Last week we kicked off of the Belgian competition season with our traditional Speed Week in Gruissan, France. Gruissan is known to host the Defi Wind, the biggest windsurfing event in the world, but it is also a great location for speed with its infamous offshore tramontana wind.
As a competitor my focus is mainly on slalom and formula racing. However, “speed is back” and the event is always a great excuse to spend a week in southern France to get some sailing in ahead of the racing season.
This year I had a secret weapon in the bag, a brand new SP44 I had brought back from New Zealand only a month earlier on my trip to Taranaki. Together with a new set of C3 Venoms I knew I had the right equipment.
On Monday, the first day of competition, the tramontane was blowing full swing: a solid 30 knots with peaks over 40 knots.
© Herman Maes
I rigged my TR5xt 5.9, screwed a Venom 26cm under the SP44 and went out on the 500m course for a trial run. The wind was pretty strong and gusty and my sail was maybe a tat too big for my weight (72kg + a weight jacket of approx. 10kg) but I felt confident and in control despite some sections of the course being quite choppy.
We did 2 heats of 1.5 hours each. During the first heat the wind was strongest, but also gustier. The wind was still strong but less gusty at the start of the second heat. Unfortunately the wind dropped during that heat and it was eventually abandoned. Because we sailed for more than an hour into the second heat it remained valid.
In both heats the course was fairly square, and broadened slightly in the second heat when the wind eased off.
© Jan de Jonge
Because there were almost 70 competitors it took some time for the official results based on video timing to come in. From my GPS I knew I had done a couple of runs with over 34 knots peak speeds during the first heat, and some over 36 knots in the second heat, but I had no idea of my performance over the 500m course relative to the others.
When the results came in the next day I was quite surprised: I ranked second Belgian in both heats, closely behind Patrick Van Hoof our Belgian speed record holder and speed world cup competitor. In the overall international ranking Jacques van der Hout from Holland (also on a CA SP44) appeared unbeatable, leaving living legend from Sweden Anders Bringdal in second and Patrick in third. The first day of competition also turned out to be the last one, because the tramontane didn’t return for the rest of the week. On Wednesday the onshore “marin” wind picked up and I went for a wave sailing session with the WV51 & Legend 4.5 in the morning. In the afternoon I had some scary fast rides in the swell on the ’09 SL55 & 5.9, an awesome board!
Needless to say I’m really stoked with my result as it was only the second time I competed in the Speed Week, finishing 10th Belgian last year. The SP44 is a fantastic speed board: always in control and with an amazing speed potential. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface!
Looking forward to next month’s Defi Wind, also in Gruissan.
Christophe Waerzeggers BEL 29
1. Jacques van der Hout NED-35 (JP/NP) Riding a Carbon Art!! 😉
2. Anders Bringdal SWE-10 (AB+/Challenger Sails)
3. Patrick Van Hoof BEL-52 (F2/Maui Sails)
1. Patrick Van Hoof BEL-52 (F2/Maui Sails)
2. Christophe Waerzeggers BEL-29 (Carbon Art/Maui Sails)
3. Pascal Somers BEL-7 (AHD/Loft)