The first ever Dunkerbeck GPS Speed Challenge took place last week and with near perfect wind for three days the competitors got to complete nine full rounds of competition. Check out our full report on the event over the next few pages with a round up video on the final page.
With a couple of light wind days to start, the conditions gave everyone the opportunity to catch up and prepare their gear for the coming forecast, and yes, being a group of avid speed surfers these guys (and girls) had a lot of fin gossiping to get on with. There was talk of convex and concave fins, fins that required gas pumps and carbon fibre that was so expensive it was only suitable on F1 cars. The mind boggles when you try to dive into the likes of Anders Bringdal, Jurjen van der Noord or Martin van Meurs' heads.
On day 3, the wind kicked in as predicted and without hesitation the team behind the Dunkerbeck GPS Speed Challenge got to work. From that point on you could see the experience of Björn Dunkerbeck and his team take presence. The number of events he has attended would be impossible to fathom but one thing you can be sure of is his wealth of knowledge obtained from all the different locations he has travelled to whilst competing. As a result, competition here was only ever going to take place with sails of size 7.8m or smaller. This lead to 9 rounds with peak speeds of 42 knots and average speeds reaching 41 knots, well at least for Björn.
Head to Head
During the event, the man himself managed to stay a clear margin ahead of everyone, between one and two knots faster, he seemed untouchable. Just behind him was Jurjen van der Noord who maintained a consistent second place in almost every heat.
It was a very closely fought battle between the fastest guys in the world and one that is understandably changing a lot, the most interesting thing is that it changes more event by event rather than heat by heat, which would suggest that equipment changes have been made during the down time that boost one or the others speed significantly. In a sport where technology advancements may have appeared to slow down on the face of it, dramatic changes are still taking place that means the latest equipment is truly the gear to have if you want to remain competitive.
During the event there were several other stand out sailors, it wasn't just an easy fight for those top 3 places, the likes of Serge Beumer and Minos Efstatdihadis, who both posted lightning quick speeds in individual heats to make the top 3 more than once a piece, showed that they have serious potential. On top of that Jim Crossley and William Trossell from the UK had an informal battle going on to out do one another, which was slightly short lived as William ended up with three stitches during the second to last race through fault of his razor sharp fin and a small crash. On the other hand, Jim was sailing well and has shown great improvements over the last year, if he keeps going like that he could find himself above his well deserved 8th place at future events.
In the end, the battle for the final spot on the podium was not as close as it might appear as Anders Bringdal showed his masterful skill to clock numerous thirds and seconds, a solid performance that saw him claim third overall.
We sat with Anders often during dinner and picked his brains about all things speed, who could pass up such an opportunity. Above all that we discussed, one thing that was clear was the excitement in his voice as he talked about fins and other modifications that could see windsurfers push well past the top speeds they are reaching right now. When we say watch this space, we really mean watch this space...
World Record Holders
Turning our attention back to the event, it was not all about the men and not all about the Speed Challenge, there was a European title to fight for and there was also a group of lightning quick ladies on the entry list. Included in this list was the current speed World Champion and women's Guinness World Record holder, Zara Davis. Despite her dominance during the week, Zara had some stiff competition from the young Lena Erdil and in two cases Lena managed to pip Zara to the post.
However, Zara never let it affect her and approached each heat with a clear head, in the end this was enough for the experienced speed windsurfer to maintain her position at the top of female speed surfing and receive the title as the 2014 European Champion and Dunkerbeck Speed Challenge Champion. And so, Zara stays on the records alongside the likes of Sarah Quita Offringa, Karin Jaggi and the Moreno twins as one of the greats in women's windsurfing.
From the outset this event was open to those new to speed competition and as a result more than 40 people were signed up, of which over half were brand new to speed competition or had only taken part once or twice before. With prizes for the fastest person on freeride kit, it didn't matter what gear you came to compete on, what mattered the most was just turning up and experiencing it. And what an experience those who were there got, competing and sitting alongside so many windsurfing World Champions and World Record Holders, as well as the likes of Phillipe Bru who is the organiser of the hugely successful Defi Wind event and Phillipe's son, Julien who won the category for fastest under 21 with an outstanding performance. There are very few opportunities in this sport where anyone can enter an event and challenge those who are top of the game.
Kids on Course
Three juniors took part in this event, all under the age of 13 and all three of them had never competed before. It was certainly a pleasure to witness them beat their speeds time and time again, even on the very final race both Liam Dunkerbeck and Alexa Escherich both reached new peak speeds with Liam passing 22 knots and Alexa with more than 25 knots.
When it came down to it, the one to beat was Robin van Linden who impressed a lot of people on his freeride gear when he reached the 30 knot barrier. All three of them had a great time and showed their support for the event by assuring us that they want to enter again next year.
After a large number of races and such great competition prize giving was held at the R2 Hotel, which hosted most of the competitors throughout the whole week. Images in the gallery below show the winners from each of the different categories.
Our experience throughout the whole event was truly memorable, the hospitality the relaxed atmosphere, even after things became a little heated during the end of one race, it took just minutes before everything was calm again and easily resolved. It was an event where the Dunkerbeck team couldn't open their arms any wider, everyone had a great time; the kids, the competitors, the family and spectators that were passing through all thoroughly enjoyed it. The feedback post event certainly left the right vibe with the DSC team who announced plans to make three events happen next year and five the year after.
If there is one thing to remember, that has to be the event that started in 1988 on Gran Canaria. Ulla Dunkerbeck, mother to Björn, set up the PWA event there and what was a small scale opening event on a windy unsheltered beach called Pozo has now grown to the most exciting PWA wave event on the tour. So don't hesitate to imagine where this might lead...
The idea of speed windsurfing competition is not one that would cross the mind of many, especially a young(ish) freestyle windsurfer like yours truly, but one thing is for sure I'll certainly be attending next year.
Check out the final wrap up video below, produced by Pete Davis.