This was my first Blowout ever - for some reason, I've never been able to make it down for one before. This year, however, it fit perfectly with the opportunity to take some family vacation in the Gorge, bracketed by the Blowout weekend at the beginning and the FW Northamericans at the end, with lots of sailing and playing in between.
On the drive form Hood River to Stevenson, it looked very filled in all the way to Viento, and still pretty windy between there and Stevenson/Cascade Locks. And things seemed to be picking up, plus the forecast looked really solid for the whole stretch. It just didn't seem enough for risking slalom gear, though. So I followed Dale's and Bruce's lead and went with my Roberts Formula board and my 9.9 Sailworks NXfw. The only difference was that they had 66cm fins, whereas my smallest was a 68.
Things picked up a bit out on the river, and at the start, I was nicely powered going off the breeze. I was following Dale and Bruce, and duking it out with Kieran, Jac, MacRae, Stefan, and the slalom contingent of Anil and Carey. As we approached the narrows, all of us with the apparent exception of Dale seemed to find our personal holes and swirlies - the slalom guys struggled with that more than those of use on large gear, of course, but it's still kind of frustrating to be slogging, looking frantically for wind, then riding a puff down the river until finding yourself unable to avoid the next hole. Dale was putting a lot of distance on the pack at this point, and the rest of us were trying to stick with Bruce. There were lots of changes in the positions at this point, and things were surprisingly tactical.
At Viento, the Junior Blowout started as Dale came through as the leader, playing rabbit to the eager crowd of junior sailors raring to go. The rest of us were quite a bit behind, struggling with the flukey conditions. As we got closer to Viento, I tried to stay as close to the Washington side as I could, trying to avoid the holes on the Oregon side - there were big patches of glass there. Jac got pretty close to Bruce, and the two of them roared into Viento in tight formation on a nice puff. Bruce went incredibly close into shore and pulled that off without either losing the breeze or running into the rocks there - quite an achievement. Jac stayed a bit further out. I was able to ride a strong puff down the middle of the river, then round up to get to the mark at Viento, then use my momentum to jibe and get back out into the breeze. I passed Jac in the process and came neck and neck with Bruce - that was, however, the last I saw of him, as he steadily pulled away with the breeze filling in more and more.
From now on, it got to be really fun - the wind was fully filled in and increased quite a bit until, when passing through Swell and the Hatchery, it got downright entertaining. I pulled away from Jac now that I was finally fully powered and his bigger sail and uncanny eye for shifts were less advantageous.
The finish order was Dale Cook, Bruce Peterson, Andreas Macke, Jac LeRoux, and MacRae Wylde. Anil Rajani came in 6th - quite the achievement given he was on slalom gear. Results (http://vmgevents.com/gc/results_files/06_blowout.htm) and pictures (http://vmgevents.com/gc/album/album2/index.htm) at the vmg site - here's one of me finishing: http://vmgevents.com/gc/album/album2/pages/aIMG_3705_jpg.htm
I'd say the one-design fleet in the top 3 (Roberts/Sailworks) again demonstrates that the gear just works, btw. The boards are friendly and fast, the sails are rangey and fast, and the package just feels very nice indeed.
So, about those juniors. I finally caught up with Todd Selby, the first place junior, just above the Hatchery. I think he's about 16. He was on an 8.5, sailing his FE board with the stock 70cm fin (which is a pretty lifty and draggy beast). He didn't just sail through the (by now pretty substantial) swell - he charged. There was no hesitation, no survival sailing - the kid totally committed and went for it. Good on him - he'll be someone to watch.
That, by the way, is pretty much true of the whole US Windsurfing Junior Team - these kids absolutely rock. They're positive, committed, and support their team mates. There's no whining, there are no excuses. Great group of kids, all of whom are doing their part to get the full benefit from the terrific coaching they're getting from Charles Ivey. These kids are the future of the sport, and a credit to it as well. Right on!
Meanwhile, I can't wait for next year's blowout - it's a fun race, ably organized by Scotia Bauer of VMG Events, ably run by Race Director Darren Rogers, and gleefully raced by a very diverse group of sailors. Come join next year - it's too fun to miss.