Eastbourne Extreme - race report
7 August 2005
The hottest new event on the UKWA calendar
Eastbourne Extreme certainly turned up the heat over the weekend of 16th-17th July with reports of 25,000 visitors all enjoying soaring temperatures at the FREE extreme sports festival, held on Eastbourne seafront.
Skaters, BMX riders and skateboarders all turned out in droves to join in the packed programme of arena events, extreme skating and the popular Saturday Night Skate around Eastbourne. Eastbourne Extreme has evolved from the successful and long standing skate festivals held over the past six or seven years. Last years event was their most successful and attracted around 15,000 visitors to the town. The challenge being posed to the tourism team was how to improve on this successful formula.
With a little nudge from the Team Surfkraft management team, the potential to evolve the event by bringing in other extreme sports like windsurfing, to fully utilise the excellent land and sea facilities the town boasts, started to switch a few lights on in the right places.
After a few meetings, a council outing to check out the UKWA crew in action at Pevensey Bay with the 2004 Surfkraft Warrior event, some more meetings, and lots of ideas being tossed about, Eastbourne Extreme was given the green light. Dates were set, more meetings were called to confirm requirements for all parties could be met while still complimenting other needs.
To put on a show worthy of the proposed stature of the event, the UKWA elected to put on a combined event with slalom and freewave disciplines showing the diversity of the sport. To further compliment this, Spray Watersports offered taster sessions all weekend for those spectators feeling the need to have a go at windsurfing. For those spectators who already enjoy the sport, but don't feel the urge to compete, Sav from Ultra Sport was in place on the beach with a collection of toys from JP, BiC, Tiga & Neil Pryde to demo.
In previous years the skate event had become fragmented as it stretched over a greater area so there was a need to change this and rather than make the event smaller, bringing in extra activities was the smart option.
True to form, everything was organised, but the forecast was suggesting we'd be enjoying a weekend sunbathing with no wind to fan the heat, let alone do any windsurfing. This was good news for many of the sports and for the crowds of beach goers and event visitors. This was not great news for the windsurfers or the kite display teams.
Eastbourne is traditionally a classic sea breeze venue with it's proximity to the downs to get the air circulating and also the heat that a town such as Eastbourne generates, perfect for the UK Windsurfing Association's proposed Freewave and Slalom action.
Eastbourne's reputation for being a sea breeze venue was justified, thankfully. With good wind on Friday to warm up the early arrivals as they tuned themselves and their kit to the venue, many starting out with bigger slalom kit and later being joined by people on smaller freestyle kit before the slalom blasters also switched to smaller kit. Just right to give people an indication of what they could expect on the weekend.
Saturday followed the pattern seen on the Friday and those of us in the know were looking forward to some classic Eastbourne windsurfing. We were not to be disappointed as six full rounds of downwind slalom were run as well as 4 full rounds of freestyle.
Jay, UKWA race officer, kicked off the action with a â€˜fun' 5 bouy downwind slalom race, or perhaps more appropriately a â€˜practice' race. The wind was a shade below the 11knot minimum, however all the signs were for it to increase pretty soon. Knowing how the venue works, I'd rigged my 7.2m Saber and a Tiga Hyper-X 115, underpowered for the practice race but hopeful that I'd be on the perfect set up once the sea breeze was working as it should.
The majority of racers were on 8.0m plus sails and their â€˜bigger' slalom boards, or for those that had the option in the challenge fleet had perhaps gone for their formula boards and 10.0m to ensure they were fully powered up asap.
It was good to see the mix of kit people were using, showing that the slalom format is one of the more â€˜inclusive' racing formats on offer. Racers on freeride kit, wave kit (when it's windy enough), freestyle kit, supercross kit, course racing kit, or dedicated slalom kit can all enjoy the discipline, and it's good to see so many are taking up the challenge.
Indeed, the challenge fleet was to see some newcomers joining in for the weekend, although there would have been more had the forecast been a bit better. The challenge fleet racers signed up for the weekend, and were shown the way home by youth racer Alex Griffiths, with Mike Blackgrove and Andy GilroyScott making up the podium positions.
The junior fleet has seen the standard of the racing increase and standout racers in this fleet were Daniel Simpson & James Simpson, both Team Surfkraft â€˜Young Guns' and they are not actually related to each other. Dan took 4 wins from 5, on a BiC Superblast 72, before hitting the â€˜wall' to score a discarded 5th place in the last race. Dan was really pleased with the result, especially as he'd never used the board until race one on the day. James has shown vast improvements over the season, in slalom and also in formula racing, so between these two Simpson's we are sure to see the name Simpson in the podium placings over a few years to come.
The fleet all the fantasy windsurfing managers will be interested in though, is the Top Flight fleet, and a lot of the betting money would have been on 2005 AWT Champion, 2004 UKWA SCUK Slalom Champion, and the top UK slalom racer on the PWA circuit, and Team Surfkraft - Pro Rider, Dan Ellis â€¦.. Dan was perhaps a little keen to please and scored two â€˜OCS - over early ' which were to see him finish off the podium.
Capitalising on Dan's mistimed enthusiasm, or premature ejaculation perhaps, were fellow Surfkraft team riders, Xavier Ferlet and Keith Atkinson. Xav must enjoy the Eastbourne coast, as he took top honours in the 2004 Acutel Challenge, and followed that with victory in the 2005 Eastbourne Extreme Slalom, picking up some decent prize money on both occassions. Keith was enjoying the slalom racing as a break from his formula activity, which this season has seen him break into the top 20 world rankings. Keith showed himself to be no slouch in the slalom also, and showed how keen he was to win joining Dan with an OCS in the last race.
Aaron Williams took the weekend off from his duties at Offshore Sports to check out Eastbourne's windsurfing and got the 3rd podium spot for his efforts, preventing a Team Surfkraft clean sweep.
Top youth was Richard Potter, finishing in 5th place overall, though I'm sure he'd have been toying with entering the freewave also. Rich has made the transition from IMCO racer to freewave competitor this year and is enjoying using his JP / Neil Pryde kit, though as some may say â€¦â€¦ â€˜you can take the kid outta the racing, but you can't take the racing outta the kid' â€¦. So with JP releasing a slalom board Rich was always going to want to give it a spin.
A battle that we'll see a lot of across the disciplines over the coming seasons will be that between top UK girls, Team Surfkraft Pro-Rider, Lucy Horwood & Bryony Shaw. Following Lucy's success this season winning the Ladies title for the AWT, Bryony could perhaps be considered the underdog in this ladies slalom battle. Both girls are training (and competing) hard in RYA Team GBR for the Olympic place on the RSX and are both in peak fitness, as well as getting to know each other pretty well. Lucy took the prize on this occasion, however it will be a battle we'll see over and over as the season unfolds.
Having enjoyed a good day on the water, the town of Eastbourne showed it's ability to entertain with many people heading to Namaskar (who were one of the event sponsors contributing to the prize money) for liquid re-hydration and a chill out. As this isn't Heat Magazine, the details of the evening activities won't be blazen across these pages. Suffice it to say, those enjoying the night, enjoyed the night, those not had missed out big time having not fancied the forecast and stayed home instead.
The slalom and freewave competitions were both decided on the Saturday, as a heavy sea mist settled in Sunday morning to minimise the chances for a sea breeze on the Sunday. The sea mist (codename - hangover) cleared coincidentally around the same time many heads did. Unfortunately the winds never really got going, however we still had the Acutel Challenge Trophy Race to run. Jay created some form of course, close to the shore, with beach start and finish which could be run in light winds. Any wind speed we saw was pretty much cancelled out by the tide, but despite this a healthy number of racers rigged up and floated off under starters orders.
Dan Ellis was determined not to score an OCS and snuck off to the race office to become an impromptu commentator for the race, keeping the public informed over the PA system as to who was floating past who. Unsurprisingly perhaps, the youngsters on raceboards made good use of their daggerboards and willingness to pump, pump & pump some more, to lead the way home. Daniel Skudder, Alex Griffiths & Richard Simpson were the first 3 home, all receiving prize money from the challenge sponsor, Acutel, for their efforts. The MD & Company Secretary of Acutel were watching the low-octane action from a sports boat just offshore, and despite requests for a tow to make up a few places, I floated back to shore just behind young Dan Simpson. The â€˜challenge' nature of this perpetual trophy is such that it can be set according to the conditions, this year was a light wind course whereas the 2004 challenge was a master blaster from Pevensey Bay Sailing Club to Eastbourne Pier and back to the sailing club in pretty strong winds. Over the years, the winners names will come from a pretty diverse range of windsurfers, so it'll be a unique record of windsurfing achievements, congratulations to Daniel â€¦.. the trophy will be engraved and be with you shortly, now Acutel have it back from 2004 winner, Xav !
Also making the most of the fine weather and the wind over the weekend were kite surfers, kite buggies, a paragliding simulator and watersports novices enjoyed free lessons in windsurfing, sailing and power boating. Traders, including T.I.T (Trotters Independent Traders), enjoyed the busy weekend and Sav from Ultrasport (that's ULTRASPORT Sav !) was run pretty ragged with the demo proving a big success. Sav also enjoyed the freewave event, taking home some prize money for his efforts.
There is be a full freewave report on line, but it was good to have a combined event at such a venue as we were able to demonstrate how diverse and versatile a sport windsurfing is these days. To get a result in both freewave and slalom on a forecast for next to no wind has to be considered a bit of a result. To do it in front of 25,000 spectators is pretty special, and also rewarding for everyone involved in putting it together. Trevor Funnell has also been involved in discussions and council meetings and credit should also be offered to Trevor for his input and local knowledge. Judge Jules was enjoying catching up with all his old mates, having been an Eastbourne local for his early years, though was taking plenty of flak regarding his crutches. Winners of the Freewave prizes were Terry Luxton (Pro-Fleet), Tom Parsons (Youth Fleet) & team Surfkraft Young Gun Richard Jones (Junior Fleet). Caroline Radway, another Team Surfkraft rider, put in a good performance on the Saturday arriving in a blur of red in her new surfbus and disappearing just as quickly heading off to the canaries for a week training with the Moreno twins, to take the ladies honours.
From a UKWA point of view, the event was a very successful debut event for Eastbourne, and with the Eastbourne Extreme event likely to become bigger and better for 2006 you can be pretty sure it'll be on the 2006 UKWA calendar.
Eastbourne Borough Council Spokesperson for Tourism, Councillor David Elkin says "The weekend proved to be a great hit, both for local people and for visitors, and has given us a lot of great activities to build on for next year. The Tourist Information Centre in particular received many last minute enquiries on Friday taking up nearly all of the family rooms in the resort, proving that Change Your View and Eastbourne Extreme are having a positive impact. With most schools not even breaking up until later this week, the weekend has provided a superb early boost to the traditional summer holiday season."
Such an event doesn't just happen and special mentions and thanks are offered to all those who helped put it all together. People putting up prize money for the windsurfing included Acutel, Boardseeker, Eurovans, Namaskar & Offshore Sports. Product prizes were donated by Nik Baker and UltraSport. Trophies were sponsored by Team Surfkraft and Eurovans. Eastbourne Borough Council, especially Jayne Howard, were hugely supportive, even down to sharing their event control luxury bungalow (portacabin) with the UKWA race control team, and ensured everything ran smoothly on the shore, providing UKWA competitors with a rig tent, grassy camping area, and a PA system to keep everyone informed. Owl Video Systems provided us with a big screen to play windsurfing action footage on the shore for spectators to check out. The UKWA race / freewave crew adapted to the new venue and ensured the event was a success for all concerned, and all those clever enough to ignore the forecast and make the trip to sunny Eastbourne.
Eastbourne has over the years developed a reputation for being a bit of a blue rinse resort, events like Eastbourne Extreme may go some way to prove this is indeed the case, although perhaps not in the original context. Windsurfing at Eastbourne offers the true blue rinse action, the wheels along the prom aren't all attached to chairs, the skater population is growing. Night time shows a youthful â€˜cool' side to the town offering bars, clubs and restaurants to suit all tastes â€¦..
Having enjoyed a cracking weekend, blessed with sunshine & wind, with the bonus of â€˜passes' to go out Friday & Saturday night with the lads, heading home Sunday was always going to be a chore. However, the big advantage from having worked to get an event at my local patch was that I had a mere 20 minute drive home, via Superstar for a well earned chinese takeaway !
The moral of the story, butter up your local council and then you too can enjoy a short hop to and from an event â€¦.. and also use your local knowledge to encourage your sailing buddies to join the action. 2006 will see increased numbers at Eastbourne Extreme as local sailors who came along to check the action, have already set 2006 as a target for them to try competitive windsurfing, and they have spread the word !
See you in 2006 at Eastbourne Extreme â€¦..or at the next event for me which will be the Christchurch Cup leading into the Formula Junior Youth & Masters Worlds event looking for glory in the masters category.
Krafty - Sponsored by Acutel, SD Products Ltd, Superstar Chinese Takeaway, Ultra Sport (BiC Sport & Tiga / Neil Pryde)