6 August 2016

The Bay Challenge didn't start very well for me as I fell in at the first tack shortly after the start. Eric 
 Christianson had a good lead at the first mark (windward), Tom Purcell was second and I was third.
I managed to catch up a bit in the early stages of the downwind leg but Eric got a good gust south west of Alcatraz and he extended his lead. Eric stayed with that gust for a long time and I followed him. We ended up South of Alcatraz and headed towards Treasure Island. The two of us gybed West of Alcatraz and headed North East on port.
I was going well at that point, slowly catching up Eric. As we passed West of the Berkekey pier, we saw a bunch of guys who had gone North of Alcatraz ahead of us. Mike Percey, Steve Bodner and Tom Purcell had a good lead on us. 
I decided to keep going North to get the stronger wind. Eric must have had the same idea since he carried on too.
We gybed more or less together to head to the downwind mark just North of the eastward most gap in the Berkeley pier.
We were going downwind at a good angle.
I had good speed and I could go deep so I managed to pass Eric at that point.
I also caught up with the leaders and I rounded the downwind mark in third place behind Mike Percey and Steve Bodner.
Shortly after rounding the mark, I overtook Steve with better angle. 
At this point, I caught a nasty piece of grass around my fin so I had to stop and reverse to get rid of it.
Eric overtook me as a result.
I had to work extra hard to overtake him again.
Mike Percey was further ahead but eventually I managed to overtake him with better angle.
Things were looking good at that point as I extended my lead with good speed and angle. However, Eric caught up with me after a couple of good options North of Alcatraz.
He managed to squeeze ahead of a ferry.
Tom Purcell was not so lucky and got badly delayed by the wind shadow of the ferry.

At that point, I realized it was best not to gamble with the Bay tactics so I just covered Eric to win with a lead of 13 seconds.
The prize giving was amazing in the lounge of the St Francis Yacht Club overlooking the Bay.
It was great to win a crate of beer too!

Many thanks to the St Francis Yacht Club and the volunteers for running this legendary race. Many thanks too to ABK beer for sponsoring the event!


30 July 2016

Racing in Maui had been a childhood dream for 45 years.
At the grand old age of 50, it finally came true.
Having never raced there before or sailed there in the summer, we thought it would be a good idea to get there a week before the Hawaii State Championship. That would also be just in time to compete in the Mean Line fin slalom as a learning exercise.

The plan worked fine initially as we landed on Friday and managed to sail the same day.
I met my friend Dan Ellis who I hadn't seen since 2008 at least. It was great to sail with Dan after all these years.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Darby struck Maui the following day so all the State parks were closed and the Mean line fin slalom had to be postponed to Tuesday or Saturday July 30.
We were fortunate to be able to launch from Camp 1 where we were staying on Saturday 23 July. Despite the Hurricane, the conditions were perfect with solid winds and some sunshine. 
We had some big swell and it was great to sail in the waves on slalom kit with Dan.
The following day (Sunday), the wind was light with showers. I still managed to go out late in the afternoon with the 8.6.
Over the next few days, the wind kept picking up to the point where I was overpowered on the smallest sail I had (5.4 Gaastra Vapor).
The Mean Line fin slalom was postponed to Saturday July 30, on the same day as the Hawaii State Championship. The Meanline fin slalom would run first followed by the Neil Pryde Hawaii State Championship. Two slaloms in one day, that was a packed schedule! 

On Race day, the wind started a little light so I started with the 7.9.
The Mean Line Fin slalom went well.
I was competing in my age group, 40 to 59.
My starts were consistent and I was battling out with Mike Yasak. I got 3rd, 2nd and 3rd. Mike got 2nd, 3rd and 2nd so he came out on top with second place and I finished third.
Phil McGain was unbeatable with all first places.

Next was the Neil Pryde Hawaii State Championship. Again, I started in my age group with three races. This time, I beat Mike Yasak with a second, third and second to finish in second place.
Phil McGain was flying in front with three firsts.
I had entered the Pro fleet for the afternoon races. That event was four races.
I was over early at the first start and I crashed at the first jibe in the second race.
Races 3 and 4 went better with a fourth and a fifth place.
Overall the event was awesome with so many top racers and amazing conditions!


24 - 26 June - River Gorge - Oregon


I headed to this event with high expectations of strong winds!
We packed the van with all the slalom gear I own, from the biggest to the smallest sail and board.
I didn't manage to finish work at a reasonable time on Wednesday night so we decided to do the whole trip in one hit on Thursday.
Things you do when you are determined!!!
It took 16 hours of almost non stop driving, taking it in turn with my wife Lyrah.
The scenery made up for the long drive.
We passed by Shasta Lake and the Volcano legacy byway.
As we left just before 8am and the last light as late as 10pm up North, we enjoyed the landscape for most of the trip.
In the end, we arrived around midnight, exhausted but happy to be there!
Much to my surprise, we started day 1 with the light wind slalom kit.
We did two races.
My starts were not great but I managed to make my way through the fleet.
This gave some reasonable results with a 4th and a 3rd.
I ended day 1 in third behind Philip Soltyziak and ahead of legend Bruce Peterson.
After two races on day one the wind got light at the Event Site.
The decision was made to move to 'The Wall'.

(photo: Tyson Poor)

The promise of strong winds and sunshine got everyone moving swiftly.
Darren Rogers explained to me that we didn't actually go the wall as this location is a bit further east of where we were.
It didn't matter anyway, everyone met in the same place which was more important!

The place in question really worked!
It was blowing 30 mph I guess and the freestylers made the most of it with some awesome moves for the whole afternoon!
I rigged up the smallest slalom kit I had and went for a cool practice session.
Day 2 started with a reasonable forecast but the wind was light in the morning.
The start was postponed to the afternoon.
In the meantime, we did a tandem race courtesy of Josh Shirley who had brought two Starboard Geminis.

I teamed up with Philip Soltyziak and we called our team the 'Crown Crazy' owing to my British sail number and Phil's Canadian Nationality!
It was quite eventful but we managed to make our way to the final.
We had a good start and got planning on the way back to win by a good margin.
In the meantime, the wind had picked up sufficiently to do regular slalom.
My start was hardly better than those on day 1.
I finished 4th but Phil Soltyziak was over early so I inherited 3rd.
In the second race, I had a better start and I gybed the first mark in second place behind Bruce Peterson.
Bruce managed to get planning a little earlier to keep the advantage.
At the 4th gybe, I kept planning quite well despite the light wind.
I caught up with Bruce on the last leg but not quite enough to pass him so I finished second just a few feet behind.
All in all I thought Day 2 went better than Day 1.
I ended up tied on points with Phil but I won the tie with two second places on day 1.
Bruce did enough on Day 2 to pass me for 3rd so I ended up in 4th overall and 2nd Grand Master.
The forecast was for light wind on Day 3 so the contest was called to an end at 10 am and we kept our positions.

Overall the event was a huge success despite the light wind with a large number of spectators and all the major brands present to display the latest kit.
A big thank you to David Mertens and the crew of volunteers who organized this unique event in the windsurfing capital of the world!
The road trip home is definitely part of an event in the Gorge.

We stopped at Crater Lake.

The sight at the top of the crater was breathtaking after climbing slowly the small park road up the edge.
We kept driving to Redding to visit Lake Shasta in the morning.
We decided to go to the Shasta Caverns after a quick visit to the Visitor Center.
What a blast we had!

Rio Vista Grand Slam

17 - 19 June - Rio Vista, CA


The Rio Vista Grand Slam was even bigger in 2016 than in 2015.
There were lots of stars in attendance and the event was well attended.
In addition to Jesper Verstestrom, Tyson Poor and Wyatt Miller who were already there in 2015, Philip Soltysiak, Arianne Auxes, Caesar Finnies and Kevin Pritchard joined the event in 2016.
The was a bit light after the briefing on day 1.
I went out to see what it was like.
Initially, I was struggling to make any ground upwind with the flood but gradually, the wind picked up.
Eventually, there was enough wind to race and we were getting ready for race 1.
None of my starts were very good but my kit was big enough to be powered up coming out of the jibes.
That helped me to gain a few positions.
The wind was picking up gradually.
I changed down sail for the third race.

That was a good move as the wind picked up a notch.
I was well powered up even with the smaller size.
We had four races but due to a mix up with the class flag (A or B fleet), one of the races was cancelled.
In the end, three races counted.
The free ride races were very popular.
It was great to see people you don't normally see doing slalom have a go at the figure of eight course.
Day 2 featured an autograph session after the briefing.
The organizers had prepared posters.
That was definitely a 'pro' aspect of the event!
The wind dropped around mid day like it normally does at Sherman Island.
Jean Rathle took the opportunity to organize a timed sprint SUP race.
We started from the beach and went around a buoy about 50 yards from the beach.
Some guys were really good at launching!
The wind never really picked up enough for day 2.
The racing was called off around 6pm.
The party started around 7pm.
The band was awesome.
We were even introduced to Susy, the saxophone player, before the gig by Jean Rathle.
That lady rocks big time!!!
Day 3 started with light wind again.
Never mind, one of the best feature of the Grand Slam is the kids race.
It's great to see the next generation of the windsurfers battling it out!
Sherman Island is the perfect venue for that with flat and shallow water.
After the race, Caesar Finnies taught them some cool freestyle move.
He was spinning the sail into the wind, stepping around the mast and catching the sail again like a boomerang.
The kids looked so cute trying it out!
The wind didn't cooperate so the event was called off around 10:45 and we had the prize giving.
The highlight for me was to finish 4th overall in the slalom and 1st Grand Master.
Despite the lack of wind on day 2 and 3, the event was a huge success with the parties, events for the kids, free riders, a great team of volunteers and fantastic sponsors.

 I'm looking forward to the 2017 edition.


Round 2
11 June 2016 - Berkeley.


The wind started light but soon picked up before the start.
We were well powered up by the time the first race started. I went left to the pier and Eric Christianson went right. I think the right option worked better and Eric had a good lead by the time we rounded the windward mark. Eric won with a good margin.
The chop was real hard to negociate there were a lot of boards flying around.
I started race 2 on port to go right and I managed to stay a little closer to Eric this time but he still had better speed upwind so he won race 2 as well.
In race three I managed to pass eric on the downwind leg but he overtook me on the last upwind leading to the finish line. In race four there was a port and starboard colision  just after the start. I managed to stay clear and headed to the right side of the course. there was some confusion in that race about which course to sail. then half of the fleet went around  the top of the pier and the other other half went around mark D. I won that race but it was decided in the end to cancel it.
Overall I finished second behind Eric Christianson.
After the race we went to the Berkeley Yacht Club for a drink and lots of Sandwiches.
It was nice to see all the guys back on the water after the first Calcup being cancelled due to rain and lack of wind.

Thank you Berkeley Yacht Club for organizing the race and all its vollunteers.
Look forward to 3rd round.