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50.28 Knots at Sterkies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Basil Cambanis   
Saturday, 23 May 2009 20:36
Read Steve Pike's (Spike) article on Wavescape about the freak wind and event HERE
This article was published in the Argus newspaper on Sunday 24 May.
Start of speed run
Approach into the run

Rob Chrystal's video of 60 knot wind and speed runs from 17 May 2009

What's the significance of this :  

It's the first 50 knots achieved INLAND worldwide.

Why was this improbable :

  • The wind inland is much less than at the coast and lacks the power of the wind at sea-level.
  • The terrain inland causes the wind to be gusty as trees, hills, and thermals all detract from the true wind.
  • Sterkies is the best inland speed spot in South Africa, but it's 300+ km's away from the nearest city (Johennesburg and Durban), so it requires forward planning and dedication to be there when it does blow. 
  • Inland sailors (specifically Gauteng) get much less sailing practice as there's 5+ months of little or no wind inland during Summer, and near freezing conditions during Winter when it does blow. This makes it tough to stay sailing fit and focused.
  • The bay in which it was attained is less than 300m in length and has wrap around swell at the beginning and a perpendicular bank with trees at the end making the usable part of the run <200m.
  • Due to the above, most inland sailors had not tried speed until the Sterkies speed event.
    I'm one of the exceptions due to my past, but I'm no professional and 42 years old.

Why was this only achieved now :

  • All top speed sailors live by the windy coastal regions and have access to speed spots near where they stay, so there's little reason for them to trek inland in the hope of timing it right to get the strong wind that blows very seldom, and then still have to contend with an unsuitable shoreline for speed
  • Since the wind at Sterkies seldom blows strong enough to make this possible (maybe 3 times a year), the timing had to be perfect, and on Sunday 17 May 2009 the right conditions came together.
    The wind blew 25 knots in morning and quickly freshend until 10am by which time it averaged 40+ and had gusts up to 60 knots. The wind direction was WNW, which created the perfect angle for speed in the small bay.
  • There has been wind strong enough in the past to achieve this, but either no one was there at the time or it was too short lived or it blew in the wrong direction.
    Too much North in the wind results in massive swell and chop inside the bay.
    SW results in gustier conditions as it passes over a hill, and the run angle then becomes too square.
  • Strong wind only occurs in Winter due to cold fronts, and it becomes very cold then; Sterkies is colder than the rest of the highveld due to it's high altitude and nearby snow on the mountains (berg) in Winter.
    Getting such strong wind so early in the season was a bonus and meant that the water and air temperature were warmer than would normally be the case when it blows this strong.
  • I'm still new to kiting (<3 years) and had a few injuries late 2007 and early 2008, namely a torn ligament in my left forearm and a broken right arm. Thankfully these are now behind me and I'm working at improving my fitness and strength.

    Kiting with broken arm
    February 2008 at Langebaan (1st time there) after breaking my arm a week earlier

What equipment was used :

  • I used the first prototype that Garry Robinson from Airtool and I jointly designed.
    Garry is based in KZN and takes huge pride in his work, his attention to detail is comendable.
    The board is 27cm wide and 150cm in length, it has internal nose weighting and progressive flex in the tail. The first time I used it, I called Garry to tell him we've got a winner !
View from behind
Here's the start of a speed run, note the swell in the foreground and chop at end of run
The muddy water in the foregound is caused by the pounding wind swell on the point

My early board design sketches
Here's the early designs of the board

  • I used a stainsteel microfin that was hand-shaped by Tilmann Heining (from Germany), it's dimensions are 3x20cm. He was the first sailor to record a 50+ knot 500m run on GPS.
Tilmann's stainless steel Microfin
  • A 9sqm Genetrix Hydra v3 kite which has bridalling onto the struts which prevents distortion in high wind. It's a flat kite that has massive wind range, this allowed me sail in wind up to 60 knots !
    I depowered the kite while beating upwind and powered it up just before each speed run.
    The force from the kite deminished during the speed run, as you're speeding up and the course becomes broader.
    Kite view
    View of the kite and conditions it was used in

  • My speeds were measured with a Locosys GT-31 handheld GPS unit that was strapped to my upper left arm.
    It's uses Doppler based readings and is deemed 99.9% accurate. 
    GPS Display
    Read out of my GPS after the brief session (peak & average)

    Download my GPS track file HERE

    GPS Tracks
    "GPS Results" track analysis software (30 day trial)

Where to next :

  • This was a surprise, as I thought I'd have to go to the Sterkies Southern Bay which has a longer run to achieve this. What I thought was possible has now been redefined.
  • I plan to kite at the Southern Bay next time there's strong enough wind, and before it gets too cold.
    I should be able to improve my averages there as the run's longer. I've only kited there once before on a TT, so I'm not sure what to expect in stronger wind on a speed board, the swell can get massive depending on the wind angle due to it having an 18km fetch. 
  • There are hills upwind of this spot in anything West which make it gusty, but the length of run is my main concern to get better averages.
  • My goal while there will be to get a mid-40 average speed over 10 seconds and try to improve my peak speed in the process.
  • This will be good preparation for Luderitz later this year, where I'll hopefully improve in all respects.
    I'll have better equipment, technique and more experience this time around.
    The next peak speed goals are 100 km per hour and 60 knots.
  • As always, I'll be only too happy to help those interested in speed sailing.

Speed sailing is an awesome sport that puts you on a high of note, but it requires careful planning and perfect timing to get the right conditions for speed.
Be sure to give mother nature the necessary respect she deserves and enjoy the ride.


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GPS Sessions

GPS Top 5 2012

Name Ave. Max. 500m
1. He.42.1348.8729.21
2. Laurent H.34.2934.6927.30

Top 10 All Time

Name Ave. Max. 500m
1. Sebastien C.56.0261.7853.06
2. Alex C.52.7360.5945.32
3. Gavin B.51.8955.4051.36
4. Tilmann H.51.6855.6050.30
5. Manu T.50.5353.8049.26
6. Basil C.50.4953.4950.85
7. Jerome B.50.1255.0050.40
8. Rob D.49.9754.8551.55
9. Hennie B.49.6252.8049.47
10. Rolf v.48.6655.7547.90

Latest sessions

Name Ave. Max. 500m
1. He.42.1348.8729.21
2. Laurent H.34.2934.6927.30
3. Ole K.48.3652.2948.06
4. Basil C.44.8250.8931.90
5. Ole K.42.5344.6741.01

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