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

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