Read about my mistakes and use this recount as a Formula Racing training tool
I am still pinching myself! Second for myself in the Downunder PRO!! Patrik Boards first and second! It could not have gone any better for me. Following is a technical account of the racing as it happen or as I remember it for me, I may get heats mixed up but the critical moments I remember. 2000 or more words of technical issues like gear selection and tuning fins, battens and cam spacers and race tactics and regatta strategy and boat handling (or lack of board handling) Ha Ha
Pre regatta Tuning
Cam Spacers - This year the regatta is held on the huge Botany Bay near Sydney Airport which has relatively steady wind. They tend to build airports where the wind is consistent. Botany Bay is big enough to sail all the way to the laylines. Tactically racers would only do one, two tacks and gybes each leg. So given that I like to add maximum spacers to induce more shape and have a more stable rigid wing feel and the expense of easy rotation for transitions.
Battens – A couple of nights before the regatta I decided to make new battens for my Gun GSR 12m. You find that your biggest sail is the most important. I used vinyl ester tips and stiff carbon tubes to give a locked knuckly shape. This was a mistake in hindsight! In the light wind I lost a bit of back hand pressure and so didn’t have the height upwind that I was familiar with before the change. However later in the regatta when it was 20 knots it was showing good height.
Gun Sails are a little different to other brands. They have less luff round which makes it easy to downhaul by hand without a rig winch which means less stress on the mast and mast extension. Popping the cams on before the boom is easily done. Putting the boom on at the boom cutout is also easy as the luff pocket is not drum tight! (Super quick rigging is important in formula class). To keep the desired shape they use more seam shape with heavy duty battens with short tapers. Everything seems to work effortlessly.
On the synoptic chart there is not any real great pressure around from what I can tell. There are troughs lines everywhere and little squiggles here and there. I couldn’t really make sense of it! In the end I tell myself I am going to have to see real strong wind on the water to use anything but the 12m Gun GSR.
Heat 1 – Abandon
This race will be my favourite memory of this regatta. Unfortunately most sailors in fact could not get off the line due to the very light winds!! I was making a pretty good go of it in 5th place. Steve Allen was not far away from lapping me showing incredible skills!! In front of me was my training partner Dave Howe, Tibor and Lara O’Brien. I was so please to see Lara (one of the youngest) and Tibor (the oldest) showing us all up. I have learnt a lot from Tibor’s experience; he has great touch and feel in light winds. He and I share similar windsurf philosophies you could say. Tibor is in his 70s this is remarkable! Lara is a RSX sailor so she knows light wind technique and intensity. Lara used her tiny 8.5m RSX sail!!! When she sailed past me she gave a friendly smile. After the race she never boasted or anything like that she just brought friendly good vibes to the event.
Heat 1 resail
Steve Allen wins by an impressive margin using a 12.5m and the new PATRIK Formula 4 board. Brett takes second and I am third. Very light conditions but we plane around the whole course this time. This race is when I notice my usual good height is not there now. Brett did it easy over me and I am thinking, typically he is very strong in windier weather and now light as well. This is going to be a hard battle with Brett.
Just enough wind again. Steve Allen is super quick again and leads start to finish. I have an intense battle with Rick Murray for second. Picking laylines from a long way out is harder than it seems, we both gybe a little early coming to the finish. I get second after some double gybes, Rick gets third which pushes Brett back to forth. This lifts my spirits as now I am in 2nd place overall with 5 points one point in front of Brett. Confidence is coming back, a little.
The race committee need to get three races so that there is a result for the regatta. So we push on for a third race in light winds, probably 7 to 12 knots the whole day. I always tell my guys, take care of the light winds first in terms of setup and technique. Light wind racing is so common. Patrik Diethelm knows this and design the Formula 4 fairly flat and wide, getting planning a second or two earlier than the next guy can translate into 50 or 150 metres over the race. And you don’t have to bear away as much boards with lots of nose rocker.
At the start Sean O’Brien, Steve Allen and myself power off the line. I am to leeward of these two. I keep looking over my shoulder and I am keeping pace with them. We all tack together at the lay line. Steve Allen tacks amazing and is back up planning in an instant and goes on to win the race comfortably. Sean and I are together and this time I am the windward board so I have a clear view of Sean. I can see Sean is underpowered and struggling for height and on the downwind leg Sean is struggling to get down, (reminded me of my Ledge to Lancelin race). I learnt later Sean biggest sail is 10.5m and Sean is a big guy. Steve and I have effectively up to 2m more sail!! It is like Steve and I have set spinnakers on the downwind. It just physics there is nothing Sean can really do.
Brett is closing in, he moves into 3rd place now. On the second upwind I get out of the harness and do a long pump session to the next wind line. With this I secure second. I know there is no time left in the day to run another race so I am OK in depleting my energy stores.
At the end of the day I have 3,2,2 and Brett has 2,4,3. It is going to be a good battle for Brett and I. Steve is definitely going to win the regatta. J
Heat 4 Abandon
Very light conditions, Steve and I charge at the pin end of the line. Leo Sharpe comes in on port tack. I am in two minds as to wave Leo over in front of me however he is slowing up. I somehow lose my rhythm and also fall off the plane. Steve is the only sailor planning and starts footing to the left side of the course to meet the new wind. I see a small gust approaching the pin end mark. I have slog up and get around the mark and bear away to start planning before the gust disappears. I just make and just get planning and start footing to the new wind as well. This was super critical. Steve tacks first in to the gust and I go a bit deeper into the new wind to make sure I have truly got into the pressure. We stay high overlaying the mark to keep in the pressure and then bear away when we are sure to make the mark with pressure. We round the mark and take off downwind. Steve and I have a huge lead, I mean a huge lead!! It feels really good, two Patrik boards out in front. I am riding the Patrik V2 which is a fantastic early planning board, very wide in the aft section.
The race is abandon for lighting strikes. We pack up and put our cars under cover at the club.
No racing on this day. Despite the hard work put in by the race committee.
Very poor forecast of pretty much no wind predicted. The officials are talking about organising the trophies and the prize giving! The Race Officer has not bothered to set a course or even leave the clubhouse!! But then the wind comes and its action stations!
It is South wind. There is not much fetch and so I think it is a flat fast track. So I take my middle fin as I anticipate I will be moving through the water quicker today. This was my first mistake. It was actually quite choppy and a short sharp chop. Nothing really bad, but we were not really going super quick. I like push hard on the fin to get height and generate pressure but you can only do when using a smaller fin if you are going quickly. In the end I had spin out and my height was not good.
My second mistake was having the wrong regatta strategy. I started off the day focusing on Rick and Brett who were close to me on points. This strategy I reckon you do in the last third of the regatta. The fact is we had only completed 3 official races up till now and on this day they were hoping to run 5 races. So we were not even at the halfway point of the regatta.
The first two races sailed I persisted with the wrong fin. On one leg I tacked 5 times attempting a loose cover on two sailors, which is very bad tactics for formula style racing (formula are fast and tack slow like a catamaran). Needless to say these two races ended up been my drops.
Fast forward to Heat 6
I have the right fin I have great height which gives me good tactical options now. I can squeeze sailors out upwind, which I do right from the start. I have a great race with Leo Sharpe but he rolls me downwind. Leo is a legend and he is the reason Steve Allen is the sailor he is today. They grew up together as training partners. Leo has the right amount of animal in him where as I am a bit timid, animal is needed, especially downwind. If Leo gets time on the water then look out!! He is coming J Leo takes second place.
This was my best race. This was in about 18 to 22 knots of wind according to BOM wind observations. I am still using the 12m sail. I get to the first mark first ahead of Steve Allen. Downwind I have no steering and control, it is windy now. Steve takes me as we gybe. Sean on his 10.5m and is now loving it and Brett also still on 12m sail. On the last upwind Sean and Brett are footing and moving quickly I am hanging in there. We all tack on the lay line. I decide to pinch to keep some height in the bank and Brett and Sean foot. As we approach the mark we get knocked and I am the only one laying the mark. Sean and Brett have to double tack. But I know Sean is close and will come down fast. I am hanging on to the 12m for dear life. I am constantly looking at Sean and looking at how far we have to sail. His is catching me quick!!! Every now and then I put on the afterburners for as long as I can hold and then look back and reassess, I time it perfect and just finish the race in front of Sean. Very happy with that second placing and to be briefly in front of Steve was a high light.
I run up the beach and rig the 11m for the last race and the sail looks beautiful. For sure it will be better going with a smaller sail. I dare to dream, can I hold out Steve Allen for longer with a 11m?? I ask myself. But then the flags are raised to end the regatta!! Another storm is approaching!!
In the end I had a fantastic regatta. Real fast paced chess on the water. I had super battles with Rick and Brett and I am looking forward to more with these two champs.
I also had a fun race with Sam Parker, I was with him downwind in one race until he gybed his board like it was a slalom board, wow!! Hopefully Sam and many others who have retired can come back but I understand fully the time commitments required for formula and we all have other duties in life.
Hopefully some new guys can come into the class. My advice for any boding starting is to start now with procurement of gear. Don’t be trying to use 2017 gear at the 2017 Downunder Pro. Team riders are obligated to do this and as such where caught out with supply. Getting gear is actually hard. You don’t want to have the shiniest newest gear. You want to have gear you have spent a year on.
2017 Downunder Pro starts now!!