5/27 upate: Pictures, courtesy Michael Hildreth - Nice shot of a start (Bruce below me, MacRae above me), and a great study of what a jibe looks like when done too tentatively (notice weight too far back, sail not aggressively enough sheeted in).
First Gorge Cup of the season on Saturday, 24 May - and wouldn't you know, despite the fact that it was not only a race day but also a holiday weekend, it actually blew! We had 9 heats of very powered up slalom, with some pretty furry gusts.
After having been way late to the start in heat 1, I clawed my way back up to 3rd after Bruce (on form, as usual) and MacRae, who set the tone for his performance that day by being on it at the start and executing flawlessly throughout the race.
In heat 2, I managed to be on the line with speed at the gun, following Bruce through the first three jibes. He was on a smaller board, so I was hoping to maybe get by him on the upwind leg - but just before I got to the offset mark at the bottom of the course, I had one of those wipe-outs where everything happens so fast, you don't even know what happened. All I know is that I got sent, and that in the process I hit my left thigh on something - hard. It hurt like hell water starting, and when I got on the board, my leg just sort of buckled, so I went in and sat out the rest of that heat with an icepack stuffed under my wetsuit leg.
I got back out there for heat 3, and while the adrenaline (and icing between heats) kept the pain at bay, my leg was awfully weak, which didn't serve too well in overpowered reaching, making my way through the chop to the start, or jibing. The racing was still fun, and at times it was even reasonably tight. MacRae continued to have a stellar day, taking two heats from Bruce (he joked later that he'll just retire now that he'd such a golden day; my take is that this is the result of lots of practice and his great, go-for-it attitude) and placing second in the others (except for another bullet in the last race, which Bruce sat out). The recipe was always the same - he was right there at the start, had good speed down the straights, made solid jibes all day long. Way to go, MacRae!
I ended up with a bunch of 3rds and a fourth, plus a couple deeper finishes (usually following a bad start or a fall). Interesting note on gear choices - it looks like most guys have upsized a bit. Jay is running an iSonic 111; I'm on my Exo 71 (118l); MacRae is still using his three-year-old 105l F2 (and he's clearly tuned up on it). Bruce was going for a smaller board for a few of the heats (two of which he lost to MacRae) but also experimenting running his 6.2 on a bigger board.
So yes, the bigger boards can be a handful in the big puffs, but they sure come in handy on the short upwind, or when tacking after that leg, and they don't seem to carry too much of a speed penalty. And while they don't jibe as tightly and quickly, they make up for that with faster acceleration out of the jibes, especially on the inside if the breeze lightens up a bit. At the time, I kept thinking that maybe I would have been better off on something smaller than a 71cm board and a 7.1, but on the drive home it finally struck me that - duh - I was working on 1 1/2 legs, so no wonder that things seemed a bit out of control.
I'm pretty stoked with how the day went, and two days later, I'm actually walking almost normally again (and might be completely pain-free if I hadn't decided to go sailing today - but hey, it's Memorial Day, and it was breezy and sunny...). Great way to start the season - lots of breeze, a well-organized event (Scotia really has this down to a science - Nationals this year will be awesome!), a well-laid course and tight start sequences (way to go Darren - again, Nationals should be great), and a ton of racing taking full advantage of the conditions. Strong performances from the juniors (Alex and Jay were seriously pushing some of the seasoned racers; Alison did a great job getting into slalom, and Ben was inspiring in his tenacity), added to the happy picture.
Results (and maybe even pictures - Michael Hildreth was out on the point with a _very_ big lens) soon at the VMG site.