30 June 2010
July 19th and 20th
Aberdyfi, a small seaside fishing village tucked away on the far South of the Snowdonia National Park, sitting at the foot of the dominant and imposing Welsh Mountains and looking out towards the ever energetic and brooding Irish Sea. Translated, to mouth of the Dyfi River, Aberdovey overlooks the estuary with its shifting sands and has for the past 2 years played host to the British National Slalom Series. This third year sees the BSA come to town for their first event in this their first year. 2008 saw an epic event with 45 knot winds, 6 knot currents and pure spectacle of extreme windsurfing and racing! 2009 saw slightly more calm winds with no official championship racing but glorious summer weather and a well earned weekend break for the competitors and their families!
This year the Aberdovey Chamber of Commerce had once again teamed up with Boardwise and Pryde Group UK to support and promote the event, their enthusiasm and generosity over the past 2 years has been a great catalyst to the events success and gone a long way to establishing Aberdovey as one of the UK's premium windsurfing destinations and 2010 is no exception with funding once again being provided to support the event and ensure a healthy prize fund for the Pro fleet competitors as well as supplying event tee shirts for all competitors and event flags.
Aberdovey's unique location sitting between the Welsh mountains and the Irish Sea gives it a great chance of generating some great windsurfing with thermals, currents and tides all combining on a regular basis to give some superb windsurfing and despite what the forecast maybe you can often find some epic conditions down on the estuary- the forecast prior to the weekend was fluctuating between promising and maybe, so it was these unique local effects that the majority of competitors and travelers were relying on as they packed their vans and chariots and headed on a long but very scenic journey up to the Mid Wales Coast.
Saturday afternoon according to all forecasts was going to be the best chance for pro and amateur fleet championship racing as the sailors of those respective fleets used the time held ashore to tweak and fine tune their equipment the focus of the event and indeed the hundreds of spectators and beach goers was turned towards the master blaster fleet. The master blaster fleet this year has really started to take off and following previous years of promotion and investment the number of entrants and the broad spectrum it appeals to continues to be the true indication of the BSA's success. Aberdovey saw the biggest master blaster fleet entry so far this year and given the forecast being for little wind it was great to see that these guys, girls and kids were here for the fun and entertainment of championship weekend away regardless of the wind strength but very much focused on the party!
The master blasters basically complete a simple out and back race pretty much every hour on the hour, under the watchful gaze and supervision of seasoned beach master Iain Jackson who travels with his son Alan to each event from Glasgow Scotland. The first few races saw some heated and competitive races with all manner of kit taking to the water from Starboard serenity to youngsters on their kids rigs! An eclectic collection of ability, age and style entertaining the on looking crowds and spectators with some close sprint finishes and colourful mass beach starts. Meanwhile as the master blasters entertained and enjoyed the fantastic Welsh conditions the monster was stirring out to sea, and it would not be long before the call was made to all amateur amd pro fleet sailorsâ€¦â€¦..it was time for all fleets to go afloat, racing will begin shortly.
Out in the distance atop of a brooding sand bar bobbed a solitary rib, standing out against the golden horizon were its flag pole and the silohetteed figures of Jan Solven and Tess Ingram- the Race crew! The amateur and pro fleets were quickly briefed ashore on the race officer's intentions before heading out the race area at the head of the estuary. On arrival the sailors were met with not only one of the most spectacular vistas but a strong and building force 4-5 wind and some fairly enjoyable rolling swells. A few rig changes were quickly made with rumour's abound that Guy Cribb actually paid 2 youngsters money to go and fetch him a smaller change down sail at the last minute- proof alone that a seasoned campaigner knows all the tricks.
The first race saw the amateurs head off for the first gybe at some pace indeed, picking their way through the rolling waves in attempt to line up that first gybe and jockey for position. Once their race completed a few course alterations were made and with straight finals being run the entire pro fleet was called to attention ready for their first race. The countdown ran smoothly and on the "green for go" flag the sailors timed their runs to perfection hitting the line with speed with not a second to spare. 3 bouy downwind was the order of the day and the pro fleet guys knew that the margin for error was minimal, this combined with the now breaking swells between gybe markes gave a truly amazing spectacle and some of the most enjoyable races the guys had experienced for years. Matt Pearch was the man to chase with Guy Cribb, returning to wales following his victory in tenby, struggling with equipment set up and having to retire early on. Matt was one sailor who was particularily impressed with the Welsh coastline remarking that in all his travels the Aberdovey estuary is one of the prettiest and most scenic places he had ever sailed, naturally his mood was slightly embellished by the fact he had just taken a commanding event lead from james Dinsmore with 2 straight wins!
With the tide dropping and thermals eventually dying racing was eventually suspended at about 6pm, and it was with a mixture of disappointment and jubilation that the sailors made their way back up the estuary to the village, the yacht club, the warm showers and eventually the evenings party! The Yacht Club laid on a fantastic welcome to the BSA and all its followers, extending the use of their newly refurbished shower and changing facilities and the panoramic upstairs lounge and balcony area for spectators and families alike. Saturday evening's barbeque was followed by some great live music and the now customary partying till late in the night and early morning, in fact upon leaving the yacht club yet more partying was heard echoing "up hill and down valley" from the car park!.....that was until a mysterious lady in a dressing gown called a halt to proceedings just before sunrise.
Sunday dawned calm and glorious once again, the baking sun woke most van sleepers early enough as a ford transit can be an effective solar cooker in the right conditions! The prospect of enough wind for championship racing looked distant at best and so once again attention was turned to the main event of the weekend- the mater blaster sailors. Numbers from Saturday were somewhat diminished with a selection of competitors still asleep or recovering from the night previous! Never the less the racing was once again a great spectacle and from my personal position of commentating down on the water edge it was really great to see the number of people coming up and asking what everything was and how they could have a go, along with the old chestnuts of trying it once in Majorca or previously owning a vinta! The master blasters continued to entertain all day and truly showcased the spirit and appeal of the BSA. With the tide running with the wind the chance of more championship racing was fast disappearing, the speed of which only being matched by the tide which was running at full flood. The UKWA ribs and crew continued to buzz around the arena all day trying desperately to find a windy spot that could at least sustain one more race for the amateurs and pros- alas, it was to no avail and at 3pm on Sunday the race officer called the event and that was it for round 4 of the 2010 BSA Championship Series event.
Prize giving was quickly arranged and all fleets were called to assemble upstairs in the Yacht Club where the trophies and numerous Neil Pryde and JP prizes goodies were to be awarded. In particular interest was the raffle of a brand new Neil Pryde Tempo sail to the master blaster fleet- reward indeed for their sterling weekend efforts! Each master blaster entrant had their name put into a hat to win the sail and as such I have never seen so many people at a prize giving! Every master blaster entrant received a Neil Pryde accessory prize from the top table, which combined with their event t shirt gave them great return for their entry fee alone!! After the trophies were given out the prize draw was made and it was Jack Bailey who was the lucky winner! The youngster could not believe his luck as his name was read out and he stepped forward to accept his prize from BSA Chairman and Pryde Group UK's Chris Lewis who remarked "Its great to see so many master blaster and first time racers here at Aberdovey, we have worked hard this year to sell this important aspect by building in a lot of off water and light wind activities along with some impressive social elements too. To see this fantastic prize go to one of the younger first timers is great"
The pro fleet and amateur fleet sailors accepted their trophies and thanks to the support of the Aberdovey Chamber of Commerce the top three pro fleet sailors all took home cash prizes as well as their trophies! The overall results are summarized below.
So we sign off yet another 2010 BSA event, 4 down and 4 to go! We are half way through what has already been a record breaking and succseful season for Britsish Windsurf Slalom Sailing. We look forward to the remaining events in Hove, Huntstanton, Worthing and the end of season Grand Finale in Weymouth. Please log onto www.windsurf-bsa.com for more information on how you can get involved and up to date news and information on forthcoming events!