Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Post Luderitz

It's only 1 week since I have been back from Luderitz, feels like a month, but there is no rest for the wicked.

I have always trained myself when I can't get on the water. Either running, biking or swimming but I have decided to change this year. I have joined the gym and we will see how that unfolds over the next few months.

I am 3/4 of a stone, almost 5kg, lighter than last year. It made a big difference in getting going in the canal BUT there is still more to loose. It is very noticeable that the days of the big super heavy speed sailor has gone. By super heavy I'm talking about over 110kg.

When in the past we competed the courses were never as broad as Luderitz. It's easier to get going on a tight reach then a broad reach, the sail does more of the work on a broad reach then on a tight reach exhausting the wind so the less need for a big lump holding down the sail.

We didn't get strong winds this year so couldn't compare what difference a sailor at 110kg would have over one at 95kg. There were three outstanding sailors there this year that always were at the top and one that had one good day. When I was there apart from the top 3 the next 5 were all tightly bunched within 0.5 knots of each other. I won't mention any names because more than likely I'll upset someone so I'll keep quite.

I am 112kg, 2.02cm tall and on my best day with 25 to 30 knots of wind I used a Patrik Diethelm speed 43 with 61 litres of volume, Neil Pryde Evo5 6.4m sail and Black Project Fins X50 which is 20.4cm long. I had the X55 ready in my PD custom speed 41 which is 19.3cm long. I also had a 3.5kg weight jacket on and reached a speed of 45.52 knots. With a sail that big you are starting to have a lot of drag, it's 10% bigger than my next size down. Unfortunately being that heavy meant I needed that size to get going on such a small board.

The weight jacket makes a huge difference in keeping you locked into position. I only used it one day as the other days had less wind.

It's all about your overall balance concerning weight, board size, fins & sail size (I hope this is coming across the way my brain is thinking it). I went to Luderitz to break records and travelled with a 41 and 43 cm board 5.4, 5.8 and 6.4m sails. The 6.4 was taken just to get on the water if the wind was light, the 43 board to get a couple of warm up runs then swap onto the 41 with the 5.8 but hopefully the 5.4 to get some big speeds. As it turned out I only sailed the 6.4 and 43.

If I had been lighter I may have been able to swap to the 5.8 sail and been a bit faster but on the other hand we weren't expecting only 25 to 30 knots of wind and no records could of been broken in that wind strength.

So the decision has been made to shed the pounds and see the difference. My thinking is that there won't be a down side to being lighter as I can put more lead in the weight jacket.

My goal now is 105kg with the advantage of putting on a 7kg weight jacket. Lean and mean seems to be the way forward.


Gym session 1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Luderitz conclusions

How to sum up my trip to the 2013 Luderitz speed challenge:- NO WIND!!

That is not completely true but it wasn’t anyway as good as last year.

I travelled out to Luderitz with Pierre Bisson again hoping to break the British windsurfing speed record, currently held by Farrel Oshea at 48.80 knots 56.15 mph. My best speed from last year was 48.21 knots. We were also going to make a video diary of the trip, flying with Aurigny to Gatwick, van from Gatwick to Heathrow, 12 hour flight to Cape Town then a 14 hour drive up through South Africa into Namibia, through the Namibian desert to a small fishing village / diamond mining town called Luderitz.

2013 has seen me change sail and board sponsorship to Neil Pryde Sails (the current world record holder) and Patrik Diethelm Boards (ranked 2nd in the overall gps speedsailing rankings). Patrik had specifically made me a custom 41cm wide by 2.30m long speed board for the purpose of breaking records. The board was designed to sail with 5.8m and 5.4m sails in winds from 40 – 50 knots. I also took a production 43cm board and 6.4m sail for training purposes when and if the winds were lighter, 30 to 40 knots.

To the layman the difference between a 5.8m sail or a 6.4m doesn’t seem much but in terms of speed that 10% extra sail size makes a huge difference, as does the extra 2cm width on a board and with smaller boards you use smaller fins which have less drag. Everything adds up to slower speeds with bigger equipment.

The event is staged on a manmade canal 5m wide and 800m long at the perfect angle to the prevailing winds that blow off the Namibian desert out to sea. The canal is open for a one month period from the 21st October until the 17th November with competitors allowed to book 1,2,3 or 4 weeks use of the canal. A lot of the competitors are professional windsurfers and can book in 4 weeks but for me that is not an option, family and work commitments have to come first (that’s quite hard to convince the wife of but true).

We arrived in Luderitz on the Monday 4th November and although they had some fairly good winds in the first week but nothing strong enough for a new world record. The second week they had none at all, very unusual for Luderitz. The forecast looked great for later on in the week, everyone saying how lucky we have been arriving at the right time but as with any weather forecast it normally changes.

We had 25 to 30 knots of wind on the Wednesday the 7th. Not great but a good chance to familiarise myself with sailing on the canal. 6.4m sail and 43cm board, 43.84 knots average over 500m and a peak of 46.09. Not great but it does take a bit of time to get used to sailing on a canal that has no room for mistakes, one slipup and it’s a crash into a solid sand bank at 50mph and more likely than not broken bones.

Thursday the wind had died but Friday it was back blowing 23 to 28 knots. Back out with the 6.4 and 43cm and in less wind but now familiar with the canal I was dialled in, 45.52 knots average and a peak of 47.27. 6th fastest 500m gps speed posted for the day. All the times for the top 6 were very close and considering the conditions I was very happy with the result.

With a sail that big 45 knots is very quick, I was starting to get very excited about what I could achieve with more wind. The year before I had days when I was sailing slower with smaller sail sizes in stronger winds.
Unfortunately by the Monday people were already talking about changing their flights as the forecast was so poor. We decided to wait until the Wednesday forecast before making any decision. Of course as with weather forecasts Wednesdays forecast for the last weekend looked great and “of course” by the time the weekend came the wind had nearly gone. We had one more sail on the Sunday but in very light winds 42.66 average and 44.44 knots max, still very fast conditions for most places in the world but not what we were expecting from Luderitz.


I could have sailed slightly faster with a bigger board than I took as this would have got me into the course faster but the goal was to break records and the equipment I took was for that purpose.

45.52 knots using a 6.4m sail is an incredible fast speed.

The video we took has turned out fantastic and I have to send a big thank you to Pierre Bisson, A truly gifted sports photographer (not bad at landscapes too, needs to practice on not getting the van stuck 5 miles out in the middle of a desert though). I couldn’t have done the trip without him, travelling light for a windsurfer but with two boards, 3 sails, 3 booms and 5 mast, 110kg of excess baggage is no easy thing. He also drove the whole way there, I don’t know if it is because he likes driving or hates my driving.

Big thanks to Auringy Airlines for their help in getting me to the UK.

Neil Pryde sails for supplying me with the fastest sails on the planet, Patrik Diethelm Boards for the fastest boards, Black Project Fins for our ongoing development of speed sailing fins, Billabong wetsuits (Namibia water is cold), Chinook booms and

Special thanks to Catherine, Jacques & Luke Ogier.

Luderitz Town

Old railway station

Saying goodbye to Luderitz 2013

Canal Start

Take off

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Luderitz 9th Nov

The forecast all week was looking good for today but with each day it slipped backwards a little.

We ended up with 25 to 30 knots of wind, not great but because the canal is at the perfect angle the speeds were up there with some of the best of the year. It's only because it's Luderitz that the competitors want more.

I sailed my Evo 5   6.4m sail all day with my PD 43 and Black Project X50. Great combo and I was pleased to get 45.5 knots over 500m and peak at over 47 with such a big sail.

Most sailors were on 5.8 sails but I couldn't get going on my 5.8 in the gusty conditions. I have never witnessed so many aborted starts as today. 

There is a new system with starting now that there are so many sailors.  You get handed a stick, who ever handed you the stick is in front of you in the queue to have a run on the canal.  You then hand the stick on to someone else and so on. The stick can change person 10 times in 10 seconds but as long as you remember who handed it to you then you know your position. It works quite well but you don't get as many runs in as last year and it's a bit more of a lottery if you get a lucky run in the gusty conditions. If you have to abort your run because you can't start before the corner into the strip then you have to go to the back of the queue. This could mean having only 1 run in one hour. It happened to me three times, it's quite intimidating when you have 15 of the worlds best sailors all queuing behind you waiting for a run.

Overall I'm happy with my speeds, believe me it wasn't easy conditions. Just waiting for more wind, so far it has been no where near the wind strengths of last year.

This is one of my favourite pictures of this year. Pierre working his magic again.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Luderitz 8th Nov

Such a better day and completely unexpected.

The forecast was for lighter winds than yesterday and the organisers decided yesterday that they wouldn't open the course today. It was also a open day for the local schools this afternoon to come down and have a look at what is going on.

Pierre and I were editing till about 12.30 when Pierre said it looks kind of windy. The plan was to have lunch then down for the open day but we decided to check out the canal first. when we got there it looked good enough to sail so I rigged the 6.4 Evo 5 and the PATRIK 43 and went for it.

First run 42.95 knots average over 21 seconds, (the 500m timing wasn't set up so it was gps only). Pierre took some video from the end of the canal then we dropped the back door of the pickup so I could sit on it and he drove me back up the course, me holding the sail out the back. The run was similar to yesterday and didn't feel great so I added another 2.5 cm of downhaul to the sail and put on my weight jacket with 3.5kg of weight. The wind was definitely lighter than yesterday but boom the run felt great, over 44.6 knots average 21 seconds and 45.93 top speed. The difference was extreme you actually feel more powered up with the weight and extra downhaul. you could tell the wind was lighter as sailors who had no problem getting going yesterday could today.

The winds yesterday were forecast 22 knots gusting 28 knots that means 32 gusting 38 at the canal, today was 20 gusting 25, tomorrows is 24 gusting 32.

Tomorrow is the windiest day forecast since we have been here however the weather pattern is good for next week with the wind decreasing on Sunday then building again. The forecast for next Wednesday is 21 gusting 28 but that might increase, it may decrease as well though.

We'll see what tomorrow brings but I am a lot happier with the setup now than I was first thing this morning.

We did a lot of video today and GoPro action.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Luderitz my first day

Great to be back in Luderitz.

We had some wind yesterday and it was great to get going.

I started with my Evo 5 5.8 on my Patrik Speed 43 but soon realised that there wasn't enough wind. after 2 runs I swapped to my 6.4 and had my fastest time just under 44 knots for 500m. Not great but good to get back used to the canal.

When being driven back up to the start I noticed everyone rushing over to the leeward side of the canal.    Sophie had a unbelievable crash being lifted 20m into the air by her kite and dumped on the hard sand. She is stable in hospital sustaining a badly broken leg, hopefully nothing more. The whole atmosphere around the canal changed, just felt sick in the stomach.

The course was closed and rightly so while the ambulance took Sophie to the hospital. It was opened again 1.5 hrs later for gps and half an hour after that for timing. I waited for the timing to re-open before  going back out but the wind was dying fast, just two more runs before the died.

I sailed only 5 runs and tried out 3 fins, the X type, XLS and prototype. I think I'll keep to the X type.

There were some good speeds done and posted on gps but the last time I looked at the timing board by the canal I was 4th fastest. That has certainly changed on gps but I don't know if they were done outside of the 500m timing when I wasn't on the water.

The forecast yesterday was for good winds Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. know that has changed and it looks like we will only get wind tomorrow, slightly stronger than yesterday. Fingers crossed.

Take off before the corner into the course. boom!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013


This is a better clip from the BBC