Speedy Returns to Worthington!
By Craig Bergh
My name is Craig Bergh, and I’m a committee member for the World GPS Speed Sailing Records Council, an outfit responsible for validating GPS speed records for riders around the world. I live in southern Minnesota, in the city where the wind blows all summer: Worthington, site of the 2019 US Course Racing Nationals last weekend. I’ve always been fascinated by speed sailing and technology, so back in 2006, I started an event called the Midwest Speed Quest right in my backyard to bring together these passions of mine. Back then, commercial GPS technology was just emerging. We used Garmin units, but these early units were prone to errors. I sought out LOCOSYS and worked with a team of fellow GPS windsurfing enthusiasts to develop and refine the LOCOSYS product line. We did great work and I liked the LOCOSYS GPS devices so much that I signed up to be their North American distributor!
I had a chance to help organize Nationals last week, and I realized that it would be fun to make a few GPS units available to the windfoilers present for the big event. We knew the wind was going to be good during the event, but we also had our eye on the forecast for Sunday, the day after the event, when a big front was scheduled to roll through. Some windfoiling hotshots decided to stick around an extra day and make it a contest!
I was thrilled at the prospect. The Midwest Speed Quest ran every summer from 2006 to 2012, but my work schedule got in the way after that. Back then, we ran the event from April 15 to October 15 seven days a week: people only needed to watch the wind reports and choose a day to come sail. We provided the GPS and safety boat. Each year we offered $1000 to the fastest rider, $500 to second place, etc. Over time, we developed great partnerships with really supportive companies like Dakine, Gath, KA Sail, Carbon Art Boards of Australia, Vector Fins, Red Bull Storm Chase, The Windsurfing Movie, BARZ Optics, Murray Sports of California, Starboard, and many others. With the 2019 US Nationals in town, this was a unique opportunity to get back into the swing of it, even if only for one weekend.
It was also a unique opportunity to not just validate windsurfing speed runs, but to do it for foils for the first time! Very little is know about the top speeds that can be achieved by a foil board, and with the top three windfoil finishers at the 2019 US Course Racing Nationals agreeing to participate – Xavier Ferlet from Los Angeles, Ron Kern from Fort Lauderdale and Skip Boman from the SF Bay Area – we were about to find out!
We used the LOCOSYS GW60 GPS, which is the most precise GPS around. This device is accepted at all international GPS events because it records Doppler GPS speeds, and also displays the Doppler speeds on the screen while you’re riding. Guess what the grand prize giveaway was for our lucky competitors? Yes, a brand new GW60, courtesy of Midwest Speed Quest and LOCOSYS!
So, how did our speed daredevils do?
Xavier recorded the top speed of the week with a top ten-second run of 28.42 knots. Skip took second place with 23.91 knots, and Ron right behind at 23.14 knots. That 28.42 kt mark isn’t the fastest speed ever recorded on the lake – back in 2010, another California top gun, Andrew Anderson, came to town and recorded a ten-second run of 35.4 knots on an SL75 Carbon Art slalom board and Vector Rockit fin – but it’s the fastest verified GPS speed foiling file I am aware of anywhere in the world!
For those of you who don’t know Xavier Ferlet, he’s originally from France, has lived in Great Britain, and now lives in California in the L.A. area. His titles are too numerous to list (add to it the windfoil course racing national title this week!), but he’s an amazing supporter of the racing scene in the U.S. and even offered a free foiling clinic during Nationals in Worthington. He’s racing again this weekend in San Francisco and is getting ready for a big slalom showdown at the 2019 Maui Slalom Nationals next month! He sailed with a Starboard foil on a Starboard 177 foil board and with Gaastra Vapor Air sails.
Skip Boman hails from Benicia, California. He’s a longtime top racer who traveled the world windsurfing and has only been foiling for 1 1/2 years. Besides Benicia, he sails regularly at Crissy Field in San Francisco and in Berkeley. No wonder he’s so good in the heavy breeze! He sailed a NeilPryde RS:Racing EVO9 Sail on a JP Board and a NeilPryde F4 EVO Flight Foil. He is sponsored by NeilPryde, JP Boards, Dakine, Chinook, and North Shore Inc.
Ron Kern too needs little introduction: he lives in Fort Lauderdale (FL) and is the regional director for US Windsurfing for the southeast region. Ron has dominated the U.S. formula scene for many years and recently added foiling to his bag of tricks. He used a Starboard foil on a Fanatic Falcon Formula 172 and a North Warp 2013 Formula 12.0!
The best GPS speeds were recorded in gusty winds ranging between 17-24 mph. Lake Okabena in Worthington is a shallow lake – the depth is generally around 5 ft – and there were a few collisions with the freshwater fish in the lake! When you’re on the water, and have a foil rider sail past you at full speed, you will notice two things: one is a complete absence of wake or splashing; the second is a whistle as the rider goes by. Are the fish caught by surprise or are they actually attracted by the humming sounds created by the foil?
We ran this event to provide an educational experience for windsurfers to understand GPS speed sailing and to promote the concept of GPS speed foiling, and I’m really happy that it was so well received by the competitors. If you’re curious about it, head over to midwestspeedquest.com, where you’ll find archives of past events and media coverage. I’m hoping to add to that legacy as time allows, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re curious about adding GPS windsurfing, GPS windfoiling, GPS kiteboarding, GPS iceboarding, GPS iceboating, and even GPS landsailing to your local events. If it’s got anything to do with speed, I’m here to support you!