In 2012, we watched the sailing speed record world shaken, with a raft of world records coming out of that year's Lüderitz Speed Challenge and surrounding Namibian waters. After starting off quietly on the world record front, this year's event saw one of those big 2012 records fall. French windsurfer Antoine Albeau beat his own mark to lift the 500-meter (1,640-ft) record up over 53 knots.
The Chris Benz Lüderitz Speed Challenge is not your average event, even in the above-average world of world speed-record chasing. Inland from the breezy coastlines where you'd expect to find people windsurfing and kiteboarding, the event takes place on an artificial 1-km-long (0.62-mile-long) strip of water in the middle of the Namib Desert. And it runs for weeks on end.
Sometimes called the Lüderitz Speed Channel, the "fast channel" used for the annual gathering of sailing speed hounds was purpose-designed for speed record-level windsurfing and kitesurfing by French kitesurfer Sébastien Cattelan. Cattelan became the first to break 50 knots (92.6 km/h, 57.5 mph) when he piloted his kite rig to 50.26 knots (93.08 km/h, 57.8 mph) on the Lüderitz channel in October 2008, the second year of the Speed Challenge. Many others have set world and national records on the channel over the years.
This year's Challenge kicked off on October 5 and experienced a few fairly quiet weeks before the wind really opened up on November 2. Albeau had flirted with his 52.05-knot (96.4-km/h, 59.9 mph) 2012 world record just two days earlier, hitting 51.66 knots (95.7 km/h, 59.5 mph). With wind speeds whipping up to 50+ knots and angles lined up well for record runs, Albeau knew it was game on.
Albeau seized the opportunity and dropped his 2012 record at around 1:30 p.m., averaging 52.41 knots (97.1 km/h, 60.3 mph) over 500 meters. The wind was still picking up, so he didn't stop there, going on to break the record multiple times, exceeding 53 knots and finally notching the new record at 53.27 knots (98.7 km/h, 61.3 mph).
By the end of the day, Albeau had taken 32 total runs, with 13 runs over 52 knots (96.3 km/h, 59.8 mph) and 4 runs over 53 knots (98.2 km/h). That's a truly awesome day on the water, especially considering that 50 knots was only reached a few years ago.
The World Sailing Speed Record Council has recognized Albeau's record, and the 2015 Lüderitz Speed Challenge isn't quite over yet. It runs through this Sunday, November 15, so there's still more time for world records to come crashing (sailing?) down.
Watch Albeau surf the wind to a new world record and talk about the experience in the three-minute video below.
Source: Lüderitz Challenge
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