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.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 6 Formula Worlds

With just minutes to spare before the last possible start at 5pm on the last day of the championship, the RC managed to squeeze one last race off which ultimately determined the fate of both the men and womens fleet.
Both Allision and Wojeck were winning their fleets by the narrowest of margins and let victory escape them. Another hour and the conditions would have suited them but sometimes in sailing, luck is a big part of the game.
The conditions were testing us all day with the offshore breeze and seabreeze fighting each other. Finally at 4:30pm, we got 10-12k on the course and headed out. Under the black flag, I started on port with the top guys as I wanted to get to the right side where the clouds were filling in. I ducked most of the starboard tackers and began to foot to the favored side. Sure enough by overstanding a bit I was able to lay the top mark ahead of the pack and managed a strong downwind. The next upwind was really lightening up and I really made a big effort to overstand again to mantain a plane while the guys that tacked too early struggled to get going. With Sean and Adri on my tail I held on and finished on a strong note- especially as the conditions were not in my favor.

Overall pleased with regatta but as always so much to learn. Next year, I'm really going to focus more on my weakest area- lightwind and make a big effort to overcome the things that have been holding me back.
Getting ready to fly back to SF today after a long night out on the beach celebrating and letting loose.
As always the Spanish know how to throw a good regatta and am even better party!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Formula Worlds Day 5

Windsurfing is such a fickle sport.
Some days you're the cats meow.
Other days you cant find your way out of a box.
Today was one of those days.

Nothing seemed to go my way to matter how hard I tried.
Every shift, I found myself on the wrong end of.
Every sail choice was the wrong one.
My fins were going backwards.
With 2 throwouts, I might have well slept in till 4pm and got a fresh start.

You'd think at the World championships I would have figured these things out...or at least stayed home but then again you never know if you dont try.

I never really found my groove and struggled the whole day in the middle of the fleet.
We ran 4 races on a double windward-leeward course- finishing downwind just in front of the beach. The wind was pretty shifty with no side constantly paying off.
I went left. I went right, I even went up the middle a few upwind legs

In race 1, I took the 11.0 and 70cm kashy which seemed to go backwards. I didint have any power or angle upwind. I came in totally frustrated and was just about to switch to the 12.3 for race 2 when the wind jumped up to the mid to upper teens so I settled again for the 11.0 and got a bit better angle with the increased pressure. Getting buried at the start didnt help as the port tackers plowed right through my line!
In these short races, once you get stuck in the middle of the pack, its really hard to get out as everybodys got similar speed and angle.
In the 3rd and 4th race I switched down to the 67 kashy as the chop was building and wind up to 18-20k. With some better angle and speed off the wind, I was feeling better but still stuck in the middle with no where to go.

With one more day to go, there's still a chance to finish strong and any opportunity to learn something is worth it.
Up in front its the usual suspects who are making it look easy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Formula Worlds Day 4

Things started out as usual here with a 12pm skippers meeting and 1 pm 1st possible start.
Everything looked in order for another day of light wind racing as the men's fleet all headed out on the 11 and 12m rigs. The forecast was due to ramp up later in the day but youve got to rig for the conditions you are facing now.
With that in mind, I took the 11m and 72xxs kashy. We had one general recall where I got off the line clean near the pin but the fleet was called back. In the next start I lined up similarly but with 30 or so port tackers it wasnt easy to get going and I got buried having to do 2 tacks in the first 2 minutes of the race. Slowly I fought my way back through the fleet giving it my all as the conditions ramped up. I was overpowered with the 11 but I knew everybody else was even more overpowered with their 12m rigs.

I thought to myself, keep grinding away, one board at a time.
Sure enough I was holding on as conditions got hairer and the mid fleet guys were dropping like flies. On the last downwind, I really caught up well as the chop and wind wewre perfectly lined up for the chicken strap to send it deep!
I finished in 29th- my best yet but was looking forward to the next race as things were heating up even more!

The fleet came ashore and it was a mad rush to rig the 10 and 67cm fin for the next race.
A bit of chaos at the event site with rigs flying and people rushing everywhere.
I went out early to get a feel for the conditions and felt really comfortable in the building seas and wind. It was up to 25-30k and 4-5' swell.
I really nailed the start and got off clean in the middle of the line, finally able to hold my own.
Boards were flying off the top off the chop with 2-3' of air below their fins.
I managed to hold it together well and rounded the top mark in the hunt with boards all around me.
Somehow, through, even with the double chicken strap I was going higher than most of the fleet but surviving as I some some spectatular wipeouts.
Rounding the leeward mark, things looked well but I dipped in the water as a piece of chop threw my board up and temporarily out of control. I quickly waterstarted and was grinding upwind well. I nailled the next windward layline but this time downwind, it was hairier than Ive sailed in a long time. 5-6' swell and pushing 30k. I was really in survival mode as was the rest of the fleet. Tactically I made a big mistake as I had to gybe 2 extra times as i misjudged the finish and that cost me a few positions but happy I survived in 1 piece and just around 30th.

It looked like we were going to race another 2 and I was all pumped up as I knew I could really climb up the scoresheet but alas the race director pulled the plug as saftey was becoming a big issue with a lot of people getting rescued.
Somwhow, even with 2 better races I mamanged move dwn to 42nd from 41st as alot of people in front of me used these 2 races as their throwouts.
Well , all I can do is keep sailing hard for the next 2 days.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Formula Worlds Day 3

Slow day here as the wind hardly showed up.
The girls fleet was sent out first as the men got the last race yesterday. With only a fleet of 17 they were able to get a race off while the wind was still relativly up. Watching the winner overstand the last mark and come in hot to the finish really emphasized the need to stay powered at all cost.
I took note and rigged the 12.3 with a bit less downhaul so that I could at least get going. Worrying about top end was not so important vs sitting there not planning at all!
At around 4:20 the mens fleet tried for race 6 but it was too little with 80 boards on the line and a big thunderstrorm approaching and killing the wind. I managed a good start already heading down the line towards the pin at the 5 min gun. At about 20 sec I was the furthest one down the line towards the pin and began pumping like mad to get going. I got off the line planning and towards the shore but about 2 min later the race was abandoned. Nonetheless a good effort!
Looks like we will get some wind later this week so I'm hopeful I can
dig my way out of the middle of the fleet and move up the scoreboard onto the first page of results!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Formula Worlds Day 2

A short report today as it was a long day on the water with 3 light
wind races followed by the class general meeting.
I'm writing this exhausted from the days racing. It really took a toll
on me, fighting for each finish. Although my results didnt improve so
much as I'm stuck in 42nd, I felt I was sailing smarter today and was
really in the hunt for a few races.
All 3 races were 10-12k, shifty and puffy making it very tactical and
demanding races. I used the 12.3 and 72xxs kashy but was giving up
alot upwind in traffic. Im still having trouble holding a lane but as the day went on and I inched my booms up, things improved. By the last race I was up there in the top
20 going around the bottom mark but got hosed at the top mark in alot
of traffic. It felt good to up there sailing in the pack but just need
to close the deal
and finish stronger.

Tommorows another day and another chance to move up in the fleet and
make my goal of the top 30!
More rain showers expected as the heavens seem to opening up in
torrential downpours at the start and finish of todays racing.


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Monday, September 14, 2009

Formula worlds day 1

The first day of the worlds didn't start off quite as I expected but
then again things never do!
At the mornings skippers meeting, the 2 fleet qualifying round was switched to a 80 board single fleet start. This puts a huge emphasis on starts as recovering in a 80 board fleet is much harder as the mid fleet traffic is tough to get around.

We started off the day with a 1-1/2 hour postponent untill the onshore breeze filled in. By the first start, the wind was in the low to mid teens but 1 general recall pulled the fleet back again for another try. Most were on their 12.0s as the breeze built more. I managed a decent start near the pin in relatively clear air and made my first tack just shy of the port layline when I heard a BIG CARBON CRACK and my sail cave in. Immediately I knew my boom had broken- not anywhere where I had made the previous 3 reinforcements on the wide custom tail but just a few inches back from where it fits into the back of the boom arm.
I made the slow painful sail back in (cursing myself for shotty workmanship and something totally preventable) but once ashore, tried not to think about it anymore and focus my energy on the next race. I put the new back end on the 12.3 but realized I'd be better off with the 11.0 the next race in the building breeze. Sure enough by race 2 the wind was up to 18-20k and a decent onshore chop. 1 more general recall saved me but the next start I was well below a few guys and eating dirty air the first beat up. I tacked early to find a lane and was fighting my way up the middle of the fleet. Downwind I gained a few boards by sailing deeper and faster but lost them again upwind as I rounded just behind a big pack and couldn't manage to keep a lane upwind and had to tack earlier than I wanted. By the top mark things were really heating up with some decent swell. Just as I tacked on the layline my sail bagged bagged out. Not another breakdown I thought but this time it was only the back pully that ripped out from the back of my boom. I managed to sail the final downwind with a very baggy sail but not loose anyone.
I guess it could have been worse as I managed to finish mid fleet in 41st.
Race 3 saw some major clouds moving in from the land which killed the onshore breeze but not before we managed the start. I actually headed out early as I wanted to be fully prepared and in control this time around. I tested the line with BRA 999 and got some line sights. By 30 secs to the start I saw a huge mid line sag and just went for it starting 2-3 board lengths above the guys around me and managed a great start. 1 minute later, the RC abandoned the race as the wind
almost shut down completely.
As I put the day behind me, I realize you"re only as good as you can recover. So here's to the next 5 days and making some better luck for myself!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pre worlds training.

Welcome to Santa Pola Spain, site of the 2009 Formula World Championships.

International competitors have been ariving all week in prep for the biggest Formula Windsurfing event this year. 100+ of the fastest sailors are expected from around the world. At the moment the Spanish Champs are going on now here but no foreigners allowed!

That's given me a bit more of a chance to informally line up with lots of top sailors in a non racing format. I've taken the opportunity to test fins and fine tune my equipment for the best performance. So far the 12.3 north warp and 73xxs kashy on the starboard 160 are going good but hopeful I'm going to get the chance to use the 10.0 in stronger winds, like I've practiced all season. Racing for the World Championships commence early in the week and run thru the wekend.

Results and photos can be found at www. and when I can, updates here & at

More to come over the next few days.



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Friday, September 4, 2009

2009 Bridge to Bridge race

Sometimes the race is won (or lost) before you even get to the starting line!
That was the case for the 2009 Bridge to Bridge race which puts kites, skiffs and boards on an all out downwind speed run of 7.5 miles across the San Francisco Bay.

By the time I left the beach to make it up to the starting line- just outside the Golden Gate bridge, I already knew I was in trouble.
I opted to make a last minute switch and go for my bigger 11.0 rig while the rest of the formula fleet choose wisely with their 10.0 rigs. I was gunning for 'hero status' but somehow my instinct noted it would be 'idiot status!'
Enjoy the video from Sailgroove

The pre-start saw mountains of swell and voodoo chop outside the Gate with gust into the mid 20's. Just getting my head turned around for a downwind start was tough enough, despite the 59 other vessels lining up for the start. I got a bit distracted with 3 minutes to go when a Aussie 18 flipped to windward of me and dragged me down. I knew the red nun of the starting line would be favored but couldn't get there in time and had to start in more turbulent waters near the starting boat.
The leaders were off before I could even get going...not that I was ever really going as I was trying to hold onto the 11.0 in 3-4' chop and 20k+ gusts coming through the Gate.
Never give up I thought to myself.
Its a long race.
Anything can happen.

Sure enough the 11.0 was more than a handful on the way down and I never really got the chance to put the pedal to the metal and light everything up.
Up in front there were some dramatic lead changes in the last 100m to the finish.
Crad had a great jump on the fleet, completely dialed on his North 9.8 and ML8 but sat parked- almost able to reach across the line but never cross it. The kiters too had their moments but just in front of the finish line they all dropped their kites when the TI bubble hit 0-5k. Sure enough, like every year, the Aussi 18's with a few hundred square feet of sail area came blazing across the parking lot of stood up windsurfers and swimming kiters to get the bullet as well as 2nd place before Frank Wittke of France, the 1st kiter finally got across for 3rd.
Almost 4 minutes later, Percy was able to cross the line in 9th place and 1st windsurfer in an unspectacular non planning finish.
I managed to finish but it wasn't pretty in 15th place- just ahead of the legendary Ragtime, a 45-year-old wooden Spencer 65 from Newport Beach, Calif.
Then again only 22 out of the 59 boards, kites and boats that entered actually got across the line in the 30 minute time limit after the first finisher.
Ill take the small victories where I can and hopefully be all the wiser for the next race.
Full Results
And yes, the unveiling of the new L10 by Mike Z. Fresh out of the peel ply this morning with no paint and no grip.