The twenty fifth running of the Langebaan dash was held on the 12th February. This event, originally conceived for windsurfers, has over the past four years included the sport of kite sailing, and this year, for the fist time, stand-up paddleing. The course runs from the beach in Langebaan, round four turning marks to the finish off the beach at the Saldanha Beach Sailing club. The distance covered of 20 km with varyable conditions as the land topography gives different wind strengths over the bay. The longest leg takes competitors across part of the big bay open to the sea and large swells with wind chop makes for very challenging conditions. From small beginnings, the event has become the premier kite and windsurfing race in the country, it attracts the largest number of competitors and is reputed to be the biggest kite event in the world. It is also by far the longest running windsurfer event that we know of. Although the top sailors from South Africa come to get their name on the floating trophy and to collect substantial prize money, the event is really for friends and families to pit themselves against each other over the grueling course. Some of those who were in the first events come back every year to see if they can improve on their time and show their mates how it is done. It is also a big needle event between the windsurfer and kites, with kiters having beaten the windsurfers to the first spot on only two occasions.
Last Saturday there were 225 eager participants on the beach in Langebaan waiting for the big moment. Wind predictions during the previous week had been variable, and right up to Saturday morning no one new if the race would take place. By 14h00 the wind was up to 25 knots and the SUP’s set off anticipating an hours paddle to the finish over a shortened course. At start time of 15h00, 169 kites, 55 windsurfers and a hobie cat took off from the beach with two starts of about 100 each. With the oldest competitor being 62 and the youngest 9, there were 14 ladies and 20 boys and girls under the age of 18.
At the first turning mark there is always a lot of congestion with competitors trying to find the best line. One kite got tangled up with a windsurfer, but fortunately no injuries. By the time the leaders reached the second turning point, it started to become obvious that the windsurfers were again going to rule the roost. It was no surprise when the first two windsurfers crossed the finish line within a second of each other in just over 22 minutes at an average speed of 55 km/hr. First was Bernd Flessner from Germany and second Alberto Menegatti from Italy. Following these professionals, local riders Matthew Swart and Jac le Roux took the next two places. Fifth came the first kite, local Cape Town rider Greg Thijsse. First of the ladies in 31 minutes was kite rider and world speed record holder Sjoukje Bredenkamp from Langebaan. With ideal wind conditions, only 10 competitors had to be rescued, far fewer than on previous occasions.
The organizers, Saldanha Beach Sailing Club would like to thank all their friends on the west coast for providing the logistics, especially the rescue services which included a rescue airplane in case of competitors lost on the way. Proceeds of the race are for the NSRI and the St Helena Sandveld Hospice.
|Finished with time||180|
|Walked out on beach||1|
|Got time but too far to see nr||11|
|Too far to see and no time||23|