Speed sailing is one of the most exciting disciplines in windsurfing.
There are not many places in the world where windsurfers can drive their gear at around 100 kilometres per hour (54 knots). Luderitz, in Namibia, is one of those places.
The most popular speed windsurfing division invites athletes to achieve the highest average speed over 500 meters. The current world record holder is Antoine Albeau, with 53.27 knots.
The problem is that speed sailing channels are short, shallow, and narrow. Any subtle mistake could have disastrous consequences. Can you imagine driving a bike or motorcycle and falling at 100 km/h?
It's not easy to stop a windsurfing kit all of a sudden, and close to the end of a water channel. It is something you need to learn and train in moderate wind conditions.
Miriam Rasmussen is a Norwegian speed windsurfer. She is one of the fastest female sailboarders on the planet, and she knows how hard it is to stop board and sail.
"You have five seconds to slow down from a speed of 100 to 0 km/h. Unless you want your carbon fin to be working as a plow at the end of the pit, having a plan is a good idea," notes Rasmussen.
Here's the deal. The total length of the Luderitz speed strip is around 1,000 meters. However, a windsurfer will need to sail at maximum speed for, at least, 500 meters.
The remaining 500 meters are for the water start and stepping on the brakes. While it's relatively easy to get the rig moving, stopping is, de facto, an issue.
Miriam Rasmussen proposes three techniques for stopping a windsurfer at high speed:
The "S" Move
"It looks good and works well. As you prepare to perform a long and deep lay down jibe at maximum speed, take two-thirds of the speed out, raise the sail."
"Then, steer the board the other way, and smoothly step off the board exactly when it stops three meters from the pick-up car."
"However, in strong wind conditions, raising the sail can be a bit dangerous, so the following method is the best option."
The 360 Strategy
"Perform a lay down jibe at maximum speed, and keep pushing the sail down until you stop. It is both easier and safer. The only downside is that you will stop far from the pick-up car."
The Crash Option
"Every now and then, you'll do it. In the early years, the stopping pit was considerably shorter and became a windsurfer's nightmare."
"Forcing a crash at the end of the run is an option, but it is still what causes the most damage to both athletes and equipment."
"The consequences are bruised ankles, jaws, toes, noses, kicks in the groin, pokes in the eye, chops to the neck, as well as broken boards, and damaged sails and fins."