Lindy Taverner

Speed freaks!

2011-07-28 14:09
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

The awesomeness continues with surf freak Jordy Smith winning the Billabong Pro Jeffreys Bay again this year. Seemingly weightless board riding, loose agility and lighting fast speed bursts ensured he utilised every bit of energy each wave had to offer.

There are other types of freaks out there... those obsessed with speed. I was challenged on the weekend by a windsurfer that claimed they could go faster than kiteboarders. I seriously doubted this and went on a mission to find out.

The fastest sailor on the water is rewarded with the "Outright Speed Sailing Record." We are continuously pushing the limits of design and human ability to reach ever higher speeds. In the last few years, the race for the top spot has been phenomenal, with huge hydrofoiled multihulls running neck and neck with the most minimal of boards. 

Windsurfers cut up the speed sailing records from 1986 until 2008, seemingly invincible until kiteboarders upped their game.
The Luderitz lagoon in Namibia must be the Land of Oz for speed sailing, as magic seems to happen there. In a purpose-built speed channel, American kiteboarder Rob Douglas shattered all records at 49.84 knots, becoming the fastest human under sail over a 500m distance in 2008.

In that same year, speed freak Frenchie Sebastian Cattelan was the first man to crack the 50-knot barrier at 50.26 knots, with fellow countrymen Alexandre Caizergues hot on his heals pushing it to 50.57 knots.

In 2009, fellow Frenchamn Alain Thebault broke the kiteboarders hearts in their home country on his massive hydrofoil multihull hydroptère. He achieved 51.36 knots and held this speed sailing record for a year.

October 2010 was the month for obliterating all records. Deposing the hydroptère, young French kiteboarder, Alexandre Caizergues, once again beat the outright world speed record under sail.

Powering off at blistering speed, well positioned on his board and harnessed to his 8m2 wing, he reached 54.10 knots (100.19km/h) over 500 metres of the legendary Luderitz lagoon channel.

South African Taro Niehaus was the first African and sixth person in the world to break 50-knot barrier with a speed of 50.62 knots.

It wasn’t only the men flying on water in Luderitz in October 2010. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, French kiteboarder Charlotte Consorti broke the female record and the 50-knot barricade achieving a phenomenal speed of 50.43 knots.

The fastest kept getting faster and the speed sailing barriers fell like dominos. Rob Douglas of Boston USA, the man who brought kiteboarding into the speed sailing arena in 2008 with a record run of almost 50 knots, reclaimed the crown in Namibia that October. 

In wind speeds of 45 knots, Douglas the Wizard smashed the barrier by averaging a top speed of 55.65 knots over 500 metres. On his second run he unfortunately broke his wrist, but was extremely cheerful! Since 55.65 knots means the next barrier is 60 knots, he'll need both those wrists in good shape to smash that record this year!

There has been much speculation that the laws of physics may have set a hard limit to how fast anything can be blown over the water.  We may be bumping against that edge already, but this is the magical Land of Oz after all, and having met most of these speed freaks, I think we haven’t seen anything yet.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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