Welsh Open Racing- Freerace report

8 May 2005

The early May Bank Holiday weekend has become the favoured date for one of the more popular events on the UKWA race calendar, located in the picturesque landscape of Snowdonia, a mere 330 miles from the South Coast where many of us reside.

Distance wise, Pwllheli is no farther than Marazion, yet it always seems to be twice the distance and as such some serious logistic plans are made to add days on either side of the event for adventures on the road and recovery time.

Beach at Pwllheli 2005 allowed no such luxuries with family friends seeing fit to tie the knot on the Saturday and enlisting the trouble and strife as a matron of honour to ensure excuses could not be conjured up for escape to North Wales. Plan 'B' was duly instigated and Mel's new car was stripped of it's people carrier luxuries and turned into a van before being loaded with my formula kit and an inflatable bed, some scoff and a change of clothes or two.

Friday saw no early departure, just frantic last minute wedding stuff going on. Saturday was to be the big day, sadly not as in day one of the UKWA Welsh Open, but the wedding. Shan't bore you all too much with details, but it went well, with yours truly left in charge of getting the three girls, and myself, to the church on time. No problem, though I was thankful that my cunning was still intact as I took a 'photo-opportunity' to take the girls to the pub next door (to use the loo, honest) while the official photographer was doing his stuff.

If this all seems a little offbeat for a windsurfing event report, suffice it to say that while I was at the wedding I'd managed to miss nothing at the event bar the obligatory swing ball competitions, Frisbee action and general rig it up, de-rig it action.

Saturday nights would mirror each other I feel, at the wedding a proper sit down meal, lots of booze, into party mode …… at the camp site a proper camp site meal, lots of booze, into party mode.

Sunday morning came around pretty early for me, leaving around 5am to make the event for Sunday / Monday. The journey was pretty incident free and I arrived just after the briefing and in good time for the wind to pick up. Once in, parked up and stretched, it was time to rig something up. Tough choice for me as I've gone minimal for 2005 with my formula kit, with a Neil Pryde 10.7m RS5 for the majority of the time, and switching to a Neil Pryde 9.0m V8 when it's too windy to use the 10.7m. The idea is that I'll be on the 10.7m 90% of the time and won't spend time deliberating between 9.8m & 10.7m & 11.6m sails and ultimately pick the wrong one most of the time.

Helpful parent! As the winds were light, i.e. there wasn't any yet otherwise we'd already be on the water, the choice was simple, rig the 10.7m. Once rigged and all plugged together on the beach it was time to join everyone chanting for the wind to come, ie slide off for a cuppa.

Sure enough, we got the wind we were all hoping for and racing was called. It was now that I was starting to feel that I'd perhaps peaked a little early, and this before I even hit the water. Whatever, having driven all the way to Wales and there being some wind I was sure that I was going to get some windsurfing in and headed out to see if I could get planning, and tweak my set up before we started racing.

I'd decided that I was likely to be a touch un-prepared to do full battle and as such signed up to go play with the guys and gals in the free-formula fleet. Having missed the briefing, it seemed sensible to follow the 'flying doc' and 'torpedo' around until I got my bearings, which proved to be a mistake somewhat unsurprisingly.

Dan Simpson All three of us only just made the start line, leaving us in the wake, and dirty wind, of the main fleet as we headed off. We all arrived at the top mark within sight of each other and then it went a little pear shaped. The 'flying doc' had a dose of wind and disappeared, 'torpedo' missed the mark having to tack an extra couple of times, putting me in front of 'torpedo' who I was following now having lost sight of the 'flying doc'. Off I went in search of the next mark with 'torpedo' chasing hard, so I continued 'following' 'torpedo' from the front finding the reach to the next mark to be a bit on the tight side, more of a fetch than a reach.

It became apparent that this was an extra mark put in for the main FW fleet and 'torpedo' and myself had put an extra ½ mile into the course just for good measure. There was time for humour as while heading for this mark I was caught and passed my medallion man, Nick Dempsey, and for good measure took just enough wind from my sail to make the mark really tight to make. Obviously my layline was spot on as I hit the mark and rolled around it, catching my fin in the ropes and spectacularly bailing out to the amusement of Sooty and co in the rescue boat just off the mark.

Just as I'd regained my composure and re-mounted my steed, 'torpedo' fizzed past so I could now follow him properly once again. On the downwind leg I discovered that I needed to tweak my set up to go deep enough downwind to catch 'anyone' up, having set up my RS5 too flat for decent downwind performance. I wasn't the only person labouring on the downwind leg, as I found humour in Tim Gibson's loud splash and subsequent expletives as he gybed in his own special way. I don't think it's a style exclusive to Tim, but it proved a source of inspiration at the time.

After enjoying Tim's indiscretion, I was once again off at speed, chasing Chris Woods down into the finish line to conclude a rather poor, yet mildly entertaining race. Through the finish, back to the beach for some tweaks then plan to head out for more of the same.

Reality kicks in as I'm back on the beach, I'm seriously knackered, thirsty & hungry. Tweaks will keep, back to the motor and re-fuel the body. Big mistake, changed out of wetsuit so didn't get a chill, got all relaxed, then missed the next 2 races recovering from the first one. Not a problem, there will be loads more in the afternoon …. Surely.

Apparently not, typical. Having made the effort to get there for the event, and having not missed any action on the Saturday, it all looked so promising for Sunday / Monday for me to secure a reasonable result. Oh well, I'll just have to do better next time ! After the 3 races that was it for the day, in fact it turned out to be all we got for the weekend for the formula fleets.

While my own racing was bizarrely following some comic script worthy of publication in some glossy mag by a pleasantly humorous, mildly knowledgeable and slightly rotund photo-journalist type, the rest of the competition went ahead in fine form.

Keith Atkinson Keith Atkinson has shown some fine form this season having trained hard over the winter period, and would be keen to reverse the Marazion result where Nick Dempsey took the honours. Last years winner, Ross Williams was not in Wales this time around so would be unable to defend his title as Keith and Nick set about laying their own claims for Welsh Open honours. Also in the frame would be Xavier Ferlet, Dan Ellis and Jamie Lever, fighting off the competition from the regular formula challengers and also to new crop of ex-IMCO formula racers.

Suffice it to say, I personally saw very little of the 'top-flight' action, but I'm sure that Mark Kay may have taken sufficient time off from his very important 'roof-rack pad' project to report on the action, much of which appears to have been neatly in his sights as he strategically followed the action around the course.

As a summary Jamie took the fleet win ahead of Keith, then Xav, Dan and Nick making up the top 5 places. Bryony Shaw finished up top female ahead of Lucy Horwood, with Amy Carter 3rd female ahead of Christine Johnston. It looks like a few more girls are starting to get into formula racing, with Jilly Bromley and Phoebe Sneddon signed up to race in the Free-Formula fleet too so this is bound to heap some pressure on the boys to perform.

Dan Simpson In the Free-Formula fleet it was Mike Blackgrove showing young Liam Round how the wise and experienced elder statesman royally whips the young pretenders butt, though this may need some editing / re-wording to avoid any potentially 'wacko' court cases against anybody called Michael beating youngsters. Liam, I am sure, could fend off any such attentions with sharp use of his subtle back country dialect at a decent range, should it be called upon. The 'flying doc' paid heed to Liam's intentions to take the win and duly settled for a suitably passive third place over the weekend for his efforts.

The Techno 293 OD is proving to be a popular board for the youngsters, having taken over from the slightly outdated Aloha as the board of choice for aspiring stars of the future. Twenty-one under-15's battled for honours in this closely contested junior fleet, and also for the separate techno Cup prize being offered for the series winner. Ali Masters & Redmond Scales finished up on equal points after the action had concluded, however on count back Ali was awarded the win, though it probably couldn't have been much closer.

The beach on day 2. You'd perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the raceboard fleet would be reducing in numbers as people switch over to formula in preparation for the new RSX Olympic board, however 44 windsurfers preferring length to girth when it comes to their equipment entered to do battle on the welsh waters of Pwllheli. Adam Pepelasis was back, having missed Marazion to the disappointment of a few 'fantasy windsurfing' managers, and he was straight back into his winning ways. At the other end of the spectrum, Mick Searle had been away enjoying coaching from top short boarders Dan Ellis & Lucy Horwood and his result may hint that he's likely to become a slalom expert while forgoing his usually excellent raceboard form.

From what I saw of the event, organisation was as slick as ever. Ceri and Adam ran the office without fuss or bother, Mike Dempsey kept everyone informed of proceedings, Jan Solven found the drinks cabinet in the galley of the posh committee boat, though may have misplaced her lucky wind crystal simultaneously, after securing the 3 races required for the event to count. Sooty recovered from bouts of hysteria to consume a beer or two over the weekend, and the rest of the crew made sterling efforts to make the best of the weekend, given less than ideal conditions.

On the ground, Lucy had neatly delegated all the serious organising to her dad, Pip, who once again did us all proud. The local council support once again showed what a great vehicle our sport can be to promote an area when local councils get behind the events. Indeed, the camp site was full to bursting with tourists taking the opportunity to check out the UKWA racing while enjoying the excellent facilities on site.

Next up on the UKWA race calendar is Whitwell for the Inland Series, then at the end of May we've got the British Open Championships at Hove. Lets hope for more top quality action and some decent weather to suit.