Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2008 Dutch Formula and slalom windsurfing championships

This weekends final of the Dutch Championship was run in Monnickendam, just north of Amsterdam on the IJ. With typical dutch lake conditions, sailors were greeted to a SW gusty and shifty breeze in the low to mid teens- not to mention an October chill to the air!
We ran a double windward leeward course with a gate at the bottom that gave you some options back upwind. It was important to see what was happening around the course because if the right was good on the first leg, it might not be again for the 2nd. Keeping in the pressure is always key in light air sailing. Usually the shore line will increase the wind as it is forces it to bend and accelerate around any natural geographical occurrences but it this case, you didn't want to get to close to the shore as it would leave you wishing you wound have gone the other way. For the most part then it was staring and hitting the port layline and coming across. If you could keep a lane upwind, it was all good.

You would think with all the right equipment Id be able to dial something in....eventually!!
But that still wasn't the case as I spent most of the past week swapping, sails, mast, fins and boards only to come to the conclusion that I havnt been able to change my technique enough for the new board.
That didn't stop the top 3 guys from dominating the regatta with the F2 Z and kashy fins.
The 40+ competitors had sufficient conditions to run 9 formula races over the weekend and almost, just almost a downwind slalom race on Sunday with the wind in the low to mid teens.

Still struggling for upwind angle on the Z, I began the week by swapping out my sails with Marc de Jong- thinking maybe it was the North Sails that was slowing me down. I jumped on the Maui Sails and wow what a different feeling. Much softer and less rigid and bouncy than the north but once I had both sails rigged correctly there wasn't all that much difference in my angle. On both Saturday and Sunday I started off on the Maui Sails TR3 12.0 and later switched to the North 11.8 for the later races. I found myself doing better with the Norths but still with both sails- I was getting spit out the back 3/4 way up the first beat. Once there it was just damage control to maintain a position and not lose anything more.
Ok, I thought, maybe its the fin- I swapped out the kashy 72-2 xxs for the new lightwind xxs IFJU fin with some better success but with all the weeds on the course, I honestly couldn't tell much except there want much of a difference in the fins. Both xxs fins seemed to get the board planing up soon but that wasn't the problem.
Like most of the previous F2 formula boards, the ride is quite technical. This years' Z is no exception. If you can get the board into the right groove upwind, its golden but getting it there is the problem. If you are not in the groove, your upwind angle really suffers. When I did find success it was when I was railing the board and really applying a fair amount of back foot pressure. Too much though and the fin would spin out. The rig had to be locked down on the deck of the board and me- hiking out hard to windward. Ive gotten a fair bit more comfortable sailing with the uphaul upwind. This keeps the rig upright, more power in the sail and better angle.
Finally on Sunday with another 4 races and the wind in the mid teens, the organizer decided to switch to a downwind slalom format as there hadn't been any official slalom results this season.
The problem, however is the dutch rules say you need 15 knots at the start. With so many holes and gusty conditions, it was leaving only 1 choice- the 130l F2 slalom board and 9.0. If you cant plane with that, its almost not with doing slalom. We had 2 false starts with general recalls in the all for one fleet before the organizer finally decided to make it a fun race as the 5 pm deadline was quickly approaching. I got off well just above the fleet picking off a few boards at every mark roundings with the big sail. Adrian was the only guy to pass me as he snuck in at the 2nd mark with a sailor down and me leaving the space. But not so fast, I managed to pass him on the last leg as we both sailed over Peter who was stuck on smaller gear to finish just outside the top 5.

Despite the lack of performance on my part, I did learn some good lessons from the weekends' racing. Even if you do have all the best equioment, youve got to know how to use it. Nothing makes up for time on the water and knowing the limits of your gear.
Thanks to Jan de Jong and Robert Hardholt for the photos

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Real Trip- Dutch edition

With Saturday's forecast looking promising, and the allure of several heats of downwind slalom in the north of Holland, I made the trip up from Amsterdam to Makkum for the REAL TRIP.
Ill give you this, the dutch know how to throw a windsurfing event.
Nearly 150 competitors for a massive weekend billed for its party and great windsurfing.
The fleet was dived up into 5 randomly generated heats so that you always had juniors, hybrids, race boards and slalom boards in each start. The vintage gear was in full effect with several vanderberg long boards and other centerboard hulls on the course. The juniors were mostly on the BIC one design and the rest of the fleet on medium and larger slalom gear.
Only 2 rules: your board must be under 85 cm wide and 9.9 is the max sail area.

Thanks to Jan deJong for the photos.

As the first heat started, the wind was in full effect in the mid teens.
I had my F2 sx 105 l board on the beach with a 7.3 north warp ready to go.
But with reports of the forecast diminishing later in the day, it was time for a quick change of plan.
Time to rig the 9.0 warp and large 125 l slalom board.
With just a minute or 2 to spare, I made it upwind to the start for the start of heat 4.
It was shallow enough that you could water start with under a minute before the start.
I was the most windward board on the line and got off to a nice pumping start while most of the fleet sat parked on the line. Adrien got off well below me on the middle of the line and led around the course but he ended up sailing in the wrong heat so I took the bullet.
As we waited for the next round to be run- the wind really lightened up with a few puffs in the low teens.
I headed out early before my start to make sure I had enough time to shlog upwind with a 42 cm fin! For the most part- nobody got planning off the start. The hybrid boards and long boards all had superiour speed in the shlogging conditions but some resourceful pumping technique allowed me to pass 2 boards to finish 5th in the heat.
After that we were on postponement for another hour before a pitiful attempt at a long distance race.
So with only 1 planing race complete, I called it quits and headed home with no more racing for the day. Sundays forecast didn't even merit the the trip back.

Up next is the finals of the Dutch Championship in Monnikendam this w-end.
Hopefully a good chance to see how the Z performs in light air again.
Another IFJU fin arrived just in time to test this week before formula racing finishes for the season here in Europe. Still hoping to make it to the final Formula Grand Prix event in Brazil this November to get my ranking up into the top 20.
So far sitting in 25th for the season- a good showing from last years' 50th.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Off tpoic but too funny to pass up!

From this weeks' Onion

Sorry but I couldn't resist!

Hope you all enjoy the tongue in cheek reporting from one of America's great newspapers.

BOSTON—Four years after being blasted as an elitist for his Ivy League education, wealthy background, and hobby of windsurfing, sources say that John Kerry has in fact become quite proficient at the water-based leisure sport.

Enlarge Image Kerry Windsurfing

"After losing the election in such a humiliating and disgraceful manner, John really threw himself into windsurfing, and I'm happy to say it paid off," said Kerry's longtime adviser and windsurfing coach, Steve Sylvester. "Everyone claimed he was too wishy-washy and didn't have a thick skin, so he said he'd show them all, and he did. His T-bones and slamjibes speak for themselves."

Sylvester, like many of Kerry's friends, said the defeat at the polls may have actually been a blessing in disguise, since it allowed the junior senator from Massachusetts to spend more time on his true passion. As evidence of the incredible progress Kerry has made in the last four years, Sylvester pointed out that the former presidential candidate is now able to perform a number of freestyle moves and some light carving without hurting himself. Kerry also reportedly knows all about tacks now, and can stay on the board a full minute longer than he could during the last presidential campaign.

In addition, his water starts have matured significantly.

Besides upgrading his windsurfing board class from Freeride to Formula Windsurfing, aides said Kerry has made strides in other areas to escape his image as an out-of-touch patrician. According to a press release from his office, Kerry can now name the stadium where the Green Bay Packers play with ease, as well as meet large groups of factory workers without wincing, and remember that his favorite Bob Dylan song is "Lay Lady Lay" without first checking with a handler.

It is not known whether Kerry intends to use his new skills in a future presidential run. When reporters reached him for comment, he was being swept into the Atlantic Ocean by a 35 mph gust of wind.