Saturday, September 16, 2006-
It's the middle of September already. Most of our racing has wound down with the exception of a few more races in the Bay but I find myself in the northern Italy getting ready for my biggest regatta of the year, the 2006 RSX world Championships.
I got out for my 2nd time on Lake Garda today after a week of site- seeing with my family around the area. All I can say, is that it's an unbelievable place to sail…the steep mountains surrounding the lake, the picturesque villages on the shore and on the cliffs surrounding the lake and what makes this place really unique is all the windsurfers here, as well as other high performance sailing crafts. It is literally the sailing capital of Europe. Most importantly, a dependable breeze arrives every afternoon like clockwork as the land around the lake heats up causing a thermal breeze and funnels the wind through the steep mountains at the end of the lake crating a windsurfing paradise!
There are several windsurfing schools on the northern shore as well as several places to launch from around Torbole where the regatta will be run. Last week when I arrived there were literally hundreds of windsurfers on lake in a 15-20k breeze as well as some really cool skiffs with 6 guys on the trap; a fleet of A and C class catamarans racing; and some Moth class dinghies- all of which would give formula sailors a good run for their money!
Most of the windsurfers were Europeans on vacation here with gear ranging from vintage short boards to modern slalom set-ups. It is like turning the pages of windsurfing history here with everything represented.
they usually do as well as put a damp spirit on everything with a San Francisco- like fog and drissle. Nonetheless that doesn't stop the Olympic class windsurfers from getting out andI decided to charter my board to make traveling here easier so I picked up my RSX from the local shop last week and got set up with a place to stay in nearby Riva Del Garda- 1 mile down the shore from the regatta site. After a few days of relaxing and site seeing with wife and her family I got on the water for the first time. Unfortunately, a big low-pressure system is sitting over most of Italy at the moment and is causing the normal thermal winds not to develop as practicing. There are probably 40-50 sailors here already getting ready for the regatta a week before it begins. Most of the Olympic class sailors are campaigning full time so getting a top result at this regatta means funding for the next year as well as the first chance to qualify their countries for the 2008 Olympic regatta. It is also the 1st World Championship for the new Olympic class board so a lot attention is being given to the event.
With just under a week before the event begins, I hope to get a few more days on the water to tune up and let the normal weather pattern finally fill in. Ill send some more reports as the racing goes on but you can find results as well as coverage on the ISAF website at www.sailing.org
Sept 21-Its 3 days before the 1st RS-X World Championship in Torbole on Lake Garda, Italy and already close than 300 competitors have arrived. The beach in front of the Circole Surf Torbole is full of international competitors getting ready to secure a chance for their country at the 2008 Olympic regatta in China. This year’s world championship is an open entry – an opportunity to try to grow the new Olympic boardsailing class here in Europe- and by the looks of it, there is a lot of interest with lots of young sailors from Poland, France and Italy.
There is a new generation of sailors here as well as many seasoned veterans vying to compete in the 1st of many world Championships. After last months’ light wind Olympic test event in China, many sailors, including myself are looking forward to the predicable Lake Garda ‘Ora’ every afternoon. The US is represented by 4 sailors: Ben Barger, of St. Petes, FL ; Steve Bodner, of San Francisco, CA ; Karen Marriott, of Colorado, and Farrah Hall , of Tampa, FL.
Updates will be available on the new RS-X class website at www.rsxclass.com
Semptember 23rd- first day of racing:
I woke up this morning thinking the overcast skies might bring a lack of wind but was pleasantly surprised by 12 pm when the 'Ora' kicked in to a solid 12-18k knots. The anticipation of waiting for the regatta to begin finally ended as the postponement flag went down and the 244 sailors headed towards the water in a mass exodus. The men's fleet was divided into 4 fleets of 41 sailors each while the women's fleet was divided in 2 for 40 sailors in each fleet. causing some yelling a screaming by both fleets. The RC was quick to realize this and put up the postponement flag for our fleet. The women's fleet who started second also caused some disruption as the rounded their inside leeward mark set just in froThe men's andnt of the starting line. So despite going out at 1pm, my first race didn't start till close to 2pm. It was evident from sailing the course before, as well as watching the 2 fleets that going right would pay off. On the west side of the lake there is a sheer cliff several hundred meters tall making the wind overstood some knowing there would be a big parade as I got closer to the windward mark. I rounded in the middle of the fleet with the top group punching out in front and a big number of sailors around me. Downwind there was lot of pumping despite full on planning. This was the world championship with the best sailors pushing each other as hard as they could. I got around the bottom women's fleet raced on 2 different courses both sailing a trapezoid course.I was in the red fleet-which raced after 2 other fleets started on the Torbole course close to shore. It seemed like a lot of waiting around as only 2 fleets could race on the course at one time. This became evident after the first fleet rounded the outside bottom mark and headed back upwind through the starting line- mark and headed right again but didn't reach the wall as I would have overstood the outside top mark. I lost a few boards here as I caught more weeds and had to back down to clear my fin. It was a close race from then on as I battled a few sailors around me going back and forth. It really seems like and international competition with sailors from around the world pushing you as much as you can. I rounded the last windward mark with 2 sailors right on my tail. As I pumped downwind, I separated a few meters from then and then on the last gybe I go accelerate a few knots faster than the middle of the course. I started near the boat and immediately tacked off to get to the right side. Despite being gassed early, I got some clear air but managed to rake up a few weeds in the many patches circulating around the course. As I approached the cliff on the right side, the wind increased giving me a bit of a lift as well. It my foot stuck in the strap and dropped my rig and let the 2 guys who I was beating pass me to the finish. I knew points in a competition like this are super valuable with everything doubled at the end of the day due to the 4 fleets competing. I finished 26th in a fleet of 41- plenty of room to improve especially in conditions that favor me.
In the second race, conditions backed down a bit as well as a lot more chop on the course with lots of recreational sailors reaching back and forth. The Italian police was chasing a few of them down- really funny to hear a police siren on the water and police boat chasing you - telling you to leave the area. Only if we had this pleasure with the SF ferries! I tried to get off the line again but got hosed on the start forcing me to go right again despite wanting to head left as there was a bit more breeze in the middle of the lake. I rounded deep and dug my way back to 26th again. Well at least that's consistent. At the end of the day I stand in 103rd with 2 26th places. I need to step it up a bit and get better starts in order to make the top half of the fleet, which is my goal for the regatta. There is a lot of really good racers here who have devoted the better half or most of their lives to their Olympic campaigns. It is a real passion amoung the sailors here and the professionalism shows. I am learning lot by sailing my 5th world championship.
Sept 24th- 2nd day of racing:
It looked like another light wind day as the morning breeze failed to materialize but just like magic (and as soon as I ordered my lunch at the café above the sailing club) the north wind came down the lake and the postponement flags came down the pole. The 6 fleets headed out to the Torbole and Trentino courses set just in front of Riva Del Garda and up the lake where there was more wind. Luckily today I was in the Torbole course with a bit more breeze so I was excited- just my conditions!
Race 1 started with most of the fleet starting on port heading to the right side of the wall. I knew this was the way to go but was quite surprised when the fleet was already lined up at the pin. I had missed the gun in my rush to get out to the course and was not positioned well. I started deep and footed to the right and tacked at the wall but got trapped on the way back by a few guys above me. I knew I wanted to go back right but despite going a bit faster and higher I couldn't get the room to tack back and went back to the middle of the course. I could see the guys on the right gaining but nothing I could do. Sometimes its best to slow down and tack to get back to the correct side- a good lesson learned! Finally in the breeze I was feeling good with my speed passing a few boards each leg but was still deep clawing my way back through the fleet. It was a good 15knots on the course yet a lot of pumping all through out the fleet- especially off the wind where you need to be super efficient. I was going back and forth with a few sailors- especially the lighter ones who would gain downwind with better pumping but then upwind I would get them back, This type of back and forth sailing makes fleet sailing very competitive. Unfortunately for me we had a downwind finish and I thought I had enough of a lead over the small sailor from Hong Kong to keep him back but just as I gybed around the last leeward mark he sneaked inside of me and kept the lead the nest 100 meters to the finish. Good lesson learned- always close the door on the sailors behind you! Another finish around 22'nd- this is getting consistent- a bit better but consistent!
The second race started in a decent 14-16knots. I knew I had to get a good start. That was my goals for this one. I watched the first fleet all start on port and get off well. As I lined up with 40 seconds to go, I blasted down the line finding a hole and stalled a bit not to be over early as the one minute flag was up . 5- 4-3-2- 1. The fleet was off and I had clear air with a lane off the line. I held my own getting my head and shoulders out to windward as much as possible to keep climbing. I was looking good as I got to the wall and tacked and was on the layline already in really good position! I rounded the top mark in 7th and held my own down the top reach. The breeze was a bit lighter on the far side so most of the fleet gybed immediate. The first fleet was mixed up with us here so a lot of action at this mark and the bottom mark as we rounded together. I felt a bit outpaced here as the lighter sailors were very efficient in their pumping and I fell back in the fleet. As I rounded the leeward mark I had a sloppy rounding and fell back even further as it was a drag race to the right side as well as a bit of a header going there. Well I was in better position than normal- just had to keep the pace up. 3 more laps upwind and same scenario- really good upwind when I found my lane but losing boards downwind due to not pumping enough. This class is a lot of work. I need o spend more time on the rowing machine to get my cardio up to speed with the other Olympic hopefuls. After all, its not just hook in and hold on- This is Olympic class sailing- part sailing- part pumping your sail as hard and as long as you can!
As I made my way back up the final upwind leg, the wind really got lighter and I had to get my centerboard down to get around the top mark. A few guys who overstood came flying in with the track back and boards up. Down wind I struggle din the light stuff to get planning but finally managed to get going and off again. I was working hard but the lighter sailors really went pasted me like I was standing still. Despite the great start and good upwind sailing, I still finished in the mid 20's. Well it a start, one thing at a time! I'm still trying to put all the pieces together but its coming together slowly. Today was better than yesterday- always a good thing!
Sept 27th: Day 4
The day started with a bit of confusion by all: how to split the fleets. Either way, somebody would be at a disadvantage. The race committee finally decided to split the men’s fleet right down the middle with a 82 board gold fleet and an 82 board silver fleet. That means getting a bad score now counts potentially 2x as bad as it did in the qualifying rounds where we sailed in a fleet of 44 boards. Now the fun really begins!At the beginning of the day I stood in 104th 30 points out of 1st place in the sliver fleet- plenty of opportunity to move up if the conditions stayed as they did the previous 3 days.
In front of me in the gold fleet, is my fellow American Ben Barger who made the cut with a finial position of 70th as well as Canadians Alain Bouldoc and Zac Plavsic in mid fleet. Those guys would be racing in the top fleet while I battled it out with the other 82 sailors. The goal was to get a decent start and off to the correct side and take it from there.
The wind was slower to fill in and they finally sent the women’s fleet and well as the men’s gold fleet around 3pm for their first of 2 races. The intensity in the men’s fleet was intense with the top few positions really close and it was anybody’s race to be won or lost. Unfortunatly the race was well offshore so now chance off seeing the action. I can see why windsurfing isn’t much of a spectator’s sport now!
My fleet was off to their first start around 5pm and the light wind had filled in. It was another race to the cliff where we started track forward and centerboard down. As we approached the wind, everybody changed gears and went track back, centerboard up. Next as we approached the windward mark the wind died again so back to first and second gear! With this type of condition where one side is favored, it’s really a parade- making putting the tactics to a minimum and making board-speed the utmost important factor. This was the way the rest of the race played out for the next 2 laps of the windward leeward course. I had some promising moments rounding near the upper pack then fell back in the upwind light stuff as the flyweights planned away. I think I finished mid fleet but cant be sure…just hoping for some more planning conditions tomorrow to minimize the damage.
Day 5 report RSX World Championship, Lake Garda, Italy
The reality of light wind sailing finally kicked in today with the silver fleet racing at 4:30 and the wind doing a nose dive to the lower single digits. It was a painful experience that makes me count my blessing from all the planning conditions we had thus far.
As I reported the last few days, there are some amazing opportunities to gain or lose lots of boards in big fleets. I had the opportunity to do both today.
I got out to the course early to watch the 2nd race of the men’s gold fleet. It was obvious that banging the right corner near the cliff was the only way to go. Now implement that on a line with 80 boards! For the first race I lined up with a nice hole to leeward but above me there were guys pushing the line, below me guys pushing the line. I was stuck in the middle with no place to go. Finally I escaped and made it to the wall. There were still a lot of boards above me so I quickly made my way back right gaining a few more boards and over-standing the layline so I could come in with speed. I immedialty gybed and headed back to the velocity. I rounded the bottom mark just behind the front pack and pumped my way upwind a few board lengths to get a clear lane so I could head right again with clear air. This is how I made the most gains. The boards below me struggled with bad air and I tacked at the wall and had them beat. I was in decent position in the top 20 in a fleet of 80. 2 more laps holding my own to a decent finish. The fun was coming back
Next race the wind was dying in a big way. Most of the fleet struggled to get off the line including myself who struggled from that point on to catch up. Probably the most important lesson I have learned in light air sailing a in a big fleet is clear air and speed are king. I don’t know how many times I’ve learned that lesson but I still continue to learn it even today! The rest of the race was like beginning to learn to race for the first time. I struggled in the light breeze trying to find a way to make the board go fast. Needless to say from my result, I didn’t find a way to make it go. I was near the back of the fleet trying to find a reason to continue as I knew this race would be my throwout…Somehow I continued making my way to the finish just before the flag came down closing the finishing line.It’s days like this I wonder if its worth continuing but then I looked around at the beautiful surroundings and thought- things could be worse and sailed in with just a bit of a smile coming through despite the curse words fuming out of my mouth form my performance.