Our June Rider of the Month is none other than British slalom racer, James Dinsmore. James is a not your usual PWA sailor, spending his days (or nights) as a doctor he is also and force to be reckoned with on the BSA tour, as well as mixing it up in on the international scene. James shares his plans for 2012, why competing adds excitement to his windsurfing and his top tips for cranking up your slalom speed.
Name: James Dinsmore
Sail number: GBR659
Years windsurfing: 23
Home town: Born in London
Current residence: Hayling Island
Sponsors: Starboard, Severne
Boards: What is your history in windsurfing? When and where did you learn and first compete?
Dinsmore: My first memories of windsurfing were as a kid on a gravel pit lake. My father had an original F2 Lightning and I vividly remember the excitement when he bought a clamp-on boom for the first time.
However, it was not until after I got a job and a car in my twenties that I really got hooked. Windsurfing started to dictate my movements and soon I took a job in Australia in search of wind and sun.
My first experience of racing was at the Lancelin Ocean Classic in Western Australia. At the time I only owned wave gear and whilst the front-runners disappeared over the horizon I slogged on and off the plane for 25 kilometres. It was a frustrating business, but gave me an appetite for more racing. Several years later it was a lot more enjoyable coming back and finishing in 8th place just ahead of Scott McKercher.
Boards: Do you consider yourself a professional windsurfer? If not what is your profession?
Dinsmore: No. Windsurfing is a rather expensive passion for me and I have to work hard as a hospital anaesthetist to save money for the gear. I used to do a lot of night-shifts with the benefit that I could get out on the water in daylight when I wasn’t working.
Boards: What made you get into competition and what are your plans for this year?
Dinsmore: When I moved back from Western Australia to England, I wanted to keep my windsurfing exciting. On the South Coast more often that not the winds are quite light and there are no waves. It would be easy to get lazy and bored sailing big gear out and back aimlessly.
Racing gives you a focus and pushes you to always be trying to get more out of you and your equipment. Even when I go out in a light 12 knots seabreeze I push myself to sail at the limit and stay on the plane through every gybe. I constantly ask myself ‘would I go faster if I put on more downhaul, put up my boom or if I try a different fin?’.
Every time I go out I aim to learn something new that will mean I am better prepared for the next race. When competing you go outside your comfort zone and in doing so become a better sailor. This year I am doing the BSA series, PWA events in Italy and Costa Brava and the Defi event in France. Unfortunately neither the PWA event in Italy nor the Defi wind had good wind. I have my fingers crossed that Costa Brava will be a better event in a couple of weeks.
Boards: What is your best competition result to date?
Dinsmore: The highlight of my racing career was making one of the losers finals at the PWA slalom event in Aruba last year. I remember starting at the boat end of the semi-final next to Antoine Albeau and I am sure he was thinking ‘who the heck is he?’ I was PWA Sailor of the Day, which was pretty unbelievable as a career doctor from the South Coast.
More from James on page two...
Boards: Who else is performing well on the BSA tour this year?
Dinsmore: With all his high-level experience the reigning champion Ant Baker is the man to beat in the pro-fleet. The other two ‘big guns’ are Worthing event winner, Simon Cofield, and Weymouth OTC centre manager, Kevin Greenslade. Both of them can be pretty unstoppable on top form. There is strength in depth in the fleet and close behind are a host of others.
Boards: Where do you usually windsurf?
Dinsmore: Last autumn my wife and I moved to Hayling Island so that is where I now do the majority of my sailing. I have enough annual leave to fit in two or three international slalom events a year but that leaves none for any other trips. I have been lucky enough to sail in many places around the world but still have not been to Maui. Hopefully I will make it out there in the next couple of years.
Boards: What is your favourite spot on the BSA tour and why?
Dinsmore: We are lucky that all of our venues have something going for them. My favourite conditions are when there are high winds on the open sea. I love approaching the marks fully lit on a 7m and then gybing off banks of swell. We had these conditions at Worthing a couple of years ago and then I won the event there last year, so that venue has become one of my favourites.
Boards: Why would you encourage others to compete?
Dinsmore: Competition is one of the fastest ways of improving your sailing and keeps windsurfing exciting. As you inevitably sail with better sailors you learn by just being around them. My experience has been that at both UK and international events, most sailors are happy to share pearls on technique and kit set-up that a sailor could otherwise take years to work out on their own.
Boards: What equipment are you using and why?
Dinsmore: This year I have been lucky enough to join the Starboard and Severne team and it has been an exciting move. With Bjorn Dunkerbeck winning the world title on the gear last year it is clear that the combination has great potential. At the two events so far this year I feel that the gear has enabled me to significantly up my game.
I have iSonic 87, 107 and 127 boards and Reflex 3 sails from 9.6m down to 5.1m. The 9.6m is a bit too big for me at PWA events as racing only really starts when Bjorn and Finian are powered on their 9.6m sails and at which wind strength I am overpowered on mine. However I need the 9.6m as we race in some pretty light conditions in the UK. This year my smallest sail is a 5.1m as last year at Fuerteventura it was so windy that I could hardly gybe my 5.8m.
Boards: Slalom racing is all about going fast, what are your top tips?
The hardest thing about slalom is that there is so much to it: the gear selection, the tuning, the start, the speed along the straight, the gybes under pressure… It is very hard to succeed in getting all these elements right and it takes time and practice.
Much of racecraft is pattern recognition and you have to learn from your mistakes. When a start doesn’t go well you have to ask yourself ‘what would I do next time?’ and then remember that lesson when the same situation presents itself in the future. For these reasons older sailors can be very competitive in slalom (which is good for me!).
As far as tuning kit goes there is no doubt that fin choice is often not given the attention it deserves. The right fin has just the right amount of lift to allow your board to unstick from the water yet not so much that the board tailwalks when fully powered. Beg, borrow and steal to enable you to try as many fins as you can!