2009 Lüderitz Speed Challenge

New world kitespeed record, new USA outright speed sailing record (men and women), new Slovenia, Brazil outright records.

Higher speeds in lighter wind shows increased equipment efficiency, better technique – world record recaptured by sailboats will fall again to the kitesurfers.

The month of November saw the third annual Lüderitz Speed Challenge, held in the second lagoon outside this small coast town in Namibia. The ferocious winds that normally batter Lüderitz were a little tame this year, seldom exceeding 35 knots (65kph), but improved equipment, more training and better technique saw the kiteboard sailors extract ever faster times in lighter winds, exceeding those set last year in vastly stronger conditions.

Many competitors walked away with new records, most notably Alexandre Caizergues (F-One) who set a new world kiteboard speed record of 50.98 knots (94.4kph), just 0.38 knots shy of the current outright speed sailing record set by sailboat l’Hydroptère in October this year.

Rob Douglas (Cabrinha) set a new USA outright speed sailing record of 50.95knots, and his colleague in the North American Speed Sailing Project, Melissa Gil (Cabrinha) set a new USA woman’s national speed record of 38.00 knots. Jernej Privsek (Jägermeister) upped the Slovenian outright speed sailing record he set last year to 44.59 knots, and Felipe Johannpeter (Genetrix) established a new Brazil outright speed record of 42.14 knots. All records still to be ratified by the WSSRC.

The French competitors dominated the event as usual, with Alex Caizergues, Sebastien Cattelan and Christophe Prin-Guenon leading the rankings, and a slew of their compatriots, including Jerôme Bila, Sylvain Hoceini and Manu Taub regularly getting 45+ knot results. The South African contingent made a strong showing, but didn’t achieve the results of last year. They will be back for more.

Competitors are now stretching out tired muscles, attending to bruises and sprains and packing their gear, tired but happy after spending so many weeks chasing the records.

This year’s Lüderitz Speed Challenge saw better equipment and improved technique allow sailors to push the limits further, and get faster speeds in lighter wind. The record of French sailboat l’Hydroptère still stands unbroken at 51.36 knots. Given a few knots more wind in Lüderitz, this record would surely have fallen, but this is the great drama of speed sailing – it is skill, talent, equipment, technique, bravery… and a great deal of luck with the conditions of water and wind.

We were very happy with how the Lüderitz Speed Challenge went this year – even with the world gripped by a massive economic depression we managed to run a successful speed challenge that attracted many of the world’s top sailors,” says Sebastien Cattelan, event organiser and leading speed sailing contender. “The challenge for next year is to attract more sponsors to take part in this ‘Formula 1’ of sailing. The Lüderitz Speed Challenge is the ultimate David vs Goliath competition of individual skill and bravery against large, well funded hi-tech sailboat teams.

Cattelan continues: “We would like to express our earnest thanks to the town council of Lüderitz, whose unflagging support and enthusiasm makes this event possible, along with officials in Namibian conservation authorities, and the Namibian Sailing Association. Finally, our best wishes for a speedy recovery for Jerôme Bila, who was injured badly on the last day of racing.”

2009 Luderitz Speed Challenge Records

Alex Caizergues (F-One) – World kiteboard speed record: 50.98 knots
Rob Douglas (Cabrinha) – USA outright speed sailing record: 50.95knots
Jernej Privsek (Jägermeister) – Slovenia outright speed sailing record: 44.59 knots
Felipe Johannpeter (Genetrix) – Brazil outright speed sailing record: 42.14 knots
Melissa Gil (Cabrinha) – USA woman’s national speed sailing record: 38.00 knot
Tim Turner (Yellow Jersey Strategies) – Australia national kiteboard speed record: 33.94 knots

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