During the month of November, the Luderitz Speed Challenge 2011 took place in one of the windiest places on Earth, in the howling landscape of Namibia in Africa. Winds often reach 60 knots, and blast offshore across a flat barren beach - which is the ideal recipe for speedsailing!
In previous years, the specific speed canal dug out of the beach in Luderitz, has proved far more successful for the kiting community, who could take full advantage of the shallow canal and howling winds. Since 2007, World Speedsailing Records have dropped like flies with speeds that windsurfers only currently dream of. The kiters have been pushing the limits of what is possible on the water, first reaching 50knots, then 55, and now even over 60knots!
Yet it is out of this, that windsurfing has found a new avenue of hope towards regularly joining the 50knot+ club. For the 2011 Speed Challenge, the creators of the canal in Luderitz, Sébastien Cattelan and Sophie Rabatoul were determined to make the course more accessible for windsurfers and possibly hydrofoil boats, and designed a new course with improved shape and depth that could ultimately run a proper speed event – where all the sports could battle it out in the same conditions. It took 8 months to get permission to dig the new course, and as a result 2011 was deemed a test year to try and perfect the course and improve the chances of breaking even higher speeds.
Long time Windsurfing legend Anders Bringdal, who now spends his all time running Mistral Windsurfing, jumped at the chance to test out the course in Luderitz, and in doing so instantly became the fastest windsurfer in the world!
Boardseeker thought it was high time to catch up with Anders, and get the low down on Luderitz :
Boardseeker: Looking at the GPS-Speedsurfing website, we see that barely a month ago, you had never posted a single GPS result online. Then you come along and serve up 4 of the fastest speeds ever, and jump straight to the top of the GPS rankings with a 5x10sec average of 48.03knots and a World Record VMax of 50.72 knots. Got to say, we like your style!
Anders: Thanks guys, It for sure was a great ride down in Luderitz.
A little about you
You live in?
I live in Marseille France now days.
You stopped competing in PWA when?
Where do you sail the most now?
Here in Marseille mostly, but when the conditions are right I make the 2 and a half hour drive to Leucate to get some better speed conditions for testing. I work a bit much nowadays. It’s hard to get too many days in the water.
So Anders, fastest windsurfer on the water EVER… how does that feel?
Cool to get a question like that!! Never though about it. But for sure getting a bigger puff in the 5,7 mid way through the run felt great.
In terms of the technique - what are your main concerns/requirements when sailing a course like Luderitz?
As my buddy Farrel O’Shea always says, you got to be lit like a banshee!!
Harder to do than to say, as the wind most of the times does not cooperate. Apart from that, the first thing that you need to sort out is a ‘NOT to-do list’:
- spin out.
- excessive tail walks that result in spin out.
- when the gust hit, you can not drift around more than a meter to stay safe.
- golden rule, do not crash!!!
Apart from that, sheet in and go!
This time I did 60 runs through the canal with 37 of those over 45,5 knots on the 500m so it is not as hard and crazy as it may look. Just got to commit and hang on.
It also helped me that I know my material like the back of my hand. I spend 12 months on the board and fin combo, and the assy rig just made it easier and faster to sail.
One of the main people responsible for creating the new Luderitz Canal - Sebastian Cattelan - is now touching 62 knots on his kite. As windsurfers, we have to ask - do you ever think it will be possible to get close to this speed? If so, what is needed to achieve this?
Last year I would answer this in a different way. But now armed with more knowledge I know different.
No doubt kites are fast.
In a situation where the kites can hang on they will be around 2-4 knots faster than us the windsurfers. The interesting point is when they can not hang on.
When the wind really kicks in, they start to have massive problems with the gusts and also to keep the board in the water.
When they lose that control, they are not in advantage against a windsurfer any more.
Looking at what I did, I just needed more wind. Now we had some gust that showed 55 knots but average wind over our runs was down to 37 knots. (I personally think they had a happy wind meter, as if indeed we did have gust of 55 knots, I would think it would be harder to hang onto the 5.7m sail. I never really came out of the comfort zone...)
I think if we can get the wind that I have seen last year down there of 60 to 65 knots (it showed up 3 days after the event was over) we will put windsurfing deep into the 50 knots for the 500 m and maybe even send it past the current record.
Looking at the fact that now there is a lot of sailors on the GPS site, as well as the PWA side that can and have smoked me in the past, I think if they all come out of hibernation - speed sailing would see something different next year.
Or where do you think the future lies for windsurfing’s top speed?
For sure under 20 sec runs. But I think 55+ is not to scoff at. It can be done.
Your own personal goals in speed? - Do you have a figure in mind? Or are you just going to keep pushing and see where it ends up?
First 50, then 53 then 55. Top speed in the upper 50 range. There is no barrier there. No difference from 40-45-50 knots, so until you reach full cavitation there should not be a barrier holding us back.
Some tuning to be done from here but the fins that I currently have can do it, The board and the design that Chis makes can do it for sure. The new assy (foil) sail has opened up a new dimension so we are only in the early stages there. Game on I would say.
The only weak link will be the poor guy hanging on.... the question will be go or do not go. Coming around the top corner with 20+ knots more than what we now had will be interesting for sure. Great rush. Just have to have the stomach for it....
Can you tell us a bit about the specifics of the Luderitz Canal?
It is about a meter deep, 800M long and when first cut 6 meter wide. Then with the water draining a bit and the tide washing over it in spring tide it getts less. down to what we sailed in about 3-4m wide.
This was a new canal dug this year specifically to suit both kiters and windsurfers?
How does this course differ from the one in Sainte Marie De La Mer, the famous 'ditch' where so many records were broken?
The Canal is 15 meters wide that now looks to me to be better called the inshore ocean of Saint Marie....
Do you think this course can be improved more? Is it now just a case of needing more wind? Or tuning gear better?
All can get better, already now we know how to make the canal better. We fixed some issues during our stay there and managed to stop the wind to channel down the canal and create chop. It got a lot flatter after that. Next year I hope they will dig the canal a little wider to start with, Just for safety reasons.
Now that you have proved the courses potential for windsurfers, are there plans for a larger event for the windsurfers to try the course?
That's what we all hope, This year we managed to prove that the canal can be sailed fast. Next year is all about getting that old record smashed. I am 100% sure if the wind hit's it will go. There are over 20 riders out there that can break it. They all should show up. Wound be really cool for our sport.
Windspeed on the course during your record?
37 average wind gusting 55 during the day.
Sail size used?
In terms of the equipment you used, Asymmetric Fins are quite commonplace for speedsailing, but we see you were also using custom asymmetric sails.
Can you tell us more about these, and the theory behind it?
The main Idea is to lose the intra-dos drag you normally have on the windward side of the sail. It makes the sail accelerate faster and also penetrate the holes better.
Gasoil are know for their fins, how long have they been making sails? - I must admit I had never heard of them.
They been working mostly in boat sails in the past but when I got talking about to make the asymmetrical sail they got right into it. In the end best leave foil making to guys making foils!
What we did remains only prototype work for now. I think we opened up a new door that is very interesting to walk through.
I'm assuming you were using a Mistral prototype board, smaller than the current 47cm wide board? Can you tell us the dimensions on this board? How wide? etc..
I used the pre-production 42 cm wide speed board, First production board will be out later this month. Chris Lockwood design.
What did you design differently in this board to suit the Luderitz course or breaking records in general?
Chris Magic!! He really knows his stuff.
I did a really good thing with not involving myself in the design work this time. Same with the new slalom boards. I let it be a Chris show. Still now I did not measure the board myself. Great to work with guys who know their stuff.
In your opinion, what are the key features to making a successful speed board?
You have got to make it stable. It is in the control you will get to the real speed.
Are there plans to put this board into production?
It is in already, Europe delivery late January to mid Feb. Along side the 2 bigger boards. 47cm and 55 cm.
Your long time rival from back in the day has recently become Slalom World Champion again, and is certainly showing that the older gents are still the dominating force in the slalom tour.
Pretty cool stuff really. And imagine he did it with 6,2 as the smallest sail... Costa Brava and Fuerte must have been interesting for him... For sure Antoine is also a bit of a Bear but not many other guys out there could make it around the course with that set up for sure.
First off, are you ever tempted to return to slalom racing?
Always, but it seams to stay there.....year after year.
How do you think you would fare agains the current crop?
Depends on what I would try to do. Reality is that I run Mistral boards now. There is a lot of work and it is very hard to do it all.
Just look at what the PWA guys have to do - The amount of racing and the number of races per competition. It is hardcore stuff now days, and requires a 100% effort. Hard to do for me now days, even if some times it really itches in my feet looking at the live coverage.
In your opinion, what are the older guys doing so well still in slalom?
Experience as well as effort. Not only have they done it before, but they also know pretty much all the tricks in the book. I think this year no doubt Bjorn had a sweet ride but also looking at Ben, Great effort, Great consistency and finally a fantastic result.
Even took him as far as knocking off Antoine a few times in the events. In the past 10 years lots have tried but part from Bjorn and Ben nobody managed to do that.
Currently there are no racers representing Mistral on the PWA race course. Is this something you are interested in developing in the future? Do you think it is necessary?
Lets see what the new season will bring. Chris is keen, and so some other Aussies.
Antoine Albeau currently holds the Official World Record for Windsurfing, ratified by the WSSRC over a 500m distance, while Craig Spottiswood is fractionally faster than you on GPS 500m and GPS 10 second run.
Do you think the World Record should take GPS results into consideration? As currently the cost and logistics of achieving a "WSSRC" World Record is much higher than using GPS results which are easily attainable by so many more people. What are your thoughts on this?
That’s hard to say, The WSSRC with Video timing is accurate to Olympic standard. When speaking to "those who know" GPS is not that accurate. Funny to see that the mixing of the 2 units GPS speed is normally the same as the video timing or close enough to call it fair.
We live in a world of rules. I normally do not follow to many of them, but in this case I am just happy to see that we can compete under the same standard that all the older records have been done with.
To make the GPS the new standard is something that I do not have any issue at all with but this is not for me to say. I like the fact that you can compete around the world and compare the numbers of what you did against what other guys do, but it remains so up to the conditions to know who is really faster. But I must admit it has been super cool to see Spotty and Chris sling it out down under and then see all the great runs Jack and Hans have been doing here in France and also in Holland. Farrel and Steve too in the UK...
No matter what standard of timing you use, it is clear that the speed of the boys is increasing all the time. It is this that is driving us all to do more and look for solutions to go even faster.
All the best,