What do the the likes of Robby Swift, Ben Proffitt, John Skye and many more of the UK's top windsurfers have in common?
They all grew up and learnt to windsurf on the gusty lakes of the UK and spent many a weekend racing around a course on a longboard.
Some of you may know this, but many younger readers might not realise how the coolest riders in our sport came through what, to some, is a rather uncool aspect of windsurfing.
20 year old Louis Morris joins Boards to remind you of exactly how much fun longboard racing can be and how the raceboard class can offer a lot, whether you are a Team 15 racer looking for the next challenge, an ex-racer with a dusty raceboard hiding in the garage or someone just looking to have more fun on the water in the light summer breeze.
For those of you who don’t know, a Raceboard is basically a racing longboard, 380cm long, 65-70cm wide, with a big daggerboard and a mast track that allows the mast foot position to be adjusted whilst sailing.
If you think that longboard racing is dead, only for old people, boring, old fashioned and slow with heavy, outdated kit, and you thus have no intension of ever setting foot on a longboard, then I am about to tell you, perhaps a little abruptly, that you are wrong!
The Raceboard class is a perfect progression from the hugely successful Techno and Youth RS:X fleets, and the skills learnt whist in the RYA pathway will transfer well to Raceboards, as indeed it will to most aspects of windsurfing.
I started windsurfing like most windsurfers of my generation: Team 15. I really enjoyed the events and this got me keen on racing. After a while I was in the RYA Zone squad and then National squad on Techno, before progressing to the RSX.
When I got to 18 years old, I was faced with a dilemma that many windsurfers that age find after they have been shepherded through the RYA’s development pathway with their parents in tow: what do I do now?
For a select few, the answer is to stay racing RS:X as an adult and pursue the Olympic dream, for most of the others this isn’t a realistic goal, and course racing for them becomes a thing of the past; parents are less keen on driving you around the country, you have no money, and what would you race anyway?
Answer: RACEBOARD! (well, or formula).
The great thing about the Raceboard class, is that literally anyone can compete and have an awesome time, there are no age limits, and whether you’re at the front, back or middle of the fleet, there will always be a few private battles out on the racecourse!
Maybe you are one of the many windsurfers who used to enjoy cruising around on a longboard in the light summer breezes?
Raced at your local club or competed with the UKWA (formally UKBSA)? Why not get back into it?
The UKWA runs an Inland series at various lakes around the country, as well as a Cup series on the sea. The Midlands windsurfing association and London windsurfing association run a series of 1 day events that are an ideal (re)introduction for getting into it if you are in those regions.
Here are a few facts to enlighten you about the world of modern raceboards, and why it isn’t such an alien thing as you thought:
1. Equipment cost
Cheap! Whist many of the top guys splash out on the latest version of the Starboard Phantom, you’ll find that the boards from the 90’s are still competitive, especially upwind, and can be found for next to nothing! There is also an emerging market for used Starboard Phantoms, you may be able to pick one up for as little as £500.
The Boards Classifieds is a great place to find second hand Phantoms and other raceboards.
The UK Raceboard association has an excellent guide to choosing a Raceboard here. There is often kit to borrow for events, for example the LWA has a Starboard Phantom for anyone to use (contact them first!).
2. Don’t I need a load of special retro sails?
No! Any old twin cam freeride sail will do to start with. In fact, plenty of Tushy Lightnings can be seen on the course once the wind reaches a force 4+. A dedicated Raceboard sail will give you the edge though, especially in light winds, but don’t worry, these new designs have a mega wind range. The same sail can be set with no downhaul for 5 knots, or super flat with a mega floppy leach in 20 knots (I’ve only used 1 sail so far this season (Tushingham XR Race 9.5), from 2 knots at Rutland, to 25 at Weymouth). If you keep an eye out online, or come to an event, you should be able to find a cheap used Demon Tushingham XR Race pretty easily.
3. So what sail sizes do I need, I heard you need massive sails?
The maximum sail size is 9.5 for men, or 8.5 for women and under 20’s. You are allowed up to 3 sails, but 2 is plenty, I’d recommend a 9.5/8.5 or 8.5/7.8 quiver. Some have a lightwind 9.5 and a strongwind 9.5 as well as a smaller sail, but don’t worry about this, in my opinion, you’re best of with 1 super adjustable big sail, then a easily controllable change down.
4. But I’m little and race Techno where I only use a 7.8 or 6.8, 8.5 sounds too big, and my parents don’t want to get a new rig as well as a board!
There is a 7.8 division which is perfect for people like you. Just use your normal 7.8 Techno sail, there is a prize for first 7.8, and you might even beat a few of the big guys on bigger sails.
The 7.8 fleet is actually also a great introduction to the class for those from a freeride background of smaller sails, or for those returning to racing who still have their sails from the days when 7.5 was the maximum.
5. I’m too fat/big/muscly/hardcore for light wind racing!
No you’re not, these boards are 250 litres plus. There is a separate prize for heavyweights (over 80kg) anyway.
6. Longboards look boring. I’d rather just go kitesurfing/suping or wait for enough wind to go on my big freeride board.
A: Raceboards are so fun!
Think of all those times you went to the beach, looked at the conditions, spent a long time chatting and complaining on the beach about how it hasn’t been windy for 25 years, and even then it was too gusty for you.
Then rigged you biggest sail and board, and spent an hour drifting on and off the plane.
Well, if you had a raceboard, you’d have a whale of a time! With all that length, they have an amazing gliding sensation, and move onto the plane really smoothly. With the daggerboard down, they go upwind like a train and once they start ‘railing up’ (the daggerboard gives vertical lift, lifting the windward rail from the water), upwind windsurfing becomes the best thing ever, really exhilarating, and all this in 5-12 knots. When it gets windy, they're just fun to blast around on, and their long length and relatively narrow with makes them super controllable, even with big sails they stay flat and take no notice of chop: they have a huge wind range.
I guess I’ll see you at the next event, and if not, just get out on a long board and have some fun: racing, cruising, old school freestyle…
Where to find out more:
www.ukwindsurfing.com The home of competitive windsurfing in the uk, info about all events, news, results, and a friendly forum if you want advice on anything, keep a look out here for 2nd hand kit for sale as well
www.raceboard.org.uk Raceboard UK website, loads of info and advice for getting started on Raceboard.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/UKWA.racing/ the UKWA racing facebook page, if you want to know more about ukwa racing, want advice on how to get into it, what kit to use, events to go to, anything
http://www.midlandswindsurfing.org.uk/ Midlands windsurfing association
http://www.lwawindsurfing.co.uk/ London windsurfing association
Please feel free to ask me about anything to do with raceboards or racing in general. Leave a comment at the bottom of this page, go to the UKWA Racing facebook page, UKWA Forum, or email me at email@example.com