Thursday, June 15, 2006

RSX Europenas

With over 150 windsurfers from over 30 counties, the RSX Europeans was the biggest regatta thus far in the new Olympic windsurfing class. It might have been the world championship, as sailors were well tuned up after ending the European spring series.

I had come to the regatta with a different set of expectations- not looking for results but to find out what it takes to sail this board in light wind. I knew my weakness from the previous regatta this year and had to face up to it, in order to move on and up in the fleet.

Fortunately, we are blessed with moderate winds here in SF. I have been fortunate to develop good board-handling skills and proper endurance to race comfortably in the breeze. Unfortunately most venues are not as lucky as us in terms of getting a good breeze to make windsurfing exciting.

I arrived in Turkey several days before the event to get tuned up. In the 3 days of practice, I fell well tuned, placing in the middle of the fleet in practice races but as soon as the regatta started the breeze disappeared. Out of 5 days of racing and 10 total races, we had 2 decent planning races. The rest were light wind racing in marginal planning conditions 5-12k. The lighter sailors were able to get planning sooner and walk away with speed. Optimal weight is still a big factor in this class. I am realizing at 175 lbs, I will not be competitive in the light stuff but rather, should optimize my strengths. In the second day of the regatta, I found myself sailing near the top 10 in the breeze and finished 18th for my best race of the regatta. The remaining races were spent in challenging conditions making me realize sailing is really a lifetime sport. You never can be too humble! Regardless of my frustration, I began to pick up some good technique for upwind pumping and by the last day was sailing better than when I arrived. I guess that's all one can ask- that you improve and don't make the same mistakes twice!

I am looking forward to the rest of the season here and abroad. In the upcoming months, I have several key regattas and training camps in preparation for the World championship in September and the Olympic pre-trials in October.

Steve Bodner, USA 4

Here are some summaries from racing:

Day 1

2 races in first day of RsX European championships. Men's fleet was split into 2 fleets of 27 sailors. First race winds were up and down with 5-12k shifty from left to right. I got off the line at the pin but had a group of sailors come over the top of me immediately so I fell off a plane. The smart choice would have been to tack away and go for clear air but I kept going instead. I ended up playing the middle right side of the course which was the wrong decision as the winds are going left middle and there was more of a geographical shift off the line coming from the left shore. The course was double windward leeward with 2 gybe slalom marks near the finish. I was all over the course trying to find wind but didn't quite get into the groove- finishing 39th.

The 2nd race the wind came up to a solid 15-20 where I felt better. Actually my speed and pointing were really well with my base set at 30. I was able to tune up before the race getting everything dialed into a good setting. I again started near the pin middle side of the line but got rolled. I knew I wanted to go to the left side so I kept going getting a lane underneath the fleet. I rounded in decent position near the top 15 and got going well downwind. I managed to pass a few boards off the breeze as well as up wind but my mark roundings had much work to do! The 2nd upwind I went the left again with good speed and angle sailing below a few sailors on the long upwind. You have to send it deep immediately after the windward mark to gain any sort of advantage. I lost 1 or 2 sailors here as they snuck past me but finished a respectable 18th.

Some things to remember:

- more downhaul in heavy wind 28-30

-rail board upwind the light stuff and go for speed rather than angle

-downwind go for the butterfly pump but shorter more efficient strokes- less side to side so the nose of the board does not swing

Day 4 Europeans:

2 races today- 1 light and medium breeze. The 2nd race I had much better results as I stayed planning the whole race and even managed to catch a few people.

I am learning some things that are useful- especially in the light breeze where you need to foot to get decent speed. Crack off a bit, rail the board and pump like hell. The board speed really increases as well as some angle- otherwise you just point and go no where!

Another big lesson is never ever give up- no matter how bad it may seem threes still room to get back in the game. In the first race today, I rounded last- dead last- but finally at the leeward mark managed to get a puff and pass 10 boards on the slalom reaches.

In the last race things headed up somewhat for decent track back planning racing. It was 12-15k from the north with some small shifts going left. I got off the line a bit slow but got over to the left side early . I reached the shore, tacked over and climbed back to the middle. I tacked near the other shore and really had to pump and make the windward mark. I bagged the sail out and pointed up, getting a few boards that overstood in the process. Downwind, I sailed down to the corner , but the wind got lighter down there. I should have gybed back early and stayed in the breeze. You really need to work to get the board planning as things get marginal. This is where some serious months of cardio would be beneficial.

Back upwind, I rounded with traffic and had to foot off to get a lane. Otherwise things looked good around the top 20. Best finish so far with a 18th. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel!

Post regatta: A lot of work here at the euros- a real eye opener but I think Ill keep giving it a push - after all you only live once and you need to find your limit somehow- Id rather find it myself rather than let someone else push me there!