Raceboard Worlds 2016: A Sailor’s Preparation and Regatta.
Firstly I would like to give thanks to Team NSW. There is a great community of Raceboarders here in NSW that are fun to hang out with. Richie and Lissa (the bosses) travelled the world for years prior convincing the World Raceboard community that Australia can host this important regatta. I reckon they must have had confidence knowing that their friends back in Dobroyd are talented and diverse group that can get the job done. I was really touched at The Worlds to see people giving up their week to volunteer; many sailors had official jobs before and after sailing. One cool thing in particular I thought was seeing Richie and Lissa teaching novice windsurfers at DAC selflessly and then coming to the race with the main fleet. These warm up races prior to the worlds was super important in preparing for the worlds. This caring attitude goes all the way through the NSW Raceboard scene.
Making the decision to sail Raceboard
James Grunfelder and Reece Herbert and other guys were saying to me last summer, ‘get back into RB for the worlds’. I was cautious because I know how physical the class is and my weight was in the 90 kilo range. Around 70 kilo is a competitive range. Later, I attended the NSW Association meeting at the Oaks pub (April?) and listened to Greg McInnes talk about the RB worlds. The seed was planted in my brain, I thought to myself, ‘It’s a world championship in Australia!!’ So I gave it some serious thought. I saw they have heavyweight class. Sailing with my own designed sail was a big incentive. I have been importing and reselling windsurf brands which has been super fun, but a lot work. I always thought it would be better to have my own brand. I had previously made Moth sails and with a background in Architecture a sail brand is the obvious choice for me. In Architecture visualization skills are essential and I thought that with the same computer software I was half way. In the Raceboard class prototypes are allowed. Making my own sail was the clincher for me in deciding to take up RB.
I started dieting before the Green Island Slalom Nationals. At that regatta I was about 89 kilo. Sometime after that my wife organised a doctor, and blood and stool samples were taken (arh too much information). A tailored diet with supplements with my naturopath wife chipping in was prepared. I also did gym work with on water sailing. My Gym program was 10 min of bike, stretching, running (12.5min varying to 30min), resistance – weight lifting, and swimming (500m). This I did most days first thing in the morning after a 12hour fast. I would vary things, sometimes interval and sometimes aerobic, or upper body one day, lower the next for the weights. On the 9th Nov I weighted in 81.7kg, my lowest weigh in for years. Technically at this weight I could have registered as a lightweight! However leading into the regatta to reduce stress I eased up on the dieting and exercise and gained weight.
In this regatta the first 4 finishes were lightweights. It always seems to favour lightweight sailors even though we had some good winds. Many lightweight sailors have been through the Olympic sailing system so their intensity and condition was at another level. While I could have worked harder on diet and exercise, at the end of the day I am satisfied with my efforts.
My main strategy was to develop gear to have good boatspeed. I choose the Exocet because I liked the rail shape and uncomplicated deck. 90% of the fleet sail the Phantom so it’s a chance to have a edge over the majority (if it is actually better). I spoke to Rob Scaroff a lot before buying and he told me the Exocet is flying upwind. In the end after weighing up all the factors at that time, I go for it. The board arrives in June with about 5 and half months to go.
I had plans to develop centreboards, fins and sails, however the sail turned out to be a big job, so I dropped the fin and centreboard due to lack of time. I had heard some skiff sailors were trying humpback whale irregular leading edge fins; exciting concepts that unfortunately will have to wait.
My first sail has many innovative design features, leading my mate Arnie Shields to nickname it ‘Robo-Sail’. The sail takes about 1 month to make and ends up as a bit of a disaster! I used Dimension Polyant Q-Bond Tape and 3M tape instead of sewing so that it would be lighter and not crimp at the seams. I did a carbon head cap, and left the batten pockets opened at the trailing edge and varied to twist with twine. The main issue was the luff round was way too much. I felt like it was a complete waste of time. I started doubting myself and I considered buying a Loft Sail, until my wife quickly got me back on track. This first sail became an important reference point for the following two sails.
For my next sail, I wanted to make something more conventional to get the basics right. It was, however, still a bit of guess work, and my heart sank when I first rigged it at the first interclub regatta at Illawarra. It looked too deep, too draft aft and too flat at the luff. I still went racing with it despite these flaws, and as the day went on I found it to be super fast. The winds were light and I found that the sail didn’t have a huge wind range. Its shape I later learned was similar to the current demon sail brand, which I saw months later at the regatta.
The third sail I made would have to be the regatta sail, as I only had time to make one more sail before the worlds. Making it took a long time on the laptop, as I was far more meticulous with my designs. I took the advantages from my previous sails and evened out the numbers. It turned out pretty good, and after tuning the cams and battens I was ready for the Championship.
I was often asked, ‘How do think you will go?’ For a bit of gamesmanship and to avoid putting pressure on myself, I said ‘To finish in the time limit’, and to justify my answer I stated Ivan Pastor’s 2nd place in the medal race at Rio. Truthfully, I wanted to be on the podium, if only in my weight or age group. Training for the regatta with Lea and all the guys had been great. I love that period before a regatta when dreaming of a good result, however a dose of reality was coming!
In the practice race I got rolled off the start line by one of the CZE guys, not sure which one, they look identical and coincidently have the same last name. I also got rolled by a bunch of sailors downwind! I was going to have to change a lot of things in my sailing style before the start of the regatta in two days.
In Race One I sailed different angles and with new pumping vigor, I started out in a better position, but then disaster in following the guys in front sail the wrong course, I finished windward of the finish line!! By the time I had realised and corrected my mistake, I had recorded my worst result.
My next bad result was the final race on Day 2. The wind rose to 17 knots, however I failed to adapt and change gears to get the board going. I really needed to flatten my gear more so in that race.
Before Day 3 started, I had some serious words with myself! Ha Ha. I told myself that I would have to risk injury or fatigue on this day to stay in touch. Previously, I had been showing great speed but mucking it up one way or the other. I needed to finish up there or the points would get away from me. On the last race on Day 3, I led to the first mark and on the final downwind I overtook Antonio to finish 4th. A great result and everyone was super stoked for me. I was starting to turn my results around and was feeling confident for a strong finish.
Day 4 was my disaster day. I think this was my 8th world championship (including Moths), and I have never fell in so much in a world championship. No races went well on this day.
On Day 5, James was 20 points in front of me in 11th position, so I conceded that battle. I was watching the boards behind me and tactically keeping in the same wind while letting my speed keep me in front. Although I started in the second row in the last race, somehow I managed to hang onto 12th place. 4th Aussie, 4th age group and 6th heavy weight.
Ultimately, it was an exceptional regatta for everybody. The fact that it was probably my last major championship leaves me feeling a little flat because it was such a positive experience. I am now focusing on the next sail design based on what I have learnt in Brisbane. Hopefully production is a real possibility soon and a new sail brand LORD RACING will be born.
Post regatta, there has been talk of a new Raceboard hull possibly crowd-funded by the sailors. There is a need for a 14kg (class weight limit) durable board. That would be 20 to 30% lighter than our current options, a big potential advantage!
I am keen for the Raceboard, as a development class, to jump up another gear. Techniques are changing within the class; the boards are being sailed like a Formula or RSX board, in about 20 knots. This planing style of sailing will happen earlier as the gear improves. If this did happen would my beloved Formula class lose relevance? I think the formula class will take on light winds with foils and increase the range of use. If the Formula class solves light winds, will the Raceboard lose relevance? I think there is room for both as they seem to suit different body shapes. I enjoy sailing both.
Good winds, stay salty