Monday, May 26, 2008

Begium Formula and Slalom Championships

I didnt have to travel far for the Belgium Formula and Slalom Championship as they were held in the Dutch Delta at Grevelingen Strand- a mere stone's throw south of the industrial port town of Rotterdam on the Dutch coast. The dutch delta is an amazing feat of engineering created after the devastating floods in the 1950's. Since then the Dutch government has created one of the most extensive engineering projects in the world cited as the world's largest flood protection project with over 10,250 miles of dikes. Source: Wikipedia.
With relatively shallow water, plenty of open water, beaches and wind, the Delta Works have created their own little a windsurfing paradise least in the dutch standard ;0
The Belgiums seem to enjoy it enough to have part of their national series here.
The first day of the competition turned out to be a spectacular day with the breeze building to 15-20 knots by mid afternoon.
4 formula course races were run in gusty shifty conditions before the fleet switch to figure 8 slalom racing for the rest of the afternoon. On Saturday evening, a storm rolled through causing persistent showers the next morning which killed off any chance of the breeze building on the 2nd day of competition. Nonetheless, on late Sunday morning, the fleet got off 1 more course race in 8-10 knot marginal conditions with most of the fleet on their 12 meter rigs before returning to the beach and waiting the rest of the afternoon out under the postponement flag.
It was another valuable weekend of racing in a mixed fleet. As usual the strong dutch contention was pushing the front of the fleet with the Belgiums not far behind. I found myself near the top in 4th behind Markus Bouman NED 6, Dennis Littel NED 13 and Adri Keet NED 34 but not quite in contention for the top spots. In this w-ends course races I sailed the new 70 cm Ifju fin with better success as well as finding some better angle with the use of the waist harness. Still though I managed to lose several small battles on the course in terms of upwind speed angle which send me back back just behind the top group. In the conditions on Saturday, the mast track felt good further forward but on Sunday's light-wind racing, I think the mast track further back might be better in terms of riding a powerful fin. I went out and tested the track back after the first race on Sunday with BEL 2 who just beat me in the previous race. The result: angle better- but the speed - almost but not all the way there.
Saturday's program started with 2 back to back formula races in 14-16 knots. I got off the line well in both starts- working my way to the left side of the course with the leaders. It was evident, the breeze was stronger in the middle but there were some great lifts on the outside to bring you back to the top mark. Although getting greedy doesn't always pay and some sailors were left stranded in the corners riding the knock back to the middle of the course. I choose to take advantage of several of the lanes down wind, gybing down the middle of the course catching a few boards along the way.
On of the biggest lessons learned this w-end was no matter what tactical moves you make each leg - it's the last one of the leg that counts. With the wind still up and down, it paid to be somewhat conservative on your laylines. Dirk Doppenberg NED-51 got the last laugh on the downwind leg of race 3 as I was able to pass him just after the windward mark but then he waited another 100 m after I gybed for the layline. As I struggled to pump the board and go deep to make the mark, Dirk came flying in on port tack and in front at the final mark rounding.
On Sunday, I got the better half of an upwind battle with Pieter Bartlema NED 113 as we both choose opposite sides on the upwind course but the final advantage came with me having the starboard tack advatage on the upwind port rounding.
Slalom racing on Saturday was just as exciting with close to 50 boards on the line. There were still some big holes around the course and plenty of chop to contend with as the fleet stretched out and crossed paths on the 2x around figure 8 course. I started off on my F2 medium 105 liter board and 7.3 north warp with good results in the top 6 or 7 boards but later switched to the larger F2 130l slalom board with even better success. I was really amazed that the bigger board had as good speed and even better range. The payoff came when you need to climb on the reaches to get through some traffic and especially through the gybes.
In the slalom races, I really pushed hard at the start as it's all or nothing in these races.
I was black flagged in one race and send back to the beach with 4-5 other sailors as the fleet started the next race without us. In 2 of the other races, I had great starts just at the boat as the gun went off- keeping me in the hunt but it was Ben van der Steen NED 57 taking the show with a string of bullets. Amazingly enough, Ben raced his 80 cm wide slalom board and 9.0 on Saturday during the course racing while the rest of the fleet was on 11.0's and had great success placing near the top in the days racing. It wasnt until he ran out of wind on the downwind legs that he seemed to get into trouble.
Overall, another great w-end of racing and getting to know the fleet here.
Enjoy the photos from the beach on Sunday.
As of Monday evening, I couldn't find the results but they should be at


pat said...

Hi steve

Sunday I've talked with you at the grevelingen dam
Nice site and continue sailing and publishing your adventures
grtzs patrick

Anonymous said...

Great reports, Steve!.
I have a question, is why you prefer one of the two F2 formula boards? One with curve nose and the other with the "flat"? nose.
Can explain that?
Pupo from Caribbean