One person in the world doesn’t have to guess what it feels like. On Thursday, November 18, in Namibia, legendary windsurfer Björn Dunkerbeck broke that speed barrier, hitting 103.67kph over a two-second time gap – and holding an average speed of 101kph over a 100m stretch of water.
Dunkerbeck’s first speed record is now almost 30 years old – back in 1992, he hit 43.30 knots (80.1kph). As the technology to measure speed evolved over the years and the windsurfing equipment used to attempt it, Dunkerbeck kept chasing the next milestone, ultimately leading him to what may be the last big one: 100kph.
Ever since windsurfer Antoine Albeau broke the 50-knot barrier, Dunkerbeck has been on the hunt for 100. Hitting such speeds requires an incredible amount of skill, experience and intimate knowledge of your equipment – but ultimately, it’s the perfect spot with the perfect wind conditions that made this record-breaking run possible. The site of the record, Lüderitz, has become famous for ’The Ditch’ – a 500m-long canal where the water stays flat even when the wind howls – making it the perfect place to push for top speeds – as long as you don’t crash. “No crashes,” he says. “I try not to crash at that speed because if you do, your day is over.”
While he’s had numerous fast runs over the last three weeks, he knew he needed the perfect day to break 100kph. “We had quite a few days of wind around 35-38 knots,” he says. “So the equipment was feeling really dialled. I was on a 40cm wide AVBoard speed windsurf board, with a 19cm fin and a 5.5 Severne Mach 4 Lüderitz Speed Challenge LT sail – it all had to work perfectly to hit top speed!”
On the day, the wind picked up, consistently hitting gusts of 45 knots – and that was the push he needed to get over the 100kph barrier. And get it over it he did – during his multiple runs, he broke 100kph at least five times.
It’s the culmination of five years of attempts and months waiting around the barren, wind-blasted sands of Namibia, all to push the sport of windsurfing just a few tenths of a second faster. Worth it? For Björn, absolutely. Does that mean he’ll stop speed sailing? No way.
Apparently the next big challenge will be 100kph for over 500m, so watch this space…