Maui slalom secrets: time your starts and dodge turtles!
by Tammy Bockius
It started out windy – and then it just blew harder! ‘Cranking breezy’ is what it’s called. We were at Kanaha this past Saturday for the conclusion of the 2018 Maui Race Series. The MRS ends traditionally with the Neilpryde-sponsored Hawaii State Championships, and this year was no exception, but we also ran the Goya pro-am on the same day because we didn’t have enough wind for it the week before. Needless to say, we got our money’s worth of racing all packed in one day! “These were the windiest races I’ve ever done at Kanaha – I could barely hold on!” said Micah at the end of the day. If Micah Buzianis is whooped, imagine the rest of us!
All the racers were ready and on the water warming up right at 11AM. We use a two-minute start sequence here on Maui. A yellow flag goes up at 2 minutes to signal the start, a blue flag up at 1 minute, and the red flag goes up at 0. So, while sailing, you set your race watch, count backwards for two minutes and hit the start line flying like a locomotive. Not as easy as it sounds, especially in 30 knots! Gauging your distance from the start line is crucial. Too early, you are disqualified, too late and you’re left behind. Everyone was going for it on race day, holding on to the biggest sails they could in all that wind. It was exciting and fast paced and we ran so many heats!
It’s important to train in that kind of wind, with a buoy for a target. Slalom training means wearing a race watch and practicing start sequences, over and over. Each heat is done very fast. Your starts are a major part of the race: realize that you ARE racing once you set your watch for the two-minute start sequence. I try to make my starts like clockwork. How you set up before you hit the line is very important – your speed, angle, everyone else’s position and angle, it’s a lot to compute on the fly while looking at your watch. Delicate precision is needed! Adjust your speed and angle if you have to, just do it right, text-book every time, as if you were landing on an aircraft carrier and there was no room for error!
Then there can be other variables – like floating rocks! There seems to be more honu (green sea turtles) than ever lately and the race course has been a minefield. Hitting one of those is the same as hitting reef. One of our visiting regular racers, Johanna, got injured during pre-race week training. She is a tough cookie and still sailed in by herself after breaking her front teeth! “Not exactly the way i wanted to make headlines,” she said jokingly a few days later. “I’m in less pain now and on the road to recovery. Be cautious out there!“
Indeed. I heard of a surfer at Ho’okipa dropping in and hitting a large honu and actually falling on to it and knocking himself unconscious. This is another good reason to have a buddy system every time you’re on the water, so that you can watch out for each other.
Despite these unexpected additional obstacles, Maui delivered again with a gorgeous, sunny and generously windy day. Good job to all the racers, crew and sponsors for another successful MRS season! Make plans to join us next summer – and remember to bring small sails!