Oisin van Gelderen of Skerries is the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailor of the Month" for September after his sensational windsurfer speed runs on the famous Marine Lake at West Kirby near Liverpool on September 15th. (SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO OF THE RECORD RUN)
Zooming along in 30—35 knot breezes, and using the specialised GPS analytical systems which have been developed for this extremely advanced form of sailing, van Gelderen (40) recorded a fastest speed burst of 47.17 knots. And although his average from his five best runs was down at 43.19 knots, it is still a new Irish record.
It is almost impossible for anyone outside windsurfing to imagine what it's like to experience these speeds on a board. The current unlimited world speed sailing record is 51.36 knots, established a year ago by Alain Thebault and his crew on the 60ft French trimaran Hydroptere, which skims across the water on hydrofoils once a basic speed (quite high in itself) is achieved.
Because of the hydrofoils, all hulls of the boat are clear of the water. And although the spray can fly across like a fusillade of bullets, you are travelling in luxury by comparison with a lone windsurfer battling the elements.
Going hyper-fast, water doesn't seem like water any more. It's more like concrete. Yet this kind of speed provides heaps of adrenalin, and then some. The sailing was so good that Van Gelderen would have kept going on into the night, but the danger of crashing into the West Kirby walls in the dark was very real.
While the Hydroptere speeds were the result of crew and technical team joint efforts, although Oisin van Gelderen was using the best of windsurfer technology, there is an intensely personal element in his feat which no other form of sailing can match, and we salute his achievement.