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
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 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.