Saturday, October 4, 2008


Damn, those kiters really have hit their stride now. At theLüderitz Speed Challenge , Sebastien Cattelan  of France broke the 50 knot barrier. Rumor has it that this means the canal won't open for the next round of Masters of Speed - I could see how that might be true, as it would be harder to get sponsorship together and get people to commit that much time and money if there's no more chance at being the first to break 50.

Congratulations to the kiters at Luderitz - those are some pretty awesome performances. Given how quickly they were able to push their speeds up to those levels from where they were just a few years ago, there's been a lot of very rapid development in that sport. Good on them!

I wonder if this will spell the end of the speed rush windsurfing has gone through in the last few years, with several well-organized record attempts and a bunch of grass roots GPS-based informal competition. I also wonder what it will take for windsurfing to reclaim the outright record - it took Maynard and Albeau a lot of time, money, and R&D to get to 49.09; kiters just blew right by them, and physics seem to be on their side at this point. Seems like the current gear and technique combo needs to be tweaked a bit to get back in the game. The sailors have been trying to do the same thing vis-a-vis windsurfing (check or to see some of those attempts - none of them successful so far) Perhaps we'll end up seeing some crazy foiling windsurfers with funky outriggers to get on top of the physics here - but given the state of the industry, I'm not sure where the funding for such extensive R&D would come from. Incremental improvements to the current design paradigm seem to have run into the law of diminishing returns.


PeconicPuffin said...

You think that because a kiter went 50 that no windsurfer wants to be the first windsurfer to break 50? I don't think that's the case. While there is certainly a good-natured competition between kiters and windsurfers to outdo each other (therefore making 50.58 a windsurfing target also) they are different sports. Certainly breaking 50 on a sail-powered craft remains out there.

G-42 said...

I agree with you that the sailors who have what it takes to break 50 will not be too deterred from pursuing that goal. I do, however, believe that they will have a very hard time convincing sponsors to cough up support for the kind of effort needed to make that happen. The canal was a result of Finian Maynard combining his sheer force of personality and persuasiveness with a tangible, realistic goal - break 50 and be the fastest windpowered craft in the world (that's what the outright record means - there's no requirement that it be what most people would consider "sailing").

And yes, anything >50.57 will be a serious target for eligible windsurfers - but let's be realistic. The combination of necessary sailor skill and determination, along with the rather hard-to-come-by conditions needed for those guys to make it happen (as evidenced by the rather long time it took the top echelon of fast windsurfers to get to 49.09) makes that goal a bit elusive right now - and given what the kiters at Luderitz put on the board this last week, I'm pretty sure that goal is a moving target.