These Things I Know – Rob Douglas – KW 85




In KW 85’s These Things I Know, American speed sailer Rob Douglas opened up about the thrill of speed sailing, setting records and the second amendment. He won the 2017 IKA Kitespeed World Championships while still receiving chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage two Hodgkins Lymphoma. Rob Douglas is as tough as they come!


Images: Michael Petrikov


01: Today, right now, tube kites are faster than foil kites. 


02: Always carry a sharp knife. 


03:  Drag is stability… and stability is fast. 


04: France is the official home of speed sailing. Where do I start? Well, Marie Saint de la Mer, Salin de Giraud, Port Saint Louis and La Franqui are legendary speed spots. Unlike any other country I have experienced, speed sailing is part of the culture in France. The powerful Tramontane and Mistral winds that can blow in excess of 70 knots in the south have a lot to do with this French culture of speed sailing in my opinion. The list of French 500 metre course speed sailors is distinguished and legendary: Pascal Maka (The Crossbow Killer and multiple WR holder), Thierry Bielak, Antoine Albeau (fastest windsurfer and multiple record holder), Alain Thebault, Seb Cattelan (multiple WR holder and first over 50 knots) and Alex Caizergues (multiple WR holder and first over 100 km/h).

Then to look at speed sailing over much greater distances, like the Trans-Atlantic, Round the World and the 24 hour record, either single-handed or crewed on multi-hulls or mono’s, it’s all Frenchies (except for a very small group of Americans and a few Brits). Eric Tabarley, the Peryon brothers, Franck Cammas, Pascal Bidegorry, Francis Joyon, Thomas Coville, Michael Desjoyeaux, Yves Parlier etc. etc. This list of French record

Hammer-down time. Home turf, Martha’s Vineyard breaking men and their accomplishments in speed sailing is massive, dominating and awe inspiring! Just last month (Dec 2016) Thomas Coville set a new solo round the world record of 49 days aboard the trimaran Sobedo Ultim! 


05: Keep your weather eye open. 


06: Government doesn’t fix problems, it subsidizes them. 


07: The more you tune your gear, the faster your gear becomes.


08: The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting. 


09: Rig big! ‘Rig big’ is a term that I use that can refer to kite size, board size, fin size, linelength etc. When it’s decision time before or during a speed race, or if you’re doubting some gear, statistically it’s better to go with more power / bigger. Going smaller is riskier but it can pay off if the conditions get faster or more powerful. It’s all relative of course: a seven metre on a GS (Giant Speed) board can be much more powerful and faster than an 11 or 13 metre on a small speed board. ‘Rigging big’ isn’t directly related to only wind speed; you should choose the size of the kite depending on wind angle and other things. For example, if the wind is 25 knots and square to the course then I could be on a seven metre, but if it’s blowing 45 knots with a deep wind angle of greater than 140 degrees, then I could be on a nine metre. 


10: A race starts months before the green flag is raised. 


11: Speed sailing is pure racing. 500 metre world record speed sailing is point A to point B, against the clock, max power, on the edge, 100% of the time; winner takes all! 


12: There is no such thing as having a truck that is too big. 


13: Adopting a dog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 


14: ‘The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” 


15: Top Gun is quite possibly the best action movie ever produced! 


16: Enthusiastic sponsors are the best sponsors! Thank you Cabrinha, Lynch Associates, Dakine and The Black Dog.



Just a few months after his first kitespeed racing event, Rob Douglas became the first kitesurfer to set an outright World Speed Record and is still the only American to do so, with 49.84 knots and then 55.65 knots in 2010. He has seven American speed titles and two speed sailing kitesurfing World Championships.

In August 2016 Rob was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma, but went on to win the 2016 IKA Kitespeed World Championship title in early November, while still receiving chemotherapy treatment. His struggle against cancer continues.

Rob is 45, works for the family business The Black Dog Tavern Company – and lives on the windy island of Martha’s Vineyard in the USA with his wife and super dog Dazy.


This edition of These Things I Know first appeared in KW #85 in February 2017. Subscribe to the magazine for six issues a year of the original international kitesurfing magazine, rooted at the heart of the sport, and learn more about the legends of kiteboarding in every issue.


Back to features

Related Articles