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IFCA Slalom Europeans Y/M 2009

Schönbergerstrand (Germany) 11-16 August 2009 report by Christophe Waerzeggers

DAY 1

After a long day of waiting during which the westerly wind played with everyone’s nerves, we were finally sent out for the first race of the championships at 5.30pm. The wind was still fairly light, and most racers went out on their biggest gear, including myself (sl80 & tr5 8.4 & c3 48cm). I had a fairly good start in heat 1, and was comfortably in second throughout the race. I maybe had slightly better speed than No 1 but he was racing a flawless heat and I didn’t want to take too many risks.In the next round the wind had picked up quite a bit and many guys went for a size down. I kept my setup. A 4th place in the semis allowed me to proceed to the finals, but it was close…

On the beach the wind seemed consistently stronger now so I choose to go for speed and took the sl62 & tr5 7.6 & c3 42cm for the final. Unfortunately I had a really bad start (too late!) and had to battle throughout the race to make up some ground to eventually finish in 5th. Not too bad, but I need to nail those starts to stand any chance for a top spot. My smaller combo was working well but I definitely lacked power coming out of the inside marks. IFCA world champion and multiple German ‘Meister’ Bernd Flessner easily took the bullet.

Despite everyone’s expectation the master fleet was sent out again for race #2. The wind had gotten quite gusty and shift though, and logically the starting sequence was eventually called off and we were sent back to the beach. This meant the end of a long day of waiting and some tight racing especially the in semis and final rounds. Tomorrow’s an early day, with skippers at 9am and first possible start at 9.30am – will have an early night!

DAY 2

The day started with rain and gusty off shore winds so all fleets were put on AP. Around 11am the wind slightly shifted cross off shore and we were sent out to start race #2. I was in the first heat and because the wind was still light opted for the sl80/8.4 again. I easily qualified for the finals, but had a really bad start totally misjudging the line (in fact I mistook one of the coach boats for the starting vessel). I nevertheless managed to fight back to fifth. The wind had gradually picked up although it was still quite shifty and gusty. When the race director announced 20 to 22 knots on the start boat I decided to go with 62/7.6 for race #3. Unfortunately by the time I got to the line those 20 knots were gone and I had to fight my way into the final badly underpowered. I made it, thanks to a lot of pumping and the fantastic planning capacity of the 62 (I passed a couple of guys at the marks who were stuck… on their big gear!) I rushed back to the beach for the 80 & 8.4, but by the time we got to the line the wind was gone altogether. Another 15 minutes and a big shower later the wind picked up again, well over 20 knots this time! I had a good start, but so did 6 or 7 others, so we had to battle it out at the first mark. In the strong winds everyone was going really fast and gybing became technical. In the end I managed another 5th. The wind was now steady around 18 to 20 knots, but still a bit lighter on the inside so I stayed on the same combo of race #4 the last one of the day. I had a good qualifying race and felt confident for the final. So did a number of other guys and with 7 or 8 we were blasting full speed towards mark 1, inevitably resulting in some carnage. I had to duck to avoid collision and lost some places because of it. I tried to fight back but only managed to pick up one or two guys and stranded in 9th, my worst result so far.

After 4 races and one discard (obviously my last race) I’m in 6th, with only 2 points separating me from 5th and 4 points from 4th place. Hopefully we’ll get some mre wind tomorrow for more tight racing!

DAY 3

Competing is hard work… Third day of the championships saw some challenging racing conditions: adding to the gusty and shifty off shore winds most competitors are by now used to were big patches of long see grass. The in-between of grass are annoying enough – they slow you down and are very hard to get off without stopping – but the big patches can make you stop planning altogether! The conditions are always the same for everyone on the course, but for some reason I seemed to catch more weed than the others…

I had a good start of the day though, with literally my best start ever, and qualifying easily for the final. Unfortunately I got a bit too eager and went over early. Too bad. Waiting for the final of the next race the wind suddenly shifted side shore and picked up to a steady 20 to 25 knots, so I switched down from the SL80 & 8.4 to the SL62 & 7.6. I had a decent start but then got caught in colliding traffic at the first mark and I got cut loose from the top group. Too bad, again.

For the last race of the day the race committee decided to send us out all out once for a full fleet. I stayed on the SL62 & 7.6 combo and had an OK start at the boat looking for clean air in such a big pack. It was a long fight to the first mark but made it out OK around 5th or 6th. Trying to hold on and passing another guy at the third mark, I was still doing fine. Then, on the last jibe, a small chop, lost balance, fell in… before I could even lift my sail 4 guys had past me…

Overall I’m now in 8th or 9th, and hope will have some more races in the coming days!

DAY 4

Today’s forecast was pessimistic, but when we arrived at the beach there was a steady 12 to 13 knots on the course. Unfortunately, by the time we went into the starting sequence the wind died down. The whole day the wind flirted with the 11 knot wind limit, but only stabilized around 12 knots by 5pm, so we were sent out for another attempt. I had a good start in my heat at the boat, looking for clean air in this light stuff. That proved to be the right option, and I made it in first at the first mark. From there on I controlled the whole race, taking my first bullet ever in an international contest!

The second heat got cancelled because the wind fell below the limit again. Hopefully we’ll have good conditions tomorrow to run the final round of this race.

The SL80 and 8.4 were perfect in these light conditions: plenty of power through the jibes and acceleration from the slightest puff!

DAY 5

Another tough day! The wind was completely off shore and gusted from 10 to 20 knots depending on where you were on the course!
The race director decided to switch from a downwind slalom to a figure-8 course, and laid the course more than a kilometre off shore where the wind was slightly more consistent. Gear choice was even more critical in these conditions, because there was no way you could make it back to the beach in time to switch boards or sails between heats. I opted for the SL80 & 8.4 again.

We started with the final round of yesterday’s race. I had some trouble to find my bearings on this new course; with the gusty wind it was critical to find clean air as you’re always in someone’s dirty air/chop on a figure-8 course! I finished 7th in the first race, not good enough to raise up in the overall ranking. I had to do better. The second race went slightly better with a 6th place, taking advantage of the SL80’s amazing planning capacity to overtake some guys on the inside at the marks. For the final race of the day we did another full fleet race. I had a clean start at the upwind side of the line, and held on to 4th all through the race. My best result so far!

Thanks to that last race I moved up to 7th in the overall ranking. Tomorrow’s the last day, and the forecast looks good!

DAY 6

Final day of a long week of racing. A solid 20 knots westerly were forecasted, but in the morning the wind blew offshore again so yesterday’s figure 8 course was laid out again. The wind initially oscillated between 12 and 20 knots, so I prepared the SL80 and 8.4 again which worked so well yesterday. However, by the time we had to get out to the course area the starting boat reported minimum wind speeds between 22 and 26 knots, so I quickly switched to the SL62 & 7.6. Proofed to the a good decision, because by the time I got to the starting line 30 knot gusts were coming through the course area…
I had a good start at the upwind side of t

he line again, and made it in second to the first mark right behind Bernd Flessner. I had to let Thade Behrends pass on the next leg, but then held on to 3rd to qualify for the final. I started upwind again and was in 5th at the first mark. Helge Wilkens crashed at the jibe and I took 4th and held on to it to the finish.

Another 4th place put me in 7th overall.

In all it was an amazing week of racing, in which we completed 10 slalom eliminations and 2 full fleet races. We raced every single day! I mostly used the SL80 and 8.4 TR5xt, with a Venom 48cm and a Venom Proto 48cm (with more chord width than the standard Venom). On the last day I was would up on the SL62 and 7.6 TR5xt, with a Venom 42cm. It was the first time I used the SL80 in a slalom competition – what a fantastic board! Huge speed potential and always in control in the gusts; a real light wind slalom machine.

Full results (PDFs):

Reports and pictures: http://www.euro-cup.org/