If you would have told me- there would be 35+ windsurfers racing on the SF city front in 2015 I would have laughed at you and told you to get a to kite and join the foiling revolution.
While the San Francisco Bay windsurfing scene provided the roots for the latest kite & foil board racing, whats old is new again. 3 new slalom series are making their debut in SF this summer- proving windsurfing - a sport nearly 50 years old is still alive and well and constantly reinventing itself. This time around, we've learned lessons and are building the fleet from the bottom up with a focus on the B fleet and getting more non racers into the fold.
Slalom is a quick, easy to understand format with broad reach starts, 3-4 gybe marks and a reaching finish 4 minutes later. Its probably the most exciting windsurfing discipline around- as the fleet comes charging into the 1st mark lit out of their minds, laying down carving gybes. Its a concept even the non racer can understand. If you can gybe a windsurfer and get back upwind, you can race. No specialized equipment needed for the B fleet but the A fleet is totally open.
It started as a grass roots effort to get more people back into windsurfing racing and ended up surprising us all by the amount of enthusiasm generated. The Crissy Field Slalom Series began as a pipe dream with no RC boat, marks, anchors or even an PRO but with some modern ideas it all worked out. The idea to crowd fund the series came about with no sponsors and none of us wanting to go into debt to make the idea work if competitors bailed at the last minute with no wind. We reached out to the community-asking for small donations and gave racers a discount if they pre registered for the series. Soon enough we had 35 sailors signed up, paid & raised 150% of our goal. The basics were covered to run the series. 4 races are planned, once a month on Saturday afternoons at Crissy Field. With as many sailors registered for the B fleet as the A expect fleet, it was already a success.
The 2nd series is more a less a spin off from our existing Friday Night Course Racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club. In lieu of course racing, we're trying slalom races for 4 of the nights. Even before the 1st race, we had more people signed up for the slalom racing, than the regular course racing. The StFYC has been monumental in developing and fostering the sport of windsurfing from the beginning with the Friday Night Windsurfing series, the SF Classic (run since the late 70') and Bridge to Bridge race, just to name a few. The 2 series share the same course- utilizing a series of set permanent and set marks from Anita Rock down to the A & B buoys off the StFYC.
The 3rd series is the Rio Vista Grand Slam to be held on July 9-12th on Sherman Island in the delta. Its bound to be a great windy event with slalom, freestyle and speed disciplines.
For the lowdown on the 1st weekend of racing- keep reading....
Organizing 2 events is way more work than I ever imagined. I'm lucky to have Jean and Soheil teamed up for the Crissy Field Slalom Series. Its been 2 months of organizing, fundraising, and developing a plan for the series to start from scratch. A huge shout out to all the sponsors making the series happen as well as the volunteers conning together at the last minute.
Robbie Dean was hired to be the PRO and he provided the boat, marks, set the course. We got volunteers as beach masters and scorers at the StFYC race deck. Everything was falling into place and I was able to focus on the racing.
I was really worried there for a minute as the B fleets first race day saw them floundering around the 1st mark in very light wind conditions but they all floundering together and came back for more with smiles on their face.
We ran the A fleet back to back while the B fleet got some extra time to get back upwind to beach & starting line and started every 3rd heat. 11 heats were run with the A fleet getting 7 races and the B fleet 4 races as the breeze finally built to 25-30k for the last 2 races making for some very exciting slalom racing .
It's been an a weird wind pattern the last few weeks with the puffs big but the holes even bigger. Normally you rig for the puffs here but this week it was all about the lulls. For the 1st 4 races, I had the ML 89cm wide board and avanti m-2 10.0 rig with 59cm kashy fin and made out extraordinary at the 1st mark rounding where it was lightest and most of the fleet had 70cm wide boards and 8.6 as their biggest rig. Even though we were sailing the lightwind course, there were still streaky winds on the 2 inside gybe marks at the top of the course.
If you've got an advantage- you've got use it.
I scored a 4, 1, 1, 2 putting me close behind Sean Kelly going into the last race before the break. That's when the wind picked up. The 10.0 became more of a handful than it was worth and I struggled to let 2 boards pass me on the final reach to finish as it gusted up to 20k.
We took a quick break and I secured the avanti m-2 7.7, 70cm ml slalom board and 45cm F4 fin for the final 2 races. I was lit as it approached 25k down the course. I had a great start as Sean and I got out to an early lead after the 1st mark. He's got great board handling skills and gybes and never once gave me an opportunity to pass. Another 2nd it would be.
The final race it was solid 25-30k and the chop was building. I sent it with everything I had and nailed the start with just Xavier in front at the 1st rounding. Sean was out as he blew up at the mark just behind me. I pushed and even made for the pass as Xavier made a conservative but wide gybe on mark 2 but he put the hammer down and took the last bullet, nailing the rest of his gybes and having blistering speed to the finish. Another 2nd but that would be enough to secure 2nd for the day. Jason Voss and Jean Rathle were right up there in the mix looking comfortable in the breeze. Chip Wasson made his re-appearance on some borrowed gear- making it actually look harder than it is.
I'm glad to see us both struggling in each others native fleets.
On the StFYC Friday night side- I had just enough volunteers 2 hours before the race to pull it off. Still through it didn't go as smooth as planned. Volunteers always seem to vanish and appear at the last minute. Our marks slipped in the flood tide and we had to adjust the fly. I was on RC for the night with JK on the start boat. We were sharing the city front course with the woodies and the GGYC keel boats and errored on the side of caution calling it after only 3 races when all 3 fleets started to converge. There's nothing worse than a woodie-windsurfer sandwich to ruin your whole weekend.
All in all- a successful 1st weekend racing with 2 events proving their concepts and ultimately bringing a a few more slalom fans into the mix. I couldn't be happier seeing new and old friends at the beach enjoying racing again for the 1st or hundredth time.
Again- a huge thanks to the following for their support: Bluerush Boardsport, 101 Surf Sports, Boarsports California, F4 foils, Westerm Magnetics, Stepstone, Darriau Building and Design, SandyPoint, Aerotech, Ronstan, Ultra Nectar, Streetsailing, Soheil Zaheti IT consulting, North Sails, Fanatic, Alamo Square Seafood Grill, La Ventana Windsports, Sailing Anarchy and sb Design,
More photos here from Daniel Wong
Thanks for Daniel Wong, Christophe Sabineu, Lyrah, James Mazzanti, Stephanie and Olan for the photos