Friday, September 26, 2008

2008 Formula World Championship Final report

After packing up 5 sets of formula gear into Markus’ van for the trip back to Holland, I literally stepped away from the sailing world- escaping into a week of exploring Portugal with Alex for a well deserved vacation on the sun drenched beaches of southwestern Europe. This was the first time I’ve traveled without my gear- making going through the airports and renting a car a pleasant experience again. Who knew!!

Now that things have settled down a bit after moving across Amsterdam 2 times this month, sailing a world championship ,taking a vacation, and finally getting back to work Ive had some time to reflect on the regatta and my training leading up to it.

Although I was happy with how I sailed- with several races in the top 30, I wasn’t consistent enough to make my goal of improving 10 spots form last years Worlds in Brazil. Nonetheless sometimes you can learn more through not succeeding than with success itself.

Leading up to the event, I had some touch choices to make in terms of equipment selection. It seemed, to gain an advantage in the light breeze (which I so desperately needed) I had to sacrifice some of my biggest advantages in my program- namely control and confidence in the windier conditions. In the end, there just wasn’t enough time to adequately test my new fins on the 2 boards in all conditions to make the best decision.

Dialing in your equipment, still, seems to be the best things sailors can do to adequately prepare themselves for a regatta. If you don’t know how your board/fin/sail combination will react to different conditions, you are left wondering if a different combination might have worked better. Once that’s it your mind, you wont be sailing fast at all!

A lot of sailors were coping with the same issues- including the 1st and 2nd place finishers. Let’s look at Wojtek Brzozowski as an example of how to get the job done. He used a starboard 161- a 2 year old board but with enough time on it to feel comfortable in the conditions most likely encountered in the regatta. He sailed away in most of the overpowered races because that was his strong suite and he had equipment that allowed him to do it. Gonzalo Costa Hoevel, on the other hand made a decision to switch to the Exocet board at the Euros- 1 month before the Worlds. Despite being in top form and probably the fastest sailor there, he struggled from lack of time on his equipment

Even with your equipment dialed in for the conditions, sometimes it takes a great deal of focus and preparation to stay on top of the game. We literally had hours of waiting time on the beach waiting for the wind to fill in and had to be ready to be on the water prepared for the start in 20 minutes once the AP flag went down. That meant keeping at least 2 rigs- semi rigged on the beach ready to go at all times. Most readers know, that the 100% carbon formula windsurfing masts tend to spontaneously combust in sometimes normal sunny conditions the minute you turn your back on the beach. That meant keeping your rigs cooled but also yourself. It’s easy to forget about the sun and drinking water and keeping yourself fueled all day long- at an event like this but being fully prepared for racing- even if it starts at 6:30 pm and you’ve been at the beach all day is priority number 1.

I was making a point to stay fueled with extra lunches every day + a minimum of 4 liters of water (and energy supplements) throughout the day Putting more protein into my diet, helped tremendously in terms of recovery. In a 6 day event, I couldn’t eat enough nuts, eggs, fish and dairy to keep myself fully recovered. Also carb loading the night before and immediately after racing helped in preventing fatigue and aiding recovery. You are what you eat!

Onto the actual racing: 11 races were run over course of the 6 day event with the majority (8 races) run across the span of 2 windy days. For the most part, the conditions were side off shore with the breeze filling in late in the afternoons. With the wind coming off the land, the tendencies were for stronger gusts with frequent oscillations- making it very tactical sailing indeed! On the other hand, when the wind wasn’t there- it just wasn’t there: No Chance! The last 2 days of the event was spent waiting for the breeze with no additional results posted.

Despite the varied conditions, most of the racing was in over powered conditions- something I normally would have greatly welcomed but instead loathed as my results sufferer due to board handling and control issues Even with my smallest 67 cm fin and 10.0 rig the board felt unbalanced through the chop upwind when the wind was over 18k- fighting to keep the rail down. Off the breeze in the windy races, it really took a lot of muscle to keep the board from flying out form under you. Instead of concentrating on the racing, I was concentrating on keeping my board under control!

On the flip side though, the board performed solid in the light breeze. I was able to keep my lane in most races under 15k upwind and had some great speed and angle downwind.

As usual with a big fleet of 85 boards, the premium was on starting- especially since we were all starting on the same line under one start. No qualification round and unfair seeding to complain about but rather get off the line well and hold your lane to the lay-line. One big trend I noticed was the mid line sag in the big fleet starts. If you could get a nose up or even a board length or 2 from you’re the board on your leeward hip, you already had a huge advantage at the start of the race! I wasn’t too concerned about starting at the favored end but more so heading in the right direction up the first beat with clear air. For the most part, getting to the shore and the geographical lift was the thing to do. That meant in at least ½ the races, the port tackers were charging the line- crossing and ducking through the starboard tackers coming with right of way down the line. In more than one occasion there was carnage on the line with multiple cases ending up I the room and sailors being chucked from several races. But if you could get off the line and to the shore first, you could take advantage of the land shift and get lifted right to the mark. The same thing downwind- if you timed the gust at the shore right, you could literally sail 10 degrees deeper and faster than the fleet outside. In more than 1 occasion, this left me coming back into the leeward mark having to gybe into a steady parade of port tackers lining up to round. The leeward mark was another situation just as important as the start as it was a parade to the shore. All you needed was a good rounding and you could be assured to climb over the fleet below you getting footed as the approached the shore. Sometimes though it paid just to foot over to the right side only to take advantage of the land shift. If you tacked away for clear air, you missed everything completely. I learned too, that you cant be too greedy- having been left standing still near the shore- waiting for the next puff to fill in when the middle of the course was filled with pressure.

Another major issue that greatly determined the regatta was the use of redress.

Some sailors thought the jury was too generous but in fact there’s a huge loophole in the rules to take advantage of- which plenty of sailors did! Specifically in Appendix B of the RRS, windsurfing has 1 extra case that allows a sailor to ask for redress if another boat failed to keep clear and retired or was penalized. But as always, once you find yourself in the protest room, anything can happen! If you are willing to take the risk, the opportunity is there for you to gain or lose!

Finally a brief about the new Formula One Design class that was racing with the Formula fleet this year at the World championship. Starboard provided 10 complete kits for some Olympic class sailors to try. Most found the equipment better than the current RSX class but still not yet completely acceptable. The 11.0 men’s rig seems a bit much for one sail to cover the range of 6-30 knots. Ironically most racing in the FOD fleet registered another smaller sail and used it during the windy races. To say that the 11.0 planes any sooner than a formula board with a light-wind fin and 11.8 rig is absurd!

Yes this new class may make the sport more accessible and more opportunities to train with existing formula fleets but still the equipment has some fine tuning before it can be called an Olympic standard! The choice for 2012 is a tough one indeed. Abandon the RSX class in favor of a purely planning class and risk not having racing at light wind venues or stick with the current class and have a class that is so far out of reach from the standards of windsurfing that it only attracts Olympic campaigners. My thoughts are that we need to grow the sport not continue to chop it up into fringe classes that national authorities can barely justify supporting. Windsurfing would be better off with the FOD in the Olympic. Not perfect, but lets hope it can turn out better than what we were promised in 2004 at the last selection trials.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday evening update

Just like clockwork, the final possible start passed and soon after
the 6 pm evening breeze arrived.
Not enough time for anymore racing!

Sunday afternoon update

3:30 update
2 hours till last possible start.
No breeze yet.
Filling in slowly...

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday morning update

Waiting for breeze to fill in before last possible start at 5:30
Slim chance!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Day 5 evening update

Finally after nearly 8 hours at the regatta site, the RC left the
beach, setting a windward leeward course on the side/offshote
conditions. The wind was 6-9 knots and I was jusy able to get going-
lining up a few times with good speed and angle against some other
sailors. My goal was to get going off the line with speed snd a lane.
At first port tack looked to be the best option but I bailed half way
down the line tacking back to get a good starboard approach. I started
pumping like mad at 30 seconds to get going and keep my speed up on
the line. I knew I might have been over early but with sailors above
and below me, I knew I had to go if I wanted any chance at all during
the race.
10 seconds to go, pumping hard and protecting my hole to leeward.
5 seconds- pump, pump, pump with max power in the sail, driving the
board up for speed.
Still pumping at max power for 20 seconds after the start to keep my
air free.
I heard the board to winward and behind coming up and pump even harder
to fight him off. To leeward I've got a Olympic class sailor on the
formula one design pumping like crazy.
I maintain my lane to just about 90% up the first beat and have to
foot below the Olympic class pumper to keep going. I hold off another
20 seconds after reaching the layline before tacking to ensure I can
make the top mark in one tack and with speed. Better to be a bit
conservative in the light stuff rather thsn risking catastrophic
disaster by not making the mark in one tack.
Just as I get to the top mark in the top 20 the race is abandoned.
Sometimes you're the fish and other times you're the fisherman!
It looks like that may be the series ad Sundays forecast looks dim.
Nonetheless, happy with my performance for the day even if it didn't
count. I needed it mentally to get back into the game. Time will tell
if its too little too late.

Sent from my iPhone

5:30 update

Dying from east....
Perhaps filling in from north.
"its usually never like this" so goes the expression!
Still waiting for wind!

Todays course

Todays posted course

Saturday morning update

Breeze looks slow to fill in today with diminishing foecast. Sailors
finding ways to keep themselves occupied.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Formula Worlds Day 4 Evening report

With 9 races already complete for the men's fleet, the RC was in no hurry to set a course today in the offshore, puffy conditions.
Finally with 1 quick race in the fluky conditions, the Portuguese express kicked up for the 3rd day in a row at 6pm with gust in the mid 20's for a spectacular formula race.
It was balls to the wall survival sailing as most of the fleet got caught with the light wind rigs and fins.
I held on but it wasn't pretty- going all the way for the leeward strap downwind in some hairy and fast runs.
The day started with the postponement flag dropping and sailors scrambling to rig as it was 90+ degrees on the beach and carbon windsurfing masts tend to spontaneously combust if left unattended in the heat while rigged. I just made it to the starting line in a very holy and gusty downwind run off the beach towards the course. With a good start 1/4 of the way down from the boat I was able to hold my lane once a few boards peeled off. At the layline I held off a few board lengths before tacking with the 20 boards in front of me. I climbed and made the mark while the guys who tacked early all missed the top mark in the light conditions. Downwind I stayed in the breeze, gybing 3 times to stay powered. Back upwind for the 2nd time I headed to the the left again, really overstanding the top mark and came flying in gaining 10 boards who tacked early again.
Finally on the last dowwind I got out of phase and let the sailors behind me gybe in the puff and lost a few more boards. So it goes in lightwind racing!
Still a good finish in the top 30.
The fleet was sent back into the beach and waited till the breeze stabalized.
I had just unrigged my 10.0 thiking it couldnt possibly get windy in the next 15 minutes before the fleet would go out ot stay ashore.
Sure enough by the time we started it was 20+ and I was on a full bellied 11.0 and 70cm xxs kashy fin. The next 20 minutes was an exercise in survival trying to keep the rig upright around the course. I struggled with the "Big Z' was it was a handful both upwind and downwind in the big puffs. Once I got the thing locked down, it was ok but no chance of any graceful transitions on my part.
2 more days left to move up but the forecast looks painfully light- just perfect for the lightwind Z and my 11.8

Day 4 worlds afternoon update

Offshore breeze today very unstable, shifty and gusty. RC waiting for
wind to stabalize before sending fleet out.
3 races planned for each fleet.
Wind looks stronger than yesterday but still in wrong direction.
Check class website for up to minute updates.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day 3 formula worlds

Today was about saving face.
Normally I would be happy about a big breeze day but with the Z, it
was a challenge to find the zone. I finished all 4 races in the mid 30's
We raced another 4 races in a side/off shore breeze producing big
gust and shifts around the course. In the first 3 races, the port end
was so favored that more than 3/4 the fleet ducked the charging
starboard tackers and headed towads the beach to gain the first shift.
If you were lucky enough to time if right with the puffs, the shore
paid off. Otherwise the outside was a gamble as it wasn't as windy as
often. The finish was set just off the beach in an anti-climatic non
planning finish for the first race where I lost 15 boards on the last
In the next 3 races the finish was moved further offshore where the
breeze filled in. Still though it was a parade from the leeward mark.
If you could hold your line, you could gain a lot. I had to tack off
several times to find clear air and lost out to the boards that held
on till the beach.
Off the breeze, in the big puffs, the Z was a handful, even at the end
if the day with the 67cm fin and 10.0.
On a positive note, I was able to dial in the 10.0 but it didn't seem
quite balanced on the big board. The rig responded well to standing up
in the light spots to climb well.
Overall though a bit disappointing falling a few more places down the
fleet. Tommorow I will try without the plates to see if I can make the
board go any better in the breeze.
3 more days of racing- still time to make the most of it.

Day 2 formula windsurfing world championships

The portugese coast delivered for day 2 of the formula windsurfing
world championship in Portimao with a late afternoon thermal breeze
kicking in for 4 races in the 85 board mens fleet.
The side shore breeze made perfect viewing from the beach where the RC
set a windwsrd leeward course.
With the breeze building all afternoon, most sailors chose their 11.0
rigs with some flying on the 10.0 rigs.
I had some trouble dialing in my 11.0 and was either slow upwind or
flying downwind, constatly trying to find the right setting. The 'big
Z' was a bit much to handle but saved me a few times in tight mark
roundings where I was able to keep my angle well. Some good moments of
racing for me today but some of my gambles didn't pay off as well as
I'd hoped- leaving me stranded near the shore waiting for the next
puff to come down the course. Other times, I was completely wound
downwind, exploding on race 3- taking my first discard. So far after 5
races, I'm sitting in 34th with room to get back into the top 30 to
meet my goal for the regatta..
Some noticable trends so far in the regatta:
Mid line sag- with a 85 board fleet, the line is huge but the black
flag has been keeping people back. I started 2 races today a full
board length in front of the boards around me.
Puffs near the shore- you can get really lucky gybing around the
windward mark set close to shore and carrying the breeze down the
Thursdays foecast looks equally as good with the breeze expected to
build but so far at 1:30 nothing has even filled in.
Both fleets are anxiosly waiting to get a few more races in before the
fleets are split into gold and silver.
Last nights AGM kept us on site till 11pm and back to the beach for a
10 am skippers meeting.
Check out the class website for results and photos, www.formulawindsurfing
. org

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Formula Windsurfing Day 1

Day 1 at the 2008 Formula World Championship was filled with anxiety waiting for the first race to happen. With a first possible start at 3:30, the girls fleet raced 2 back to back races, then the men headed out- having to suffer through 2 general recalls before the Black flag went up on the 3rd attempt at starting. At nearly 6:45, the 85 board formula fleet got off a clean start with just one sailor over early. The fleet was bunched up at the boat end so I had no choice but to duck them and head for some clearer air down the line. Unfortunately, not many holes to find but I was able to find a lane and round the top mark in the top 20, staying in the breeze. Downwind, there was a few pockets of breeze near the shore that you could really gain with but I was just on the edge- not fully taking advantage of the limited breeze. Back upwind, most of fleet in front of me headed towards the shore to take advantage of the shift off the land. I tacked a few seconds too early as I was trying to get myself a clean lane for the beat back upwind. The difference was huge as the 3 boards inside of me all got lifted while I sat on the edge of the puff- still better than the guys who tacked early and went left upwind.

One more lap to go and I was sure to gybe early to take advantage of the limited breeze near the shore but the timing just wasn’t right as I had to wait for the puff to really get going. A few guys passed me here and I rounded just in front of a big pack at the last mark. With the finish boat just a few meters beyond the leeward mark, it was a bit anti-climatic but I was really happy finishing in 25th. The F2 Z board really seemed to be flying well in these conditions with good performance. Im stoked I made the decision to register the board for the regatta.

Up in front was Gonzolo taking the bullet.

Full results at

Monday, September 8, 2008

Formula Worlds Registration Day

Photo Credit: FormulaWindsurfingClass
For the last few days the wind failed to materialize till the late afternoon when most of the fleet got out on the water- finalizing their decisions of what gear to register and tuning their kits for the World Championship starting Tuesday.
Monday was registration and the last chance for me to decide what board to register. Luckily 2 new kashy fins arrived on Sunday that made both boards go even better than before but the key decision was that the Z board had a bit more angle upwind when things got lighter.
In a 60 board fleet, you're going to need as much grunt off the line as possible
I lined up with a few people and had good results both upwind and downwind. Now the mental part is there it will just be following through on the physical side and getting the job done.
Of course, every day is still fixing and making minor repairs, trying not to stress to much about broken battens and the like.
This World Championship should be something special as the new Formula One Design will be racing with the Formula fleet. 10 kits were provided for Olympic class sailors to use and they have been out there paring and tuning their kits. They general feeling is that the board and fins are decent but the rig still needs work. Nonetheless, the new Formula one design class will have some interesting racing this week with the organization trying out some new formats with a possible metal race at the end of each day??!!
Stay tuned as the event progresses for more info!
I feel really confident in the light stuff which has always been my weak spot and the forecast for the early week looks promising with light winds and a front moving in later in the week for some big breeze on Friday and Saturday.

For the event, Ive registered the 2009 Formula Z with a 72cm-2 kashy xxs, kashy xs 70 cm and a 67 xs kashy. The rigs I am using are a north warp 11.8, 11.0 and 10.0 (Thanks Patrik!)