Wednesday, November 04, 2009

World Speed Challenge

Sailing begins at the 2 min. mark.

The third annual Luderitz Speed Challenge has begun, where many of the world’s top kitesurfers have descended on the remote Namibian town of Luderitz to compete during the month of November against each other and the clock to prove what is the world’s fastest wind-powered craft.

Last year’s challenge shattered the previously unbeatable 50knot barrier (93kph), setting a string of world and national records in this “Formula One of Sailing”. Kitesurfers took over many of the top slots in the international rankings for speed sailing, contested by sailboats, windsurfers and kitesurfers. Alex Caizergues of France set a new outright world record of 50.57knots (93.6kph) over 500m, with Rob Douglas of the U.S.A. and Sebastien Cattelan of France, also breaking the 50 knot barrier, recording times of 50.54 and 50.52 knots respectively.

The greatest battle is between two very different worlds - the skill, strength and sheer bravery of the kitesurfers and windsurfers on their tiny boards, set against well-funded sailboat teams making use of the latest computer and materials technology to design ever more outlandish sailboats. Last year the kitesurfers beat the windsurfers, who had before beaten the sailboats. This year the sailboats have come back roaring, with the Swiss/French sailboat l’Hydroptere setting the world record in September with an astonishing 51.36knots (95kph) at Hyeres off the south coast of France.

Will kitesurfers again achieve high-speed glory on water in this year’s Luderitz Speed Challenge? The refinement of sails, fins, boards and technique continues to take leaps, and the Luderitz speed strip - located in a lagoon on Namibia’s southern coast - provides absolutely ideal conditions for speed sailing. After strong breeze on Monday helped to establish a new Brazilian speed record, light wind is expected for the rest of this first week, so most of the riders are settling back to patiently (but nervously) await the next wind cycle. Via

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