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Oisin Van Gelderen presents “Chasing 50 knots. Ep. 1: La Palme Speed Challenge 2017”

What motivates you to go fast?
Or, does the desire to go fast motivate you?

The introduction to the speed of windsurfing (even when its pretty slow) is what gets us all hooked in the first place – that planing feeling and the freedom it brings.
I started speedsailing over 30 years ago, when my then sponsor (and Irish Record Holder) Coleman Phelan gave me a go on his Jimmy Lewis Mud Sharks, and then we got Bic Allegros. I got the Irish Record off him in 1994 on a Bic Vivace in Sotavento, and held it for 15 years.

All through my windsurfing life, whether it has been when doing wavesailing, racing, slalom, the simple desire to go flat out has never left me. When the introduction of GPS devices revived speedsailing, suddenly it was possible for everyone to easily know what speed they were doing, no matter where or when it was.

For me it meant it re-sparked my love of speed, as I could go and chase the wind and try and push my speeds even further. Although I had retired at that stage from racing and was concentrating on wavesailing and freestyle – I still wanted to go fast in good conditions, and the gps allowed that to happen. In the end, I was only competing against myself and the dial on the gps, to try and better my PBs. All for fun, but motivated by the desire to faster and faster, and see just how fast it could be.

9 Years ago I broke the 40 knot barrier for the first time, getting 43knots peak speed that same day. It was on a memorable day for me sailing with John Kenny (RIP). John had 30 kilos on me, and was always a knot or 2 faster, and he always pushed me to go faster and harder no matter what. I miss that rivalry we had to push eachother on. I’ve no doubt he would have loved La Palme, and would absolutely smash it in Luderitz.

40 knots is the milestone for any speedsailor, ever since Erik Beale first broke it back in 1986 (on a Mudshark). Over the years I’ve got closer to the new milestone of 50 knots, but have spent the last 6 years trying to beat my personal best, chasing storms around Ireland and West Kirby trying to find the perfect wind conditions to get close to 50.

I’ve got some PBs and GPS records along the way, but always still feeling I could go faster – if only I could get the perfect storm: 40-50 knots of wind on mirror flat water, at the perfect angle… it’s a hell of a lot harder than it sounds… but keeps me chasing. I have an itch to scratch that wont go away yet – I guess all windsurfers feel the same – it’s a sport you can’t perfect.

A year ago, I heard from Erik Beale about his new course in La Palme, that we hoped would rival the Luderitz Course. We all jumped at the chance to try out the course, and a long overdue chance to get a WSSRC ratified speed in Europe. My main goal was go try and break 50, and hopefully make a new Irish WSSRC 500m record along the way.

In the end I broke Johns Record 5 times on that very last day, (by a small bit), though it was not as fast as my own GPS 500m PB from 6 years earlier. But it was hard to do! – 4 weeks with varying wind angles and strengths, at time it looked impossible to get a ‘fully lit’ run the whole way down the course.

Although we never got the really windy conditions we wanted – I had an absolute blast in a truly beautiful part of the world. The welcome and support from the local community was superb, and I’ll go back to this place again and again. The sailors there were all in the same situation – all chasing their own personal goals, and all helping eachother out in the common goal… lets see how fast we can get.

The support I got from a long list of people to help me chase my goals, was truly appreciated, they are all listed in the credits. Not least of which are ProClima.com, who at very short notice came on-board to support me with this Speed Challenge and are a very interesting company whose innovate and clever products and draw a lot of comparisons in my own approach to windsurfing in general.

This video is to show some of the experiences I had, and shared with some chilled, but very fast , motivated and talented windsurfers. I’m calling it Episode 1, as I’ve now signed up to do the Prince of Speed event in Le Rouet in June/July, and Luderitz in November.


Original Music made for this video by Marc Carolan is (c)2018


ADDITIONAL VIDEO Megan van Gelderen, Laurent Fesquet, Fred Chollet, Patrice Guenin


PHOTOGRAPHERS: Milan Szypura, Eric Bellande, Jon Richardson, Les Fanas Du Windsurf


thanks to:

PROCLIMA.com Uwe Bartholomäi, Heide Haruyo Merkel, Cornelia Lässing

CLIOMA HOUSE.ie Roman Szypura

SURFDOCK.ie Colin Harris

K4FINS.com Steve Thorp

Finn van Gelderen
Erik Beale
Farrel O’Shea
Robert Mulholland
Cillian De Buitléar
Martin Schoppler


JARDIN-DE-PALME.com Jacky & Lionel Gouello

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