by Rob Munro
With the talk of Kitesurfing v Kiteboarding recently, we decided to take a look into the side of kiting involving out and out speed. Speed Sailing has been around for years and the quest for the fastest craft on the water is one driven by multi-million rand syndicates to individual people. Getting into speed sailing can involve large sums of money, but if you already own a kite and an old twin tip, you can do it for the cost of a stick of Pratley's Steel and a hacksaw!
A Brief History
The current speed sailing record for any water craft over 500m's is held by Finian Maynard using a custom F2 board and a production Naish Stealth, a windsurfer if you have no idea what those items are..... His record now stands at an average of 48.7kts! Which believe me is super fast! The previous record holder was a catamaran called Yellow Pages out of Australia, so we can thank the BVI resident for removing the record from an Aussie's hand!
Kiting has recently entered the speed sailing arena with Cape Town's Seb Cattelan personally putting up the Euros for the 1st Speed Sailing event in Luecate, France. This event was back in 2003 and had a host of riders including; Chris Gilbert, Lou Wymann, Manu Taub, Mark Shin, Cory Rossler, Frans Orly, Sebastien Cattelan and many of the top pros. After the initial success of the tour, the Godfather of Speed, Manu Taub, went on to grab 2 World Records and the push for better, windier places brought Manu to the Walvis Bay Speed Week, which is now officially the fastest open water strip in the World! Since coming in 2003, Manu has made the journey each year and is a big supporter of Namibia's event.
The current World Record for Kite Speed over 500m is held by our own Olaf Marting, of Ocean Spirit, with a 41.79kts run. Olaf originally took the record in 2004, then beat it again in 2005. In the women's section Naish Africa's, Sjoukje Bredenkamp beat the old record, or should we say "Destroyed," in 2006 with a top speed of 37.24 kts. Other World record holders are Naish Africa's Rob Munro with the Nautical Mile record of 35.65kts and Women's Nautical Mile Aurelia Herpin (FR) 29.82kts (JL.) That means South Africa has 3 World records in Kite Speed Sailing out of 4! Sjoukje is hoping to make it 4 out of 4 this year with the double!
If you want to join in or take part in events, there are many ways of doing this. The PKRA Speed events occur throughout the year and all of the information is available through the official site - www.kitespeedworldcup.com . These events are sanctioned by the WSSRC (World Speed Sailing Record Council) who oversee other records like the Round The World, Trans-Atlantic and a host of others. The events take place in France, Canary Islands, Walvis Bay and Britain.
However, you do not need to travel so far with the variety of beaches and conditions in SA. The use of GPS technology is taking the world by storm and the promotion of speed sailing through various websites are bringing more and more people to the sport. The global site (www.gps-kitesurfing.com) has just been launched and you can post all of your sessions online and share ideas and discussions through their forum. SA has a Speed League which is open to anyone anywhere in SA with a GPS and more information can be found by visiting www.windsurfingafrica.org under "Speed League." Currently 2 kiters top the league as the league is open to windsurfers as well.
So What Do you Need
Any kite will do but some types are a lot faster than others. If you truly want to compete, you need a high aspect kite with a super thin leading edge to reduce drag. The quicker the kite is through the air, the quicker it will pull you along a course. Locally, A Naish Raven or North Rhino (C kites) will do the job as well due to them both holding various speed records, yet anything, even an SLE / Bow will do. Line lengths can make a big difference too depending on the angle of the wind.
A lot of things has been tried with Kite speed and a lot of things have failed, but the main thing that sets a Speed Board apart from a twin tip is the toe-side edge. In order to get a cleaner release from your board, the excess area around the toe-side is removed creating a thin tail. This can be done easily to an old twin tip. Just mark out what you want to cut out and attack the board with a hack saw. Chip away some of the foam (1cm), which is now showing, and press some Pratley's Steel putty into the board. Smooth this off and you now have something that will be a lot faster than it was before. If you do not feel the need to cut up a perfectly good board, Fanatic have a speed board in production and the Cape Dr Custom board brand can build you the very latest for about R4500-
The speed community has been using the Garmin 201 units a lot, but due to reliability issues, availability and cost, other brands are moving into this specialized markets with high tech reliable versions at much cheaper prices. The Garmin retails for around R2250- which is considerably more than in the US or other markets. The unit uses old technologies and, although waterproof, it must be used with an Aqua Pack. This will ensure the unit's life span and will keep it safe from loss. The pins on the wrist strap are cheap and break under very little pressure. http://shop.ikiteboarding.com will soon be offering a GPS unit which has the latest chip technology and USB 2 support. Once you have chosen your GPS unit, you need some software to analyze the results which can be downloaded for free from www.gpsactionreplay.com. Then with the software on your PC or Mac you can download you data and start posting your speeds.
You will need to set up your GPS to log 2 second track points (the international Norm) and make sure that you are set to recording your tracks. Some people forget to set their recorders on and, although you can see your speeds, you will have no record of It.
When you have downloaded your tracks you may see some really impressive speeds, but these can be spikes which is when the GPS has los it's signal and you appear somewhere else further away. This provides an incorrect track which can easily be deleted and made clean.
A Speed Strip
Any water is good for going fast, but water quality is the key to super fast times. Next time you are in glassy conditions, feel how easy your board glides through the water, this is what you want to have. Make sure there are no solid objects in the water and then hit is at full tilt! You will be surprised how fast you can go as well as how far. It is normal to have 60km distances showing on your GPS.
Now with all of this information, a kite, board and a GPS unit, you are ready to see how fast you can go. The GPS Top Speed in the World stands at 52kts over 2 seconds. That is super fast. Try driving at this speed and then jump out of the door into a puddle of water....... that's what wiping out is like.
Any other questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org about how to get into the sport, where to get equipment or any technical enquiries.
Official Fastest Times 500m - http://www.kitespeedworldcup.com/500mtopspeed.htm
Official Fastest Times Nautical Mile - http://www.kitespeedworldcup.com/nauticalmiletopspeed.htm
Top Peak GPS Speeds - http://50knots.xs4all.nl/gps-kitesurfing/gps.asp?mnu=rankings&smnu=2sec&val=&uid=