Friday, September 25, 2009

Impressions from 2009 World Championships

You’ve got to love these images from the 2009 Formula World Championship in Santa Pola Spain that really capture that spirit of modern windsurfing racing. With nearly 100 boards from around the world competing, the class is continuing to grow and develop after 10 years of evolution.

This year’s world championship saw many professionals dominate the top positions, despite the class being dropped from the PWA circuit a few years ago. Several Olympic class windsurfer coming fresh from the RSX Worlds in England earlier in the month were also pushing the top of the fleet. It goes to show that sometimes you can have it all with professional, amateur and Olympic class windsurfers racing together.

The worlds was a huge event this year with more organization than Ive ever seen at a regatta. For every racer there must have been another volunteer, police, or security officer there with the typical Euro/Spanish organization when you ask who's in charge- everybody says "me!" Everyday they had breakfast and lunch for 150+ people. There were 3 huge tents for the sailors and their gear, a beach tower for the press and huge stage for the opening and closing ceremony. The top 16 men and 3 of the women split the 30,000 euro prize money.

The racing is what draws most to the class and this year it was tight. The pros are always f' fast but it the rest of the amateurs that are catching up. Just behind the front pack from 15th-30th were some very fast sailors mixing it up but with the typical light wind conditions, there were a lot of mixed results on the scoreboard.

Going into the last race, it was a challenge between Steve Allen, AUS-0 and Woijek Brzowski, POL-10. Steve had won all 3 Euro Grand Prix's this summer in Poland in the light breeze while Woijek (and the rest of the Poles)are known for cleaning up in the breeze. As luck would have it for the Aussie, the last and deciding race, was run in just 10-12k favoring the lightwind specialist.
That worked as well for Martha Hlavaty POL-111 as she was able to take advantage her RSX training and finesse her way to the podium in 1st followed by Allison Shreeve, AUS-911 in 2nd.

We ran 12 races over 6 days with racing usually commencing at 2-3pm when the seabreeze kicked up but Santa Pola is known for doing anything and everything. Most of the racing was done in 10-15k with few races in only 8-10k. Day 4 saw the big breeze come in with 25-30k but the RC deemed it too unsafe after only 2 races and the safety boats picking up plenty of carnage around the course.
We ran a single fleet throughout the entire regatta with all 80 boards on the line at full speed. Getting off the line was at a premium or else you faced digging your your back through a big middle pack in a short 20 min race.
For all 12 races, we ran a double windward leeward course with an offset at the top mark and a gate as the leeward rounding and finishing downwind at the beach.

As always, the gear is still a big part of the game in the Formula class.
Its what draws some of us to the class.
Being able to match your board, sails and fins to your body type, sailing style and location is what windsurfing has always been about and why one design classes never seem to work. Putting together a kit that works well for San Francisco conditions is much different than the typical euro conditions we saw at the Worlds.
The Euro sailors with the light wind sets up definitely had an advantage. As always the NP sails were going very fast with light EVO2. Most were on their 12.0 and 10.7s. The MauiSails 12.0 seemed like it was really going well in the light to medium breeze but not so with their other sails in the quiver. This year, most of the fleet had wide boom ends for their big sails and some have custom booms widened in the mid point. The gaastra sails look very consistent throughout their quiver with even some new ideas being tried.

The north's seemed very good when powered up but I hardly got the chance to put everything in the top gear.
As for the boards, there was a big variety. What worked in the light wind didn't necessarily win the heavy wind. The F2 Z and 162 because of their size had the advantage in the light stuff but became a handful in anything over 16-18k while boards like the 160 really didnt come alive till at least 14k. Boards like the 161 and the gaastra seemed to fit the middle gap.
This year, like the past few years, custom fins have made a big difference in a sailors kit. Most of the fleet is on the kashy xs fins with the lighter air boards demanding more powerful fins like 83 or 76cm cut down to 70. A few guys at the top of the fleet, as well as most of the Estonians were using a new Z fin- excelling in the light air. The Polish have also got a new white fin that's going well. Also, quite a few IFJU fins as well as a limited number of VMG fins.
No matter the kit, whats important is to find the right tuning. There are so many variables from 1-2cm of downhaul adjustment, mast track position, boom height, fin stiffness and rake... endless ways to tweak your kit.

There were also a few changes at this year at the AGM. The ranking system will now reward excellence vs the previous system which rewarded participation. The ranking now will be annual-starting and finishing each year at the Worlds.
Another big change came with how we will run the qualifying series in Championship events. 4 races will be used as a qualifying series and your result after 4 races will be carried forward to the Final Series(Gold/Silver) as the first race. Furthermore this can be discard-able after the 3rd race of the final series (ie QS result + 3 FS races = 7 and second discard according to Championship Rules).
Finally the class voted to enforce sail numbers starting at next years championship regattas. Everyone must have white backgrounds and black sail numbers. There were quite a few people complaining this year that they followed the rule which they thought would be enforced while others with white numbers or hand drawn numbers on their sails were getting away with murder on the line as the RC had a harder time calling them OCS than the sailors with the proper white background and black number!
It is a small technicality but will cost you if you don't oblige.

Here's a 2 other videos from BEL-6 and AUS-120. Enjoy!

world championship formula windsurfing santa pola 2009 from patrick van hoe on Vimeo.

Santa Pola; from the Beach to the Water. from on Vimeo.

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