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Fifty Knots – World Record

The Fifty Knot barrier and new world record falls to France’s Sebastien Cattelan

It was a massive Friday at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge, with a new world record, and the magic 50 knot barrier broken by Sebastien Cattelan of France with a blistering run of 50.26 knots (93kph). The new record, still subject to ratification by a sitting of the World Speed Sailing Records Council, has placed the small coastal town in the southern part of Namibia firmly on the map for the extreme sport of speed sailing, where sailing boards, windsurfers and kitesurfers use only the natural elements to power them to almost 100kph speeds.

In the 35 to 40 knot winds that blew today, gusting to more than 45 knots (83kph), the speed sailors braved very rough water conditions to achieve these records speeds, with numerous runs by top sailors of over 49 knots. Several new outright records were set:

• Sebastien Cattelan 50.26 knots – new world outright speed sailing record, and the first person to break the magic “50 knot” barrier

• Rolf van der Vlugt 44.9 knots – new Dutch outright speed sailing record
• David Williams 44.82 knots – new UK outright speed sailing record
• Charlotte Consorti 42.19 knots – new French women’s outright speed sailing record
• Katja Roose 36.83 – new Dutch women’s outright speed sailing record

Other top times today were from Jerome Bila 49.26 knots and Alexander Caizergues at 49.21 knots. Note that these times are verified by the official time keeper, but are still subject to final ratification by the WSSRC.

Cattelan, who has been kiting for over ten years, is a pioneer of speed sailing, and was the driving force behind establishing this speed strip in Lüderitz, where a smooth stretch of water in the lagoon is buffeted by the already strong winds of the area that are accelerated by a shallow valley. His new record ups the ante in this 2008 edition of the month-long Lüderitz Speed Challenge, where American Rob Douglas’ 49.84 knots on the 19th September smashed the 49.09 knot world record set by windsurfer Antoine Albeau in the ‘trench’ at St Marie de la Mer in France earlier this year.

Coming into today’s event, he was struggling with an unrelated small injury, requiring him to reduce his activity. “I’ve been in bed the last three days, concentrating on what I would do today. Then I just did it,” he says. According to Cattelan, his record breaking run of today saw a maximum speed of 58 knots – 107kph – on the GPS, with an average of 54.5 knots over 200m.

Saturday promises even stronger winds, with a new milestone ahead of the competitors – the psychological barriers of 60mph and then 100kph.
Both the competitors and ESF Events, the organisers of the Lüderitz Speed Challenge are expecting even more world-beating performances tomorrow.