French Nationals - Formula
25 April 2005
Over the New Year changes have been occurring in the racing circles that are both exciting and challenging. A new RYA squad has been formed including the top names in Formula racing with a select few from past Olympic campaigns who are deemed to have what it takes to adapt to the new requirements of sailing the RSx. As the pros from one field meet the pros from the other, egos clash, lessons are learnt, and ultimately a new team has been forged. This team embarked on its first international event, The French Formula Nationals.
The French are renowned for having a depth of talent unparalleled by other nations. This event was no exception. There were 60 men in the formula fleet with a relatively smaller ladies fleet. However the level of ability in the women's' fleet was not lacking; Faustine Merret, Athens' Gold medallist was certainly showing her worth despite weighing in at less than 62kg.
The regatta was held on Lac du Hourtin, a large lake 15km long and 4km wide, near Bordeaux. It is surrounded by closely planted trees, which act like Velcro on the wind. The Atlantic coast is within 2km from the Sailing club and offers some quality surf breaks. Hourtin has the potential for a great summer windsurfing location, but during the weeks of April it was more like a ghost town, which made buying petrol, food or even eating out a bit of a mission.
The event started with 8-10 knots of rather sporadic wind, which managed to back almost 180 degrees during the first day. The result was 5 starts and no races. This was excellent practise, so no one really minded.
Day 2 produced winds of 10-14knots but with large holes in the right hand side of the course where the wind diverged along the edge of the lake. It was a game of risks, if you went right you could stop planing and lose ground, or come out with a big right handed lift, smelling of roses.
Day 3 offered 12-16 knots from the opposite direction, allowing 3 back-back races in the morning. After a two-hour break on the shore we went out for more. The wind was offshore and very deceptive, and since the wind reports from the committee boat had been inaccurate over the past few days, the warnings of 20 knots were largely ignored. Once in the full force of the wind, the 25 knot thermally enhanced breeze was truly felt - as was the rather cold temperature of the water in some cases, myself included. This Race played into the hands of Keith who had opted for his trusty 9.8m and he managed a good second, chasing Florent Renard, world formula youth champion, who held his 10.7 with surprising ease.
The key to the racing was good starts, Dan managed to win several of the starts with spectacular port fliers, but the slightly less risky startboard tack worked for the rest of us. In all the team tallied 3 Black Flags but to be honest we got away with a few more.
The Women's Fleet results proved that Britain is still an enormously strong nation. The two podium positions, could well have been three, if Lucy had not suffered from ill health during the regatta. Christine was going very fast on her Gaastra sails, which she received just in time for the event, beating Olympic Gold medallist Faustine Merret. While Bryony showed great form, winning the first race of the event and consistently finishing in the top three, narrowly missing out on 2nd place to France's Faustine McArthur.
In the Mens fleet, consistency was king, and consistently winning was obviously better. Keith was sailing very fast and his pre event training with Greg King obviously paid off. Nick was sailing very high and he made good use of this, managing to finish second in Race 4.
The event provided some exciting conditions and great training for the coming season. Full results on Formulawindsurfing.org.
sponsored by Windsurfer's World, wrote this article.