Back in the Saddle at the 2014 Kona Worlds!

Tom Pace at the 2014 Kona Worlds in Islamorada, FL USA! Credit: Magi Foster

Tom Pace at the 2014 Kona Worlds in Islamorada, FL USA! Credit: Magi Foster

By Tom Pace

Sixteen years ago, after nearly two decades racing one designs, Olympic classes, and Pro: course, slalom, and wave events, I sailed in my last windsurfing contest, the IFCA Worlds in Tarifa, Spain.

A year later, my friend Nevin and his Wife Stina had their second child, a boy named Rasmus… This first week of November, in my first race back in the sport we all love, my years of dull rust met that kid – the amazing, sharp talent that is Raz Sayre, and it was eye opening: he crushed me and 107 others this week in everything from 5-30 kts, enroute to his first World Title. And I was barely competitive with him in just part of one race. 16 years ago, I missed a World Title by one point to Tim Aagesen, who took second this week. This World Championship, I was never close, but had a few moments dueling again with Tim and Nevin, reminding me what fast feels like, and what the fleet looked like from Raz’s view all regatta!

This event brought out new sailors, former world champs, pros, formula and RSX racers, and everything in between. Multiple countries and ages were well represented, and it was as much a look into windsurfing’s fun competitive past as it was a look at the present and to the future of one design windsurfing. In this class, pumping is restricted to ONE per tack, gybe, or wave to initiate planing, and this is tightly monitored. Sails are determined by the racer’s weight, and the only adjustment allowed on the rig is the outhaul. What results is tight competition, fair racing, and a surprisingly even field from the 6’4, 200 lb sailor to the barely 5′, 100 pounder.

Racers from Canada, DEnmark and the USA duking it out at the Kona Worlds! Credit: Magi Foster

Racers from Canada, Denmark and the USA duking it out at the Kona Worlds! Credit: Magi Foster

The regatta started in light offshores that quickly built to blasty 20-30 kts, leaving many unable to finish, and scores in need of rescue. Only 32 of the 107 finished that race, and it was abandoned after the 32 had finished – as much for fairness and safety concerns as for marks that moved in the lumpy water and high wind. It was one of my better races this week, but with the 12 more we did complete for scores, we all had plenty of chances!

Any event takes a ton of work to put together well, and something of this size can be daunting. The organizers, race committee, and volunteers put in an exceptional effort, and the five day event went off without any major glitch. It was great competition, fun camaraderie, a chance for me to get my feet wet again, and to rekindle old friendships with the Sayres, Steve and Marty Gottlieb, Steve Callaway, and Beth Winkler. We saw Superlight racer from 20 years ago Billy Mason, Tinho Dornellas, Dasher, and others. Old windsurfers that did not compete stopped by to check it out and see old friends – John Turecki, Hubert Baudoin, Pat LeMehaute, world cupper Andy Morrell, and long time racer and freestyler Greg Winkler. All names very well known in the windsurfing world 20+ years ago. Also there was the first ever Windsurfer World Champion and inventor of the harness, Bruce Matlack.

Camaraderie between races at the Kona Worlds. Credit: Magi Foster

Camaraderie between races at the Kona Worlds. Credit: Magi Foster

Kona ONE is growing world wide, with strength in Sweden, Holland, throughout Europe, and thanks to Steve Gottlieb, Mike Fox, and Tinho Dornellas, it’s building in the USA. It is very, very good racing, fair, and accessible to sailors that no longer want to pump and row around the course like a triathlete glued to a sailboard. Further, being a one design, you don’t need a full quiver of sails, booms, and fins to be competitive, nor can you modify any of it: it is a true one design. Kona has a dynamic that makes it possible for today’s best to shine, but also is a class that enables the old guard – in this case Tim Aagesen and Nevin Sayre, 2nd and 3rd overall this week – to show they still can windsurf, and that they have the tactical racing ability to be at the top.

This Kona Worlds has whetted my appetite, and I’ll be back in the saddle for the 2015 Kona North Americans at Calema in Merritt Island next March. I’ll absolutely earn a better spot than my 16th overall this week, and hopefully, I can better mix it up with all the Sayres – Raz, Nevin, and 22-yr old Solvig, who is doing an RSX campaign for the next Olympics.

Tom Pace in Action at the Kona Worlds! Credit: Magi Foster

Tom Pace in the hunt at the Kona Worlds! Credit: Magi Foster

For now, I’m left with (finally!) callused hands, thoughts of what I did right and wrong on the water, and that happy feeling from seeing old friends and making new ones, just as we did decades ago. I’m also left in wonder with seeing a torch not so much passed, but SHARED between Nevin, Raz, and Solvig – who all earned their spots on the podium, to chants of ‘USA, USA !’ that quickly morphed into a more accurate ‘US SAYRE, US SAYRE!!’. Proud parents indeed, Nevin and Stina.

Sailing windsurfers, especially wrapped to my eyeballs in wind that usually sends the leaners and yachties running for the club bar is just as much fun for me now as ever, and the Kona One Class makes it possible to race in just about any wind strength, and to be competitive with anyone – from a 17-yr old kid to his ancient Dad, who is my age… So, for my first big time race in 16 years, this was as good as it could be, and is shaping up to get better still!

Kona Worlds 2014 Full Results

Kona Colors in the Florida Keys. Credit: Magi Foster

Kona colors in full bloom in the Florida Keys. Credit: Magi Foster

My Ode to Kona Windsurfing!

Start Line at the 2014 Kona Worlds in Islamorada, FL USA

Kona Fleet, with different sail sizes differentiated by color, on the start line at Kona Worlds in Islamorada! Photo Credit: Magi Foster

By Jim DeSilva
Sandy Point Progressive Sports, Miami

Although I have participated in a number of Kona races, including the Worlds in Miami a few years ago, we had never gotten 100+ Konas together in one place before. This was certainly a unique experience. The question you have to ask is, before these Kona Worlds and the RS:X Youth Worlds a couple of weeks ago in Clearwater, when WAS the last time we had a 100 person One Design Windsurfing Race of any description in the US? A bunch of the kids we teach at the Miami Yacht Club were at all the huge Techno events in Europe this past summer, including the Worlds with 350+, but it has been a LONG TIME in the United States.

What was fascinating about this event was the even level of the racing: everyone was going the same speed. Of course the winner seemed to have a little extra squirt, but the winners in all sports do. Although I was only there for one day, every race was the same: wind shifts were a huge deal, getting a good start was a huge deal, mark roundings and positioning on the legs was a huge deal. Hitting laylines correctly was a huge deal. But speed was not such a huge deal because everyone was going the same speed. Normally OD windsurfing events are very weight sensitive: light guys going fast in light wind, heavier guys dominating when it is hammering. Kona is unique this way in that they have the weight breaks for the different sail sizes. Smallest people on 6.6, next smallest on 7.4, 8.2, 9.0 and even 9.8 for the bigger guys. What is interesting is that it actually works: you see every size up at the front, and every size in the back and everywhere in between. It has completely eliminated the weight penalties that have plagued the sport since OD windsurf racing began, and made for the most even windsurfing racing I have ever been a part of.

The other thing that has changed is younger sailors are quite competitive with their older parents and vice versa. This is unique in windsurfing. Raz Sayre, who won the event, was battling straight up with his dad, Nevin, a longtime windsurfing legend. At 53 years old, I was battling with a couple of the kids I teach at MYC, duking it out in multiple races, even though I am close to 200 lbs and they are 85-120 lbs. The sail size differences, proportional to the weights of the sailors, make it really even. In the lighter winds, they would have crushed me with the same size sail, and I would have had a huge advantage if I was there on the windier days. But in Kona, everyone is underpowered the same and overpowered the same. And don’t forget about the women: they won multiple races OVERALL in the gold fleet and had 3 finishers in the top 11, because they don’t have to be in a pumping contest and can just use their skill and knowledge. You cannot pump in Kona: you just sail. There is a little gray area currently in the rules but that looks to be getting cleaned up, but for the most part, you just sail. And this lets a really wide range of sailors compete against each other on a very fair basis. Skill, technique and smarts instead of hyperactive aerobic activity. Everyone likes it too.

Steven Cramer, 14 years old, 95 lbs, 6.6 in 25 knots, first day of racing

Steven Cramer, 14 years old, 95 lbs, 6.6 in 25 knots, first day of racing. Photo Credit: Magi Foster

 

The other aspect of it is the simplicity. You have one board, one fin, one rig, and you are totally even with everyone else. Not “Oh, I hope it’s windy so I can be competitive” or “I hope it is light wind so I can plane off before everyone else.” None of this exists in Kona, it’s totally even, all the time. The board, while very low tech, works in all conditions very nicely and you can still teach new people on it. Light winds, 1-5 kts, it sails great, no cambers, just full battens, and it will sail upwind with the dagger up when it is windy like an RS-X, Techno or Prodigy. And for fully lit beam reaching, it is actually pretty fun and easy to gybe due to the round rails. It’s not fancy at all, but it works pretty good all the time. Simplicity is good: you should not need a giant van full of gear to be a windsurf racer.

The Kona Class solves a lot of problems in windsurf racing. I know there will be a lot of people who poopoo it because it is kind of low tech (no carbon!)(no cambers!)(no 1500 dollar fins!)(it’s got a rubber deck?) But if you want to see more grass roots racing, it’s the way to go. I think most of the people who were at the event would agree that it was the most evenly raced windsurf regatta they had ever attended: more even than any Mistral OD Regatta, more even than any RSX regatta, more even than any Windsurfer or Superlight regatta back in the day. Anyone can join, compete, win AND just have a board that works for fun sailing and messing around the rest of the time. And they cost less than most Optimists.

To see it growing like it is, and happening like this, young and old, men and women, all racing together… What a huge positive for windsurf racing. 13 countries and 105 competitors in the Florida Keys: that IS just like the good old days that many remember, but it is here, right now… and growing.

Winner Raz Sayre leading the fleet

2014 Kona Worlds Winner Raz Sayre leading the fleet. Photo Credit: Magi Foster

2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater: Going Out with a Bang!

At the Baystar Race Village on Medal Race Day (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

At the Baystar Race Village before Medal Races (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

With standings so tight at the beginning of the day, all eyes were on the medal races today at the 2014 RS:X Youth World Championships in Clearwater, Florida!

Saturday on Clearwater Beach is always a busy day, and the combination of bright sunshine, strong breeze and world-class windsurfing action brought upwards of 20,000 people to the beach for the conclusion of the event.

Busy day at the beach for the conclusion of the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

Busy day at the beach for the conclusion of the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

Patrycja Lis (POL) launches for the final race of the Clearwater 2014 Youth Worlds

Patrycja Lis (POL) before final race of the Clearwater 2014 Youth Worlds (credit: Peter Forde)

While the medal racers stayed behind to get their equipment inspected and deal with the pressure of the situation, a solid 14 kt breeze kicked up from the North and the rest of the fleet launched to get one last race in. Sil Hoekstra (NED) weaved his way through the fleet on port tack, headed straight to the beach in the 3 ft chop that many competitors have found so confounding all week, hit the layline perfectly and took the men’s race in style.

In the women’s last race, Maelle Guilbaud (FRA) did the same thing and headed straight for the beach, as did Shahar Tibi (ISR). They rounded the first weather mark in the lead but were caught in the second lap by Patrycja Lis (POL), who showed why she’s always a force to be reckoned with in the heavier breeze.

Race Committee at work - in sequence for medal races (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

Race Committee at work on MarineMax 44-ft Aquila power catamarans – in sequence for medal races (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

Once all competitors were back ashore after the morning race, the international jury and class measurer hopped on chase boats to get ready to officiate on the water, the race committee switched the course from a trapezoid to a windward leeward course with a slalom finish, and the top ten men and women launched one last time this week from the Baystar Race Village on the beach.

Youth Women World Champion Emma Wilson (GBR)

Youth Women World Champion Emma Wilson (GBR)

The women started first, with four of them having a clear shot at the title, and it was Emma Wilson who showed poise beyond her years. After a good start she was the only one to hit the starboard layline, went full throttle and was gone. “When I got to the top mark,” she said, “I looked back and everyone was gone. I thought I had done something wrong! I don’t even know how I did it, I’m so happy!” Imogen Sills finished 2nd, making it an impressive 1-2 for the British squad in the race. Berenice Mege from France finished three spots ahead of reigning World Champion Marta Maggetti to take the silver medal, with Maggetti hanging on to third place to make it onto the podium for the second year in a row. The most disappointed of the group was Ma Kwan Ching, who was in control of the event early on in the week, and lost out on the podium with her performance in the medal race. But there’s plenty of positives for the young woman from Hong Kong to take away from this week. We’re going to see her name in the limelight many more times in the future.

Youth Men World Champion Radoslaw Furmanski (POL)

Youth Men World Champion Radoslaw Furmanski (POL)

With the women back ashore and celebrating, the men took to the race course, and the battle was on from the start between Mattia Camboni (ITA) and Radoslaw Furmanski (POL). The title was to be decided between those two, and with no one else within striking distance on the leaderboard, we could have excused them if they had let the others escape and focused their attention on match racing each other. But that was clearly not their intention, and the battle today took place at the front. The deciding moment in the race appears to have been at the bottom mark. “I was leading but didn’t see the mark with the sun in my face, so I gybed too late,” said Camboni. “Radoslaw gybed inside and stayed in control from that point on. I’m a little disappointed because I’m losing by 1 point in the end, but Radoslaw raced very well and deserves the win. “I’m very happy,” said Furmanski directly after the race, “because this year I also won the European Championships, and now I’m a World Champion! Toni Bonet (ESP) had a solid medal race after a consistent week of racing in Clearwater and rounds up the men’s podium.

Medal Race action at the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater, FL

Medal Race action in front of Pier 60 (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

“What a great event here in Clearwater this week,” said Jerome Samson, President of US Windsurfing. “Thanks to the stellar work of our race committee and its Principal Race Officer Fairlie Brinkley, we stayed on schedule all week and had a full slate of 13 races for everyone. This really demonstrates the quality of the venue here. What you want for a World Championships is a venue that tests competitors in all conditions, and Clearwater delivered! The champions today are for sure the best all-around young windsurfers in the world.”

Beach venue for the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

Beach venue for the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater (credit: Russ Hendrickson)

With pictures, videos and news reports going out on the wires every day this week, the media reach of the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater has been truly global and continues to build. But equally important was the local success of the event: with the Baystar Race Village set directly on the beach, and glowing local TV and press reports building up interest throughout the week, city officials estimate that the event this week took place in front of an audience of upwards of 80,000 people. Every day this week, the launch corridor on the beach was lined with spectators cheering on the athletes. The impact on the region was clearly visible and will be long-lasting.

Racing close to the beach this week in Clearwater (credit: Jay Ailworth)

Racing close to the beach this week in Clearwater (credit: Jay Ailworth)

This event owes big to the City of Clearwater. The organizers, Tampa Bay Charities and US Windsurfing, want to extend a big thank you to Mayor George Cretekos for opening all the doors and being such a good sport at the opening and closing ceremonies; to the dedicated staff and volunteers at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, the Clearwater Yacht Club and the Dunedin Boat Club; to the Neil Pryde Group and the International RS:X Class for believing in Clearwater’s ability to organize these championships at a moment’s notice; and of course to all the enthusiastic sponsors and supporters without whom an event of this magnitude would simply not take place.

“This is the best event we’ve ever been to,” said competitor Adrien Mestre from France. “Thank you to all the organizers. We’re going to remember it forever.”

Women Champion Emma Wilson (GBR) and fellow competitor Elena Vacca (ITA) on crowded Clearwater Beach

Women Champion Emma Wilson (GBR) and fellow competitor Elena Vacca (ITA) on crowded Clearwater Beach after the action today at the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds (credit: Peter Forde)

Top Youth Women:

1. Emma Wilson (GBR)
2. Berenice Mege (FRA)
3. Marta Maggetti (ITA)
(full results)

Top Youth Men:

1. Radoslaw Furmanski (POL)
2. Mattia Camboni (ITA)
3. Toni Bonet Macias (ESP)
(full results)

Top U17 Women:

1. Emma Wilson (GBR)
2. Noy Drihan (ISR)
3. Shoval Ravitzky (ISR)
(full results)

Top U17 Men:

1. Francesco Tomasello (ITA)
2. Yoay Omer (ISR)
3. Lars Van Someren (NED)
(full results)

2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater: All To Play For!

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Women Fleet in Action in the Building Breeze (credit: Jay Ailworth)

Day 4 at the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater, Florida, and the sound of the day was that of racers whooping and hollering past the race committee boats  (two imposing 44-ft power catamarans provided by event sponsor MarineMax) in a breeze that high-wind specialists had been waiting for all week.

After a first race in oscillating 8-12 kt side-off conditions, the wind filled in from the north: a solid cross-shore 12-15 kt breeze greeted the competitors for the second race of the day, before kicking up one more notch to a solid 16-18 kt for the third race. The action was once again set up close enough to shore for spectators to enjoy the show from the beach and Pier 60: gutsy starts, fast racing, spectacular wipe-outs, we had it all on Day 4!

Men's Leader Mattia Camboni (ITA)

Men’s Leader Mattia Camboni (ITA) enjoyed the conditions

Defending champion Mattia Camboni (ITA) and Radoslaw Furmanski (POL) traded race wins today and separated themselves from the rest of the men’s fleet. “It was great today,” said Camboni, “Radoslaw won the first two races and I won the last one, and at the end of the day I’m one point ahead in the overall. It’s going to be all to play for in the medal race!”

Indeed, nobody else is within striking distance of those two at this point in the championships, and you can count on some serious match racing in the medal race tomorrow. Toni Bonet from Spain doesn’t quite have bronze sewed up yet, and will have to look over his shoulder as Frenchman Oel Pouliquen still has a chance to climb on the podium if he wins the medal race.

Things are even tighter in the women’s fleet: while the race wins today went to Hadar Heller (ISR), Imogen Sills (GBR) and Shahar Tibi (ISR), young Emma Wilson from Great Britain impressed with steady racing in the building breeze and now stands on top of the podium entering the medal race. Her lead is razor thin though, and she’s going to have to fight for it on Saturday: Marta Maggetti (ITA), Ma Kwan Ching  (HKG) and Berenice Mege (FRA) are all within 4 points!

Gutsy Start from Mateo Salles (MEX)

Gutsy Start from Mateo Salles (MEX) – credit: Jay Ailworth 

 

The rest of the fleets will enjoy a final race tomorrow morning, come back ashore and line up on the pier to cheer on their friends in what promises to be an exciting medal race for both men and women!

The Organizing Authority continued to treat competitors to first-class dinner, this time at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center (courtesy of event sponsor Bright House Networks), before everyone rushed back to Pier 60 for a fireworks show (sponsored by Pier 60 Concessions).

The stage is set!

 

2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater: Shake-Up at the Top on Day 3!

RS:X Racing on a public beach at the 2014 Youth Worlds in Clearwater

RS:X Racing on a public beach at the 2014 Youth Worlds in Clearwater

Shake up at the top on Day 3 of the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater, Florida! Fully recharged thanks to the lay day yesterday, all competitors were eager to enter the final stretch of the competition in Clearwater, and the planing conditions in the forecast certainly contributed to the excitement on the beach. With cooler temperatures this morning came a 10-14 kt side-off breeze (don’t panic, cooler temperatures means 16C this time of year in Florida!) and the race committee wasted no time to set the course for the first race of the day. The windward mark for the inner loop of the course was set barely 200 yards from the tip of Pier 60, allowing spectators to enjoy the mark rounding action up close and personal.

View of the Baystar Racing Village from Pier 60

View of the Baystar Racing Village from Pier 60

It was Frenchman Clement Guevel who took charge in the first race of the day before letting a couple of competitors slip past him at the finish.  The French team found extra motivation today in the early departure of their teammate Clement ‘Boubou’ Bourgeois, who cut his foot during rest day yesterday and had to be flown back to France before the conclusion of the championships. That would be a big disappointment for any racer this week, but it was especially hard to take because Clement was standing in 3rd position this morning.

Unfortunate Early Departure for Clement 'Boubou' Bourgeois

Unfortunate Early Departure for Clement ‘Boubou’ Bourgeois

“Very good day for me today,” wrote French teammate Berenice Mege. “The wind was shifty and patchy and I was able to figure it out. The top step on the podium is really close. I want to climb up there for ‘Boubou.’ Her sentiment was echoed by her teammate Adrien Mestre, who joked that he wouldn’t make a push to the front out of respect for his wounded teammate, before promising that he would in fact fight ’til the very end in his honor. The race committee moved briskly to run two more races in very technical conditions. Those able to stay alert, read the current and find the patches of wind on the course were richly rewarded. Besides the early departure of Clement Bourgeois due to injury, there was another factor that contributed to the shake-up at the top of the men’s leaderboard: Radoslaw Furmanski (POL) and Mattia Camboni (ITA) were granted redress for an OCS earlier this week, along with four other competitors. Camboni moved straight to the top of the rankings as a result, while Furmanski stepped up to 3rd. Overnight leader Toni Bonet (ESP) lost the lead but is only 1 point behind Camboni tonight.

The Boys Fleet racing to the outer loop

The Boys Fleet racing to the outer loop

While Berenice Mege had the best combined score for the 3 races contested today in the women’s fleet, overnight leader Ma Kwan Ching (HKG) had very steady results and padded her lead a little over Marta Maggetti (ITA). With Mege, Wilson (GBR) and Czurylo (POL) all within a few points of the lead, it’s still all to play for.

Girls Fleet heading back down to leeward gate

Girls Fleet heading back down to leeward gate

Tonight’s dinner party was at Crabby Bill’s, a laid-back and colorful restaurant located directly across from the venue on Clearwater Beach. All competitors had a nice meal and headed in early: three more races are scheduled for tomorrow!

2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater: Full Schedule after Day 2!

Clearwater 2014 - Start of Women Race 6

Clearwater 2014 – Lining up for Women Race #6, as viewed from Pier 60

After two days of intense racing at the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater, both fleets have completed a full schedule of 6 light-wind races, and they’ve earned their lay day!

Very light and shifty winds were forecast for the day, and it was a nice surprise to see a 7 kt side-off breeze fill in early from the North. After a short postponement on shore to make sure the wind was steady, all racers were called to the water for what turned out to be three races in a row for both fleets, around the same tried-and-true trapezoid course used the day before.

Riccardo

Riccardo Enrique Perez Gio (MEX), in 44th place after Day 2

“It was much steadier than yesterday,” said Ricardo Enrique Perez Gio from Mexico. “It was still very hard, but I enjoyed it more.”

The breeze eventually turned to side-on, but the race committee was on top of it and by 3pm, all racers were back to shore licking their wounds, counting their blessings, and looking forward to a great dinner party.

After the jitters of opening day and most likely a word or two from their coaches, racers were much more disciplined on the start line today, with no OCS in the three races of the day in either fleet. “I saw people being extra careful on the start line today,” observed Mateo Salles. “We all added five seconds to the countdown!”

Even with conservative starts, the leaders worked hard all the way around the course. “These guys are really good,” added Mateo’s teammate Federico Vega. “I’m learning a lot on every race.”

Toni Bonet - Men's Leader after Day 2

Toni Bonet – Men’s Leader after Day 2

With one discard in play already, Angel Granda Roque (ESP) and Mattia Camboni (ITA) made major gains in the men’s rankings: from 37th to 12th overall for Mattia and from 27th all the way to 5th for Angel. But Toni Bonet (ESP) has increased his lead with very steady racing and a bullet to end the day.

On the women’s side, French teammates Berenice Mege and Delphine Jariel showed their talent, with two bullets for Berenice vaulting her from 17th to 5th, and Delphine’s steady finishes allowing her to climb from 14th to 7th. Ma Kwan Ching (HKG) still leads the proceedings, but 2013 World Champion Marta Maggetti (ITA) has closed the gap, and Emma Wilson (GBR) is well positioned with the lowest discard among all the girls in the fleet.

The day ended in style, with trolleys picking up hungry sailors at the beach venue for a drive down the shoreline to local favorite restaurant Salt Rock Grill. A great opportunity for all to meet one of the Championships’ major sponsors, the Baystar Restaurant Group, and refuel after two long days on the water.

Race organizers are keeping an eye on a tropical depression brewing in the Bay of Campeche. Winds are expected to pick up when racing resumes on Thursday. But not before some much-needed R&R!

Dinner Party at Salt Rock Grill

Dinner Party at Local Favorite Restaurant ‘Salt Rock Grill’

 

2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater: Hard Work on Day 1!

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Launching off the beach on Day 1 at the 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds in Clearwater, FL USA

The 2014 RS:X Youth Worlds kicked off today in Clearwater, USA, and it was hard work from the start: in 5-6 kt of breeze, offshore to start the day and side-on to close it, pumping was in order for the 54 boys and 28 girls gathered here for the 2014 RS:X Youth World Windsurfing Championships.

Races started on the dot at 11am in offshore conditions, with the knowledgeable race committee opting for a trapezoid course to keep the two fleets well clear of one another. After a long break ashore to recover from the morning workout, and to give the afternoon side-on breeze a chance to settle, the fleets were called back for two more races. Racing in those pumping conditions is very technical. It’s also a real test of a sailor’s stamina and psychological endurance, and the hot Florida weather can be the straw that literally breaks the Camelbak!

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Brenno Francioli from Brasil

“It was very hard out there for me today,” said Brenno Francioli from Brasil. “I’m better in high winds, but it was a good day. We should have higher winds later this week. I can’t wait!” Brenno currently sits in 29th place.

The boys are racing as one fleet, and errors on the start line are costly. With 6 boys OCS (early over the start line) in the 1st race, 8 in the 2nd race and 6 again in the 3rd, and a few boys scored OCS more than once already, there’ll be plenty of catching up to do the rest of the week. One of those affected is Mattia Camboni, the 2013 Youth World Champion, who scored 1, OCS, OCS for the three races of the day and will have no option but to race aggressively the rest of the way if the provisional results hold. Toni Bonet from Spain was incredibly regular and leads the Men’s fleet by 10 points over Frenchmen Clement Bourgeois and Oel Pouliquen, but the discard is likely to make the contest much closer once it gets into play. On the women’s side, Ma Kwan Ching from Hong Kong came out swinging in the afternoon with two bullets. Behind Ma Kwan Ching, Sara Wennekes (NED), Noy Drihan (ISR) and Emma Wilson (GBR) are lurking, but here too the discard will bring many more racers closer to the front.

The competitors this week have a venue unlike any other: the Baystar Race Village is set up directly on the sugar-white sand of Clearwater Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in America. A big tent provides well-needed shelter from the sun, overnight storage for the equipment, and a corridor has been set up from the tent to the limits of the 300 ft zone to allow everyone to launch and land without obstacles. Wind conditions today didn’t allow for racing very close to shore, but that didn’t stop regular beach-goers from lining up the boundaries of that corridor to watch the competitors up close. They took pictures, asked questions, waved flags and cheered for their favorite countries.

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Baystar Race Village on Clearwater Beach, FL USA

Planting an enormous Race Village smack in the middle of a touristic beach is a logistical challenge for sure, but it creates real excitement for everyone: for the racers who get to spend a day at the beach, for the spectators who get introduced or re-introduced to the sport, and for the local community that gets to promote its incredible natural assets and the can-do attitude of its leaders.

“It’s a throwback to the early days of windsurfing,” said Jerome Samson, President of US Windsurfing. “Most sailing events are run out of yacht clubs, and for very good reasons, but it’s often at the expense of visibility. One thing we can say with certainty is that our venue this week is very visible!”

Racing continues Tuesday Oct 21 through Saturday Oct 25.

This event would not be possible without the energy and passion of Frank Chivas and Tampa Bay Charities, the city of Clearwater, the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, the Clearwater Yacht Club and many more generous sponsors.

2014 Kona Worlds in Islamorada – an Interview with Event Chair Michael Fox

In exactly three weeks (Oct 31 – Nov 5), 100+ competitors from around the world will come together in beautiful Islamorada, Florida for the 2014 Kona World Championships. We thought this would be the perfect time to sit down with Michael Fox, event Chairman and President of Kona USA, to preview this world-class event and learn about what the Kona Class is all about!

Michael, a Kona racer himself these days, has been involved in organizing windsurfing events in the US for nearly 30 years, and the task of organizing the 2014 World Championships for the Class couldn’t be in better hands.

Enjoy the interview!

Michael Fox - Portrait 01

Michael Fox, Event Chairman

US Windsurfing: What makes the Kona Class special?

Michael Fox: It is a well-supported one-design class with a board that is very entry-level friendly, with body weight differences equalized accordingly with sail size and relying on true sailing skills and tactics by the elimination of pumping.

Is it for advanced or beginner racers?

It is definitely a strong class for beginner racers based on the virtues I just mentioned, but should also appeal to the advanced racers who want to see how they perform on the most level playing field in all of sailing.

Can you race in 3 knots?

Yes and we’ve done it. Two years ago, we were forced to race in barely 3 knots of thermal wind generated by a highway running next to the lake. The wind pattern reached out a quarter mile and ran a half mile down the beach. The competition was tight, but the qualifier was that the water was absolutely flat. I wouldn’t want to race in 3 knots if there was a swell or boat chop.

Can you race in 30 knots?

There are definitely those who can race in 30 knots. I was on the RC boat at our first Worlds in Miami when the winds were peaking at 30. But the majority of the starters sailed in survival mode or didn’t finish at all. If it is not a major championship, I have always preferred to switch to a slalom format in the higher winds if it will help get more people off the beach and across the finish line.

How fast is the Class growing?

It is growing at a very steady and healthy rate, faster than most any other windsurfing class in many years. We are currently adding 500 boards per year with Sweden leading the wave. The U.S. is probably second, although we have yet to develop the West coast at all. With the 2015 U.S. Nationals scheduled for Cabrillo Beach, we will soon see Kona flowers west of the Rockies.

When did it first break through in the US?

It started very early in Florida, thanks to the popularity of the Calema Midwinters and our Florida-based distributor who recognized the value of a well-supported one-design class to the faltering racing scene. But it was the 2010 Kona Worlds held off South Beach in Miami that helped spread the seeds across much of the continent. The Kona flower quickly took strong roots in Toronto, the Midwest and Texas, and a year later in New England.

Why are the Worlds in Islamorada special?

If you have ever windsurfed or raced in the Keys, you shouldn’t ask that question with a straight face. We are sailing out of the Guy Harvey Islander with most of the competitors staying there and the rest less than a mile away. Islamorada offers many activities both on and off the water for non-racing family members. And then there is that Island mystique which is much more than umbrella drinks at the Tiki bar.

How many countries and athletes do you have registered?

At this point, we have 12 nations and over a hundred racers registered. I believe we have the charter boards to reach 115 or a little more.

How hard is it to organize such an event?

For 28 years, I was fortunate to lead a dedicated group of volunteers in putting on the Mille Lacs Crossing which was basically a high-risk, long-distance race that took an afternoon. I often said that it would be much easier to plan and run a national championship regatta than put on the Crossing. I won’t use those words again. My experience in running major events several hours from my home base provided for some false confidence. But fortunately, while I faced various obstacles that confront a World championship, I was regularly rewarded with the excitement from registrants. And while I have had a smaller team than I had for the Crossing, they have provided great support and input.

What conditions are you expecting?

The lightest reports from that time of the year are 8-10 knots. If we get an early season front moving through, we will have some high wind racing. At the very least, the winds should easily be Kona winds and when it picks up to planing speeds, we have a reef outside the race area keeping the water relatively flat.

Any early favorites to take the crown?

Vegas is still working on that formula. We have several older competitors with multiple world and national championships under their belt. And then we have nearly as many younger racers who have been absorbed in Olympic campaigns who should definitely make a presence on the award podium. No pumping and the sail size-to-weight balancer helps erase the age and weight handicaps, meaning more racers reaching the first mark seconds apart and close finishes throughout most of the fleet. The crown will definitely be earned.

 

2014 National Slalom Standings Taking Shape After Hawaii State Championships!

(Drone video courtesy of Daniel Barreiro)

By Tamara Bockius

Thank you to all the sailors and their families who traveled to Maui to race with us this summer! The Maui Race Series (MRS) enjoyed beautiful trade winds and a smoothly organized set of 5 events run through June and July with the 5th event, the Neil Pryde Hawaii State Championships, in early August. Enjoying its 30th year, the MRS is like a mini Olympics of Windsurfing because of all the different nationalities in attendance. The Japanese racers are seriously fast and train hard. A large group of Kiwi Sailors (New Zealanders) show up ever year well trained and equipped. We have racers from the Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands, Australia, France, Germany, Canada and Argentina, a 15 year old Russian Jr. girl from Moscow competed this year, Italy was well represented with Luciano, several British racers show up every year to devastate the fleets as well.

Hawaii State Champs - Harry Wiewel

Racers from all horizons converged on Kanaha for the Hawaii State Champs – credit: Harry Wiewel

Sailing at the Maui Race Series events will expose you to a very high level of competition (it’s Maui, everyone and their mom is an old Pro!) but at the same time, it is relaxed, just for fun. Every time that you show up to compete, you will enhance your sailing skills. You learn from watching the other racers, checking out their various equipment and individual sailing styles. You can become a better sailor if you want to. It takes training and familiarity with your equipment and all the conditions that you can take it in. Racing pushes you to sail better, faster, longer, and with a purpose. Recreational sailing is always fun also, cruising and playing with friends. We want to encourage you to take your Windsurfing to the ‘next level’ though, get out on the water and train towards a goal, competing at one or maybe all of the NRT windsurfing events offered around the U.S.

See you at the Races-
Aloha from Maui,
Tamara Bockius (Tammy)
US Windsurfing – Pacific Regional Director

A magical backdrop and great playground at Kanaha for the MRS - credit: Jimmie Hepp

A spectacular backdrop and magical playground at Kanaha for the MRS – credit: Jimmie Hepp

Like those drone videos? Here are a few more from this year’s Race Series in Maui (credit: Mauizoom’s Reinhard Elischka):

Maui Race Series, Neil Pryde Hawaii State Championships Aug. 2. 2014
Maui Race Series, Meanline Slalom July 5. 2014
Maui Race Series, Carbon Art Challenge June 7. 2014

The US Windsurfing Association has been working hard this year helping cross promote regattas around the country. Along with a new, updated website to keep track of all the events around the country, US Windsurfing has created a national Slalom ranking on its National Racing Tour (NRT). The title in 2014 is calculated from the points from four select regattas in the US. Those four events are: 1) the slalom portion the US Nationals that took place in Worthington in June; 2) the Gorge Cup event held July 19-20th in Hood River; 3) the Neil Pryde Hawaii State Championships on the MRS held August 2nd; and 4) the final event, yet to take place in 2014, is the Miami Slalom Open, scheduled for November 8-9. At this final event US Windsurfing will crown its first US National Slalom champions!

All US Windsurfing members attending any of the above four slalom events get automatically ranked on the NRT. With the finish line clearly in sight, here are the standings after event #3 in Hawaii (click to zoom in):

2014 Slalom Standings After 3rd Event

MacRae Wylde Wins Event #2 on the 2014 Slalom NRT in Hood River!

Top 5 Overall:  from left:  Casey Hauser, Bruce Peterson, MacRae Wylde, Sean Kelly - not pictured:  Bryan Metcalf-Perez

Top 5 Overall: from left: Casey Hauser, Bruce Peterson, MacRae Wylde, Sean Kelly – not pictured: Bryan Metcalf-Perez

The 2nd event on the 2014 Slalom NRT (National Racing Tour) took place July 19-20 as part of the Gorge Cup series in Hood River, with fast and furious competition in all categories! In a breakthrough performance, MacRae Wylde won the overall title, with Bruce Peterson and Casey Hauser close on his heels.

Overall winner MacRae Wylde in action

Overall winner MacRae Wylde in action

We asked MacRae to put this amazing experience into words:

The Gorge Cup Race Series has been going on for years. The National Race Tour generally brings out the best competition of the year. New faces and top racers make the event both challenging and fun. This year featured the new Slalom Tour. In any given race there are ten guys and a couple of women who can put it all together to have a great race. My goal has always been to be competitive with the top sailors. To place in the top five is always a victory. Racing at this level means that one mistake can cost you three or four positions.

Last weekend something happened to me. I had a great day on Saturday of the two day National Slalom Tour Gorge Cup event, winning one race and picking up a couple of thirds to finish the day in fourth. Sunday was an out of body experience for me. Every choice I made seemed to work. Every time I moved to a puff of wind, it was there. We did eight races and I won five and was second in three. Sunday’s results were enough to secure the win for the weekend. I can’t say what I did differently than any other day, but I was focused and really enjoyed racing.

Windsurfing is my passion and Sunday everything just clicked together. I will always remember my day in the light. Thanks also to all the racers, old and young, who came out to push the limits and see how far you can go.

With the 2nd event on the 2014 Slalom NRT in the books, here are the updated standings:

2014 Slalom Standings After 2 Events

No overlap in the fleets between the first event in Worthington and the second in Hood River, but this might change with the third event coming up this weekend at the Neil Pryde Hawaii State Championships. Stay tuned!

Grand Master Toshi Kato showing how it's done

Grand Master Toshi Kato showing how it’s done!