Since they were so kind to post their sessions, we can analyze what kind of equipment they used. Details are below, but here is what really jumped out at me: there are many different board and sail brands that have reached 50 knots, but all top 10 speeds were reached on asymmetric fins - the top 9 speeds from only two brands, Gasoil and mXr. Theoretical, asymmetric fins can go several knots faster than symmetrical fins, and I think we can now accept this as a proven fact.
I followed the daily postings about the event on Facebook. One thing that was very obvious that all windsurfers improved after the first and second day of sailing in Lüderitz - often by 3 knots. After the first 3 days, most sailors kept improving, although less dramatically. Of all the entrants, Bjorn Dunkerbeck reached the highest speed on his first day with 49.53 knots. He only got two really windy days during his stay there, leaving me wondering if he would have beaten Antoine if he also had spent more time in Namibia. But now to the detailed gear analysis.
The boards used by the top 10 sailors, listed sorted by GPS ranking:
- RRD Custom
- Patrick Custom
- Mistral (3 x)
- Starboard (3 x)
- Tabou Custom
All boards for which the width was listed were 40-44 cm wide, mostly 40-42 cm. It seems that the Mistral and Starboard boards are regular production boards.
- Neil Pryde (3 x)
- Loft Custom
- Severne (2 x)
- Gaastra Custom
- Hot Sails Maui
Sail sizes were 5.2 to 5.6 m.
- Gasoil (7 x)
- mXr (2 x)
- Black Project (1 x)
All fins were asymmetrical and 16-21 cm long (16-20 for the top 9).
A wide variety of different gear was able to reach 50 knots - 7 different sail brands, 5 different board brands, and 3 different fin brands. The fins show the highest concentration towards one brand, which also was used by the top 3 sailors. Looking at the overall GPS ranking, the top 14 speeds (12 from Lüderitz this year, 2 from Sandy Point Australia in 2007) were reached on asymmetrical fins. The first symmetrical fin shows up at #15, a 20 cm C3 Slingshot. The C3 Slingshots have dominated the GPS ranking for this year before Lüderitz. I believe that they are only available as symmetrical fins right now - but I bet that asymmetric C3 fins will be available soon. I have already heard from one top fin manufacturer that they will come out with asymmetrical fins soon. I am just wondering: can asymmetrical fins be used to sail back upwind to the start? That was not an issue at the canal in Lüderitz, but at all the places we sail here, we have to sail back upwind.
Given that the top 12 spots in the GPS ranking were all set last month in Lüderitz, is seem logical that the spot itself is largely responsible for the top speeds, with its man-made canal at a perfect angle to the wind, and many days of "perfect" wind. But I wonder how much some other factors contributed to the new tops speeds:
- A large number of top speed surfers together in a friendly, but competitive atmosphere who learned from one another, and pushed each other to new heights.
- Many days of sailing at the same spot, with breaks to recover in between, but otherwise a singular focus on top speed.
- Not having to spend lots of energy by sailing (or walking) back upwind.
- New and better gear, in particular better asymmetric fins.