Tuesday 15 November 2011

A Brief History of Speedweek

 Author: Mark  Matthews - Portland Pirates Team Cap'n AKA Swagger

All i have written here is research and open to argument.

You may like this info and you may not, in the early days around 1972 the distance for measuring the outright speedsailing record was decided to be 500m. In the Autumn of 1972 Weymouth Speed Week started with the new official distance, and was held in Portland harbour the only venue in the world to accommodate these idiots. It was an open event that allowed people to use their imagination to try and gain the top podium place.

Who was the first winner? It was 'The Crossbow', a Proa boat which was a single hull with an outrig thingy (a bit like the canoes on Hawaii Five O), skippered by Timothy Colman and achieving the record in 1972 with a speed of 26.30 knots!
Ok hang on a minute, yes 26 knots which is nothing is it? Well you would be surprised this is 39 years ago and some people would be happy with this today in a boat or on a windsurfer. Moving on a year to 73 and it falls again same boat and skipper with an increase of 3 knots to 29.30! Now this bloke is starting to shift (don't you think?).

Progressing to 1975 and yes you got it, the record falls again with a speed of 31.10knots, same bloke same boat but hang on another boat comes onto the water and gets 31.80! You would think that Tim would be gutted by this, but oh no he had been talking to a designer called Roderick Macalpine-Downie. He had the boat built in Kent, this one was called Crossbow II Timothy Colman had done it again but this time with a Catamaran with hulls that measured a staggering 60 feet and were not built square to one another. The leeward hull was slightly forward. The reason behind this was that each hull had a sail on it and didn't create a wind shadow. These people were thinking very much ahead. Using no fancy Cad design and just a good old drawing board with great foresight and imagination. 

Now moving on to 1977, the record goes to Tim again with a speed of 33.80knots and in the same week a 34.4! Now by this time I was 4 years old and I can remember the buzz that this boat and skipper used to bring to Weymouth and our very windy autumn months after our very typical busy british summer holidays(No such thing as Ibiza holidays for the majority of the population then). 

The tides were changing as there was a new kid on the block, are got you! You thought i was going to say windsurfer but no Its a........ I can't say it,........ oh go on then, you will hate me but this may have been the birth of the Kitesurfer, yep some plonker got a load of kites 50 foot up and about 70 foot in front of an Amphicat. This is no joke that it happened but the results are unknown, i imagine its on the bottom of the harbour who knows? 

Now the part you are probably waiting for, The Windsurfer arrived and did not have a very competitive start but then nor did the Kite. (I hate saying things like that)

Onwards to 1980 and the windsurfer was moving up the rankings each year, the kite had gone into a coma and Crossbow II did it again 36.00 Knot 500m in the middle of the harbour the outright record crushed. This record went unbeaten until 1986 when Pascal Maka took the record away from British waters forever(?). Now what you have to understand is that there are a couple of things to point out here. The first is for 14 years Tim Colman held the outright speedsailing record, and the next there have been only 7 people to go faster on windsurfing boards in portland harbour and load there data into gps-speedsurfing.com since it has started. I don't have much info on results for Speedweek in later years except Anders Bringdal has the official record of 38.40 knots and Pete Young has the gps record 39.52 knots (could have been faster but someone was chatting in the middle of the course so i believe).

Anyway just thought i would take the natter of Boards with Sails against Kites and Dinner trays away and back to when The Giant they called Crossbow ruled Portland Harbour and nobody stood in her way.

All the best,


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