Event Status

Event: Fortaleza Formula Windsurfing Grand-Prix

Divisions: Men | Women | Youth
Level: Grand-Prix (Level no. 1)
Event factor: 1.5
Prizemoney: USD $30,000

On this page you can see live events on my Twitter feed on the right (@SeanAUS120 – follow me!) as well as read the daily reports below and check out some of my photos from the event.

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Daily Reports

DAY 1

So racing got underway at the 2010 Fortaleza Grand-Prix here in Fortaleza. After basically resting and only taking part in about 7 of the 12 races during the FW Brasilian Nationals which concluded over the weekend, I was fresh and raring to go for racing today. Basically the same fleet is here, minus a few Brasilians who had to go back to work and could only race on the weekends and Steve Allen and Wojtek Brzozowski who were last minute arrivals flying in from Poland late yesterday.

Today got underway as every other day here had. The racing kicking off at 12pm on the dot with winds around 12-14 knots; once again a little light for my 11m and most of the fleet taking 12m’s. There seems to be a bit more intensity on the startline with the two Severne boys here from Poland now and 99% of the fleet decided to start on port with myself and Victor Melo taking them on with a starboard start. The wind shifted a little left just before the start and about 4 guys were able to cross me and Victor (almost nobody dips below you when they are on port, so I imagine there is going to be plenty more horrific port/starboard crashes coming up soon!) as we left from the boat end. Victor tacked about 30 seconds up the run and I decided to go another 20 seconds. Wow, what a difference that extra few seconds made…

Victor was still in the lift on port tack which you get as you run along the beach. With today’s racing, the startline was well down so only 1-2 boats are able to sail all the way to the wall on port. If you make it to the wall in front of the marina, you get a MASSIVE lift straight to the mark. If you only make it 100m from the wall, you get no lift and you lose about 2 minutes upwind. Seems brutal huh? Well, if you decide to go another 20 seconds out to sea on starboard then tack back on to port and come to the wall like I did, you actually miss the lift on port, then basically waste the lift on starboard to the mark as you are too far out to sea to get much of it … hello coming nearly 2 minutes behind the leaders around the first mark. Pretty much wanted to sail straight to the beach… what a waste of a good start…

Wilhelm was the 1 boat who made it to the wall and of course got the MASSIVE lift nobody else got and won the race by a country mile. If you aren’t in the lane, you aren’t in the lane… this is a brutal place to sail sometimes…

Race 2 I decided it again much better to start on starboard and count to 25 seconds then tack back. Miguel, Victor and I did this with fairly good results coming to the top mark in the pack. It’s actually kind of interesting racing because there is nobody here and we are all fairly close, so there is 10 guys arriving at the top mark at the exact same time and then it spreads out as people go downwind. I can’t seem to hold my angle on port on the second lap sitting in dirty air and it’s SUICIDE to put 2 extra tacks in as you are just sailing away from the lift … so you have to just sit there like a dog in the dirty air and hope somebody falls off in a tack. Luckily for me, Mathias did and I managed to get from 10th to 9th only to have him pass me downwind on his smaller sail.

Race 3 of the day and the wind had picked up to over 20 knots. I think the entire fleet had changed down to 10m except for myself, Kurosh and Wilhelm … I caught a freakish gust on the ramp trying to launch and ended up nearly smashing my gear on the concrete only then to stand on a razor sharp barnicle, slice my foot open with a 2″ gash then fall off the ramp in to the water and smash my head on my boom (must have looked like a complete idiot when I fell, was trying my best to keep it upright till I felt the knife through my foot then lost balance and threw the rig and myself as far as I could in to the water to not smash on the concrete… argggh).

I was first down the ramp (which is nice, because if you are last, you’ll miss the start – ala Steve Allen style in Race 2!). I jumped up on my board and blood was spilling out over my board and in to the water like I’d dropped 3 pints of red cordial at the bar. I looked back at the ramp to see 10 guys all jostling to get down it and figured it would just be impossible to try to get back up it and tape my foot up … so I headed to the startline muttering some profanities under my breath and unable to put my foot in a footstrap (it was my right foot, so sailing downwind in 20 knots with 11m and no front footstrap is not fun!).

Funny how adrenaline works. I started again on Starboard and as soon as the 1 minute gun went I forgot about my foot and blood on the board and hit the line running on starboard … there was a MASSIVE shift to the right and the guys on port suddenly realised nobody would cross the line so started flying to the boat end … I came at the boat full tilt and really thought I was going to smash in to Wilhelm Schurmann head on as he had nowhere to go and neither did I !! Somehow managed to miss him but had to unhook from the harness then took a few seconds to hook back in and got rolled by Miguel …

Anyhow, we tack at the 25 second mark back to port and follow the guys to the wall. I’m in an ok position here and around 6-7th when I tack on to starboard. Kicked my spliced toe on the universal joint as I tacked. Didn’t drop the sail but had to stop for a few seconds as I was seeing stars and felt like I’d just been electrocuted… the pain was horrific. More blood spilling over the board and I handed away 3 places as I sailed to the top mark. Upwind it’s ok as you’re toes are never touching the board but downwind it’s another story and already it was windy enough for the chicken strap however I couldn’t use it on starboard tack as my spliced toe would be rubbing along the sharp-edged hex head bolts of my fin. Arrgggghhhh.

That’s about where the race stopped for me. I safety sailed the rest of the race with my feet never in any back strap downwind as I was already in 10th and 11th place is around 5 minutes after me each race so I figured I wasn’t going to take back 9th place with my foot. Finished the race and headed back in to the beach to duct-tape my foot back together and take as many painkillers as I could scrounge on the beach.

Interesting racing today… results were all over the place as the wind closest to the beach is moving all over the place and there is only a very small lane which gets the shift upwind, so if you aren’t in it, you can be 8th, and if you are, you can be 1st … happened to everyone at some point.

The sooner organisers learn that NOBODY is watching these races from the beach EVER IN HISTORY and they should be sticking cameramen on jetskis and boats out on the water and put the courses out to sea where there is less land-effect and clearer wind we will have much better racing and much better media coverage. I see it time and time again everywhere I go in the world… it’s pointless. Anyhow, enough whinging… I’m back at the hotel now with my foot cleaned out and bandaged and enough paracetamol at my disposal to maybe even race tomorrow! ;)

DAY 2

Quote of the day:

“I need a 12, I’m not a miracle worker”. (Wilhelm Schurmann)

Today was one of those days they say “oh these conditions are pretty unusual, normally it’s like this…” blah blah. The first race took off in about 15-16 knots with me having a cracking start with Paulo at the boat end on port and completely rolling the Schurmannator who was behind us both. The wind had shifted to a much more offshore direction and the swells picked up considerably so it was VERY tricky going on port to the wall to ride the swells and the places shifted considerably. Steve and Wilhelm went out to sea (which only works 1 time out of 50 here; this was that 1) and somehow got back to the front and I got buried in the run to the top mark and was back in 7th … Fought a tough battle with Mathias and Kurosh for 7th place for the next 2 laps (3 lap courses!) only to have Mathias finally pass me on the last downwind with his 12m …

10 mins to the start of Race 2 and the wind started to drop – everyone went 12m except for myself, Kurosh, Wilhelm and Wojtek, who didn’t have anything bigger. I later found out that Wojtek broke a boom in Race 1 and sailed home … he re-broke his dodgy repair in Race 2 also …

This time the wind was so light I got rolled on the start on port by Wilhelm however got super lucky with a freak wave I rode for about 400m which managed to let me get to the layline in about 4th and hold out Paulo who was trying to run me down but on the back of my wave. I lost a few places to the mark as I’m not pointing as high as others and rounded just in front of Paulo and Victor Melo. About there is where all ‘normal’ things that happen in a race stopped and the crazy things started… shifts, bigger waves, super gusty winds, plastic bags … heaps of changes in positions between the 10 of us. I went from last to 6th to 8th to last back to 9th… cut the hell out of my already cut foot on the ramp coming back in so wasn’t super happy to have to go out for a 3rd race.

By 3.30pm when we started Race 3 the wind had dropped to 6-8 knots. Not good when you’re on an 11m with a broken batten (broke it in the swell coming on to the ramp and didn’t have any means to fix it properly this morning, so I raced all day with a broken batter – not an important one, just the second one from the bottom which crosses the boom – F$#&^%!).

A lot of us decided to start on starboard as it was going to be IMPOSSIBLE to cross the line on port in these light winds with the swell. I had a cracking start and led the fleet out from the boat, leading for about 600m until I completely fell off the plane and stopped. Gabriel, who was 200m behind me at this stage sailed past like he was overpowered, tacked, and went straight to the mark and won the race by a country mile. I fell off the plane at least 3 more times during this race doing horrific angles of 70 degrees at times… what a joke not bringing a 12m was!!

So another day finished and I got home late tonight as I have finally fixed that batten. Let’s see what tomorrow brings but I’m starting to think it’s never going to get above 20 knots ever. Bring me one day of nuclear 30 knots and 5m waves and I will finally get a result on the board I bet …….

DAY 3

Today was a much more regular day in Fortaleza… finally we had some wind! Not much, about 15-16 knots for most of the day but it was much better than 6-8 knots. Under Steve Allen’s suggestion the startline was moved to about 100m from the rock wall of the beach (ie, 300m closer to the beach) so that you couldn’t run to the spot on the wall that gave you the massive lift out of the start which then opened the door to going out to sea instead of the usual procession of everyone heading to the beach. That being said, EVERYBODY headed to the beach in Race 1 today as apparently we’re not so smart and Victor Melo, who’s probably sailed here before seeing as he lives here was the lone board on starboard. He picked the layline spot on and rounded a clear first ahead of Gabriel. Despite Gabriel’s speed, he couldn’t catch Victor who took the bullet in Race 1 with Kurosh Kiani taking home a well earned 25 points with an OCS. I got rolled on the start by Wojtek who clearly doesn’t understand which boat gives way on a line however I never seem to be able to get up the ramp and de-rigged in time for protest-time so we’ll let him get away with that one ;)

Race 2 the wind picked up considerably and a lot of guys started attaching chicken straps (or double chicken-strap plates, if you’re name is Sean O’Brien [or as the Brasilians now call me, “Oggy” which is some milk-drink in Holland – no idea how that came about]). Most of us started on starboard with the odd guy on port. I had a relatively ok start next to Wilhelm and Lucas who eventually out pointed me by the layline and I had to go another 40m to get out of their dirty air on the port run to the mark. Wilhelm actually was first around the mark and my extra 40m cost me about 6 places … After a 2 lap battle with Kurosh and Mathias, I gambled on coming up to the layline on port tack on the 3rd lap from the downwind mark. By doing this, you sail to the rock wall with MASSIVE swells crashing on to the wall and sucking you in… and then there’s a tiny wooden row boat with a 50m anchor rope which I discovered. Wilhelm hit it, then I hit it … Wilhelm survived… I didn’t quite fall in but I lost a good 25 seconds trying to balance in the swells and not fall off. Basically, if I dropped the sails, it would be like ending up on the rocks at Ho’okipa – you basically rescue your board, leave the sail to shred and cut every piece of your body clambering up the rocks as that’s the only way out …

Kurosh and Mathias passed me in that instant. Goddammit. Wilhelm was just as unlucky having a nice lead over Gabriel but coming to the top mark (he later told me he was actually overshooting the layline) for the 3rd lap the wind shifted and he missed the mark. God giveth and god taketh away .. unlucky.

Race 3 was much of a re-run of Race 2 for me … I had an ok start on port but decided to go below the row boat to the wall while everyone else pointing a little higher was able to above it and add another 150m to their port run before hitting the wall. That’s a lot when the furtherer you go, the more lift you get coming out. So I was well back before the first upwind was even finished … I had some good downwind legs to catch Lucas and Wojtek and actually passed them in to the bottom mark on lap 2 however the 3rd upwind is usually a punishment for me as I’m getting KILLED upwind and my only salvation is I’m pretty damn fast downwind and can gybe well… If the races were 2 laps like normal, I think the results sheet would be much different; unfortunately for me it’s 3 laps, and usually whatever I can catch downwind is undone on the last upwind and the run to the finish is basically a reach so there’s nowhere to pickup on the finish line …

On lap 2 I saw one of the most HORRIFIC crashes I’ve ever seen in Formula (and I’ve seen some crashes). Funnily enough, it involved Paulo dos Reis, who is actually no stranger to crashes – I’ve seen him take out guys in Poland, Portugal, Spain and now Brasil. The man has no fear and will not dip below you, even if he’s on port! In this particular instance, Wilhelm was about 100m ahead of Paulo and gybed on to starboard heading downwind. Paulo, who was on port got a nice gust and pushed super deep but I’m not sure if he was watching where he was going because he completely t-boned Wilhelm at FULL-SPEED !!! There was an almighty crash and fin gashes about 10cm cut in to Wilhelm’s board … I seriously don’t know how nobody died … port/starboard crashes on a startline are ok, because you are both behind the sail to protect your body, but a port/starboard crash downwind when somebody hits you from the WINDWARD side… holy f^&%!. Horrific… Anyhow, both sailors are ok and managed to finish the race somehow and will now be sitting in the protest room …

Time for me to head down to Babagula’s (a nice outdoor beach restaurant outside one of Fabio’s many, many hotels) to smash some Acai berry with Kurosh and Mathias. Adios!

DAY 4

Well, today we finally got some wind! 20-25 knots for most of the day and considerably large swells… Bruno decided to punish us with 4 races today; there is a small break between races but ZERO food to eat anywhere so I’d almost prefer to just do 4 races non-stop and go get some lunch. 12 hours between meals is fairly brutal …

As we arrived to the beach I saw Wilhelm looking glum and it appears his protest against Paulo SMASHING in to him didn’t work out as he didn’t notify the startboat of his intention to protest. Seeing as the finish line was 5m from a 10m rockwall with breaking waves on it and the starboat was nearly a kilometre off to the right, I don’t blame the guy for not wanting to sail all the way back there and risk getting even MORE water in his board not to mention dealing with the bruising he got from the crash… rules can be a BITCH sometimes.

Race 1 kicked off in winds around 18-23 knots. Myself and Kurosh I think were the only ones stupid enough to take 11m’s (only sails we had) whilst everyone else was on anything between 8.5 – 10m. It wasn’t insanely windy, but you have really large steep swells heading the direction of the beach (perpindicular to the wind) then wind blown chop heading across the swells which makes this place super difficult to sail …

Gabriel loves these conditions (he lives here) and stormed off with his 9.8m NP to a bullet ahead of Steve Allen and For-Schurmann. This is Willy’s new nickname after the Brasilian Nationals last weekend… all of us decided to head to this cool bar in town to celebrate the end of the Brasilians but nobody could get in touch with Willy who was MIA. The next day at the beach he comes over to us and says “oh man, I’m soooooo angry. I had a nap after sailing and set my alarm for 10pm but slept through it till 2am!”. FOR-SCHUUUUUUUUURMANN. GOOD STORY. TOTALLY BELIEVEABLE !! >>

Race 2 the wind picked up even more and I got a great start in the middle of the line on starboard however I’m not pointing too high and got rolled before we got to the layline so I had to tack inside and put an extra tack to the mark and lost a few places. The course is 3 upwinds with a gate about 500m below the starboard which meant most of us were heading to the rockwall along the beach on the upwinds and tacking only metres from the wall. I saw Fabio put it in the drink one race about 2m from the wall and I have NO IDEA how he managed to get off those rocks (and still beat me) as the wall is probably 10m high at that point.

For-Schurmann was winning this race by a streak but on the last upwind got punished by an unlucky shift and had to go super slow and high to make the last upwind mark and Paulo rolled him who went another 50m out to sea. Conditions can be really difficult here with the wind shifting and super, super gusty.

Race 3 was a similar re-run to 2. This time I started on port and had a good run to the mark arriving in a pack with Wojtek, Mathias, Miguel and Kurosh. Managed to pass everyone bar Kurosh downwind with my bigger sail only to get hammered on the next upwind as I’m pointing a little lower. It’s a real killer here if you aren’t pointing super high as you simply can’t sail along the wall far enough to pass the boats and you don’t get the great lift out of the wall if you don’t make it upwind that far …

After cutting my feet everywhere all week and TRASHING my gear on the ramp I decided today we’d just tie our gear to the ramp and leave it in the water between races. Unfortunately for me, Brasilians can’t appear to tie knots and the board which I tied my board too came adrift and I had to swim it against the current about 300m as there is zero wind inside the marina against the wall. I’m not famous for swimming so I basically had a cardiac-arrest out there and arrived back on the beach with 5 mins to go before we had to head out again and there was no water left… arggghhh.

Leaving your rig in the water means you can’t change your settings between races and I thought it odd that Gabriel was carrying his 11.8m down to the water as I headed out … Wilhelm and Paulo changed up a size too but nobody else. The locals know the wind drops here late in the afternoons (we were 1 hour before sunset with this 4th race) and I was totally lit on 11m heading to the start so I was thinking, ‘what is Gabriel thinking’ ??? But low and behold, as soon as we started the race the wind backed off a good 10 knots and suddenly I was feeling I had way too much downhaul/outhaul on and track way to far forward for light winds …

Gabriel of course, the smart boy, KILLED this race with his 11.8m ahead of Wilhelm and Paulo. I actually was having a good battle with Wojtek the whole race until the last lap I sailed in to a bit of a hole downwind and nearly fell off the plane; costing me a lot of distance …

That’s it for today. Another 2 races tomorrow Bruno tells us … read about it here.

DAY 5

Last day! You’d think we could cut a break – no chance. Gabriel decided to keep his hair neat and sit on the beach today; he already had the title wrapped up. The course was set, the wind was up around 25 knots, and we headed out… I took 11m (only sail I have) and everyone else took 10m or 9.0m.

A typical start, everyone on starboard bar Wilhelm, Kurosh and Wojtek and a very short run to the top mark … Wilhelm rounds first with Kurosh and Wojtek following and Steve Allen the first to go round from a starboard start. The wind shifts before the mark about 15 degrees and suddenly from deep in the pack I round in 5th as I’d gone another 50m on the layline… after that EVERYTHING went pearshaped.

On the downwind run the wind dropped in areas from 25 knots to NOTHING and in different places shifted 20-50 degrees. Guys who were in the top 5 went from there to last and guys from NOWHERE miles behind like Paulo suddenly came from last to 2nd around the bottom mark behind Wilhelm. I managed to lose 4 places on this downwind as I just had no idea where to go… the next upwind was horrific with massive shifts and holes and suddenly I was back in 11th just making up the numbers. Steve, Wojtek, Fabio, Lucas all put it in the drink on gybes either in a lull or if the wind shifted before they sheeted in and they lost pressure… places swapped… dreams were crushed.

On lap 3 I was sooooo far behind but decided to tack after a horrific knock at the bottom mark meant I couldn’t even clear the rescue boat which was 100m downwind of the mark. I got a FREAKISH lift from nowhere which the guys 40m upwind of me never got and I actually crossed 5 guys at perpindicular angles to them and suddenly I was back in 6th at the top mark! Victor, who had double tacked the top mark getting caught in a lull rolled me downwind and Kurosh, who at one point was nearly winning the race, got punished to 10th.. tough day.

The final race the wind picked up to 25-30 knots and appeared to be less shifty. I had one of those horror accidents that I could not even replicate if I tried….

Normally I’m never using an uphaull but this week we were to tie our gear to the ramp in the water so we didn’t cut our feet and legs trying to pull the gear out and back in for each race. I hadn’t tied the uphaul rope to the bottom of the sail; I was tucking it inside my mast sleeve but somehow it got loose and whilst waiting for the start it caught a gust and flipped on to my shoulder… in that instant a gust from the other side of my sail flipped me in to the water and the rope went around my neck and pulled me under the sail! It wasn’t tied at one end, so it was easy to pull off but in that instant I panicked as it went around my neck and held me under the sail so I swallowed a litre of salty sea water and completely lost my breath. I had to sit on the board for a few minutes just to recover from the shock and missed the start by 2 mins!

Anyhow, this race was horrific… the body was too tired to sheet in and with gusts around 30 knots at the top mark it was heavy going on the 11m and 75 cutdown fin! I never put it in the drink though and managed to take 3 places to guys who crashed out on the downwinds cementing an 11th and making sure I regained my place ahead of Lucas in the overall results.

Afterwards we had great prizegiving ceremony at the Marina Park Hotel and then with all the BRA-boys and the Melo and Browne families we went to a famous all-you-can-eat steak buffet in Fortaleza to eat until we dropped.

Tonight there is an afterparty at the famous Orbital nightclub in town and we will see if FOR-SCHURMANN lives up to his reputation by “accidently sleeping through another event party” (in his words) …

I have another 5 days in Brasil with Kurosh filming some movies and travelling a bit further north to see where the Slalom World Championships will be held then it’s back to cold Italy and onwards to warm Australia in 2 weeks!