Sunday, September 25, 2005

2005 RSX Pac Coast Champs

The first new olympic class equipment made its American debut with 40 charter boards arriving in San Francisco one day before the Pacific Coast Championships. I picked up my charter rs-x on Thursday afternoon and finally got set up and on the water by 5:30 for a quick session. My first impression was that this was going to be a big challenge. There are still many issues to be worked out with the board and rig design as we are finding out but you have to work with what you have.It was quite windy on Thursday so getting to know the board was rather interesting on a first impression. I spent some time in the water after getting slammed multiple times upwind. Getting the board to turn off the breeze was also interesting and I was using the way leeward strap to get going. One thing I learned today was that the centerboard has a tenancy to come down.

First day of racing included 37 competitors on the water, most of them for the first time on the board. When I arrived at the site on 10 on Saturday morning, it was really windy: 25-30 with no sign of relief. I rigged up and went out to practice , knowing I would need as much time on the water as possible. We delayed the start till after 3pm when the wind was still howling. Only 10 or so people made it out to the first race and it was too windy to race for the majority of the fleet. They were struggling all over the bay just to get down to the starting line. I sailed the course, figured out what side I wanted to sail as there was a big flood tide coming in on the inside with the ebb building on the outside throughout the day. I was on the line at the start and managed to go well upwind. I found myself pointing well with my booms low and track 3 forward from the back.

At the top of the fleet was William Sherman, Sam Ireland, Seth Besse and Alian Buldoc. Also up there was our own SF heavyweight Jean Rathle making it around the course without a knockdown. I blew up once upwind on the first beat and struggled to get going again. Downwind, things were a bit easier but still scary as it was 25-30k. Rounding the leeward mark was a challenge and I struggled in the water for some time with a few other guys around me as well trying to get the board going again. Frankly at this point, I was ready to call it quits but kept the train going. Back upwind, I got launched again but was still around 5th. Off the breeze for the last downwind run, I gybed but the cams didn't pop over so it was a struggle to the finish fighting the sail.After a brief struggle to get back to the beach, I had a rest of 30 minutes before the next race where the wind had died down to 18-20k. I managed a good start and first upwind, rounding in the top 5 and staying there and actually gaining 2 boards around the leeward mark and Zac and Jean struggled to make a tight rounding and I took it wide and tacked in front of the club and got in front of them. Next up was a good breeze and the ebb tide upwind. Unfortunately it wasn't that easy as I climbed my way back through the fleet. My harness line broke and I re rigged something on the water to finish 11th. Oh well, racing is all about disaster recovery.On Friday evening, we had a christening celbration with the new board and MR Neil Pyrde giving a speech and one of the juniors breaking a bottle of champaign over th enew board. Good times!

With only 2 races, here are the preliminarily results after 1 day
1 Willheim Shurmann
2 Sam Ireland
3 Seth Besse
4 Jean Rathle
5 Alain Bulduc
6 Chris Radkowski
7 Steve Bodner
8 John Davenport
9. Zach P
10 Mike Percy
11 Gal Fridman
12 Randall Barna
13 Elon Wing
14 Mark Borsma
15 Eric R
16+ 2 DNS's
Day 2 RS-X Pacific Coast Championships:
With another day on the water, I was getting a more comfortable feel for the new board and rig. We got a chance to start in non planning conditions but things heated up to classic San Francisco conditions with 15-20k by mid afternoon. By 8-10 k, it was possible to bring the centerboard up and the mast track back to formula type racing; everything leading up to that was somewhat difficult to transition the board from a non planning displacement hull to full on planning board.
In the light stuff, there is a time when you need the centerboard down and mast track forward. Then the centerboard comes up 50% to balance things out as you lean the rig further back. Finally, with enough wind and pumping, you can get the heavy board up and going. It is my impression that the new equipment covers the range of 3-30k, as the Olympic requirements ask for. Unfortunately, it doesn't too anything too well within that range. It is not a specialist set up like the formula class for light to medium air racing, nor is it strong in enough in light winds to be comparable to the long board class, and in no way would it make a good slalom class s it is quite hard to sail on a board reach with 9' and 50 lbs in front of out. BUT it is the new one design Olympic boardsailing class so everyone must deal with the same situation. The best sailor will end up wining and that's what's happening here as we are getting the range of conditions.

With 7 races complete, Shurman, from Brazil is leading the fleet with Sam Ireland from Canada close behind in second. I have been consistent with top ten finishes, putting me in 6th overall going into the last day of racing. When were all out there racing on the bay with the fleet tacking up the city front, the racing is quite intense and I am really enjoying it, despite the equipments' shortcomings. In all but the first race, we have been starting in a typical formula fashion- planning to the start with tracks back and boards up. From there, the strategy was to stay in the wind, first and foremost and then think about the current. In the first race, it was the racers who tacked early and got to the middle of the bay where the wind was who really got out in front and out in the lead, while most of the fleet sailed towards the shore out of the flood tide. We were running a double windward leeward course finishing downwind with lots of boat traffic to deal with throughout the course. In spectacular fashion, one of the red and white ferries came across our starting line just after the start of the 5th race with the whole fleet on starboard heading directly into its path. He managed to do a 180 degree turn and avoid the fleet but scared quite a few people in the process. Next up was the 'Lovely Martha'- a commercial tour boat who I managed to cross with 2 or 3 feet to spare and knocking a few competitors in the water. Other distractions were a fleet of 20-30 classic wooden boats stating just below us as well as a plethora of short boarders once the wind picked up in the afternoon. So you can see it, it always interesting sharing the city front waters with everyone else and racing requires your full attention to make it around the course.

I was feeling more confident as the day went on but a little tired as well from 4 hours in the sun while racing. The last few battles of the day, I had to give up as pumping to the finish required that extra 5% that I just didn't have. I let a few people go by when I should have pushed it, but I thing everyone was feeling the heat as even Gal, the current gold medallist from Israel didn't race the last race. The rest of our fleet was showing better standings with Bill Wier finishing in the top 10 as well and Steve Sylvester and Mike Percy all battling it out together as well.

After 7 races here are the standings:
1.W. Schurmann

2.2. Sam Ireland

3.Seth Besse

4.Alain Bolduc

5.Zack Plavsic

6.Steve Bodner

7.Mike Percy

8.Gal Fridman

9.Chris Radkowski

10.Jean Rathle

11.Steve Sylvester

12.Peter Bonello

13.Bill Weir

14.Mark Borsma

15.Chip Wasson

Day 3 RS-X Pacific Coast Champs-
With time something's become easier. By the 3rd day of the regattas, sailing the new board and rig was a bit easier and more comfortable. It didn't seem as foreign as the first day and with 2 more races today, the board was actually fun to sail in the fleet. I really like the idea of one design sailing, especially with in windsurfing where the gear is in unlimited and keeping things in perspective is sometimes difficult. There is plenty of fine tuning to do in this class and a lot of physical training to be done to get to the top of the class. I'm sure by the next Olympics, the best sailor will come out on top. Until then there is a tour planned in the US for 2006 with 6 stops as well as charter boards available. I'm sure the class will draw some talent from the formula fleet as well as some new up and coming sailors.

One the final day of the rs-x regatta, we had to wait for the breeze to fill in and it finally came in around 2pm and we got 2 races off for a total of 9 races and 3 throw outs. Wilhelm was able to maintain his lead today with a first and second over Sam and Seth rounding up the top 3. We had full planning conditions in 15-18k and lots of exciting racing. In race one, I had a great start off to the middle of the line and got to the beach and tacked back to get back to the wind. I was looking good coming into the windward mark but got stuck in a hole and had to double tack along with the rest if the fleet behind me. I got around behind Alain and held onto the position for the rest of the leg where Zach and Pierre were close on my tail. We all headed over to the beach where I tacked inside and got a nice puff and got some separation and from there sailed conservatively to finish behind Alain in 5th. Percy was deep in that race so he had a throwout but with one more race left he still had a chance to catch me.

The next race, things lightened up some what and the same situation happed where we headed into the beach, This time Percy was able to tack sooner and get the puff and walk away. I was slow to get back to the right side and rounded the top mark around 10th with some catching up to do. I passed one or 2 boards off the breeze and realized there was more pressure out in the middle so my plan was to tack immediately after the mark. Steve and Percy rounded in front of me and kept going so I gained some ground and kept grounding away. I tacked to soon and was forced back into a hole on the near shore and Zack was able to get in between us and ended up finishing between us to make it a closer race between Percy and myself. We finished 1 point apart for 6th and 7th while the top of the fleet was Sam, Wilhelm, Seth, Alain, and Zach.

Overall, a great regatta with lots of talent. The new class was fun to sail. Always a challenge!

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