On October 28th, 2010, American kitesurfer Robert Douglas became the new, outright world speed sailing record holder with a speed of 55.65kts in a maximum windspeed of 45kts, in 18cm of water. We got a hold of Rob and asked him the question that every sailor wants to know: what's it like?
SAIL: At the risk of sounding clich, what goes through your head when you’re going that fast?
RD: Not much actually. I don't remember the fast runs over 55kts. 17.5 seconds of lost time really. The brain is thinking a lot before and after the run but not much during.
SAIL: To what extent are you maintaining control over your board and your kite? What factors do you have to put in place before even stepping on the board in preparation of going that fast?
RD: There is a lot of control over the board or I wouldn't put myself in a 4 meter wide ditch in 45 knots of wind and attempt to break the speed limit. Confidence in the equipment is key. The board, fin and kite have to work together. You have to trust that the equipment will not fail or at least give you a few seconds of warning before it does. Dependability and consistent performance from the gear builds confidence. Surprises are usually not good at speeds in excess of 55 knots.
SAIL: What aspects of training are important to get to the point where you can anticipate that speed?
RD: Knowing your equipment - its strengths and limitations, and that comes from time on the water, the best training of all. maintaining physical flexibility and a positive attitude of gratitude helps. Time in the gym to strengthen the bones and add a bit of weight to hold the rig down adds confidence.
SAIL: You’re not new to record breaking. What new goals are you setting for yourself now?
RD: I want to keep racing and defend the WR title and see if we can pass 60kts over the 500 meters in nthe next few years. I love the fact that kites can compete against other sailing crafts for the outright record.
SAIL: What made you get into kitesurfing in the first place?
RD: I was drawn to kitesurfing because it offered more opportunities to sail in challenging situations for me on the east coast.
SAIL: Where do you want to see the sport go, as a whole? What would help the sport, what prohibits it currently?
RD: I want to see the sport continue to grow and remain the fastest class under sail. Increased efficiency with the equipment could see kites breaking records in much lighter winds and lead to super high jumps and hangtime. This sport could easily morph into another sport in the near future.
SAIL:How significant was your sponsorship support? In what sense do you think they contributed to your achieving the record? How important is it for kitesailors to have sponsorship support?
RD:Very significant. Cabrinha Kites did a great job with the kites - fast, stable, dependable and plenty of control. Lynch Associates took care of the expenses, travel, coaching and logistics. I wouldn't have set a new world record without them.
There are a lot of good sailors out there, but good sponsors and good support allows sailors to sail, train, compete and win
To see a video of Rob Douglas hitting 55.65kts, click here!