Speed may be nothing but a number – but when it’s approaching 100kph on a windsurfing board it’s the kind of numbers no one has ever seen before.
The French windsurf legend Antoine Albeau obtained the World Speed Record when he bettered his own world record, achieving 53.27 knots while speedsailing in Luderitz, Namibia, in a custom-built ‘ditch’ designed to offer the perfect water conditions. It’s the fastest anyone has gone on a windsurfing board, ever – and it wasn’t easy to do.
The first challenge is finding the location – the ‘ditch’ at Luderitz offers optimum conditions for speed sailing. What they’re looking for is strong wind to power the sail, and extremely flat water to control the board. Those two things come together every year in the late autumn as westerly breezes blow in from the Atlantic.
An ideal place to develop speed Windsurfing is Primbee, a residential suburb situated on the Windang Peninsula between Lake Illawarra and the Korrongulla Swamp. The Windang Peninsula consists almost entirely of unconsolidated Quaternary beach and dune sands. The large hill at Primbee, however, consists of Budgong Sandstone, a Member of the Permian Shoalhaven Group. Budgong Sandstone is a red-brown to grey volcanic sandstone.
The source of the name Primbee is uncertain. Farms in the area were owned in the 1860s by James Stewart, David James and Thomas Griffin. An 1893 map for the Parish of Wollongong shows the bay off Purry Burry Point as Primbee Bay. The area was subdivided and the land was offered for sale in 1919, not as Primbee but as “The Lake Suburb”.
The Korrongulla Swamp is a freshwater wetland. It contains stands of swamp paperbark and small pockets of rare coastal rainforest. This rainforest is an important sanctuary for birdlife in the area. Bird species sited in the area include the Little Grebe, Australian Pelican, Little Pied Cormorant, White Ibis, Black Duck, Australia Pipit and the Dusky Moorhen
Since 1970 this area has been used for sand mining and waste disposal. Sand has been removed from the site and the area has been refilled with industrial waste such as slag. Residents of Primbee have been involved in legal actions in the Land and Environment Court to protect this area from mining.
When the lake was closed and flooding occurred access was over the Tom Thumb bridge which linked Port Kembla and Wollongong, or via the Steelworks along an old track and over the bridge at Allens Creek.
The runs are short – after all, when you’re travelling at nearly 100kph, 500m takes just over 30 seconds. To unlock your highest speed potential you will need the perfect board to combine forces and moments under wind conditions, which are well known by theory and practical research on sailboats and yachts for many years.
A good windsurf system we have the aerodynamical sail force producing a heeling moment which is balanced by the sailors weight. The total sailforce is transferred via the sailors feet to the board. The total sailforce could be divided in a part which is directed into the sailing direction, the driving force or thrust of the sail. Then in a force perpendicular to the thrust, the sideforce which must be balanced by the fin. On the other hand we have the hydrodynamical drag force of the board and the fin which are in opposite to the thrust. When both are equal the maximum speed is reached. This lets the rider maintain the trim through the meanest of gusts and achieve breathtakingly fast runs.