World’s fastest sailors speed to Martha’s Vineyard this month

Rob Douglas during a November 2010 speed sailing competition in Namibia, Africa. — File photo by Adrien Freville

It’s not often you get to see the fastest thing in the world. But if you don’t blink, beginning October 17, you can see the fastest male sailor on earth, the fastest female sailor on earth, and at least six of their very fast friends competing in an invitational speed sailing tournament here on Martha’s Vineyard.

Speed sailors use a small board about the size of a water ski, propelled by a large free-flying kite sail. There are about a dozen kite boarding enthusiasts on the Island, an often colorful presence on Sengekontacket Pond and elsewhere on the Island.

Rob Douglas, CEO of Black Dog Tavern, organized the North American Speed Sailing Invitational as a tryout for the Island as a kite boarding venue.

“We’re doing something small, to see what’s possible,” Mr. Douglas said.

Mr. Douglas is the current world record holder, averaging 55.65 knots (60.04 mph) over a 500-meter course in Luderitz, Namibia last fall. Video of the world record run, along with the spectacular crash which left Mr. Douglas with a shattered wrist, went viral on YouTube, viewed by more than 200,000 people.

Also participating in the Island event will be Charlotte Consorti, currently the women’s world record holder, and at least six other world class speed sailors. They will compete for $27,000 in purse money put up by Lynch Associates, a Boston financial firm sponsoring the event.

There is no set time or place for the events, that is dictated by wind direction and water conditions. The sailors will compete most of the time at South Beach or Joseph A. Sylvia Beach, both on the ocean side, and the Sengekontacket Pond side.

A Facebook page will detail the latest information on where and when the speed sailors will compete, for those who want to see the racing. Ideal conditions for the speed sailors are flat water and northwest winds in excess of 20 knots, but they will also compete if the winds are southwest or northeast.

“With that we can get speeds close to 40 knots, average,” Mr. Douglas said.

The sailors wear Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units to record their times when racing.

After each day’s competition, the sailors will gather at the Black Dog Tavern to post speeds and compile tournament standings.

The competition will end on October 31.