The holy grail of a fully ratified 500m speed of 50 knots on a windsurfer now seems closer than ever after Dutchman Martin van Meurs clocked 50.4 knots over 100m (GPS) at Southend's Ray speedstrip in Essex on Sunday. Check Martin's session info and account of the day at www.gps-speedsurfing.com or read on for Dave White's story of the weekend.
What a hectic week. The timing equipment for drivenbywind arrived on Saturday, they’ve done a real nice job with the set-up, and it’s easy to operate. As much as I was pleased to see them, it meant missing out on a good day’s sailing on Saturday, but then Sunday made up for it. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve just got a moving date… next week!
We’ve had a buyer for our house for a while, but each time it looked like everything would go through, the chain collapsed. With Christmas just around the corner we’ve suddenly got a moving date, and it's only next week. Before we had time to take breath we had a house full of Dutch.
The guys came over from Holland with our new timing equipment, they spent Saturday showing me the ins and outs, and surprisingly it's easy to operate. To save time we had a representative from the WSSRC over to ensure everything was up to standard. I’ll be spending the next few weeks making sure I can set everything up with ease.
By nightfall Martin van Meurs and his lady had joined us for a curry - he’d seen the weekend's forecast and headed over to see what Southend had to offer. He’s been committed to running in drivenbywind, but still wanted to see for himself if it could really be that good.
We’ve talked several times, but with the experience he had at West Kirby he’s always drawn to the north. The forecast for the weekend looked pretty even for all three of the UK speed sites. Weymouth would get the strongest wind, with Southend catching it a few hours later. The outlook for West Kirby looked strange to me, and while it would get some wind, I didn’t see it getting anything worth the travel.
The tide was right for Weymouth but unless the water is at the top of the bank it's hard to see how Weymouth will ever regain its spot in the record books. It was the perfect location to start speed, big enough for the boats but still smooth enough for us windsurfers.
So finally Martin made it to Southend, the tide started to pull back to reveal the bank that creates the Ray and keeps the water flat. We were not alone, a lot of guys had made the trip to Southend, many for the first time. The walk out may not look inviting, but once you see the water it all turns to smiles.
Right from the off, 44 knots were showing on many of the GPS screens. We were running on the upper bank to the west, it works in a southerly direction, but already the wind had moved to the southwest to give it a good angle. Most popular sail size was around the 6.0 mark, though Martin had opted for a 5.1. He’d been watching the forecast and was calling it to get up later in the day.
Get up it did, I got hit by a squall and couldn’t even fly my rig let alone sail with it, as it passed I tried to get on the back of it only to find the direction had moved to the west. Knowing the area, I headed to the lower bank where it's generally smoother and faster.
Though the wind dropped I was still able to hit some good times and did a 500m run at 44.7 knots. I’d brought my camera down, and with the tide turning decided that leaving it on the beach wasn’t the best of plans so headed back with a most of the others.
Martin and Bob were running a bit of a private competition, they’d figured out the averages and it was close to see who would jump higher on the gps-speedsurfing.com site. Thankfully it kept them there to make history.
We’ve never seen a windsurfer touch the 50 knot mark, even with a GPS peak speed, but as Bob headed up the course for the last time he knew Martin was heading for the record books. Martin said he saw the clouds becoming heavy and just waited for the wind to arrive before taking off down the side of the lower bank.
50 knots is no longer a dream, it’s a reality - sure it’s just a peak, but a peek into the future. Martin’s run was not just well timed but well deserved. But what’s almost better is the camaraderie within the speed scene, while we are all looking for that magic feeling, when someone else gets it, it’s almost as good, everyone was stoked with the result.
Southend keeps proving it can deliver, but when you listen to the locals saying it was rough, it just points to a future most couldn’t have imagined.
Nice one Martin.