Slalom 1 - Marazion (April 2014)

Easter weekend saw the first slalom event of the year. It's been a long time since the UKWA visited Marazion and for many of the competitors it was their first time racing at the venue, including myself. I've visited Marazion on a couple of occasions whilst on holiday in Cornwall but I'd never sailed out of the bay with St. Michael's Mount.

St. Michael's Mount

I have to admit that just two weeks before Easter, I had almost given up hope of being able to compete. Surgery in January had kept me off the water for much longer than anticipated and I'd been unable to train for months, clocking up a grand total of about six hours sailing over the past 3 months!

I'd recently received my new X-Fire V6 boards (10 days before the event) and only just had my first session sailing on proper sized kit (8.6m + 122L) since early January. The 122 felt great on Brog and it was during that session when I first felt able to properly pump the sail since returning to the water. I was starting to think that I might be able to race down in Cornwall, albeit at a lower intensity than normal.

We arrived in Marazion on the Thursday and on Good Friday I had a short session with Chris Guest in light offshore conditions. My speed seemed quite good (thanks to the new 122) so it was at this time, I decided to give the competition a go over the weekend.

The pro fleet had 20 competitors with a few of the guys having stepped up after spending a few years in the amateur fleet. The fleet was split into two heats of 10 men with the top 5 of each going into the winners finals and the remainder going into the losers finals. I thought it was probably unrealistic to be making the winners finals so my main focus was to survive the event and keep my mistakes to a minimum.

I spent the first two rounds on my 7.8m and the new 105L thinking it would be the best option. To my surprise, I actually made the first winners final which was a boost to my confidence. Come the final itself, I was struggling with my kit selection in the light winds and found myself going backwards through the fleet. During the second round, I didn't make it into the winners final but I did manage to win the losers final with the remaining "masters" (over 40's) snapping at my heels.

The race crew were doing a great job and were banging out the pro + amateur races like clockwork. After two complete rounds for the pros and amateurs (i.e. 16 races) we were back to the beach for lunch and a much needed rest! Heading out for the second time, I opted for a 122L + 7.8m combo in the hopes that it would get through the fickle patches of wind better than the 105L.

Rounds 3 and 4 were good fun and the 122L was feeling fast when I put my foot down. My energy was in rapid decline so my aim was to sail efficiently and get around the course without incident. The first heat was going well until my foot got stuck in the strap rounding the second mark and the resulting fall probably cost me a place in another winners final. In the fourth round, I narrowly missed the winners final again but I did have another win in the losers final.

At the end of the first day, I'd had a place in the first winners final and in my three losers finals I'd had two wins and a second place. All in all I was really quite happy with my performance although I could barely stand afterwards. During this one day, I'd sailed more hours than January to March added together!

Day two was looking like the windy day and with bolt offshore winds the water in the bay looked like Brog in a N or E wind. The course was set a long way out to get cleaner winds and choppier water just added to the excitement! The heat draws had been re-seeded based on the previous days results so I had a few new people to race against. I opted for my 7.0m and 105L and it was the first time that I'd used the new 105L powered up in choppy water.

I didn't make it into either of the two winners finals but some tactical racing and a few choice bursts of speed allowed me to win the two losers finals. The other masters weren't making it particularly easy but my starts were good and the cleaner air gave me more options whilst navigating the course. After two complete rounds we were all sent back to the beach for lunch.

It was pretty cold and there was a lot of shivering going on but once warmed up, I was actually looking forward to a bit more racing. The rain arrived and the wind dropped so by mid afternoon we were told there would be no more racing, marking an end to the event. I think a lot of people were quite relieved (cold and tired) but we'd all had a fantastic weekend of racing at an amazing spot.

I mentioned them briefly but the organisers and race crew deserve a few more words. A third boat made all the difference this weekend and everyone did an amazing job on the water. It was cold for us but it must have been freezing for the guys sitting in the boats and our race officer (Tess Ingram) got into a great rhythm with the start sequences. The red flag (3 minutes) was going up before the previous race had finished and there was never time lost inbetween races. Stuart Keep and Rob Strange managed to find some time to get some video footage on the water and the result can be found on YouTube. The finish boat also did a sterling job and everything ashore was smooth + efficient thanks to Bob and Sue Ingram. The event itself was organised by Allan Cross and Paul Simmons - Starboard / Severne / Tushingham.

All in all my performance was quite encouraging. My starts were generally quite good and I managed to win 4 of my 5 losers finals. I was also the first master at this event and I'll look forward to racing the others during the season. I know my fitness leaves a lot to be desired but I should be able to sort that out over the next couple of months!

Jo also enjoyed the trip and refers to it as the "best event ever". She's a little biased as she loves Cornwall but a couple sails at Marazion, scenic walks and some nice evening meals made for a fantastic Easter.

I've now signed up for the remaining events and looking to get fit before the flurry of events in June!


BSA Aberdovey (June 2013)

The weekend saw some great action in Aberdovey. I had a blast in the racing on Sunday but the whole weekend was pretty awesome.


I arrived at around lunchtime after taking the day off work to get some practice. There wasn't enough wind to sail so those of us who had arrived early just chilled out and chatted for a while. Whitey arrived an hour later so we pitched the RRD tents and gazeebos ready for the demo kit.

Setting up for the demo kit

Without any action on the beach Whitey suggested we all head to the hills for some kit photos - SUP and X-Fire boards. It was a bit random but the shots came out pretty well and the session was only curtailed by a Welsh downpour. Once back at the beach we just sat in the cafe and waited for the rain to stop. 

Board of choice during the weekend - X-Fire V5 - 105L / 65cm

The rain finally stopped and the wind picked up so about a dozen of us got out onto the water for a bit of an evening sail. Whitey managed to get some nice shots when the sky brightened!

A nice bit of speed blur - I was really doing 5 mph. ;)


Saturday was sunny but it never seemed likely that we'd be doing an slalom racing because of the light wind forecast. We're pretty used to waiting around so it was a chance to catch up with everyone and chill out in the most idylic of our slalom locations. The master blaster fleet managed to get some good racing in and seemed to enjoy themselves!


This was always going to be the best day if the forecasts turned out to be correct.

Everyone was rigged up early and after being briefed we were all upwind at the start line for around 10.20. It took a little while to get the boats and marks in position but once in place the racing was on. The wind was still quite light so I was on my big board (122L / 81cm) and 7.8m which isn't my biggest sail but I figured would be more manouverable at the gybe marks.

Due to the narrowness of the estuary we were running heats in the pro fleet and I was in the first one. We had 7 men racing in my heat with only 3 going through to the "winners final" where you would score decent points. The run up to the start line was VERY short and it was super important to have good speed on the "b" of the "bang" (so to speak).

My heat crossing the start line

With 10 seconds to go I found myself a bit too close to Simon Petiffer, clipped his clew and in trying to seperate our rigs tipped him backwards into the water. I didn't hang around to hear the names I was being called but I got to the first mark in second place and by the second mark I was leading the pack towards Whitey's camera. I finished the heat in first place with James Dinsmore hot on my heels, Jack Trollop in 3rd (blinding first race) and Simon Pettifer just missing out on the qualifying place... no thanks to me.

Heading to victory in my first race of the day!

My first final of the day was pretty uneventful but I didn't get away well and couldn't make up any places during the race. My big board was tricky to control in the wake of the bigger sailors in front and I decided to change down to the 105L / 65cm for the next round. I also opted for my 7.0m which was already attached but this little gamble didn't pay off in the next race.

After apologising to Simon he warned me (jokingly?) that he'd run me into the beach in front of the camera during the next heat. What would you know... as we approached the second mark at around 30 knots we were side by side with about a meter separating us. Now when I say there wasn't much space at this mark I mean was hardly any space... about 8 feet between the buoy and the sand! Simon on my inside had right of way and decided to use about 6 feet, leaving me with the other two feet to complete my gybe or risk running aground. I have no idea how I stayed upright without catching my fin but it did cause me to drop off the plane and lose 3 places in the process!

I managed to fight back to fourth but alas it meant missing out on the final. Oh well... Simon was through and karma was back in balance! In the winners final James Dinsmore and Kevin Greenslade had misunderstood the finish line so the other finishers were given a 2 place promotion. Realising my poor kit choice in the heat, I was back on the 7.8m and won the "losers final" but my 7 points was quite different to those who scored low points in the winners final.

Traffic at the gybe mark... chop-tastic! 

After a break for lunch we were back on the water and the wind was starting to freshen. I stuck with my 105 + 7.8m which were really starting to fly and qualified for the next 3 winners finals. The first of these finals was another poor start for me (playing too safe) but in last 2 finals I got away pretty well and secured a 3rd and 4th place.

Before the last race of the day I'd noticed that tide was starting to affect people at the second mark and I had two possible plans to gain an advantage over James when rounding this mark. Opting for plan A, I gybed outside of his wake and cut in tight to stay upwind but still allow enough room for the effect of the tide which would take me close to the buoy. Sheeting in on the new tack, Chris nailed me from behind as the tide closed the gap between me and the buoy and at full speed Chris had nowhere to go. I dropped my rig and only just got around the buoy but James was long gone by that time and I finished in fourth place.


Mike, James and Chris at the first mark

After 5 complete rounds of racing for the pro fleet we'd each done 10 races. Overall the pros (5 rounds) and ams (4 rounds) had sailed 36 races which was a top effort by the race crew. The races were all 3 buoy downwind but the finish line was actually a gybe meaning that we did 4 gybes in each race.

Overall this was definitely my best performance to date. I was sailing well throughout the day and for once I didn't make any really daft mistakes! I won one of my heats and I made 4 of the 5 "winners finals" (best being 3rd and 4th). My speed was good when powered up and my gybes were consistent... I guess 90-95% of my gybes were planing exits and I managed to do a few good overtakes during heats and finals. Overall, I finished 5th in the pro fleet which is my best position to date.

Sailing well made the whole day a lot more enjoyable and a lot more went right for me than went wrong. Hopefully I can sail like this a bit more often!

40 Knot Club

On May 9th I finally broke 40 knots for the 500m - 40.44 knots to be precise.

I also managed to do 38.1 knots for nautical mile (1852m). Hopefully I'll managed to do 40 knots over the longer distance in the future!

You can view my session details on

X-Fire V5

I have just received my new slalom boards from RRD.

I have gone for the 90L (59cm), 105L (65cm) and 122L (81cm) this year. Last year I had the 114L (70cm) as my middle board.

How pimp do these look? I can't wait to get them out on the water... hopefully next weekend down in Weymouth!

RS:Racing EVO 5

I've now had a chance to try out my new Neil Pryde RS:Racing EVO 5 at Southend-on-Sea and West Kirby.

There is no doubt about it... they are absolutely awesome!

Despite slightly iffy conditions at West Kirby I managed to set PBs for peak speed, 100m, 10sec and 500m.

You can view my session details on GPS-Speedsurfing:

Rigged and ready:

Starting a run at West Kirby: