Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 5 US Windsurfing Champs

5 days of full on racing finally took its toll on me.
Despite wanting to keep going, the body said no more and I wisely listened.

I sat the final 3 slalom heats out after swimming around the first slalom marks- totally out of energy. Sometimes, when the body talk, you need to listen.
Earlier the day, we got our final 2 course races in.
Determined to get Al and Crad who were just a few points in front of me, I went out early again to get prepared and feel comfortable around the course. I had the 10.7 dialed. The flood tide was ripping and everything felt great. Unfortunately I pulled the trigger 1 second late at the start as CRad got the jump from below me and shot out. I was buried in the 2nd row. With bad air the rest of the race, I never was able to get it going.
For the final race, the wind was up to 16-22k and the chop an ever increasing factor on the course- especially downwind. I got off the very well and was the first to the shore taking advantage of the lift right to the top mark. The guys that started above me all over stood and I was looking in good shape rounding in the top 5
Downwind though was another story. With the marks almost 2.25 miles apart- it was going to be a long ride. The w-end bot traffic was out. The course was crowed with ferries, container ships, fishing boats and pleasure boats. I was already starting to get overpowered with the super soft Z fin and had my foot firmly planted in the double chicken for control until I ran into what seemed like 5 sets of voodoo chop right after another.
On the last one my nose plowed into the final set and I went down hard.
It took me another minute to get it all back together and I fought back on the next 3 legs like I never have before and was just able to overcome Eric a few meters before the finish. I thought I might have gotten S3 as we were overlapped at the finish but he had the advantage being to weather. It came down to the last point and I was able to squeeze S3 out and make the top 10 overall.
Chris and Al both sailed excellent races and got me in the end. I really admire the effort they put into their programs the past years building a brand new fin company from the ground up when they didnt have access to good fins in the limited world of high performance windsurfing parts.
They may not have it all right now but they are certainly doing something right.

A bit further up in the fleet, Seth was battling it out with Aurlien for 4th place overall.
They were practicably match racing up the final beats throwing in tack after tack and totally forgot about Fernando behind them who slipped in front of Seth and Aurlien and eliminated any chance Seth had to pick up 4th place.
Even in the hardest fought battles, you cant forget about the big picture.
And finally at the top, McGain took the final bullet after Paulo sat out the last race knowing he could use throw out and still win. A very impressive regatta by both never out of the top 2 exuding their throw outs!
Final results
Paulo dos Rios crowned the course racing champion.
Phil McGain crowned the overall Formula North American champion and overall champion- placing the best in all 3 disciplines and winning the inaugural Bill Weir memorial trophy.
Finally it was Wilhelm Schurmann taking the slalom after Peter Bilj had an OCS in the 3rd slalom final.
A superb week of sailing hosted by the StFYC.
Thanks to all the volunteers, sponsors and RC that made it happen.

here's some video- about 1/2 through the slalom racing start...enjoy!

Day 4 US Windsurfing Nationals

I finally got things going my way on the 4th day of competition after struggling to find my groove earlier in the week. A few mistakes always put me back in the fleet around 10th place but Friday's 6th place in course racing was due to some good preparation. I got out the the water 30 minutes before the 1st start and sailed the course, tested the line and fingured out a strategy for the day.I knew I wanted a mid to pin end start and to get to the shore first to take advantage of the inside life.
With the wind still light, I choose my NP 10.7, and Z fin for maximum power.
Sure enough I popped off the line well with a good lane and speed squeezing off my competition to weather by holding onto the uphaul, standing the rig upright and getting better angle.
From there, it was just making sure I didnt make any big mistakes and stayed with the top pack. Paulo and Phil were well ahead but the rest of the pack of Wilhelm, Seth, Xavier, Aurlien and Fernando all showed the speed and consistency that's gotten them to the top of the score board.
I really wanted this one and worked so hard to get it, passing Xavier on the first downwind then having to line up behind Aurlien and Fernado at the leeward mark. There was no way I was getting my nose in to find a lane to windward so I just footed off and went for speed, gaining a few board lengthes the 2nd upwind. Finally as the 2 tacked inside me , I held out a few more board lengths to account for the building flood tide. I made it around while the other 2 had to double tack and then downwind concentrated on the next 2. Seth and Wilhelm were in a tight battle but it seemed I had better speed and was catching up. Wilhelm immediatly tacked after the leeward mark so I followed Seth up to the starboard tack layline at the finish and just as we approached the last 30 seconds of the race, Wilhelm came in to plant a good cover on me to get 5th. Migual managed a small comeback after sitting out the last few races die to injury and placed a very respectable 3rd.
With that I gained the points I lost in yesterdays long distance race and now its even closer between Al, CRad, Sylvester and myself. It looks like Saturday's last 2 races will determine the top 10.

Around 3 we switched to our 2nd day of slalom racing and got several more rounds off but not before the freestyles had their expression session. This years freestyle exhibition had bothan old school and new school division.

I honestly had no idea of half the moves they were attempting with names like poncho villas, willey skippesr air gratchos. I think everyone was stoked we included the new discipline this year as it increases participation + got loads of people interested on the beach.
Slalom racing was the most fun Ive had in a long time. A 2 minute heat brings as much adrenaline as racing a 20 min course race. Every mark, I was overlapped and rounded full lit.
Having the 130l board with the 7.0 allowed me to squeeze out of a few light spots and almost qualify for the finals but on the last gybe- having 2nd all but locked up, I let Jean and David slip by and beat me across the line for the final spots.

Thanks to Shawn Davis for the great photos.
Be sure to check out the rest of his photos here

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 3 US Windsurfing National Championships

Day 3 of the US Windsurfing National Championship in San Francisco saw racers spread out across the San Francisco Bay in a long distance race to Treasure Island and back to Crissy Field before 6 heats of slalom were run in gusty but reasonable conditions.

Consistency was the name of the game for Phil McGain who took the long distance race after Paulo des Rios mistook the mid course gate for the leeward mark and started back upwind.
It wasn't long ago that McGain gave up one of San Francisco most famous long distance races- the SF Classic by sailing right passed R4 and let the local fleet slip by. This time, he had his notebook for reference with course diagrams, tides and weather info.
The long distance race started and restarted and finally restarted again under the black flag with the outgoing ebb tide pulling sailors across the line and over early. Finally in the last start, I decided enough - and I would start on port ducking the fleet- making sure to get out the the right side but the inside lift finally paid off at the beach with the majority of the starboard tackers getting upwind first.
From there it was a slow but steady downwind run in 16-22k through multiple lanes of ferry traffic and fishing trawlers and over some short steep chop along the city front that had racers gybing multiple times through some rough waters and then through 2 gates: one stationed in front of the StFYC and the other off Blossom Rock on the north east side of the city and finally down to a leeward mark stationed north of Treasure Island before heading back upwind- in reverse order through the Blossom Rock gate and to the finish in front of the StFYC.
The pecking order was pretty much established with the top 10 staying pretty much in that order.
Finally with an hour rest break, the slalom fleets were established and 6 full rounds of slalom were run in 12-18k before the wind diminished too much on the inside of the course- set just off Crissy Field. I had a 6.0 and 7.0 north warp ready to run with 3 boards to choose from: ml 95l slalom, 105l JP slalom and 125l F2 slalom. After a few practice runs it quickly became apparent I would need the biggest board and most powerful sail to keep the drive in the light patches near shore. I quickly rigged up to the 42cm fin and 125l board and had enough power to keep it lit the entire course just behind Phil McGain take to take 2nd in the blue fleet.

Other winners included Peter Bilj, Wilhelm Schurman. After 5 rounds, the top 2 sailors from each of the 5 - 8 man heats will advance to the final round. Hopefully by tomorrow, we'll have a better opportunity to get through the qualifying rounds and into the finals.
Friday is also the start of the freestyle discipline with old school and new school heats starting as soon as the wind is up.

Racers can expect at least another 3-4 course races and several rounds of slalom over the next 2 days of the event.
Slalom photos
Long Distance photos
Waterhound report

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 2 US Windsurfing National Champs

Despite the persistent marine layer and winter like temps in SF, the 2010 US Windsurfing Championship are getting some quality racing in after 2 solid days on the water.
7 races have been run testing sailors' abilities, tactics, stamina and most importantly- warmth retention.
The 5/3 winter wetsuits came out on day 2 as most sailors found staying warm all day long between was priority number 1. There must be enough warm blood in Paulo Des Rios Brazilian body because he hasn't let up taking a 1, 2, 2 and staying on top of the scoreboard. He did prove to have some human characteristics after all- switching down to the 10m rig for the last race after dominating on his 12m thus far.
Phil McGain is sailing as consistent as ever- even with a 6 year old starboard 159 and proving experience counts in this game!

The rest of the professional fleet are sailing in a league of their own but the SF locals are mixing it up every so often. Seth Besse is finding his groove and is now with in striking distance of Aurien le Matayer in 4th place.
Fernando Martinez of Spain and Xavier Ferlet of England are also sailing a great series- never out of the top 7 in a very competitive fleet.
Just behind the top pack, the rest of the SF fleet is battling it out amongst themselves with Al Mirel, Chris Radkowski, Steve Sylvester and myself all within 3 points of each other.
I've found myself sailing very fast this series but just havnt been able to keep it together to the finish where it counts.
The first race of the day, I got off the line well and was in the top 6 going downwind, trading gybes with Besse downwind and keeping the pressure on until disaster as i stuck my nose into the chop and had a total yard sale downwind. Taking some advise from my sometimes training partner, Seth, I got mad and sailed faster! One by one I picked off the boards in front of me and finally grinded off Crad on the last upwind leg to finish 9th.
Sometimes it's all about the recovery.
Race 6 saw me overstanding the top mark and letting Crad and Al get me at the finish.
Finally I said, enough mistakes and decided to go for it all in race 7- getting off the line super well by taking advantage of the mid line sag of the approaching starboard takers and finding a clear lane on FRA-105 leeward hip and making our way to the right side.
Downwind I practically sailed with my head looking backwards for the puffs coming down the city front. In great shape, I rode a personal puff right into last chance beach- east of the StFYC only to be stuck there for a good 30 seconds in a completely dead zone as the next 6 guys went blazing past with the puff on the outside. That's the price you pay for sailing to the corners! I wasnt able to recover from that one despite my best efforts and finished 11th.
On a more positive note, I did manage to win my protest and get some redress points- only to have Sylvester move in front of me as my throw outs are as consistent as the rest of my scores. With that in mind, it looks like the new strategy is to take some more high risk moves in order to gain as Ive the room in my scores for at least another throwout if things dont go well.
Looking at the forecast thurday morning, I wonder if its possible to have too much fog in San Francisco as we're stuck with the marine layer overhead again for Day 3.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 1 US Windsurfing Champs/Formula North Americans

Day 1 of the 2010 US Windsurfing Championships in San Francisco started in overcast SF skies with the breeze never really filing into its full potential.
4 races were run in 15-20k and a flat water flood tide.
No voodoo chop just yet but some spectacular racing in very tight competition among the 46 man formula fleet.
Paulo Des Rios from Brazil took control from the start capturing 3/4 bullets while on his north 12.0 while the rest of fleet sailed on 10-11m rigs in the building breeze
Phil McGain stole the 2nd race as BRA333 took a flyer to the shore off the leeward mark and gave up the race.
Aurlien Le Metayer- racing on a mikes lab formula board after good results this w-end- looked like he was going to take race 3 after a commanding lead from the windward mark but took the puff right into shore with out a another puff to bring him back out to the leeward mark. BRA333 and BRA999 took advantage of the more consistent wind in the middle of the SF Bay and passed him to finish out the top 3.
With a small break between race and 4 many sailors took the opportunity to scale down their kits to a smaller fin and rig. I went from the NP 10.7 and Z fin down to a NP 9.5 and kashy 70 but it just wasnt enough as the flood tide got the better of me at several marks and I had to double tack to make the top and bottom marks.
SF sailor Seth Besse is putting in the best local performance - sitting in 5th after the days racing.
phot0 credit: Shawn Davis
Crad and Al are both 1 point in front of me but hopefully with some redress points after tomorrows hearing- things will look better for me. Xavier and I got tangled up in race 4 at the windward mark but both felt we were in the right- so it's up to the jury to decide!
I felt really fast with good angle in 3/4 races always passing the guys in front of me but got set back by some sloppy rounding and bad laylines. It wasn't until the 3rd race when I got pretty OP'ed on the 10.7 and super soft fin that I couldn't really put the hammer down.
So far the fleet has been split on the starts with the port tackers charging the line not backing down for the approaching starboard tackers running the line. I didnt have that much confidence knowing a simple collision could take me out for the regatta- so I ended up ducking most of the starboard fleet but getting off to the right side- which seemed more favored.
phot0 credit: Shawn Davis
Downwind- it's all about staying in the pressure as things got lighter inside but occasionally the gods would be smiling and send down a personal puff taking you right to the mark.
I had some good battles with ESP- 71 but he always seemed to come out on top.
Now- it's just waiting for the breeze to kick in and applying the local knowledge that works so well.
Waterhound report:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday night racing July 16

Strange evening of racing as big breeze never showed up but was
present around parts of course.
Big lulls. Big Midwest lake sailing all over again.
I rigged Np 9.5 with base at 36cm and 3.5" downhaul. Mast track at
45" from fin screw. Booms 85% up in sleeve.
Kashy 70 xs.
Fluekey and shifty racing in 10-20k
Missed a few key puffs otherwise good performance. Sometimes it's all
about timing as I rounded top mark in 2nd or 3rd in light breeze and
gybed to outside for breeze while 20 sec later guys from behind get
big puff straight to gybe mark.
That's racing! You try to eliminate the variables but sometimes it's
beyond your control.
I overstood top mark in race 1w/ strong ebb and lost out Al. Bra999
sailed much faster and better angle.
Ocs in race 3 as I pulled trigged too early not accounting for ebb.
Crad and al on f4 going consistantly well. Wells sailing better w/
ML10 and north 10.0.
Others were up and down in the shifts.
I finished strong 2nd behind bra999 in last race when I really put my
mind into it. You've got to really want it to get it!
Speed good.
Still need angle as bra999 was going higher but good on rest of fleet.
Should have had 10.7 in hindsight.
Always rig for lulls!
Finished 4th behind al crad and bra999.
Good prep for upcoming us nationals in SF starting on 20th.


Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 SF Classic/UN Challange

What can be said about the SF Classic and Ultra Nectar Challenge that hasn't been said before.
The longest running long distance windsurfing race in some of the toughest conditions imaginable!
A 40+ mile distance taking the formula boards and kiters out the golden gate and 8 times across the SF Bay, down to the bottom of the Berkeley pier for the SF Classic and back the the StFYC for the UN Challenge.
Seth Besse dominated both races in the 25 board formula fleet with an elapsed time of 1 hour and 46 minutes while kiters Johnny Heineken and Joey Pasquali each took the upwind and downwind portions of their race respectively but still were well off the pace of the top boards with best elapsed finish time by Chip Wasson in 2 hours and 2 minutes

The wind graph off Angel Island pretty much sums it up.
35k at Point Blunt.
I did not sail to win.
I sailed to survive.

Multiple blow ups on the way downwind and upwind had me thinking about about stopping to retire at Treasure Island at least a few times as that was our designated safe spot- guaranteed for a ride back to SF with the RC.
Each time, however, I was able to dig a bit deeper and hang on a little bit longer.
It was a respectable 5th for me in the SF Classic and just happy to have made it back home across the finish line for the UN Challenge.
Ive sailed in 8 or 9 SF Classics and can say this was one of the windiest and most challenging Ive ever done.
My muscles are still sore thinking about it.

Anyways- here's my recollection of how things staked up.

With a 2pm start- it still looked manageable with 15-20k at the start set just off Crissy field.
I lined up prepared with my fastest set up- NP 9.5 rig, ML10 and 67 kashy fin.
I'd been running the top half of the course the last few days and felt comfortable - even fast but wasn't pushing 100% with my back still recovering from over training a few weeks back.
I got off the start brilliantly on port tack- getting almost up to the bridge only to realize it was a general recall. I high tailed it back and just made the restart- getting a decent position off the line on starboard tack.
I flopped over taking advantage of the shore lift and set up for the long the first of many grinding legs. Ben Bamer was gunning from the start but over stood the top mark while Seth called it perfectly tacking under the bridge and straight out to the red nun buoy set west of the south tower of the golden gate bridge. I lost Xavier here over standing as well but was in the hunt in the top 4 with Wells, and Purcell in hot pursuit towards the next mark- set just inside the north tower. We gybed in a messy stew of vodoo chop, current and boat wake and in no time were off to the presidio shoal buoy set just off the old coast guard station in from Ft. Point.
This can sometimes be where the race is won or lost as there's a huge opportunity for separation as the wind is much lighter set in the lee of Presidio just out from the wind line.
I was able to overtake Xavier as he showed a moment of weakness coming into the mark high as the rest of us put some money in the bank and heated it up as it got lighter
Seth wasnt able to make a break yet but had a good lead as we headed back upwind to the red nun for the 2nd time.

photo credit: seirra photos
Xavier and I were batteling it out for 3rd grinding upwind as Tom Purcell held his own in 2nd with Well and Bamer not far behind.
Once more out the gate and across to the north tower saw things stay heated up and finally we were off downwind to Anita rock with Seth in first, Tom in 2nd and me holding onto 3rd with Wells and Xavier breathing down my neck.
I let the 2 of the get by me the next leg as Xavier went high Wells went low to Harding rock set across the Bay on the western edge of Angel Island.
As we gybed and made out way down to Blossom rock, things really heated up
The swell below Alcatrez was big and the breeze building to 25k+
I went from running in the double chicken strap to running with my foot in the leeward strap just for control. The next thing I knew I was blind sides by a wave the took my feet out right from under neath me. A quick water start but Wells was able to slip by.
Blossom Rock was a feat to maneuver around with my cams still fully inverted fighting for control as I made a conservative gybe trying not to explode
The next leg was pure hell with no comfortable way around it.
Somewhere between a beam reach and a close reach on a formula board is pretty much the most uncomfortable position you would ever want to piut yourself in. Add 4-6' breaking swell and the wind now gusting above 30k.
I made it around Point Blunt only to encounter more of the same on the way to Blossom Rock set west of Treasure Island.
At that point it was a blur of some of the hairiest sailing I have ever done on the Bay.
Im not sure when Eric went past me as I didnt even see him till we got in.
I tried to reel David in on the way down to R4 and R2 set below Alcatrez and Angel Island but was fighting just for survival. I missed the opportunity to gain more as David extended his lead by sailing well past R2 before gyning and finding some flatter water for better control.
I gybed immediately and stumbled upon the top of the pier.
At that point I was hurting but had enough momentum to keep pushing as Sylvester was now with in striking distance behind me.
I held on the last 2 legs going to the Olympic circle X mark and finally down to the bottom of the pier unable to catch Wells for 4th as top 3 squeezed in a good 2 minutes in front of me. Besse, Eric and Xavier took the honors.
There was a bit of confusion as the finish boat that's normally at the bottom gap in the pier was stationed in the middle of the pier but in any case we were back grinding upwind for the long beat home and the Ultra Nectar Challenge.
With Sylvester hot on my tail and slowly gaining I looked down to see a good patch of sea grass trailing from my fin. A quick back down let Steve get by me but the real test was coming ahead.
Port tack seemed an eternal punishment for all the bad things I had done in my life.
I was getting pounded never able to put the hammer down.
Wave after wave- the board was flying well out of the water across the top of the 4-6 swell.
In hindsight its easy to look back and say- yea another 1" forward on the mast track would have quieted things down. Picking the right direction upwind and staying out of the big stuff would have been another step in the right direction but I was getting all the punishment that was coming to me.
Just as I was making up some distance on Wells in front of me, I got slammed several times and ended up in the eddy behind Alactrez fighting against myself as I got too close to the shore.
50' later it was blowing 25k and I couldn't even get to it.
The fishermen around me must have though I was quite a spectacle, cursing the gods above, uphauling and falling in multiple times in the swirling eddy.
I thought to myself- keep it together and just finish the race.
10 minutes later I made it across the the finish line but well off the pace of the top boards who made the journey in 41 minutes.

Sunday was a blur with my head never in the game for course racing.
Choosing the right sail would have at least got me in the top pack but I struggled with a hangover and being underpowered with the 9.5 rig in what seemed like a mild day of racing in 12-17k.
Besse pulled another string of bullets.
I came ashore and collapsed after 4 races.
1 week to recover before doing it all again for 5 days of racing on the city front for the 2010 US Windsurfing National Championships.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Friday Night Series- July 2

I'm not sure what was worse these past 2 weeks- no time on the water or lower back pain every time I bent from the waist. My recovery was going well and I decided to give it a shot for Friday night racing at the St. Francis YC.
I was still feeling stiff but manageable.

Conditions were 13-17k and gusty so I rigged NP 10.7, ML10 and Z fin.
Most of the 14 board fleet was on 11 with a few on 10's expecting the breeze to fill in.

I got lucky and sailed smart tonight taking 3 bullets.
Race 1 saw Soheil fall just at B leaving me a nice lane to go upwind with no pressure from above. Eric called weather lay-line first and we rounded close and rode a puff 1/2 way to beach. I gybed sooner and got going again as the breeze was steady outside. The NP 10.7 really accelerates well off the breeze from a standstill. I left the other guys behind and rounded the leeward mark in front carrying in to the wind line just shy of the wall and having to make 1 more tack to the finish. Eric finished a close 2nd with Al, David and Crad finishing out the top 5.

Race 2 saw Crad and myself well matched upwind off the line. He had angle while I had speed. I'm finding the Z fin is faster if you let it sail it's own course.
Fins like the cut down F4 BB with a wider chord (that Crad was using) have more upwind grunt and seem to be very well matched with the wide ML10.
After rounding Anita rock just behind CRad, we both gybed and headed to the outside
I got the jump on Crad downwind by calling the layline to the leeward mark and just sailing in enough towards the sea wall to make finish in 1 tack while others has to double tack.
Rounding out the top of the fleet was Crad, Wells and Soheil.

Race 3 - Ebb was increasing so I made my approach with enough room below the line to get going at 2-3 seconds and not be over early. It was a good start- winning the pin end and climbing on those below me with the inside lift. I rounded just behind Crad in light breeze.
We both immediately gybed only to have fleet sail over us and finally get going.
As we headed out to the middle of the Bay- it was apparent we were going higher and higher just to keep in the fading pressure so I looked behind and saw Wells riding a nice puff down the middle. A quick gybe to get back in the pressure and that was enough to send me deep in the puff right to the mark and take the final bullet.
Racing called for night as things lightened up too much.
A wise call by JC on the race deck.
5 minutes later there was no wind at Anita but the fleet took off for some upwind training.
Below is Al video from post race training.