BSA slalom 2 - report

28 April 2010

Tushingham's Paul Simmons reports from the BSA Slalom at Weymouth

Hosted by OTC Weymouth, Tushingham Sails and Starboard, round two of the BSA Slalom series touched down at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy. The event was based by the OTC's superb new location overlooking the sheltered waters of the Harbour and competitors were greeted on Saturday morning with sunny skies and a decent morning breeze.

With around thirteen knots blowing, racers were blasting out to the course planing comfortably. Within a few minutes however, the wind dropped off and left racers wobbling back across the harbour. It had become so light that Steve Thorp's dog, swimming in the water, was able to overtake me on the way back to the slipway!

The afternoon saw riders on larger kit able to plane so the race crew organised a fun "master blaster" across the harbour. Sam Latham took an early lead and held it until the last moment when Pearse Geaney nipped in front in an exciting finish.

With the wind even lighter in the afternoon we took advantage of the good weather to get some team racing in. The Starboard Serenity is built for these conditions and with two boards ready to race, the willing participants were split into teams of six for relay racing.

Against a backdrop of cheering spectators on the slipway, the racing commenced, bringing some skilful sailing mixed with numerous wobbly gybes, dodgy pumping, wipeouts and all manner of acts of sabotage as the "fun racing" became rather competitive! Not quite the high-octane, high-speed slalom action most of the racers had come for but nevertheless, everyone enjoyed the light wind alternative, helped by the sunny weather!

Following an excellent performance by the live band at Saturday night's party and a bunch of thirsty windsurfers in attendance, there were a few hangovers amongst the competitors on Sunday morning. Despite the gloomy weather, the wind appeared to be enough to race but once again though, it fell light before competition could commence, leaving the riders somewhat frustrated back on the shore. Photographer Roger Turner arrived from Poole with the news "it's windy everywhere else" bringing hope for an improvement. By lunchtime the clouds had cleared and the wind was creeping up towards race-able conditions.

Under sunny skies, during the afternoon all fleets enjoyed a series of five races of downwind slalom on sails generally between eight and nine metres. With rounds being raced as a straight final, a good start and clean gybes were imperative. Slalom newcomers Saskia and Imogen Sills were flying in the Master Blaster fleet (ahead of many of the Amateurs at times!) A very healthy 18 competitors raced in the Amateur fleet, with Michael George a consistent leader. Marie Buchanan led the way for the ladies ahead of Amy Carter, making a return to slalom racing.

In the Pro fleet Mat Pearch made up for a below-par showing in the first race with a string of firsts, to take a solid event win. Scottish legend Alan Jackson won round two and was constantly near the front of the fleet, taking him to second overall ahead of Simon Cofield, another experienced racer returning to the scene.

Standing on the shoreline in nearly calm, overcast conditions on Sunday morning I had been scratching my head trying to work out how to motivate the windsurfers to get on the water. What a contrast in the afternoon after several rounds of competitive racing in superb weather! I'm really pleased to see the BSA Slalom is attracting some experienced faces back to racing plus newcomers from both younger and older generations.

Many thanks to the OTC staff for supporting the event and sourcing some rather nice prizes, the UKWA for running fantastic racing and the WPNSA for providing world class facilities!

The next round takes place at Branksome Dene Chine between Bournemouth and Poole on 8th & 9th May. It should be another great event - so get down there! and