Jemma’s Speed Story

Luderitz Speed Challenge 2008

Flexifoil Atom08 pro-rider, Jemma Grobbelaar reports on the Luderitz Speed Challenge

speed (spēd)
1. the act or state of moving rapidly; swiftness; quick motion
2. travel at an excessive or illegal velocity
3. distance travelled per unit time
4. a rate (usually rapid) at which something happens
5. ☆ Slang any of various amphetamine compounds, esp. methedrine
Luderitz. The ghost town of Namibia. Home to the biggest fishery in Africa, diamonds and the best speed sailing spot in the world!

After 15 hours of driving from Cape Town I finally arrived in this eerie, dusty, windy town to compete in the Luderitz Speed Challenge 2008 and the last stop of the PKRA Speed World Tour.?? The road was long but incredibly beautiful. It was a true experience for me to just be out in the middle of nowhere. Your car is the only one on the road for miles and you get used to the silence and calmness of the place. You appreciate the raw beauty of the Namibian desert. The wind gets so strong in this town that it blows all of the desert sand away. It only leaves diamonds, rock, no vegetation and one superb natural speed strip!

This hard-core event is for anyone who has a need for speed and the guts to do it. The biggest challenge was to break the mythical 50-knot barrier. For me; my goal was to break the Outright British Speed Sailing Record which was held by Zara Davies at 37.??

The event ran from 15 September till the 13 October. I was only able to compete for a week as I was in the Seychelles promoting kite boarding. I had checked the tide tables for the second lagoon in Luderitz and saw that the tides looked the best for the last week of the competition in any case! Bonus!

The World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC) and the International Sialing Federation (ISAF) was present to ratify records and to make sure that the event conformed to the WSSRC Rules and Regulations.

I realised when I got to the speedstrip that I had to up my game and push my limits. Its not easy. On the first day I didnt manage to finish one run! I was on my 8.5m Flexifoil Ion2 and I wiped out EVERY time! It was crazy and a case of survival! Loosing your balance was so easy! I broke the cartilage in my nose and got a bit of concussion on my last run, when I wiped just before the finish and the bar hit me square in the nose/mouth area!

The second day went well. I was using my 7m Flexifoil Atom kite with 25 m lines and I increased my kite surfing record to 35.4 knots but still wasnt fast enough for the Outright Record. But other awesome things happened at the strip that day! Sebastien Cattelan ( my Xelerator teamate) was the first man ever to break 50 knots at 50.52?? knots! Congratulations. I have so much respect for Seb, he has been the pioneer for speed sailing over the years and is always on a mission to go faster. He knows pretty much everything about speed kiting.?? Unfortunately for Seb, Alex Caizergues took over the reigns and became the worlds fastest sailor at 50.57 knots.

There are now 3 guys that have overstepped the 50 knot barrier; Alex Caizergues(FRA), Rob Douglas (USA) and Sebastien Cattelan (FRA). There is only 0.05knots difference between these guys and the battle is most definitely on for next year!

We had a couple of no wind days where we had to sit it out and wait for the wind to come back. These days were spent checking out the local sports bars and watching endless episodes of Friday Night Lights.?? Nursing wounds and healing our bruises!

The wind came back after 3 days and I was ready for action. That day I prepped my Flexifoil Atom 08 7m ready to bust some good speeds. I changed the length of my lines to 20m to see If it felt better than the 25m. I started off in the light winds just improving my technique, stance and positioning. My speeds grew faster and faster and I eventually broke the Outright British Speed Sailing Record at 38.17 knots! Mission Accomplished!

As I was going down the run I was just thinking about what Sjoukje had told me- keep my kite low and lean back. My mind was screaming ?DONT WIPE DONT WIPE!!?? As I crossed the finish line I wiped out hard and solid. I looked at the score board but nothing came up so I thought that the run wasnt valid.???? I was bummed. But later that evening Marcus (who does the timing) came up to me and said ?Hey Congratulations with the 38!?? I was like ?Huh??? then I realised and screamed out loud baby!

My next mission is to break 40 knots, then to break the outright world record which stands at 45.20 knots held by my best friend Sjoukje Bredenkamp (RSA)

The ultimate for me though would be to break the 50 knot barrier and be the first woman to do it! I better get on it!

Thank you to Flexifoil. Also thanks to Lizzy surf, Dakine, Derevko wetsuits, Xelerator Boards, Arnette sunglasses, Ossur Cti Knee Braces and Island Tribe.

Check out the Luderitz speed website here

If you want to go fast check out for the best speed boards you can get.