Thursday, July 31, 2008

Formula euros day 2 afternoon update

4 races complete in 10-14k
Finishing better each race in mid fleet.
More updated tonight
Check for race results and photos

Formula euros day 2 morning update

11:30 am update
Postponement flag up
Fleet is on shore waiting for breeze to build,
Currently 5-6 knots onshore light breeze

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Formula Windsurfing European Champiobnship, Leba Poland

The trip:
After a 14 hour drive from Amsterdam with 2 other dutch sailors and a trailer filled with 3 sets of formula gear, we finally made it to Leba Poland 2 days in advance of the Formula European Windsurfing Championship. It wouldn’t be an adventure if the trip went according to plan.

So it started, before we even left when the trailer lights would not sync with my Renault espace. Well at least we were driving in the day light but for the first hour and a half we stopped at every service station looking for the transition piece allowing us to drive legally across Holland, Germany and Poland. Finally we were able to get the piece and our trip continued but not before another emergency when we found the trailer door falling off the hinges and our gear beginning to spread out over the road. A quick collection of our stuff and an application of some duck tape on the trailer door fixed the problem. Finally we arrived in Leba to find the camp site closed for the night. A bit weary eyed, we booked into a hotel for the first night only to regroup in the morning and get a fresh start.

Training- Monday July 28:

Once we finally got our gear down the long road and across the beach to the event site, it was time to get out on the water to test the new fins I brought back from San Francisco.

Ive been having some trouble in the light wind so I though Id add some new fins into the quiver to see how they perform. First up was the new CRAD fin based from the former C3 design. My first impression is it really rails the board up nicely and once I lined up with a few people it was evident that it was going well – especially in the lighter stuff on my 11.8.

I also put in the new light-wind finworks fin which felt solid but not as quick upwind as the previous CRAD. Off the breeze it was flying very quickly.

Training- Tuesday July 29: With one day left to test 2 other fins, I put in a solid 4 hours on the water trying to see where my fins would fit into my final 3 I had to register for the event. First up was the finworks light wind fin again for the 2nd round of testing. Although it had more grunt and was very slippery, I couldn’t seem to make it go upwind well enough to hang in there with the top guys. The angle the top sailors are making is really incredible and I havnt found a fin yet to hang in there. Next up was the IFJU lightwind fin which certainly a had comparable low end but in my previous experience became quickly overpowered in the chop. Luckily not much chop out there besides some rolling swell which made it a great ride. Finally back to the CRAD fin for another test but alas not enough wind towards the end of the day to get any decent testing in.

So it stood, after 2 days of testing, I still did not have enough time to thoroughly understand all my fins but had to choose just 3 to register for the regatta. 2 light-wind fins and the trusty 70 cm kashy if the wind ever comes up. I had to choose what I knew so I made the hard decision and had to eliminate the finworks because I simply didn’t have enough time on it and feeling for it while the other CRAD and IFJU fin perfermed well enough to make the cut.

After registering my 11.8, 11.0 and 9.0 sails with my 2008 F2 board, I was ready for almost any condition the weather would throw at me. The other 128 sailors in nthe mens fleet would simply be obstacles to be finishing the fastest way possible.

Thanks to 'Coach deJong' for the photos

Day 1 Formula Windsurfing European Championships:

With 140 competitors rigging 2-3 rigs on the beach, the beach venue quickly filled up, especially with the crowds of Polish families making their summer vacations everywhere on the beach. As usual with the most European, we started off with the postponement flag barely flying off the flagpole on the beach. With updates every 30 minutes, the announcer was beginning to feel like a broken record….” Currently 5-6 knots but nothing more.” The fleet waited till 6 pm before we were set free for the day but the rest of the weeks forecast looks as dismal as today’s so its going to be a waiting game and trying to stay out of the intense Baltic sun.

Below are the hourly updates from the first day my send from my iphone via the wifi from the beach site:

5pm afternoon update

Still waiting for wind to develop but nothing significant above 5-6
knots. Class ruled call for 7 knots at start of race. Last possible
start 1 hour before sunset. Its going to be a long event with the rest
of the weeks forecast similar to today .

Day 1 morning update:
10 am skippers meeting... Still waiting for breeze to arrive!
129 board mens fleet

As always you can check the formula class web site for updated daily info

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2008 SF Classic recap: Searching for the ‘Camels back’ in the Berkeley Flats!

With a smaller formula fleet than previous years, this year’s SF Classic was still an exceptional race for the 19 board windsurfing fleet and 17 man kite fleet and as usual experience pays off with fleet veterans Steve Sylvester and Mike Zajcek taking 2 out of the 3 top positions in the weekends’ race.
Conditions never ramped up like most expected for Saturday’s long distance race but that didn’t make it any less of a race for all those trying to get around the 40 mile + course taking competitors out the Golden Gate Bridge and down and across the San Francisco Bay to the Berkeley Pier and then back again.
Since it's start in 1979, the original Oneil/ Marui Classic was one of the premier windsurfing races in the world drawing 100+ competitors with the likes of Robby Naish, Ken Winner and the orginal windsurfer rocket. To give you a perspective, it was a tremendous feat even to get across the Bay in those days, nonetheless make it down to Berkeley on gear that looks similar to the original model T. In the early 80's, competitors were making throw-away daggerboards that they released at the top of the course before the headed downwind on the 30 mile + ride.
Now even with the some of the best modern gear and amzing fast speeds pushing 30 -35 knots, you cant get yourself around the course fast enough! That was the case, when I found myself in an early lead but ended up sailing towards the wrong mark early in the race and was never able to catch up after that.
With variable conditions near shore, most of the fleet got caught under-powered near the top half of the course-with just a few of the leaders getting away and off to a sustainable lead.
After rounding the first upwind mark behind Mike Zajcek, Sylvester and Percy we made our way back under the Golden Gate where this years ‘north tower buoy’ was set much deeper than previous years. With the ebb kicking in at 1k and the light breeze, it was a slow rounding if you gybed 5-10 seconds too early. That mistake cost me a good 30 seconds as I drifted downwind around the mark as the 3 leaders reached across the Bay towards the presidio shoal. Years ago, I would have been yelling profanities given the situation, but I have since realized the energy spend on anger is not worth the effort.
Better to focus on getting past the next guy in front of you.
Luckily for me, Percy stopped at the shoal in a light spot and we were able to get going in the same puff and work our way up back upwind for the 2nd lap. I tacked early to take advantage of the ebb while Percy struggled to get through some San Francisco voodoo chop and went down hard. Rounding the top mark again, it was only Zajcek and Sylvester in front of me as we worked our way down in the light breeze. With a sail size bigger I was able to real them in and passed Sylvester and Mike Z at the gybe mark.
Unfortunately as soon as I found myself in the lead, it was over like that. The next mark, I thought was rounding the presidio shoal but actually it was deeper towards Anita rock. That mistake cost me losing the 3 guys I has just worked so hard to pass and then some as Wells and Eric went flying down the middle of the course with a decent puff. I was biting my tongue to stay cool.
Anita rock was another ‘cant get around this mark fast enough’ situations as I watched the 5 guys in front of me sail away as I drifted painfully around Anita rock in a light patch. Once reaching again, we were up to speed but the damage was done as the next hour of the race was simply spent following the leader which was Wells who was well powered downwind on his finworks fin.
I looked back and saw the rest of the 19 board formula fleet scattered across the top of the course struggling to get going. It could have been worse, I thought to myself as I enjoyed the rest of the underpowered but painless ride down on my north 10.0, ML7 and kashy 70 xs fin to Blossom, Blunt, R4, R2 and finally the Berkeley Pier to finish in 6th place. At least it was a beautiful day searching for the ‘camels back’ along the Berkeley flats!
For those who have raced the Classic before, the ‘camels back’ is a landmark on the distance shore you can line up the final mark of the race with. Once rounding the Berkeley Pier and heading towards Brooks Island, mark X magically be found after only sailing what seems like an eternity with out a soul in sight.
Back upwind for the UN ‘Challenge’, the key was to stay out of the building flood but in the wind. Zajcek was able to find the best route as he worked his way up the Angel Island coast and through the middle of the Bay to finish in 46 minutes and change. Fighting the traffic and flood coming up the city front was not the best idea despite what looked like better breeze.

Sunday’s course racing started with some tricky conditions as the unstable
wind, mixed current and weekend traffic made getting around the course a real struggle.
With John Craig moving the pin end back just 30 seconds before the 5 minute gun, starting on port was not an option despite the right side of the course being highly favored. A light patch hit the fleet in the final minute before the start and 4-5 guys including myself were ebbed up over the line and had to dip the line to get going again. After a slow restart, it was playing catch up again over the next 3 lap windward leeward course. I never really felt comfortable as the breeze was so puffy and shifty. I even backed down in the last upwind thinking I had weeds on my foil- but all to no avail.
Finally with the breeze increasing in the 2nd race, I started on port tack, just clearing the anchor line of the committee board to get to the right side of the course early. The port tack parade to the mark was painful in the building flood tide near shore but I was able to keep my lane up and round in 4th. On the final lap downwind, Al caught up with me to apply the final move just at the finish but the good news was we both passed Eric in the process.
The lesson I learned here was to use your advantage whenever possible. I was inside yet behind Al off the breeze- preventing him from making the last gybe. In this position, I was the controlling boat but didn’t seize the opportunity and instead let Al gybe first and followed.
Finally with the breeze up to the low 20’s I was told myself I had to pull it together and win the final race of the series to finish off on a strong note. I used the opportunity to switch down to a 68 kashy for better control. At the start, most of the fleet was on port tack and I stuck my nose between what seemed like a 1/2 board length hole between Percy to leeward and Sylvester to windward. Upwind on the first grind, I used every opportunity to climb with Percy pushing hard from below and ahead. Being the first to the layline is always tough as you have to make a good guess at the layline before anyone else. Fortunately I nailed it and extended my lead the rest of the race sailing conservatively but comfortable. That was enough to get me up to 3rd overall for the day in a very respectable group of sailors.
Its always fun to race with these guys as they have a wealth of experience. Brian McDonald send out an email yesterday with an article written by longtime SF windsurfer Paul Heineken on the first 10 years of the Classic- an interesting read with some of the early pioneers of the sport literally making history as they blazed their long boards across the San Francisco Bay.
You can find the article here and full results at:
Special thanks to the St. Francis Yacht Club and their professional race crew and volunteers as well as the locals like Wells, Soheil and McGrath for lending me some equipment to make it possible to race here!