By Peter Bonello
After obtaining permits from the City, County and Federal governments and coordinating with nine agencies, the stage was finally set for this year’s National Championships at LA’s Cabrillo Beach. 46 competitors from across the nation, some hailing from as far away as New England, Hawaii, Florida and Washington State, descended onto LA’s Cabrillo Beach for the 2013 Windsurfing National Championships.
They varied in age from 16 to 63 with 36 signing up for the slalom races, 23 for the formula course racing, and 16 of these signing up for both slalom and course racing.
Out of the 36 slalom racers, 5 were women and 6 of the men also competed for the freestyle title. Motivations to participate varied of course, but a contributing factor had to be the opportunity to sail at a venue that no Nationals had ever been run at before and possibly a welcome change from the usual venues.
Nicknamed Hurricane Gulch, Cabrillo Beach consistently delivers solid thermal afternoon breezes during the summer and the week of Nationals was no exception with the wind blowing between 15 and 20 knots for all of the racing. This breeze is not limited to a small local area either as evidenced by the fact that the organizers confidently sent the course racers on a long distance race 8 miles dead downwind to Long Beach and back – a race that covered over 30 miles over the water and was completed by the leader in just under 1-1/2 hrs with most of the fleet finishing under 2 hours.
The long distance race was a part of the course racing series, counting as two course races. Over the other four days of the regatta, ten races were held, allowing competitors to discard their three worst results. While the overall top two positions became obvious pretty early in the regatta between the defending National Champion Phil McGain (Hawaii) in first place and Xavier Ferlet of Southern California, in second, the race for third was a real nail biter between five Bay Area sailors with Al Mirel and Soheil Zahedi finishing only 1 point apart for that coveted position.
18 year old Jack Lundquist put on an incredible performance finishing in 6th place overall amongst a fleet dominated by grand masters with 30+ years of windsurf racing experience. The middle of the fleet also enjoyed close and intense racing with positions jockeying back and forth through the course of the week amongst racers who each tend to dominate their local regattas and make that occasional trek out to Nationals.
12 Slalom races were held over three of the five days. The first race was however thrown out as the finish boat’s anchor did not hold and with menacing rocks just a short distance downwind, the crew had to focus on boat recovery efforts rather than record the finishers. The men’s fleet raced all together with about 25 racers in each heat. The sprint to the first downwind mark set only about a hundred or so yards off shore was exhilarating to watch and must have been nerve-racking to be in as a dense pack of blasting windsurfers charged towards the beach bearing down for that first critical gybe.
Tyson Poor sailed consistently well taking an early lead in the regatta and held onto it throughout the week in spite of pressure from McGain who took second. A very close battle for third place developed between Xavier and Casey Hauser. The tie was broken based on the best scores of each to Xavier’s advantage. While Phil Soltyziak was clearly in 5th place with a series of very consistent results around that position, a battle for 6th through 9th developed with another tie breaker between Wyatt Miller and Jay Watermeyer. Local veteran sailor Dave Whittaker obtained an impressive 10th place overall for his first time ever at a national championship, also taking third place in his age division.
The women’s slalom races followed immediately after each men’s start. Sarah Delaunay from France dominated the races except for races 4 through 6 which she obtained DNFs for failing to finish correctly. Hawaii’s Tammy Bockius sailed consistently and placed in a solid second while a close race for third place between local sailors Johanna Yee and Kay Monteleone was developing. Sheri Nelson was not far behind even scoring a bullet in one of the races.
To the delight of the onlookers, the six freestyle sailors duked it out just a few yards from the beach in spite of the inconsistent wind pressure when close to shore. Pro sailor Phil Soltyziak took first place with an unparalleled repertoire of airborne spins and maneuvers. Wyatt Miller was judged in second place with Casey Hauser in third. Phil’s younger brother Tom Soltyziak took fourth place ahead of Jay Watermeyer and Ben Quinn. The event was run in a single day though many practice sessions before ensured quite the spectacle for onlookers.
As promised, both Phil’s each gave a windsurfing clinic to anybody that showed up at the beach shortly after 9 am on the pre-designated day. While McGain discussed racing and training techniques, Soltyziak covered freestyle.
Every evening at the yacht club, the competitors and their guests were served complimentary beer, provided by our sponsors Shipyard Brewing and Sea Dog Brewing Companies. Two evenings were pre- scheduled for dinner at two local restaurants, The Whale & Ale and Babouch, both supporters of the event. On Tuesday it was Whale and Ale night with 30 windsurfers gathering for a nice British pub style dinner and a round of bar songs. Wednesday night was reserved for Babouch where about 20 windsurfers gathered for authentic Moroccan food and belly dancing entertainment.
Friday night’s awards and closing ceremony provided an opportunity to meet the volunteer officials of the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club that hosted the event and provided the many boats, marks and other resources for the regatta as well as to thank some of our sponsors in person. Mr. Marty Bellville of the Ardagh Group was in attendance. Marty, a local windsurfer, was also a key contributor to the event not only through his company’s financial support, but also through contribution of his time and personal resources towards the event. Also invited, but unable to attend, was Mr. Kirk Robinson of Captain Kirk Windsurfing, the local windsurfing shop who also sponsored the event.
Other supporters include the San Pedro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Mr. Greg Long, a friend of the organizers. The creators of the Event Website, Debi Thompson and husband Spennie were also in attendance. In addition to financing, designing and managing the website, the Thompsons also designed the Race Shirt graphics. Scott Carter, a long time local windsurfer who volunteered for the role of master of ceremonies throughout the event continued in this role at the closing ceremony and brought with him members of Jim Drake’s family. As many windsurfers know, the late Jim Drake is credited as the inventor of windsurfing. Mr. Darren Rogers, the principal race officer, who worked tirelessly not only during the day to run the races but also after each day’s racing into the night to get the scoring recorded, was also on-hand and buying drinks for yacht club volunteers who manned the many boats.
At the awards ceremony, in addition to recognizing the top three finishers for the various age and gender divisions of each event, the overall National Champion was declared based on the combined performance of both the Formula and the Slalom Races. Phil McGain was thus crowned 2013 US National Champion with Xavier Ferlet coming in second and Bay Area sailor, Chris RadKowski in third place.
Local Photographer Daniel Gallet, a former windsurfer, was present every day on the committee boat, at the beach or at the several evening get-togethers. He and Dominik, another photographer who made the trip from San Diego, posted many photos of the event that can be viewed by clicking on the following links:
While this year’s Nationals were not free of challenges and glitches, especially at the onset, the event proved to be a huge success. The wind and water conditions were fabulous, plenty of races were served up, including an awesome downwind-upwind long distance race and a very cool freestyle event. The best part of the event, one might say, is the camaraderie of the windsurfers and their families that participate in this annual event. Whether you are new to Nationals or a veteran that returns year after year it really is a great family atmosphere to be in and the 2013 Nationals at Cabrillo was no exception!
Results and more stories can be found here:
Hope to see you all at the 2014 US Windsurfing Nationals in Worthington, MN from June 11-15, 2014!