Animal Slalom at Tenby

4 October 2005

UKWA Slalom Series - Round 4

Pembrokeshire, WALES, 1st and 2nd of October

Animal, worldwide freeride Sponsored by Animal.

This year's slalom series has been plagued by a distinct lack of wind with each event so far struggling to conjure up consistently good enough conditions for top class slalom racing. Poole's Windfest was the last event and an event where the wind not just failed to blow but didn't bother turning up at all, so with hope, enthusiasm and a good weather forecast the national slalom tour made its way to the farthest reaches of deepest darkest Wales, and Tenby for round four of the 2005 series.

Tenby lies in the county of Pembrokeshire and is viewed by most as the jewel in the crown of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Dynbych-y-Pysgod is the town's welsh name which translates to little town of the fishes, a reference to the towns past as an historic fishing port. Nowadays the town draws its wealth from tourism and the millions of visitors that flock to West Wales every year. This weekend Tenby welcomed the country's top slalom sailors to battle on its picturesque south shore. Mike Prout is Tenby's windsurfing "man in the know", the former Mr Fanatic has worked tirelessly over the years to promote the sport in the county and nowadays presides over the running of the south beach surf link facility and Tenby windsurf club, the host venue for this weekends event, accommodating us with tractor launch and recovery for the UKWA boats, changing, toilets, shower and clubhouse facilities. A very warm welsh welcome indeed.

The weekends forecast tempted us with northerly winds blowing at a force of 6/7 and Saturday dawned bright and breezy with the wind steadily building through the early morning dawn. Briefing was timetabled for 10am allowing any late comers plenty of time to arrive, rig and get ready. Plenty of time for most people, but not for our beloved computer genius Alastair who assuming Cardiff was just "down the road" was understandably surprised to find out that this was a very long road, a road more commonly known as the M4.

Heading out to the course.A figure of 8 slalom course was decided on, with only 2 boats afloat and with the prospect of finishing a long way out to sea in the offshore wind the possibility of a 5 buoy downwind slalom course was decided against. 2 fleets would race alternately, with 2 races on and then 2 races off, allowing for plenty of recovery time between each fleet's back to back sessions. Fleet A was to include the Elite fleet of sailors, and fleet B would include both junior and challenge fleets racing together.

Racing started at the planned time of 11am prompt with the elite fleet being the first lambs to the slaughter at the hands of a decidedly ruthless race officer. With the prospect of a changing wind direction and hence a deterioration in the conditions as many races as possible where planned.

Xavier Ferlet The elite fleet began proceedings in up to 18 knots of wind! An unusual case of kit failure led to Keith missing the start of the first race and allowed Xavier to power ahead and take the first race win. Richard Potter making a welcome return to the race scene was giving the hardened slalom pro's a real tough time and took second place. Jackson junior cruised into third with Keith recovering well to take 4th.

The second race saw Keith assert his command on the leader board taking a win ahead of Xavier and Potter. But this race wasn't special due to the racing….oh no, the lure of the on water camera was just too much for our celebrity wanna-be's and in particular "X Factor" wild card Alan Jackson, who whilst screaming towards the committee boat with all his pearly whites on show decided to attempt a forward loop which would have been very spectacular and impressive if it hadn't been for the fact that no more than 3 board lengths behind him and closing fast was the welsh disaster magnet Paul Sibley. The "Flying Scotsman" became the "Flopping Scotsman" as he failed to rotate fully and wiped out, Paul had no where to go and with the look of pure terror ploughed straight into the grounded Jackson and with a sickening crack sliced straight through his newly acquired mast. To add salt to the now gapping wounds our on board cameraman missed the whole affair! (poss due to the lack of numbers 3 or 2 on either of the involved parties sails!!) So beware anyone afloat with a camera when a shoal of fame crazed windsurfing maniacs are on the prowl…..Bob Ingram rounded out the elite with some dedicated and determined sailing, tip toeing round his gybes and struggling with some of his kit choices, and the extra 10 kilo's of water trapped in his spray top!

The end of the elite fleet's first two races heralded the start of the challenge and junior fleets battles. And as they headed out for their first start we were getting sustained gusts of up to 24 knots! The timing of which was not ideal. The first race saw some fiercely competitive racing but it was Dan Simpson who was to streak away to take a comfortable win ahead of the rest of the fleet. The Gilroy Scott partnership was down just one player for this race but the better looking of the two took second place, demonstrating that it's not all about fancy kit, because his kit was not fancy! The Simpson Brothers were also battling for honours and it wasn't all plain sailing for James as younger brother Richard was pushing him all the time with his especially consistent Techno gybes!! The farmer was sailing like a man possessed and Liam was sailing like a man depressed, with his unique impression of King Neptune, a normally quiet man Liam was clearly saving most of his conversation for Tenby's famous fishes…….

The second race for Fleet B saw Team Gilroy Scott back up to full strength. And the arrival of Ian Kraft to the gladiatorial slalom arena….. Krafty's recent family addition has understandably kept him busy this year and away from his sado-masochistic love of windsurfing. Ian's ability to gybe has clearly been swapped for advanced nappy changing techniques and his baby soft hands were finding it to hard to come to grips with a boom that was clearly too hot to handle, or even hold onto. Gemma Lewis, our only lady competitor this weekend was also finding it pretty tough in the conditions but never the less she sailed with great determination to take some well deserved finishes, and there her glowing and admirable write up would of ended, however this illusion of hardcore, well respected athlete was soon dispelled when on finishing the last race she hoisted her hand aloft and uttered not a blood curdling war cry but a "please can I have a lift back to the beach request?" really Gemma………. At least pretend you've got a headache……..

The racing continued for the rest of the day with 3 more races for the elite fleet and two more for the challenge and junior fleet. The fashion remained the same with Dan dominating the challenge fleet in all but the last race were James Simpson finally managed a dry run and a good start to take a well deserved win. Keith powered all aside in the elite fleet, with race 5 seeing some spectacular racing with Xavier's excellent start just running 2 metres short on the final finish straight with Keith just managing to pip him on the line. Alistair Campbell made a brief appearance, but couldn't keep his board on the water apparently and so headed back in, to formulate a cunning plan.

The full list and breakdown of results can be viewed elsewhere on this website in results………

At the end of racing on Saturday the fleets had completed 5 races in the elite section and 4 races in the challenge and junior sections, and so the prospect of a nice quiet night in was on the cards for most of the competitors…..These plans however where not to be as a night in town was the order of the day with a rendezvous arranged for 8pm. The race site is only a short ten minute walk from the historic walled town limits and its numerous restaurants and pubs which makes it ideal for good, yet, respectable night out! The absence of many sailors spouses meant for a bit of a boys on tour atmosphere and an opportunity that only a few sailors and supposed guardians failed to seize! We won't dwell on any names in particular, as what goes on tour, stays on tour, but lets say the UKWA's very own man at the helm "Tall Paul" was getting a right eyeful after only three shandy's spurred on and encouraged by talent spotter Ed "the bad boy" Carr. Jackson junior, free from the watchful eye of Jackson senior attempted to re live earlier Scottish team memories by drinking the town dry, only ten years previous he was in a team of over 50 competitors, this year however he was not only on his own but also on a mission! The night passed with no serious incidents and to bed and dreams of glorious conditions for Sunday we went (glorious being no wind and a lengthy lie in for most!)

Sunday dawned bright and once again breezy, but today however the wind was clearly a lot less than Saturday. Briefing was held at 9.30am and the decision was made to wait for the wind and see how the morning developed as the weather stabilised. Temptation came and went, with the wind constantly threatening to pick up and hold, however the wind direction was to prove to be the villain as in a north to north easterly wind the breeze comes straight over the town and ends up being split into two directions. This meant over to the left of the race site we were getting an almost 90 degree difference in the wind direction which was coming through the dunes over to the right of the race site. The confusion of the wind and its inability to settle and strengthen meant that at 12pm the decision was made to brief the assembled masses and consult on the possibility of an early release and the opportunity of getting away on the long journeys that most competitors had to travel.

With the prospect of the wind failing to pick up or settle on a direction, racing was understandably called off for the day and so preparations for prize giving began, with an estimated time planned for 1pm. Animal generously donated numerous top prizes for the event and every competitor still present at prize giving left with something to show for their weekend's efforts. Watches were awarded to the first place finishers with other podium sailors getting bags and hats. Mike Prout of Tenby's Surflink facility kindly presented the prizes and trophies to the winners and took time to thank the sailors for coming and welcomed us all back at any time to enjoy the fantastic sailing that Tenby and Pembrokeshire has to offer, either as free sailors or as a collective at a future event, maybe even the welsh cup. Many thanks must go to Mike and all at surf link who not only accommodated us, but were exceptionally helpful in the launching and recovery of the 2 UKWA ribs. A special thanks must also go to Mrs Prout who was on hand to sort out Sibley juniors latest welsh disaster after he sliced his foot open on the only bit of concrete for 100 miles…..

With prize giving completed it was away back home for the gathered competitors who had plenty of time on the way home to look forward to the next UKWA event which is the inland series now scheduled for Farmoor, and the final round of the Slalom series which will be held as part of the "Wight Air Event".

Tenby Panorama from the beach.

Tenby, proved to be a great event, great location, excellent conditions and some superb racing, I must say it was a real shame to not see more competitors attend this event, and those who couldn't make it we're certainly more than unfortunate to miss out on one of the best events and nights out we've had for a long time. As race officer for the weekend it was painful to watch fellow racers flying around on slalom kit having a great time, however I was fortunate enough to enjoy an enlightening insight into the world of the UKWA race crew. With this in mind I'd like to say a big thank you to Big Kev P, Tall Paul, Taller Paul, Grizzly Adam and Grand Master Beach (Mr Jackson senior) for being so accommodating and helpful throughout the weekend, all of whom worked hard to put on and run the weekends event. Decisions are easy to query, question and criticise but not easy to make, not easy when a whole fleet of sailors are waiting on you to make a judgment call on something as random and unpredictable as the wind…..we'd all do well to remember this, as I certainly will!!!

Chris Lewis, GBR366 "Emergency" Event Race Officer.
Gratefully Supported by: Sola Wetsuits, Merrel Footwear, Severne Sails, Amex Masts and Booms, Boardwise, Lizzard Clothing.