Boards followed the journey of Louis Morris at the raceboard world championships (check it out here), now he joins us again to look back on reflect on a great competition:
It’s been two weeks since the Raceboard world championships came to a close, and my achievement sinks in a little bit more every time I think about it. It was a pretty special experience for me, not just competing at an international championship, but also travelling across Europe and seeing new places.
It was a long way to drive, but we gave time to stay overnight at Hohenstadt near Nurenburg each way to relax. It’s a beautiful area of Germany, with some quite steep hills coming out of nowhere, and miles and miles of forest cleared in places to make way for fields. The houses are also pretty, with very steeply sloping roofs.
One thing that you should know about driving in the Czech Republic, is that you for a 10 day permit to use the motorways. This is presumably so that they can rebuild them all! The slow lane is so, so bumpy, really bad in places, which isn’t ideal for a rather old trailer stacked full of windsurfing kit! It was a bit much for it in the end, and one of the posts for the board rack sheered on the way home (it was a bit rusty): nothing a bit of string and an old mast extension couldn’t solve though! I was pretty pleased that we didn’t have a flat tire, the bearings didn’t break, and Pauls plywood rig box didn’t shake itself to bits! In fact, my car coped very well, and we didn’t have any problems with it the whole 3000 odd miles, except when we tried to run our laptops off the car battery and realised that it was on its last legs! The car needed bump starting every now and again after that!
Some, well, ok, a lot of the journey was pretty boring, especially Belgium, which is lovely, with spacious feeling motorways and nice trees, but it is all the same (by the time we got to Belgium from Czech Rep we were pretty bored of driving anyway though)!
The south Moravian region of the Czech Republic, where the lake is, is very pretty rural area, with lots of farmland and vineyards. The aristocracy who lived in Mikulov, the nearest town had lots of fishing lakes etc. designed, but the lake that we were racing on is one of 3 lakes that were built to prevent the river Dyje from flooding the surrounding low lying farmland. The lakes are quite shallow, with a dam/embankment around much of it, but the southern bank (where the sailing club is) consists of a large steep hill with rows and rows of grapevines, and a rather imposing ruined castle on the top.
After a really fun training day in perfect, clean wind between 9 and 18 knots, the practice race was a little disappointing, with the wind blowing cross offshore and the course set in the lee of the castle, which made the wind unbelievably gusty and shifty, I got 2nd in the practice race (blue fleet) behind Curro Manchon, this gave me a good confidence booster for my speed in light-marginal winds, especially since I set my watch wrong and started about 20 seconds late!
I was expecting a similar wind direction on the first day of official racing, but luckily the wind was quite cross-shore, and strong! Still pretty gusty, with winds from 18-28 knots in the morning and more like 12-20 in the afternoon. The moral to take home from that day is: don’t be afraid to use a smaller sail then most of the top guys! This definitely let me concentrate on just sailing fast, and not have to struggle with a massive sail upwind. Downwind, even with my Tushingham Lightning 8.5, I was able to point very broad with a bit of pumping, and took some places downwind from they guys on 9.5′s. My results improved throughout the day 4, 3, 3, 2 in the Blue fleet, with Patrik Pollak winning all the races but one, which was won by Petr Kucera. Curro got 2nd in the first race using his Tushingham XR Race 9.5, and I was fighting with him in many of the other races.
Whilst the two days of no wind and nice sunshine could have been a good chance to do some exploring, racing was postponed for 2 hours at a time, so there wasn’t time to go far afield. We found time to walk to to the Castle, with some amazing views of the lake and surrounding countryside and across the border into Austria. Even with SUP racing and an inflatable climbing wall in the shape of an iso-line bottle (event drinks sponsor), I think we were all a bit bored and raring to go when the wind returned on Friday. At the competitors briefing, there was applause when the race officer reported 8-10 knots on the course!
The wind was a little gusty and very shifty on the last two days, so those who found the pressure and got the shifts right made big gains. The last day of the qualifying series saw me finish 2nd in each race behind Patrik. I tried not to be too risky at the start, and just concentrated in having space to accelerate in the middle of the line with options. This meant that although I was never first to the windward mark, I was consistently in the top 5. Frenchman Sylvain Dehouve was always close to the front, Pedro Corte Moura from Portugal was very good upwind, but I usually managed to gain on him downwind. I usually gained or sometime even overtook Patrik Pollak by getting a favourable shift and pointing higher than him upwind, but downwind, he was very fast indeed and won each of the races.
The final day left me in a pretty tight 3rd place, a long way off Patrik and Max in 1st and 2nd place, but with Petr Kucera, Sylvain Dehouve and Curro Manchon all snapping at my heels. The light winds meant that the most races we were going to get for the series was 10, which was big news for much of the fleet as it only allowed 1 discard. Luckily for me, Curro (who had got 2nd in every race on the penultimate day in the blue fleet whilst feeling very ill) had an OCS to discard, because on the final day, he showed me the way, counting a 3rd and two 2nds. Having to count a 7th from the first day meant that he finished two points behind me. Petr didn’t have such a good day and got a 6th, 11th and 22nd, so slipped from 4th to 6th, which meant I got 3rd!!!!
The last race was a bit funny, because after rounding the first mark in a good position, I knew that all I had to do was finish within 3 places of Curro to take bronze. I was in 4th and managed to overtake Sylvain into 3rd whilst Curro got 2nd, so I just had to pump a bit, watching that I was safe from behind, which meant I knew 3rd place was mine more or less halfway through the race, but I couldn’t celebrate until it was over. When it was over, I felt some relief, but not a sudden rush of happiness of my achievement, maybe because it wasn’t a very exciting finish to the regatta?
I still haven’t quite got my head around it, having spent many years of my life sailing with, and finishing behind such people as Sam Sills and Connor Bainbridge, who dominated the UK events and achieved such amazing results at international events, I suddenly found myself winning UKWA events on Raceboard, a dream in itself, I never expected to get 3rd place at my first world championships since 2009 on Techno. Actually, maybe that’s part of the reason for my success; I went there without expectation or pressure on myself to do well, and stayed focused, didn’t take too many risks, and concentrated on sailing fast. So I didn’t really make any mistakes, and when I did, I just focused on sorting it out and overtaking people, a few years ago I would have gone mental and started shouting at myself and my gear. I remember one race at the Techno worlds where I had a shit start, bad upwind, then when I fell off on a gybe downwind, started punching my board rather than getting up immediately and working my arse off to overtake some people!
I hope that I can compete in the worlds or euros next year, but will have to see how things pan out. Unfortunately, I cannot afford any more events this year, so the raceboard will be hibernating in Cornwall until next season, hopefully I can get out on a couple of times, but I already can’t wait to race again, the constant tactical, physical and technical challenge has me hooked. I came off the back of last season with 3 consecutive wins, so I had high hopes for this season with my new kit from sponsors Tushingham and Starboard, but to win every event in the UK and 3rd at the worlds is unbelievable!
I was very pleased with my equipment, and had got the XR Race 9.5 tuned up nicely across its wind range. I cannot emphasise the importance of getting out and trying different settings in all wind strengths, and would say that an adjustable downhaul is almost as important as an adjustable outhaul on this sail. Every time the wind changes a couple of knots, the downhaul changes, and the outhaul is continually adjusted through gusts, lulls, and between upwind and downwind. I have found that the XR Race can be set very full for light winds, and proved that it has what it takes against the competition in all wind strengths. I am going to look at making a tuning guide video over the winter to help people understand how to get the best out of this sail: watch this space!
Massive thanks to my sponsors: Tushingham, Starboard, and Overboard, and to Paul Wright for his help with my website, encouragement with my windsurfing for years and years, and his company during the event. Also thanks to the Raceboarders in the UK, in particular: Mark Kay, Jamie Ingram, and Rob Kent for pushing me, I wouldn’t be fast without them! Can’t forget my parents of course, I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be windsurfing, wouldn’t have ever gone to a competition, learnt to race in open training, zone squad, and national squad or anything without them, cheers!