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!