Saturday 17 March 2012

Slaughtering the Slalom with Sam Latham - K15

I first saw Sam windsurf at the 2011 Portland Harbour dash, and one thing stood out, he is fast off the mark. It is a beach start for the race and he was off like a shot, up and planing before others had their toes wet. At that point I knew he would be one to watch in the future. Sam is currently studying Industrial Design at Bournemouth Uni and windsurfs whenever he can around his studies.

Recently he contacted me to let me know about his new website and help him promote it;, please visit to show your support, he also has a page on stalkerbook.

As many of the regular readers will know I am trying to get perspectives from the younger sailors among us, so asked Sam if he would like to write a bit about training and starting slalom, which to be honest I am now s#!tt!ng myself about. The first round of the BSA Slalom series is at Hayling Island in 3 weeks and I have no idea what to do. So over to Sam for some advice.

Thanks Lea, lets use this to start off some slalom advice articles to help newcomers like yourself. 

Where should I start? I guess the best way is to do this is to talk about how I have improved. In my eyes the biggest part is CONTROL without this, you will be scared to go fast and to slam into those gybes when there are 10 big men around you in 30 knots of wind travelling considerably more than 20knots. Being the smallest and lightest sailer in the British Slalom Association Pro fleet, there are a few things I do to keep myself competitive with the best in the country. 

I keep control by setting my boom low. I would say around shoulder height, sometimes lower. As there is a minimal wind limit, resulting in constant planing, there is little need for a high boom like with course racing where you want your weight of your feet to plane early. This ensures a secure attachment to the sail, giving a sense of comfort and control which means I can then put the power down and go quick. 

Secondly starts are extremely important with slalom. We all know the great talent from the speed sailors we have on the BSA tour. Kevin Greenslade is two times British speed champion for example, because of this you don't want to be playing catch up the whole race and hoping they will slip up (which is very unlikely with their experience). Therefore a ‘flying start’ is essential to a good race. My main points are to get going early, you can always slow down. There is nothing worse than being late for a start. Also to get a good position. 

All action Jackson told me a great piece of advice last season; as i am probably one of the slowest in a straight line in the pro fleet, there is little chance of me staying in clean wind in the middle or lower half of the start line. Even though the top of the line is usually the furthest from the first mark I will get clean wind, having more of an angle to run off the wind and therefore have the best chance of a good position to the first mark. 

Another huge factor with slalom is confidence in your ability. I am the first to admit I worry a lot (I hear you there Sam, this first Slalom is taking up most of my thoughts at the moment). ‘Have I rigged the right sails’ ‘do I have enough downhaul’, ‘its so windy, I'm going to be over powered’, etc. 

Slalom is a huge psychological game. Practicing, tuning and just spending as much time on your boards will give you this. If you can sail well on your own at your local beach, you can also do it when racing, you just have to let yourself. There are some big characters on the UK tour, but the races aren't won by talking on a beach. Even when its really windy and you feel out of control, you have to have faith that you will do well. 

Success wont come from negativity.

Constructive advice written by Sam Latham K15, 
Waffle by The Bus

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