Having just finished the 2015 season of slalom windsurf racing I was asked by Fluid Lines to write this blog post giving the lowdown on the sport of slalom windsurfing and a review of this years events.
Slalom windsurfing is full of adrellaline / speed / fun / adventure / competition / plus a tiny bit of beach banter!
How We Race:
There are three levels of racing. The Master Blaster fleet is for most new comers to the slalom scene, racing is normally run around a buoy and back to the beach, its super fun and will have you hooked in no time. You also have the Amateur fleet and Pro fleet, they both run the same course however start off at separate times depending on your level. Everyone on the slalom scene are very approachable and are always happy to help newcomers and show them the ropes.
The format is general sailing rules, we have a start boat carrying the appropriate 3 flags to start the race ,we all hit the start line flat out as soon as the green flag is up and the hooter goes off, flying off downwind to the first gybe marker, we normally windsurf around a three buoy (broard) downwind course plus a finish boat to log our finishing placements, its that easy to race and simple to get into.
This year the season kicked off at ‘Weymouth Sailing Academy’ back in April, even though it was a bit chilly we had great wind and a fantastic venue that was the host of the sailing for the London Olympics. It was a great start to the season, the weekend was after a long winters break from racing and everyone was gunning to get out on the water and start racing.
Event number two was at the birthplace of windsurfing, ‘Hayling Island’, I left Essex very early on the Saturday morning to get to the island in time to register for the weekend rigg up and get set to race. Unfortunately as we were getting ready to race the wind didn’t play ball, so all fleets were awaiting ‘call to race’ from the committee. Even though we are all there to race this isn’t a bad thing as it gives you time to have a chat with other competitors and the organisers. Sometimes the UKWA get everyone together and make a plan for the day if there is no wind, we sometimes have a discussions on racing rules or maybe just decide to have a fun race between all fleets. But, if the the wind goes above a constant 14mph then its back to the racing!
Event number 3, this was at our local spot of ‘Harwich’, only a short drive down the road. A week before I attended an interview on BBC Radio Essex which gave a great opportunity to promote our sport and a local windsurfing event. The weekend provided us with wall to wall sunshine, the wind was offshore but this was not a problem as the UKWA has three ribs to provide us with plenty of rescue cover just incase. We had some great racing over the weekend, I was very happy picking up a 4th place, I suppose it may have been down to local knowledge!! Another local sailor Shaun Cook picked up the podium for the weekend. I also met and got talking to Dave White another local sailor, talking to him he was looking at helping me to take my windsurfing to another level and sailing with Team White Boarders. How could anyone refuse a offer like that from the fastest windsurfer in the UK. So after that weekend felt like I had a podium finish!
Event 4 was at ‘Worthing’ on the South Coast. We packed up the van late and left late Friday evening, after checking the forecast. The forecast was showing 30 knot winds so we knew it was going to be a full on weekend! I had never sailed at this venue before thinking isn’t Worthing a wave venue? Saturday morning after sleeping in my old T4 van I could feel it being blown around by the gale outside, I opened my van door and it nearly blew off, the sea state wasn’t much better either, WOW this is a wave venue with massive shore dump! Luckily I bought a wave sail 4.5mtr with me , plugged it in my slalom board and go I thought. Getting off the shore at high tide was not the easiest with the massive south coast dump but I somehow managed it. i had a few runs on the kit massively stacked but was just in control, we ran a race and to be honest it was carnage , but all the fleets finished with big beaming smiles. As the day went on and the tide dropped the wind eased back and the water state became flat, I changed the kit over to a 7mtr slalom sail and RRD X-Fire 114ltr, we had some great racing battling it out and after the days racing lots of us stayed on the water to do some free sailing. On coming back to shore the locals boys were cooking a BBQ and having a beer, invite was all welcome so a perfect end to the day.
Event 5 Sunny hunnie ‘Huntstanton’ was living up to its name , as normal I turned up early to this event. We noticed on Wind Guru that Saturdays wind was only predicting to blow between 6am and 9am so I orginised with two of my good friends Danny and Leigh we should do a ‘early bird’ sail so alarms set for 5:30am. We managed to get on the water for 6am sailed for 3 hours in perfect conditions with only us on the water. We also noticed Dave White was also about on the beach with his camera and super lense getting the best of the morning light taking photos of the area and us with the sun light on our sails. We sailed untill the wind faded and coming back to shore a few people were getting up and couldn’t beleave we got out so early! But sometimes you just have to go with the forecast and do it even if it is an early start. The rest of the day the wind was light, the event was packed with so many people on the beach and messing around on stand up paddle boards. Sunday another windy day that took every one by surprise, we all rigged big kit and prepared to race. It was on and the conditions were just fantastic with very flat water but the wind was expected to pick up. As the wind started to build and build we all had to make changes to our kit size dropping from 8.6mtr to 7mtr to then down again to 6mtr, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people change there kit so many times before, the beach was super busy with people rigging up and lots of competitors were flying around on the water. The weekend flew by and before I knew it I was driving home knackered, but in a good way!
Event number 6 was in ‘Tenby‘, Wales, I couldn’t make this event as I was away, but on reading the the report on www.ukwindsurfing.com I found out the tour had a great tim., Pete Davis was there and he normally makes a film at each event getting all the action and uploads it to the UKWA site, it gets shares around social media and various windsurfing mags. Check them out great to watch.
Back to ‘Weymouth’ Event 7 the last event of the year in October. There has been a lot going on at weymouth over last month regarding windsurfing; Speed Week , RXS , Team15, and other sailing events. Its no surprise though as it’s a great venue with so much to offer with the ease of getting to the water the harbour is surrounded with a wall to give protection giving us windsurfers a great place to blast around. We all had a great time on the water racing on Saturday with all fleets enjoying themselves across the bay, the boat crew were busy as we had a change of wind direction around lunch time so they had to tweek the racing course. In the evening the UKWA laid on a very good value end of season meal with a band at the Academy, we had our prize giving and then it was speech time of year for the guys on podium. James Dinsmore was top of the the Pro Fleet, local sailor Shaun Cook was on podium in the Amm Feet and Anne Welsh took podium in the Master Blaster Fleet. A big congratulation guys to your end of season results your hard work has payed off.
For me I ended up 12th in the Amm Fleet out of 65 competitors. I was happy with this result as I’ve picked up so much knowledge in my 2nd year of racing, met some great people made new friends and competed for the love of our sport. Personnally would like to thank Fluid Lines and Dave White for your help, support and guidance. Also thank you to a very understanding wife Gina.
So the season is over there no time to rest, dig out the winter suit, thick boots and get down the beaches of Essex. We’ve got some great local spots,we can sail all direction of wind with hardly anywhere to travel! Our water may be brown but the spirit is always high. Mersea Island has a great windsurf club especially on a chilly winters day witha easy place to rigg and club to change in (the kettle is always warm here) thanks to Paul , very friendly lot at Mersea. Alton Water is also running a winter training slalom programme starting Saturday the 7th november every sat for a month.Clacton on sea is also a cracking venue with a loverly sandy beach not far to walk to the water on a cold day with perfect sheltered bays perfect for a bit of winter gybing. I hope to be training with team White Boarders and Fluid Lines over the winter period in prep for the 2016 slalom season!
Thank you all envolved to make it happen.
Written by: Simon Chippington GBR984
Team rider for Fluid Lines , TeamWhiteboarders, RRD and F-hot fins .
For more racing details check out www.ukwindsurfing.com