The magical 50 knots barrier fell as the outright sailing speed record fell twice in 24 hours at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge over the weekend, with French kitesurfer Alexandre CAIZERGUES recording the fastest speed of all at 50.57 knots, subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC).
Kitesurfers demonstrate they are currently the fastest sailors on the planet over a weekend of furious action at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge in Namibia. In September, American kitesurfer Robert DOUGLAS had demonstrated the potential of the venue when he improved the Outright Sailing Speed Record, previously held by windsurfer Antoine ALBEAU (FRA) at 49.09 knots, to 49.84 knots. Over the penultimate weekend of the Lüderitz Speed Challenge, huge winds arrived in Namibia and the records tumbled.
In the 35 to 40 knot winds that blew over the weekend, gusting to more than 45 knots (83kph) and even higher on Saturday, the speed sailors braved very rough water conditions to achieve these records speeds. On Friday, Frenchman Sebastien CATTELAN became the first sailor to break the elusive 50 knot barrier, recording a run at 50.26 knots, subject to WSSRC ratification.
CATTELAN, the first person to break the 50 knot barrier, has been kiting for over ten years and is a pioneer of speed sailing. He was the driving force behind establishing this speed strip in Lüderitz, where a smooth stretch of water in the lagoon is buffeted by the already strong winds of the area that are accelerated by a shallow valley.
Coming into his record run on Friday, he was struggling with an unrelated small injury, requiring him to reduce his activity. "I've been in bed the last three days, concentrating on what I would do today. Then I just did it,"
he says. According to CATTELAN, his record breaking run saw a maximum speed of 58 knots - 107kph - on the GPS, with an average of 54.5 knots over 200m.
With conditions strengthening again on Saturday, the records continued to fall. Alexandre CAIZERGUES (FRA) is now, unofficially, the fastest sailor on earth, with a blistering 50.57 knots run over the 500m course on Saturday, the best of three 50 knots plus runs he recorded on the day. Several more 50s and high 49s were also achieved by other competitors and along with the outright sailing speed record, several more national outright records were broken.
The new records, all verified by the official time keeper but still subject to ratification by the WSSRC, have placed the small coastal town in the southern part of Namibia firmly on the map for the extreme sport of speed sailing, where sailing boats, windsurfers and kitesurfers use only the natural elements to power them to almost 100 kph speeds.
The Record To Beat
Record: Outright Sailing Speed Record
Equipment: Kite surfer. Amundson Custom Kite Board. 7m Crossbow Kite
Name: Robert DOUGLAS (USA)
Dates: 19 September 2008
Start time: 15; 16; 32.65
Finish time: 15; 16; 52.15
Elapsed time: 19.5 seconds
Distance: 501 metres
Current: 0.1 knot
Wind: 40/45kts SSW
Average speed: 49.84 knots
Lüderitz Speed Challenge - www.luderitz-speed.com
Speed:World:Cup - www.speedworldcup.com
World Sailing Speed Record Council - www.sailspeedrecords.com