Monday, 28 May 2012

Worthing BSA - UK Slalom Series

Nik Baker and his amazing home cinema van full of toys. I I need one! Now!
What a fantastic weekend it was. First thanks must go to the hosts who were Nik and Ant Baker (North, Fanatic, Ion, K66 Surf and The Baker Academy). The entertainment on the Saturday evening was second to none, with a BBQ fit for kings and an outdoor cinema when the sun went down. 

Hot Team LtoR, Me, Andy Freeman, Chris Guest,
Karen Mcbarrons, Jon White, Jeff Henderson.
Also starring the Hot Sails GPS 8.8m

For myself it was great to meet up with the rest of the UK Hot Sails Team, and some of the Surfkraft Warriors Exocet Team, with both Jeff Henderson who is the genius behind Hot Sails and Ian Kraft who is the UK agent for Exocet. Next I need to thank Richard Hobson (North, Fanatic, Ion) for his help and advice, and for keeping an eye out for me in my first race since I was about 13 years old (and that was for swimming, which came in handy ;-)).

Jeff Henderson had been in the UK for a week on business and this coincided with the slalom before his long flight back to windsurfing Mecca. He entered the Pro fleet slalom and had a great race, especially considering he was on a smaller sail than the rest.  Jeff had this to say, amongst many other things in his write up, click the text for the full story. we went on one of the longest down wind slalom races I have ever seen. It was light wind for my gear so it was more of a leisure sail than an intense race, and I was happy to end up in 2nd place.  
The Pro winner's final was another story. I had a perfect start, but then the dreaded sounds of an armada bearing down on me and my (little) 8m sail, two 9.4m sails zoomed by me and then at the mark the rest of the big sails simply ran into me. Oddly there was no yelling, in fact there was not even any talking as 3 of us untangled. Terribly polite.

Mike George K888 (RRD, Neil Pryde) has this to say about his race, and he sailed very well, click the text for his full article.
 A good start from the boat end (despite pin being favoured) and I rounded the first mark in third place just behind Ant Baker. That's a new feeling for me and the 122 X-Fire was relishing the conditions! I glanced back to see the rest of the fleet biting at my heels and James in about 6th place. "What is he doing there?" is a momentary thought but doesn't distract me from the task in hand.

If you have read the two links above you will have seen there was some confusion about the start for the Pro fleet heat 1, the UKWA organisers were very accommodating and listened to everyones problems and took advice from those with the experience by changing the start sequence which should make things better next time. So this leads me on to my own experience, of which I thought I would end up beating myself up about but I feel proud to have got on the water racing considering the past couple of years health wise.
Heading out for the start of Worthing BSA which was a long way upwind.

I set off onto the water about 5 minutes after the race was called, and loved it. Sailing somewhere new is becoming less intimidating to me the more places I sail now, having spent almost all of my time within the safety of Portland Harbour it was a big deal for me at first to get out in new places. As I shot off out to sea I could hear people catching me but unlike at home I didn't turn into drag race mode, and just warmed up gradually. First gybe out in the increasing swell and my former years in swimming races was worthwhile ;-). Then I didnt get wet for a while, making some pretty good gybes inshore and out in the swell, this was building my confidence and I got carried away bearing off down the swell and having a good time. 

I realised there was a job to be done so set off upwind. Then saw it was a long way, but could still see Kev Greenslade and followed him up the inside of the course, and to the little island of racers waiting in the chest deep water for their start. I could see Richard Hobson who was in the race before me and also Andy Freeman who was in my heat. I made my way to some free space to get started, this was my first error. I had wrongly assumed people were waiting there for the start signal and just assumed my eyesight wasn't as good as theirs. 

Great shot of a good gybe thanks to Kat behind the lens. I must remember to
lift the clew more in that chop though.
Richard went off for his race and came back in a matter of minutes, but was about 50m downwind so I couldn't speak to him. I thought he hadn't yet raced so kept relaxed but was getting cold. A few of the people in my heat went off so I followed them thinking it would get me warmer, there was still no signal I could see from the boat, I still thought that the 3rd heat had not raced and couldn't see the number on the white card that promptly went up and came down. I gybed at the start boat and headed back. Passing another racer that I could see locking in and racing I shouted which heat, '4!'.......SHIT. Of course I dropped the important gybe and once I got the sail up and on the board they were gybing the first mark. I think I made it over the start line with the green flag still up but still don't know. I dropped the gybe but not the sail at the first mark and made a quick recovery, then made the second with a great gybe along with a couple of screaming fast runs between. 

I could see 3 or 4 sails in the water at the 3rd and final mark which lifted my spirits and every part of me hoped they would not get up quickly. 2 sails instantly flew out of the water, damn you small rotational freeride sails! As I rounded the 3rd mark with a good gybe, a couple of pumps and I made it past Andy who was not planing. I kept the hammer down and made it over the start line with mixed emotions. Part of me was beating myself up for looking too much to others to see what they were doing before the race rather than staying out nearer the boat, and part of me was happy that I had completed my first race.

I went to the shallows to sort out my outhaul which had dropped off one side of the pulley then back upwind to the island of racers for the next heat. I assumed I was in the losers final, heat 7. All of a sudden everyone set off, so I got to the boat and asked which heat, it was mine, I dropped the sail upwind in front of the boat, the tip catching on the anchor chain! Then was unable to waterstart the sail, I couldnt clear it from the water. Then couldnt manoeuvre it to uphaul, everytime I got it in place it rounded into the wind. I now realise that the tide was rising quickly, and against the wind. It took me many attempts to get it out of the water and only just cleared it before heat 8 after slowly drifting like an idiot across the start line. 
Downwinder back to the launch area, feeling a little destroyed

I was destroyed by that point, both mentally and physically so did a few long downwind runs back to shore. On shore I heard that the wind had dropped off so that explained being unable to waterstart, although I was getting planing quickly to get back by using the swell.

I didnt race the losers final, and only came second last in the first heat. This has taught me a lot that I will go into detail about in a future article. I know I am fast enough to do well in the amateurs now, but have to make my starts a lot better. The next session on the water will be dedicated to starts rather than speed (which is a lot easier to say than do!). There was a lot of confusion about the starts which has lifted my spirits and stopped me being too hard on myself, I mean that if others were so confused then I cannot be too hard on myself.

Look out for the next installment where I will try to put into words more about the starts and what to do from a novice slalom racer perspective. The one thing for anyone interested in having a go is that it is great fun, and everyone is incredibly helpful and friendly. The UKWA/BSA do a fantastic job and clearly are willing to develop the series more and more, and each venue with it's different sponsor (Nik and Ant Baker at Worthing) really makes it a great weekend. I went to work today tired after too much sun but also felt like I'd had a holiday, although I do expect my head to peel off at any point due to the fantastic weather and my lack of good sun block (another thanks to Richard for his on the Sunday!).

Good speed and winds (soon I hope.....please forecast show something this week!)
The Bus


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