4 days of epic racing on the Columbia River Gorge was enough for local Bruce "It's my river" Peterson to claim both the course and slalom disciplines for the 2009 US Windsurfing National Championship in Hood River, Oregon.(Hood River, Oregon: windy enough to blow the dogs off the chains)
With 83 competitors registered, it was an event to be remembered as the Gorge delivered nuclear winds on the first day of slalom racing to 10-12k on the final day to test competitors ability in all conditions.
In what seemed like a huge junior contingent from around the country, the 22 strong junior fleet held a 2 day clinic before the event, tuning in the racing skills with the help of local Sailworks guru Bruce Peterson. The juniors were sailing the Bic Techno 293 board (with some of the older fleet already on the formula boards) which provided an excellent platform for racing. Im sure in a few years, we'll see their results of hard training and will be nipping on the heals of the formula fleet.
Equally impressive, was the huge turn out from the San Francisco fleet with almost 20 sailors making the trip up and pushing at the top of the fleet in both disciplines. Up and coming SF junior racer, Marion Lepert took both the slalom and course title for junior girls while David Wells, Eric Christanson, Jean Rathle, Chris Radkowski, Mike Percy, Al Mirel and myself, Steve Bodner all made the podium on Sunday!
Days 1 and 2 saw the fleet running 11 slalom heats in conditions that can only be described as challenging! On the opening Day, the Gorge went off with gust pushing into the 40's and sailors overpowered on their traditional slalom rigs and switching down to smaller wave gear just to survive! Bruce Peterson dominated the slalom racing with bullets in 9 out the 11 heats. Carbon Art maestro James Dinnis from New Zealand was in the heat most of the races sticking some sick laydown gybes at the marks making it look easy. The rest of the fleet struggled to get around the unique 'Gorge Box slalom course' and found their crash tacks to be the best solution getting around the top mark in the course.
On day 2 the fleets were broken up into gold and silver fleets with the top dogs fighting it out around the course. Of course, the event site proved an excellent venue to watch the races as well as well as hear all the comments from the peanut gallery. Everyone on shore can always gybe better than the guy on the water!
Doc Doolitle provided the commentary to give the event a positive vibe and onlookers a clue to what was going on - on the water.
On day 3, the winds lightened to a gusty15-20k and gave the fleet a chance to jump into course racing. Again, a unique course was set up to take advantage of the Columbia River's long and narrow site. 4 races were run for the 3 fleets with most sailors setting themselves up on port tack to start and get out to the favorable wind and current along the Washington shore.
Finally on the last day on competition, 2 more formula course races were run in 10-15k under the black flag as the fleet was anxious to gain any last opportunities. Eric Christanson slipped into 2nd behind Bruce Peterson while I held onto the 3rd place podium finish overall.
The competition at this event couldn't have been closer but local knowledge and experience always seems to pay off with Peterson cleaning up in both disciplines. Next year's nationals will be back in San Francisco and the bragging rights start all over again!