Monday, August 11, 2008

Squamish pictures

Gwen l'Hirondelle made some nice shots available as well - they're now part of the updated slideshow embedded below (click on it to get it to display in bigger size). She spent a lot of time during the weekend hanging out on the spit in clearly suboptimal weather, producing a lot of nice pictures - and she has graciously agreed for them to get published in support of promoting a great grass-roots event put on by the Squamish Windsports Society. That's just one example of all the great SWS volunteers who contributed to making this event happen. Thanks, Gwen - and thanks to all the volunteers for a great weekend!

David shot some pics of the slalom on Friday off the end of the spit and has graciously agreed to let me post them. I especially like the fact that in all the shots where I do appear, I'm leading ;)

The original gallery is posted at Elliot's site - thanks David for taking the time to take pictures when you could have been out on the water, and thanks Elliot for creating a neat community resource for the Pacific Northwest boardheads!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Canadian Nationals - Day 3 (final)

Phew - good exercise. The clearing weather didn't quite make it up Howe Sound, so the temperature gradient was actually reversed (w/ Vancouver warmer than Squamish, and Squamish warmer than Whistler). At least it didn't rain anymore after 8 am. Winds were pretty light, and really flukey. We ended up doing three heats of formula late in the afternoon, but more so we'd have something to do rather than because we thought it would be good racing (I guess we didn't want to sit on shore like the kiters, who in their frustration were resorting to building a gigantic floating rail for sliding tricks).

Since it was so light, we couldn't even lure out most of the racers, so it was just Chris Pior, Carey Caronni, and me. Interestingly, we were all on roughly the same sail sizes (10.7's for them, 10.8 for me); I'm about 25 pounds heavier than Chris, and Carey is quite a bit lighter than that again. The first heat then was finished in order of weight, with Carey managing to squeeze out Chris (who then took the next two). It was an interesting experiment, as the physics of the whole thing became apparent - anytime we pumped up on a plane after transitions, I'd need a few more pumps and lost more ground upwind to get going. It didn't help that my light air fin had fallen victim to a submerged piece of wood while checking out the course - to get any kind of pressure and rail the board, I had to resort to hanging off my uphaul.

Good exercise, for sure - we might have been a bit chilly when we left the beach, but we were dripping with sweat when we got back (Rob had at this time commandeered the PA system; when we were slogging in on the last puff of breeze, I distinctly heard him say something like "better you than me"...).

Results are thus firmed up - I won the slalom before Rob and Chris; Chris won formula with Carey getting second and me third. Phil won freestyle.

It's unfortunate we got such atypical weather on Saturday and Sunday; nevertheless, it was a fun event. The slalom on Friday was about as good as it gets (we got nine heats of slalom bliss) - just for that it was worth coming up. And even though for us spoiled West Coasters the conditions on Saturday were light (and Sunday even lighter), the Europeans would have just put on their 12's and called it great racing. For me, it was that one race a year where I wished I had a bigger rig (which is a cost-benefit analysis that doesn't really justify the investment).

There's talk of some more grass-roots racing at Squamish, as Rob and Chris were recounting the glory years of slalom racing there; the place certainly has that potential. For anyone who likes to race slalom, if the overall weather pattern is right, it would very much be worth the drive even from Seattle or even the Gorge.

I'm hoping to get some pictures to post in the next day or so, as there was a very friendly couple shooting with rather nice equipment and promising to make something available that would showcase the racing we had.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Canadian Nationals - Day 2

Lots of sitting in the rain and waiting this morning, with a front pushing through and making things feel more like March than August here in Squamish. Winds picked up a bit in the afternoon, and we got ready to race Formula. First heat got delayed as the breeze shifted quite a bit and we had to change the course to avoid turning this into a reaching match. Then, as we were about to get the second heat off, we had to pull the committee boat off station, as a big freighter was coming in and the boat was anchored right in its path to its berth. I was kind of glad that one didn't go off, as the wind had just dropped quite a bit while we were already in the sequence.

After a bit of rigging frenzy we all had our biggest sails up and were ready to go. We got three races off in light and shifty breeze. Current from the river added to the mayhem. The way the current played, there wasn't much latitude for tactics, as you had to get to the right side of the course to ride the current upwind, and the left side of the course to get downwind faster by not having to fight the current. Chris Prior took three bullets; I took three seconds. He's 25 pounds lighter than me, and he skillfully took advantage of that by getting good angle upwind and planing right through the holes up and down the course. Since I couldn't match his angle off the line, and since the wind was getting flukey on the right side of the course in the third heat, I tried a starboard start and actually led him through the first lap of the course; the lead I had built up at the windward mark had pretty much shrunk to nothing at the bottom though, and in the further dropping breeze, he got me on the second lap.

After we were all derigged and had eaten, the wind all of a sudden picked up; with the ramps created by the ebb, it would have been a good bump and jump session. After all the pumping, though, none of us were much in the mood. Tomorrow's forecast is for less rain and fewer clouds; hopefully that means a thermal push with a bit more sailable wind than today.

Slalom results so far actually do have us very close. After nine heats, I'm in first with 14 points; Chris and Rob are right there with 15 and 16, respectively. Yesterday's freestyle was won by Phil Soltysiak; he was really head and shoulders above the other competitors, landing quite a few pretty sophisticated moves despite the rather challenging conditions (river chop, gusty/shifty winds). He also did very nicely in the slalom, using his board handling skills to stay right in the game despite, as he put it, not being a slalom sailor.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Canadian Nationals - Day 1

9 slalom races (5 in the morning/mid-day; 4 in the afternoon after a break during the freestyle competition). Cool event - windsurfers and kiters both have their nationals right next to each other on the spit in Squamish. Wind went from OK powered 7.2 in the first round of heats to nicely lit-up for the last four. Tight competition in the top three, with Rob Mulder and Chris Prior showing good speed and great starts, as well as solid jibing (apparently Rob hasn't been sailing much at all this season; goes to show that this whole practice/training thing must be overrated...). I had three bullets, a second, a few thirds, a fourth, and one OCS. None of us can figure out the standings at this point other than that the three of us most all be within a couple points of each other. Great racing, for sure, with a wicked fun five-jibe downwind slalom course set by Rob and Chris (and heats spooled off with great precision by Harry and John Darling on the boat).

My 40cm Finworks slalom fin (about to be released - keep your eyes peeled) is working great. When you're lit and sending it, it just sort of goes away into low drag mode; when you're looking for power or needing to point a bit to jockey for position, it's right there, ready to get pushed on. Very nice - you just can't get that kind of performance out of a G-10 fin.

Tomorrow's forecast looks a bit sketch, so it might be shifty formula (or we might just all hang out and BS in the rain). Sunday should pick up a bit again. Of course, weather changes quickly around here.

Lots of people are taking pictures; hopefully some of that will be available to put online.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gorge Challenge - more pictures

Thanks to Pete DeKay for making these available:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Gorge Challenge - Day 3 (final)


Sorry - something went wrong when I downloaded pictures off Scotia's camera yesterday afternoon, but all the files are garbled, so I can't serve them up here. Hopefully we'll get some going; Pete DeKay was taking pictures of the awards, so we should get those online somewhere soon, I hope.

Meanwhile, here's the course we ran Sunday - Darren mixed things up a bit with a pretty slalomy formula course - Start, round A to port, B to port, Start Pin to starboard, Finish Pin to starboard, A to port, B to port, Start Pin to starboard, finish.

Conditions started out pretty tame, with some people joking about rigging their 11's to make the breeze come up. When we got on the water for the first heat, it was very nice 10m formula racing, and while it filled in a bit more, I was very happy on my 9.9 for the day. We got five races, which I finished 2, 2, 4 (fell at the jibe at the bottom of the course - in this fleet, you can't as much as sneeze without being passed, much less fall, which makes for really fun racing), 3 (Derek pulled off the first really successful port start of the day), and 1.

And that last one had a bit of a story to it. After Derek won the windward mark in heat 4 after starting on port and having to duck almost the entire fleet, it became apparent that maybe the advantage on the right side of the course had gotten big enough to overcome the starboard bias on the start and make it worth letting most of the fleet cross, so I went for a port start on the last heat. Stefan managed to squeeze in above me, with Derek and MacRae below me. Lots of frantic weaving through the crowd ensued, but when we were finally clear of the fleet and out in the channel, it became apparent that we were in the right spot. I made it to the windward mark in first, ahead of Bruce who was coming across from the OR side and tacked in my wake.

From this point, it was a bit of a drag race; I made it around the jibe mark, and the breeze was so filled in that I decided to jibe right there as opposed to taking it a bit further down. That worked out well, as I could lay the bottom mark, and set up to jibe just above it. As I came to the mark on starboard, Bruce came in hot on port and tried to squeeze by on the inside with a tight jibe. Any other sailor trying that, and I'd probably have bailed out to avoid a collision; instead, I just went for it and shot by below him to ensure he'd stay behind me. Unfortunately, the clew end of his boom clipped my shoulder. He decided he'd called it too close and DSQ'd himself, which, while being good sportsmanship, was a bit of a bummer as I'd hoped to hold on to that lead for another lap.

Overall, Bruce won both the formula (NRT) and slalom events, as well as taking the overall Gorge Cup title for the year. I placed second for the formula piece and ended up in sixth for the slalom - I'd hoped for a chance to redeem myself a bit there, but by the time the conditions were filled in enough to run slalom on Sunday it got a bit too late to switch formats before the awards and banquet. Probably just as well - as we were sitting down for the excellent food, I couldn't help notice that it was perfect 7.2 wind out there, and neither I nor any of the racers I sat with had any itch to go out and sail more.

One highlight of the day was the new formula weed fin design sported by Peter DeKay, who ran into a submerged log between those dolphin-style pilings on the Oregon side. The attempts to remove that fin from the box entertained folks at the Event Site for over an hour, with as many as six people wielding all sorts of tools to attempt to dislodge it. Bruce put on an impromptu board repair clinic (Hot Stuff superglue and accelerant and 4 ounce glass makes for very quick layups - combat repairs have just become bomb proof).

Check the VMG Events site for complete results - and while you're there, start memorizing the names of some of those juniors, who are moving up in the fleet. This is a pretty strong contingent of young sailors, and having seen them put in the work during the Sailworks Junior Race Camp all week, I'm pretty impressed.

Overall results show that this surge of juniors is coming none too soon; for the season, the top 5 consist of 4 Masters and one Grand Master. I guess in this sport, age groups are affirmative action for the young - hopefully the current crop of juniors will change that. Seeing how Steve Sylvester in the Bay Area still dominates a bunch of guys in their 20's at over 60, it's safe to say that experience is not a disadvantage in racing windsurfers. Pretty sweet, if you think about it, that there's a sport where up to three generations can be truly competitive with each other (and that doesn't involve checkered shorts and country clubs).

Now back to work for a week (work, yeah, I knew there was something I needed to take care of...), then off to Squamish for the Canadian Nationals next weekend. Wow, the season is coming to a close - not sure I'm ready for that. In the Gorge, it's been a fun season of very well organized racing. Scotia is a nation treasure, pulling off some of the finest events anywhere. She'd putting on next year's Nationals in the Gorge, and she's got some pretty big plans, so plan on showing up next July - it will be a blast.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Gorge Challenge - Day 2


Whoa - 15 heats (both formula and slalom) in two days - we're getting a lot of racing in. The day started with quite a bit of breeze, but the clouds made things a bit inconsistent (especially on the inside), so Darren called for Formula. Different course today - short upwind leg with a starboard rounding (port starting made no sense with this setup), followed by a downwind around the start line, a longer upwind (which meant that there'd be some tactical calls to be made), and then a downwind finish off the boat. The first heat was pretty windy; it picked up from there. Heats 2 and 3, however, still had big holes in some spots, so slalom was still not indicated. Heat 4 got downright furry. I had a 3rd, an OCS, a 6th (I'd started in the 3rd row, being a bit gunshy after being over early, then had to claw my way through the fleet), and a 2nd.

At this point, despite all the jokes about how that would instantly killed the wind, Darren switched format to slalom to take advantage of the conditions (and to avoid the carnage that seemed inevitable with formula gear in those conditions). We got 5 heats in, and Darren called things off after that to avoid running us in the now somewhat fading late afternoon breeze. Things were pretty lit up on the 7.2; I placed 5th, DNF (after a gnarly collision with Derek on the line - took a chunk out of my favorite fin, but both of us got off without injury or any other damaged gear, so we both felt pretty blessed), 7 (after a spectacular wipeout), 3, and 3.

I'm sitting in 2nd for the formula part of the event; slalom has me in 6th at this point. Forecast is strong for tomorrow, so hopefully more slalom and a chance to move up a bit. Time for fin repair and some stretching now. Scotia already has results up (anybody ever wonder how she does it all?).

The level of competition is pretty high, especially in slalom (you can tell the Gorge locals have had a pretty windy summer so far...). Special mention, though, has to go to the Juniors who are not only racing their FE gear in some pretty epic conditions, but are also running slalom (some of them on FE stuff). Especially impressive are the three youngest competitors (Ben, Allyson, and Marion) - lots of spirit, and each of them is a stand-up sailor. Right on!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gorge Challenge/FE Northamericans - Day 1


Quick update on the day - I'll try to post something each night. Check the VMG Events site for the NOR and schedule, as well as results and such. Conditions were interesting today - lots of breeze, with clouds pushing through the Gorge. This definitely had a frontal feel to it, not the usual Gorge thermal gradients. Darren set up for course racing; the course contained one reach at the top, one at the bottom, with A fleet going for two laps and juniors and sport going for one. This all seemed like a really good idea at the time (the forecast wasn't really promising too much...).

The wind kicked up a notch, so I went out on my 9.9, set up for moderate conditions. That seemed fine as I ran the course prior to the first heat. When we all lined up for the start, though, the wind picked up some more - which made the whole experience a bit hair-raising at times (I added a bunch of downhaul before the second race). We ran three course heats, with Bruce taking bullets in each. After getting a pretty bad start on port, I was fighting for second with Derek (who's bet on starboard paid off big) in the first heat when I misjudged my layline for the second windward mark (I didn't notice that the wind had gone way South - so I got headed big time into the mark and lost a bunch of places when I had to double tack). I ended up fifth in that one.

On the second heat, we now had a big bunch of port starters. I had to duck some starboard guys, which then put me in bad air from people who'd started behind/above me. After some footing off for speed (kind of exciting when you can barely keep the board from flying off the water), I made an aggressive call on the layline and worked hard to get myself back into second, which I held all the way to the second windward mark when I hooked the anchor rope - and lost a bunch of places to end up in 7th. Heat 3 saw me starting on starboard, which worked way better - I was pretty much Derek and me chasing Bruce around the course, with me finishing second.

Because conditions had been pretty furry throughout the morning, Darren called a break at this point to reset the course for slalom. I was a bit concerned (as things seemed to get a bit light and holey on the inside), but there seemed to be plenty of breeze all over the course. We got three heats completed in increasingly light and shift conditions, running our standard Gorge slalom box course (there's a pretty significant upwind leg in this one). I ran my 7.2 and a 42cm fin, looking for good angle. The first start resulted in a general recall (seems like for the first slalom heat of the season, we were all a bit jumpy).

We managed to run 3 slalom heats in the increasingly erratic breeze (it's not so much that the breeze was dying - it was more that the holes on the course got bigger and bigger). Heat 1 worked pretty well for me until I stuck my rail in the third jibe - I ended up fifth for that one. Heat 2 worked pretty well - good start, following Bruce around the course; as we struggled with a light spot for the upwind leg, we got a warning shot across the bow in the form of Stefan, who was riding formula gear and managed to squeeze into second riding right up to the upper mark (whereas Bruce and I had to foot way off into the channel to get an assist from the current). I passed him in the reaching part of the course, but he stayed on it, and the second upwind was pretty much a repeat of the first one, which got him second for the heat and me third.

The third heat got really flukey - Stefan won the heat on his formula setup (I had done the same thing to Bruce last year in similar conditions; this year, he was prepared, riding a bigger board and an 8.2 - but with the huge holes now riddling the course like Swiss Cheese, even that wasn't enough), Bruce came in second. I clawed my way back to sixth after losing a bunch of places (12th or so) when I parked myself in a hole after the third jibe (at which point I'd been in second) and got rolled by a pack of sailors who rode a puff down the course towards me. In that race, I actually ended up slogging the last leg into the finish...

I think that today was a great demonstration of the different priorities race directors have to deal with. Darren really wanted to secure good course racing and thus erred on the side of conservatism in the morning - choosing to run course rather than slalom even when it was blowing stink to ensure the event got a bunch of heats under its belt (and there's no better way to frustrate a bunch of racers than to call for slalom and have conditions deteriorate on you). Once we had three heats, and the wind was defying all expectations by continuing to build, he finally relented and changed formats - which was then rewarded by the almost instant deterioration of conditions. In a perfect world, we could set two courses and switch formats at the drop of a hat; too bad there's no such thing as a perfect world.