Windsurf Racing Clinic September 2002

I arrived arround 10:45 and immediatly started to put my longboard together, and rig the 9.0 Neil Pryde Streetracer I bought a couple of years ago. I don't get to pull it out that often, but there wasn't much wind, just light chop for Days Inn... so I figured this would be a piece of cake. With my gear set up, I headed towards the theoretical part. You all know the agenda, so I could pick up a lot of info on classes, starting procedures, course setup etc. By the end, I guess half of us including myself already envisioned ourselves on a trip to the nationals next year. So there was just the little practical part to reinforce the theory. Dave set a practice course for this purpse, triangle, upwind from the starting line. It sounded pretty easy (get around the course, then practice starts a couple of times, finally get around the course again twice, after regular starts).
In reality it turned out, umph, a little more complicated. Right on the beach I realized I had rigged up with the least amount of downhaul I had ever put on this sail before. I wrestled with the darn cambers a while, but with some assistance from Dave I got away from the beach, and fortunately the starting line was down a beam reach. The wind was still light, and after all it was time to get to business. On the beam reach, I could relax a little, and realized my booties had picked up a considerable amount of these little pieces of shell which make the beach at Days Inn. In act, my booties felt like full pants (well, I had a difficult childhood), and both tacks and jibes as I tried to get around the course for the first time were pretty uncomfortable. Needless to say I missed the first mark, but this was just a warmup run, right? But dude, why was this first marker so ridiculously high upwind? Isn't it supposed to be a RACE=RunAsCrazyExpeditious-as-possible? My terribly heavy sail did not work either. The cambers just wouldn't twist, so I washed out a couple of times, but never mind, it was just a warm up run. Back around the starting line, it normally would have been time to clear out the booties, and head back to the beach to tune the rig right. But this is racing, and unfortunately, it does not start at one's personal convenience: We received the 5min sign, so the call was to stay put upwind of the starting line. I survived only a minute or so. Now my morale was almost gone. I was looking in vain towards the beach. I could only think of downhaul tools and fresh booties. At least the sail was downsind in the water, so despite my annoyance, I somehow managed to get going in time. I passed the starting line only 10s or so after the start. I started heading towards the first mark, following some guys in front of me. But where was everybody going? Some were trying to directly head upwind towards the first marker, while the ones I followed sailed towards the second marker!?
Confusion until I realized the crowd I followed towards the second marker did so for a tactical tack en route to the first, which was a good idea provided one wasn't as much downwind as I was. Uphauling in front of the starting line: Not a good idea. With one extra tack though, I passed the first mark with no accident, and no idea which place I had. And after all that heading and tacking, I also had lost nautical overview. Where was the second marker again? Where's the wind coming from anyway? Where's the best place to jibe? Not where I did, that's for sure. After the jibe, way too close to the second marker, I washed out once more in an attempt to go downwind towards it. Nice that the wind at least carried me and my rig to a good starting position beyond the second marker, and that the rule forĘthe finish, crossing the line in a controlled sailing position, or so, does not apply to the markes. Anyway, I did not pass the second marker in a seaman like fashion, that's for sure. Finally I got up and headed towards the finish line. By that time, Dave was already on his way placing the second marker in a new position, following the wind which had shifted a little. Shouldn't the position of the marker be changed only a little as well? But there was no time for this type of questions - 5min to go again. This time I tried another tactic. Wasn't it so difficult to stay put? So wouldn't it be much easier to just sail on a beam reach away from the starting line, a practice well known from all the normal sailing, then tack with 1min to go, head back, and blast through the starting line? What seemed to be a good idea turned out this way: I sailed too far, so I couldn't hear Dave's countdown any more. Again irritated, and still with all the silly shells in my booties and the heavy sail in my hands, I blew another tack. By the time I was back at the starting line, everybody had already left, and I had to tack once more to even get over the starting line. Another blown tack, and that was it, end of race even before the start. There's a saying in car racing: In order to finish first, you have to finish, first. Well, I have a customized version, free of charge.

So I got the shells out of my booties, and headed back to the beach. I was so frustrated and confused that even the simple task of just sailing back on a beam reach turned out to be a challenge. Time for a break.

Back on the beach, restoration of confidence! Add downhaul, and draw back to familiar grounds: B and F a couple of times. Just to reassure I had not lost the little of sailing skills I have. I found, at least that wasn't the case. And I didn't get washed under the bridge, which felt good as well. I could have done worse, and there's a lot of room for improvement. For sure I am going to try this again at one of the upcoming regattas. There's a lot of stoke to get out of this, regardless of the final place. For me, getting around a course without accident would already be rewarding enough...

Thanks and cheers to Dave Kashy, and a tank you to Marcy and Dave for their support!