor's speed is recorded as the average speed over that distance.

The 40th anniversary promises intense celebrations, but will also demand an extra delivery from all rider involved. The 500m course will be laid out in Portland Harbour.

The number of courses and their positions can vary each day according to the prevailing and anticipated wind conditions. Each course has a start line and each competitor is free to choose their best angle to maximise their speed.

Each competitor's run is now accurately measured by GPS with the recorded GPS data processed each day to generate the results for each of the competition classes.

Competitors are also free to put in as many runs as they can. On a windy day, the course can be a constant buzz as the competitors relentlessly charge up and down to find the best wind.

Sailing fast is not simply about sailing in strong winds; whilst strong winds provide the basis for a fast run, a sailor's ability to sail efficiently and consistently is highly important. Sailing fast in less-than-perfect winds presents an opportunity to demonstrate a sailor's skill and judgement.

The current speed week harbour speed record of 38.48 knots was set by Anders Bringdal in 2008 on a sailboard. In 2011, four competitors exceeded 35 knots and one, a kite boarder, exceeded 36 knots. With the right wind conditions this year, the harbour record could fall.

Competitors are challenged to beat not only the harbour record but also that of the outright World Speed Record; that currently stands at 55.65 knots and was set by Robert Douglas (USA), a kite rider, at the Luderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia in October 2010.

The top windsurfer speed of 49.09 knots was set by Antoine Albeau (FRA) in 2008.

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