2017 marks 10 years since Frenchman Sebastien Cattelan had the crazy idea to jump in a digger in Namibia and unearth a long trench…which he then filled with water and proceeded to kitesurf down at speeds of over 40 knots! This was the beginnings of what is now known as the Lüderitz Speed Challenge and changed the way speed records were measured forever.
Since then, the Lüderitz Speed Challenge has become an annual speed sailing event for both windsurfers and kitesurfers alike and the speeds have increased enormously. Held in a secluded fishing port in Namibia on one of the least hospitable coasts in Africa, every spring riders gather to try and break the previous records set. It is registered by both the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and takes place on a manmade 800m course between the months of August and March when the wind is consistently strong, blowing from the south at a perfect 140 degree angle to the course. The riders battle it out against winds of up to 60km/h over a timeframe of one month in order to maximise wind coverage and fair racing.
The first event in 2007 was originally undertaken over a curved course, however for the second round the following year the team decided a straight course would be more efficient and was dug along the shoreline. This created a more uniform water depth over the entire run and included a 150m launch point and a 150m slow-down area so that the official WSSRC 500m recorded distance could be as clean a run as possible.
This year the 2017 event took place in November and having previously focused more on the event organisation Sebastien decided it was time to re-engage in the racing for a chance get back his World Record. He took advantage of the early light winds to do some training and get used to a track that had been dug by someone else this time. He says it is not an easy job to get the calculations right but you have to make it as perfect as you can. With 60kts winds finally making an appearance, Sebastian was nicely powered up on the 7m Edge V9 and although enjoying the conditions, he was 100% focused on the challenge he set himself. For the first half of the contest he managed to maintain the fastest average speed on a kite with over 55 knots, 101.86kph. Although fully on fire and steadily improving, the final results however were not in his favour as he narrowly missed out on a new the world record title, that was reached by fellow Frenchman Alex Caizergues with an astonishing average speed of 57.97kts (107kph), breaking his previous record set in 2013. Here's to 2018 being Seb's year and getting closer to that 60kts benchmark!
Now that the event is over for another year you can find Sebastien in the wind mecca that is Cape Town, when not training he is organising weekly Ozone kite demos in the Bloubergstrand area working closely with the SurfStore kiite shop. The first one will held be at Dolphin beach on Monday 4th of December. If you're in the area or planning a trip, don't miss this chance to test out all our latest material. Get in touch with him via the store on 0791 634 555 to see when the next one is organised for.
See Sebastien in action as he was warming up: