Tuesday, October 21, 2008
2008 Dutch Formula and slalom windsurfing championships
This weekends final of the Dutch Championship was run in Monnickendam, just north of Amsterdam on the IJ. With typical dutch lake conditions, sailors were greeted to a SW gusty and shifty breeze in the low to mid teens- not to mention an October chill to the air!
We ran a double windward leeward course with a gate at the bottom that gave you some options back upwind. It was important to see what was happening around the course because if the right was good on the first leg, it might not be again for the 2nd. Keeping in the pressure is always key in light air sailing. Usually the shore line will increase the wind as it is forces it to bend and accelerate around any natural geographical occurrences but it this case, you didn't want to get to close to the shore as it would leave you wishing you wound have gone the other way. For the most part then it was staring and hitting the port layline and coming across. If you could keep a lane upwind, it was all good.
You would think with all the right equipment Id be able to dial something in....eventually!!
But that still wasn't the case as I spent most of the past week swapping, sails, mast, fins and boards only to come to the conclusion that I havnt been able to change my technique enough for the new board.
That didn't stop the top 3 guys from dominating the regatta with the F2 Z and kashy fins.
The 40+ competitors had sufficient conditions to run 9 formula races over the weekend and almost, just almost a downwind slalom race on Sunday with the wind in the low to mid teens.
Still struggling for upwind angle on the Z, I began the week by swapping out my sails with Marc de Jong- thinking maybe it was the North Sails that was slowing me down. I jumped on the Maui Sails and wow what a different feeling. Much softer and less rigid and bouncy than the north but once I had both sails rigged correctly there wasn't all that much difference in my angle. On both Saturday and Sunday I started off on the Maui Sails TR3 12.0 and later switched to the North 11.8 for the later races. I found myself doing better with the Norths but still with both sails- I was getting spit out the back 3/4 way up the first beat. Once there it was just damage control to maintain a position and not lose anything more.
Ok, I thought, maybe its the fin- I swapped out the kashy 72-2 xxs for the new lightwind xxs IFJU fin with some better success but with all the weeds on the course, I honestly couldn't tell much except there want much of a difference in the fins. Both xxs fins seemed to get the board planing up soon but that wasn't the problem.
Like most of the previous F2 formula boards, the ride is quite technical. This years' Z is no exception. If you can get the board into the right groove upwind, its golden but getting it there is the problem. If you are not in the groove, your upwind angle really suffers. When I did find success it was when I was railing the board and really applying a fair amount of back foot pressure. Too much though and the fin would spin out. The rig had to be locked down on the deck of the board and me- hiking out hard to windward. Ive gotten a fair bit more comfortable sailing with the uphaul upwind. This keeps the rig upright, more power in the sail and better angle.
Finally on Sunday with another 4 races and the wind in the mid teens, the organizer decided to switch to a downwind slalom format as there hadn't been any official slalom results this season.
The problem, however is the dutch rules say you need 15 knots at the start. With so many holes and gusty conditions, it was leaving only 1 choice- the 130l F2 slalom board and 9.0. If you cant plane with that, its almost not with doing slalom. We had 2 false starts with general recalls in the all for one fleet before the organizer finally decided to make it a fun race as the 5 pm deadline was quickly approaching. I got off well just above the fleet picking off a few boards at every mark roundings with the big sail. Adrian was the only guy to pass me as he snuck in at the 2nd mark with a sailor down and me leaving the space. But not so fast, I managed to pass him on the last leg as we both sailed over Peter who was stuck on smaller gear to finish just outside the top 5.
Despite the lack of performance on my part, I did learn some good lessons from the weekends' racing. Even if you do have all the best equioment, youve got to know how to use it. Nothing makes up for time on the water and knowing the limits of your gear.
Thanks to Jan de Jong and Robert Hardholt for the photos