Forget the Cup: If You Want Speed Thrills, Look To Luderitz

On a custom-made canal in Namibia, kiteboarders and windsurfers are hitting speeds well in excess of 50 knots.

Follow_ the 2010 Luderitz Speed Challenge in SW's Finish Line forum._

In the world of sailing chatter, idle debate, and navel-gazing, it’s been all about the America’s Cup lately. I don’t really know what to think of a Cup sailed in big catamarans. Could be cool. Could be really boring. My gut says anyone who cares about match racing better look elsewhere, but anyone who loves technology, speed, and the possibility of spectacular crack-ups might get their jollies.

In any case, I'm not sure I even care anymore. I need something else to distract me. Something that is undeniably cool. Something a little exotic, and eye-opening. Something that is happening NOW. Wait, what's all that activity over in Namibia? Why are the world's most aggressive kiteboarders and windsurfers assembling there? They're what? They're trying to take the absolute sailing speed record back from the crazy wizards of Hydroptere? They're doing it on a custom-made canal that is 20 to 40 inches deep? And they need an average speed over 500 meters that tops 51.36 knots?

Thank you, sailing gods! The 2010 Luderitz Seed Challenge is now in session. Heavy breeze, a custom-made course with flat water, and head-snapping speed. I like, I like.

The pursuit of the outright sailing speed record has always been worth tracking. It started with recognizable sailing craft like the proa Crossbow, which by 1980 had pushed the record up to 36 knots.

Then the windsurfers got in on the act, snatching the title and pushing the number to 44.66 knots by 1991. Then you had years of windsurfer versus multihull brawling, with the windsurfers holding the edge and knocking on the door of the once-mythic 50-knot barrier with a 49.09 knot mark in 2008.

And if that wasn’t enough fun, in 2008 the upstart kiteboarders stepped in and took over, snatching the glory of breaking the 50-knot barrier in 2008.

It was only Hydroptere, a wholly alien machine, that was able to reclaim the crown for “real” boats.

I used to get hung up on whether a kiteboarder or a windsurfer ripping across a puddle should classify as a “sailing” record. These days, I just don’t care. Speed is speed, and if it’s powered by the wind, it’s fun to watch.

So strap in, keep an eye on the speed demons at Luderitz, and see what happens. Sebastien Cattelan has already hit an instantaneous speed of 57.4 knots. If it's speed that Larry and Russell crave, maybe the AC should be sailed on kiteboards...

Anyhow, back to Luderitz. No more protocols, politicking, and backroom BS. Just pure action. So enjoy. And while you are at it, don't forget about this guy. He'll be back, too.