SPEED SAILING

Speed Racing  
 Photo credit: Dave White 
Speed sailing takes several forms. The ISA (International Speedsurfing Association) organizes (under the umbrella of ISAF) competitions in various locations around the world known for conditions suitable for good speeds. The events are made up of heats sailed on a 500m course. The average of each sailors best 2 speeds on the 500m course which is typically open for 2 hrs/heat is their speed for that heat. As such it is possible for the sailor with the outright fastest time not to win the heat if his second best time pulls his average down. Points are given for the placings in the heats and overall event winner is the sailor with the best point score (again not necessarily the fastest sailor). Likewise points are given for places in the events and at the last event a World Speedsurfing Champion is crowned.

On record attempts controlled by the World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC) competitors complete timed runs on a 500m or 1 nautical mile (1,852m) course. It is not a competition as such but a race against the clock and video timed for accurate ratification. The current outright (500m course) sailing record is held by Finnian Maynard at 48.7 knots. Finian also held the nautical mile record which he took from Bjorn Dunkerbeck at Walvis Bay in Namibia in October 2005 in an epic contest with Dunkerbeck and another multiple world windsurfing champion Antoine Albeau. In October 2006 Dunkerbeck improved on Finian's speed of the previous year by over 1 knot. Currently his best nautical mile speed is 41.14 knots. A new record can not be publicly claimed until verified by the WSSRC who has an observer at the event.

  Speed Racing 2
  Photo credit: Allison Shreeve

With the advent of cheap and small GPS units sailors have been able to organise impromptu competitions amongst themselves as well as more formal competitions such as the European Speed Meetings and Speedweeks/fortnights in Australia. See www.gps-speedsurfing.com for more information. With over 1200 sailors registered it is possible for windsurfers all over the world to compare speeds.

Perfect conditions of flat water and offshore winds with at least force seven on a broad reach are need, and sailing down the wind on an angle of 150 degrees isn't as easy as it may seem. When in competition even the most experienced sailors have a caddy to help bring a range of sail and board sizes down the course areas. Quite often it is a one way track requiring the walk or drive back upwind with your equipment because the boards and fins are too small to get back upwind easily. Weight jackets are a key to getting an extra few knots of speed. The extra weight helps when the gusts hit making it less likely to be pulled up by the force of pressure and hold the power and accelerate that to the board.  Generally speaking, the heavier you are the faster you are!

I currently hold the “A” class women’s World Speed Record of 51.3km/h which I achieved on the canal at St Maries de la Mer in France in November 2005.  The sail area needed to be above 10m so I used my Formula Neil Pryde sail 10.7m and my 106 Litre F2 slalom board which didn’t really go well together because of the size difference.  After a few runs in about 25 knots of wind, I broke the record three times before running up the bank of the canal, snapping my fin off and ending any chance of further attempts.

 

Special mention to www.formulawindsurfing.org, www.rsxclass.com, www.neilpryde.com, www.f2surf.com and www.windsurfing-academy.com for some of the information and pictures on this page.


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