Euro-Cup FW - Leba, Poland

Day 1 (Thursday 2nd August):

After a few good days of +20 knots leading into the event we arrived at the beach for the 10am Skipper’s meeting knowing full well we’d have the traditional 1st day of no wind in Poland; coupled with plenty of sun and high temperatures. Bruno kicked off the skipper’s on time and as always, told the sailors there was a good chance of wind at some stage of the day … lol.

The wind didn’t come through and so we sat on the beach all day in the hot sun, with most of us using the time to install the rediculously OVERSIZED Allegro.pl stickers on each of our sails. So with no windsurfing actually taking place there is not much to talk about except for mentioning some of the unexpected entries in the event and the arrival of a new sail brand on the formula tour.

All the usual guns are here; Steve Allen, Arnon Dagan, Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel, Wojtek Brzozowski, Wilhelm Schurmann, Ross Williams to name a few. One of the suprise entries is Robby Swift. Robby appeared on the PWA Slalom Tour this year after years doing well on the PWA wave and freestyle tours. He did quite well in the recent slalom events in the Canaries so one would think he could show a little shine at this formula event as well.

Another mention is the return of Italy’s Andrea Cucchi. Andrea seemed to disappear after the 2005 FW Worlds in Australia and I can’t remember actually seeing him at an event in 2006. He was busy starting his own new sail company, Point-7. Despite them probably having been around for a while in Italy, I have never actually seen one of the AC-1 race sails and I was quite suprised when I did see Andrea rig one up. The entire sail, bar a small window for vision around the boom height is completely black film. I don’t mean just the tinted film you’ll find on a NP sail; I mean… BLACK. Completely solid and unable to be seen through. Some strips of bright orange along the luff pocket and the main panel seem through the middle of the sail and the rest is just black. I must say, performance aside, its probably without a doubt, the COOLEST looking sail I have ever seen in my life. It looks like a stealth bomber. We’ll see tomorrow how the performance matches up to the slick looks…

Off to the opening ceremony party at the beach now; tune in tomorrow for some “actual” windsurfing… hopefully.

Day 2 (Friday 3rd August):

I was a little suprised to arrive at the beach to some wind this morning, but with the 1006 low just above us moving west I guess the forecast for 15 knots from the west was pretty spot on…

We kicked straight off the bat at 10am for some lightwind formula racing with the wind peaking around 10 knots from the west; perfect sideshore at the beach of Leba. I decided to go out on my 11m as I haven’t had a chance to test out my new 12m yet and the forecast was for the wind to pickup. Unfortunately for me, I broke a harness line sailing to the start so I had to head back to the beach before the gun even blew… Watching from the beach it was an interesting race however, with Steve taking an early lead on Gonzalo on the first lap, with Ross and the stealth bomber (Andrea Cucchi) not too far behind. On the second lap it was hard to see what happened as the best way to head was out to sea to only have to make one tack. Somewhere along this run Gonzalo passed Steve and took the bullet.

Race 2 the wind picked up to around 13-16 knots and the wind had swung fractionally to the left making the port start the best option and all but about 15 sailors hit this up; making it pretty difficult to get clear wind in the mash of avoiding the 15 starboard starters. I had a terrible start in the middle of the line but had good speed and followed Arnon Dagan upwind.

We’re running a box course for all the races this week it seems… I’m personally not a big fan of having two reaches instead of just straight up/down legs, as I’m usually not as quick in a straight line speed dragrace against the heavier sailors. I put this into effect today by losing 3-4 places each of the reaches, despite having some good up and down legs; putting me well back into the late 20’s overall.

Race 3 the wind really dropped out to back around 10 knots despite appearing to pickup for the 20mins we had from the drop of the AP. I went with Steve’s decision to go for the 11m versus the 12m but I certainly could’ve used it on the startline. The wind had backed a little more to the true west allowing a lot of the fleet to start again on Starboard but I thought it best to nail the port start as I didn’t think I could get off the line in this wind. There was a little bit of carnage (as usual when its light and lots of people are starting on port) but I got away semi-cleanly and was inside the top 15 at the top mark. I lost a little downwind as I went too close to the beach in the light air but recovered on the second upwind as I was pointing quite high with my new Gaastra sails. On this lap I was sandwiched between Andrea Cucchi and Hubert Miarczynski but was pointing just as high as them and maintaining the speed. I tacked earlier than both of them and got into the top mark ahead (although we were now back into the 20’s overall) although Andrea punished me on the reach with his black armageddon sails. I held off Hubert but Andrea got away from me on the downwind; funny to see him back so far.

Race 4 was much of the same although the wind had picked up to 15-18 knots and I was a little overpowered on my 11m, as I thought it might be light so I’d pulled the boom in a little too much. I haven’t been getting off the startline too well today and so I was back in the pack for most of this race…

Straight after 4 (almost) back to back formula races we kicked into slalom; which I was REALLY not keen for as I don’t have any slalom boards with me so I borrowed a 80l Thommen T1 which could only sit a 7m on it… it was 13-15 knots :-/

The wind picked up a little before the start of my heat and I lead Ross Williams and a few of the Polish guns into the first two marks, despite being down about 20-30l on board size and at least 1m on sail area. By the 3rd mark I was struggling to plane out of the gybes but I managed to keep a 4th place by the end and into semi-finals.

On the semi’s I made a textbook mistake. At the time I couldn’t figure it out… but coming back to the beach I realised how much of a tool I had just been… Coming in to change my boom height a few minutes before the start of my semi I headed out and recognised GBR-83 lining up for the start with only 1.5 minutes to go. I gybed, hit the line on time and had a great start coming into the mark about 4-5th behind Steve, Arnon and Gonzalo and GBR-83. I dropped a few places by the end with my tiny board struggling to plane but I still held inside top 10, graduating to the winner’s final – or so I thought…. Turning around on the beach I noticed the next semi was won by Ross Williams (GBR-83). WTF? I couldn’t work out why Ross had raced both races… As it turns out … Hubert had used a slalom sail of Ross’ and I’d mistaken him for Ross and sailed in the WRONG semi. Damn!

So I had to seat the loser’s final and got pretty punished in it as the wind was quite light around the marks, making it difficult for me to plane out of the marks with my small board. The marks were set right on the beach in the impact zone and over the races of the day there was quite a bit of carnage around the marks – pretty good fun I think! Its been a while since I’ve done slalom in breaking surf!

The winner’s final was a lot more interesting than mine and Arnon Dagan came back from a disapointing day on the formula board (breaking a fin and getting some DNF’s) to take the bullet with the Gaastra boys Steve and Ross man-ing up 2nd and 3rd.

The rain continued and after a solid 8 hours on the beach racing; we were done for the day and on our way back to the sauna to hit the sauna and pools with my Aussie mates who are here on holidays from London.

Day 3 (Saturday 4th August): “A and B Game”.

I’ve decided to name today’s report “A and B Game”, as today was really about whether you brought your A game to the table, or you brought your B. This morning we got to the beach to be greeted by the large onshore swell of Tuesday, with the wind kicking around 20 knots (or so we were told). The call was to slalom and taking a while to get the course organised, Bruno decided to do beach starts and a downwind course with only 3 marks. By the time we got race underway the wind had already dropped to 13 knots and this where my B Game story begins…

Trying to start in blown out beach break, with a 7m sail and 80l board when everyone else was using 9-10m sails and 130-140l boards was really not cool. My first heat I took a good 4 mins to get off the startline in the light winds… By this time the leaders had already finished the race so I decided I’d sit out the slalom; eek! I was hoping we wouldn’t be doing it in PERFECT lightwind formula conditions…

The remaining two rounds were pretty exciting to watch from the beach. The first one was marred by some controversial starting tactics by some of the Polish team. The startline was 10m into water; just over an ankle deep sandbar and with Bruno holding the horn at the boat end – with NOBODY at the pin. Michal Polanowski was the first to be pinged after it seemed everyone at the pin was working the fact that Bruno couldn’t really see them and was starting early. In the first final, Steve, who started at the boat end got lucky with a gap between the waves and was onto the plane almost instantly… however, despite that, Wojtek was already 100m down the course – he had started at the pin and started almost 4 seconds early from what I could see!

There was an uproar from Arnon and a few of the sailors afterwards but no-one on the committee wanted to man-up to the problem. It was even discovered that the final was filmed by the Allegro TV crew from the pin end – which would’ve brutally shown Wojtek’s OCS – but the girl with the camera wouldn’t let anyone see the tape!

After a lot of arguing, Bruno set a man at the pin end and the second final let Arnon, Ross and Steve get back to form and finish 1,2,3…

Thankfully, we then were sent out for Formula as the wind was REALLY not more than 15 knots at any point of the day, and most of us were out on 11-12m sails. The swell had really picked up over the day due to the onshore winds and out to sea there was swells pushing 4m I would think. After a general recall in the first start when the startboat broke anchor and drifted 50m downwind, the second start was really boat end favoured and I got a great start right at the boat on the gun, just above Steve. We were running a windward/leeward course which I prefer, as it gives the fleet more of an opportunity to split, rather than playing follow-the-leader like on a box course. As always, the course was marred by the committee wanting to keep the spectators interest, and we had to sail the bottom mark to STARBOARD – which would bring us into the beach instead of out to sea.

I was about 17th to the top mark, just behind Andrea Cucchi and Wojtek Brzozowski. I managed to hold with them downwind and took a few places as we were allowed the freedom to sail deep instead of a reach like yesterday. On the second lap I sat under Andrea and tacked before him to hopefully get a lift but it didn’t work out and he managed to scoot a few places up the fleet to 12th; Wojtek crossed underneath me on the starboard layline as I was coming up on port – funny how aggressive Wojtek always sails … despite me crossing him by about 20m (I still had one tack to do however), he yells “starboard” like I was really cutting his grass … haha. Didn’t help me however and I settled for 15th.

The next start was much of the same but the wind had swung a little to the left meaning the best start was in the middle of the line rather than the boat. There was a bit more traffic there and Hubert gassed me out of the start so I had to tack onto port early to get some clear air. I was mid fleet at the top mark but running very deep compared to a lot of the fleet and took a good 6-7 places on each downwind to scrape back into the top 20.

There is supposedly no wind tomorrow so that might be the last of the action. A little disappointing for me as I’ve really found some speed in places on my new FW kit, however, being out of practice of actual “running” starts from a season of sailing RSX has really cost me at this regatta as starts are EVERYTHING in FW and I have only had two decent starts out of 6. Eek!

Day 4 (Sunday 5th August)

No wind today; all day… as expected. I think most of the sailors used the time to get the sand out of everything they owned at the beach, packing up their gear and mission’ing it back to their vans in the carpark. Apparently, the band tonight is supposed to be pretty good at the closing ceremony, but if it was anything like the band last night – I think we’ll all be crossing Poland off our tour calendars next year !! I was captured on Polish TV being a little harsh about the band last night at the event party but when you combine a rockband with 3 violins, a cello, a viola and some really crazy yellow and blue pants: I think you should just ACCEPT what I say.

So Steve Allen wins the event (second year running I think??) and Arnon Dagan tookout the slalom. Most of us are off to Silvaplana now, so lookout for more reports there from warm, sunny Switzerland :-/