Ireland’s top Speed-windsurfers - Oisín van Gelderen and Marc Roosli - make the 14,000km journey to Namibia, to join in the World Record Chase at the Lüderitz Speed Challenge 2021.
Dublin-based van Gelderen - current Irish Sailing Speed Record holder - is a relative veteran of the event. This is his third time to make the 14,000km journey to the desert town of Luderitz in Namibia, where a narrow man-made channel is dug into a lagoon in one of the windiest places on the planet. This course is designed to provide the vital ingredients of flat water and howling winds required to achieve world record speeds.
Before we talk speeds, here is a little explainer … ‘peak speed’ is the maximum speed achieved on a run, ‘ratified speed’ is the average achieved over 500m. It is the ratified speed that records are based on.
2017 saw van Gelderen break the 50 knot barrier (peak speed) for the first time, while in 2018 he increased his WSSRC ratified Irish Sailing Speed Record to a speed of 49.36knots (average over 500m), and a peak speed of 51.97knots. The wind conditions to achieve his record could be described as apocalyptic, with gusts measured at 62 knots.
In 2021, his target is to push his personal best to anywhere north of 50knots over 500m - which has become the benchmark of what is now considered “fast” in sailing speed terms. This drive to improve is what pushes the multiple Irish Champion, and here he describes what it feels like to sail at almost 100kph.
“I feel so lucky to be able to attend this event now for the third time. There are so many aspects of technique and technical things to work on, in order to achieve the best acceleration and overall speed. I really thrive on that challenge - trying to work it all out, and see how I can refine everything to make improvements. In terms of what it’s like - for me it's all about the acceleration as we turn into the corner towards the start line. Going from - approx 18knots up to 52 knots- in the space of 8-9 seconds is like nothing else. You either make it around that corner and take the gust, or you end up in a heap."
Marc Roosli inspired
Spurred on by Oisin’s previous exploits, Cork-based Marc Roosli entered the event in 2020, but for obvious reasons had to wait until 2021 to make his pilgrimage to the speed sailing nirvana. Marc was hampered at the start of his two week campaign, with the airline leaving all his bags in Dublin for 4 days !
The speed sailing community rallied round and gave Marc all the necessary equipment to use so that he wouldn’t miss any wind. Once he got used to the narrowness of the channel - and learned the techniques for starting (and more importantly: stopping) - Marc improved his personal best with every day on the water.
His final speed 45.53knots was reached in just 30 knots of wind.
Mark told us "I had set my goal to 45 knots over 500m and am absolutely delighted to have achieved this but the celebrations were short lived - no sooner was I back on the trailer ferrying us back to the start box that I had the bar raised. 46. 46 knots became somewhat of an obsession for the rest of the trip but unfortunately the wind never went over 30 knots during my stay, making the task very difficult. However, having had the opportunity to sail in speeds exceeding 40 knots for 12 consecutive days gave me the opportunity to progress to a level that would have probably taken me 3-4 years in Ireland to achieve, patiently waiting for South westerly gales and the right combination of tides and daylight."
At the time of writing, the world record wasn’t beaten, but we will keep watching.
Take a look at them fly https://youtu.be/dAdXOV_9A-w