The 2008 NZ Slalom Nationals were held in Dunedin for the second year in a row just last month.
Last years event was the first specific national slalom event for quite some years due to the resurgence in Slalom sailing and by all accounts was a huge success so this event was my first time racing since I won the national racing title in 2001.
Off we went down to the ever friendly South Island, where the day before the event was spent prepping, until the wind materialised when we managed a quick sail. The air was pretty cold and gusty as a southerly had recently passed through, but still good to get out, the main thing that struck me, was how damn flat the water was – I’m like “oh shit, maybe I shouldn’t have spent all my huge amount of training on the ocean in Taranaki!!”
The first day of racing dawned with a clear sky and a forecast of 20kts NE – all good. The racing was to be run on the same format as the Maui Race Series and taking into account the event organisers and officer of the day (OD), we would be doing as many heats as they could fit in! Day one was the start of much of the same as far as a battle between 1st and 2nd was concerned. It was pretty light so I chose to use the SL62 and TR3 7.6 which seemed a pretty good choice as I won my first heat which had last years event winner Gareth Woods contending in. We raced six races that day back to back and my final results were two 1st placings and four 2nd placings and I had Gareth in four out of the six heats so it was quite close racing.
Day two started off with a 35kt NE forecast for the Chalmers marine area, so we were guaranteed some high wind action. I started off comfortable on the SL52 and TR3 5.9 which was my smallest set-up, but by the end of the day we had a solid 30kts and things were starting to stretch!! It was a really good racing with some great battles with Gareth. We did a total of 10 races and this time I ended up with six 1st placings two 2nd placings and two 3rd placings which saw me move from 3rd to 2nd overall, and I managed to close the gap between 1st and 2nd. By this point looking at the scores I could see it was going to come down to the last few races if the pattern continued.
Day three was much of the same except it started off just as windy as it had finished the day before. Other competitors were looking for wave sails or pulling out race sails too small to have been used before. Oh well! With nothing smaller I had no choice but to hang on. It’s funny really when you know you can’t change down, it seems that being overpowered becomes less of an issue – mind you my gybing, which up until now had been my weak point, wasn’t getting any prettier!!
The OD Simon Jones put us through a gruelling 12 races with a finish line involving a tight pinch to the last mark, then slingshot into a broad reach to a buoy which had to be gybed to cross the line. As you can imagine there were some ugly crashes in this part of the course.
With Gareth and I having this continual tussle it made the last few races pretty exciting. In the end after 28 races, Gareth ended up 1st with a five point lead over my 2nd place. In 3rd place was Terry Bentgies(CA), 4th place was Paul Villestra and 5th place was Terry Alkemade (CA).
What an excellent event it was, it was organised and run well with a great bunch of competitors and lots of fun. Thanks to Paul Villestra, the man behind putting it all together, Simon Jones, the Officer of the Day, and anyone else who helped out. We had eight women enter this event which must be some kind of record for NZ racing and they put a lot of the men to shame as they battled it out round after round. Some had to be helped back up the ramp at the end of the heat but still managed to get back out there for the next round – good to see! In the end it was Annie Crombie of Christchurch (and on Carbon Art) with a 15 point lead taking 1st place followed by Sue Bradley in 2nd place and Di Blakely in 3rd place.
So all in all it was a successful event for Carbon Art getting 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the Men’s and 1st in the Women’s. Looking at how the event had gone personally, I was stoked with my starts and board speed, I pretty much got to the first mark 1st in the majority of my heats and had the best board speed I have ever had in an event, but I let myself down by leaving the door open exiting at the gybes. I need to go around the buoys a bit more as opposed to heading off wavesailing!!