BM: 2015 BSA Champion, how does that feel?
JD: Almost unbelievable. I remember reading Boards magazine when I first got into windsurfing in the 1990s . At that time Julian Anderson was in the midst of a run of winning many national championships. At that stage if someone had suggested that I would ever win one or more national championships it would have seemed fanciful to me.
BM: It was an exciting year for the BSA tour and especially the top 3, how close was the battle throughout the year and was there any rivalry going on, or was it all light hearted?
JD: For 2015 the way the overall ranking was calculated was tweaked in a very positive way. As it was now easier to discard a bad result or two it kept things exciting and led six months later to the overall title being decided on the nail-biting twenty-fifth and last elimination of the year.
Looking back to mid-season Kev Greenslade was in the lead in points. I had started off well with a win in Weymouth but Kev won the next counting event in Harwich. I then came on strongly with wins at Worthing and Hunstanton but with Kev in second at both.
What really shakes up a championship is a light wind event at which you complete just one elimination. We had that scenario when we headed to Pembrokeshire for the event at Tenby. In the one final that we completed, Sam Latham took the win after I made a bad mistake and tripped a rail entering my final gybe whilst in the lead. I limped over the line in fourth with Kev in fifth unable to recover after a bad start. The race counted as the event result when the expected wind did not materialise the next day. The result was enough to give me the overall lead but also catapulted Sam into contention for the overall title.
BM: It all came down to the last race, did you guys know this and had you done the maths before?
JD: Come the final single-day event in Weymouth we had wind. It was clear that Kev, Sam and I had all done our maths and knew exactly what we each needed to do to win overall. As I was in the lead after Tenby I had a feeling of ‘everything to lose’ and Kev was probably thinking ‘this is my chance’. Sam was coming from behind and the maths were a bit more against him so I suspect he had a dangerous ‘nothing to lose’ mindset.
For Kev to win overall he needed to win the event with me in third place or worse. We lined up for the first final with me on a sail one metre bigger than everyone else’s. It turned out that I had gambled wrong and Kev and Keith Atkinson outdid me for straight-line speed on the first leg and held 1-2 to the finish with me in third. All of a sudden Kev would now win overall if things didn’t change. I started to feel the pressure, as I knew it was going to be hard to turn it around in the fickle light winds.
We started the second elimination and, now on my 8.6, I led the final before it was abandoned. I was gutted. The wind shift then happened and we all got sent in for a tense lunch break. After lunch the breeze picked back up from the north-west. Coming off the land, it was gusting 15-20 knots but with wind holes here and there. On our second crack at the second elimination final I nailed a pin end start and took the lead. It was light at the second mark in particular and I had to pump for my life to keep the lead. Things were looking good until heading into the final gybe my footstrap broke and I ended up in the water. To be honest I thought it was all over as Sam sped past while I waterstarted. Fortunately, I did get going just in time to pip Leigh Kingaby to second with Kev in fourth. The increasingly gusty conditions meant that we didn’t get any more racing in and that second place was good enough to give me the overall championship win. What a relief!
BM: Can you tell us about the most exciting race/event of the season for you personally?
JD: As you will have gathered by far the most nerve-racking competition was the final BSA event at Weymouth. It was so close on points, the conditions were so difficult and there was so much at stake that all of us found it pretty stressful.
For me I love most racing out at sea and for me Worthing was the best BSA event of the year with ‘proper’ wind both days. On the Sunday it was heart-in-the-mouth action as we raced downwind through sizeable swell stacked on 7m sails.
Overseas the most exciting competition was the IFCA Slalom Worlds in Sylt. It was great to race at the iconic location and enjoy the German hospitality for the first time. We had two good days of competition on the water and I started to feel like I was on the pace with some of the top Europeans.
BM: Is it onwards and upwards from here? Have you considered the PWA for 2016?
JD: Over the last 4 years I have done one or two PWA events most years. As I go to overseas events in my annual leave they have to serve as a family holidays at the same time. Now that I my wife and I have a young daughter it is a lot easier if we can drive which doesn’t leave much on the PWA tour. With that being so I am shifting towards the Euro-Cup series as my focus for international competition. The series had a promising first year in 2015 and will hopefully grow for next year. I am looking forward to the release of the 2016 calendar, as I’d like to visit some new places on the continent.
BM: Can you tell us your kit set-up for the final race and how you tuned it to get the maximum out of it?
JD: When we went out for the final race we were faced with 15-20 knots wind coming off the land and flat water. For the final race I was on my Starboard iSonic 130, Severne Reflex 6 8.6m and F-Hot 48cm RS fin.
The biggest disaster would have been to be underpowered and my 8.6 has a huge wind range. With lulls around the course a comparatively floaty board was the way forward. My iS107 is actually faster in a straight line with the 8.6 but would not have done me any favours through the lulls or when trying to get going again at the marks. The 48cm fin is bigger than I usually use with the 8.6 but I felt that on balance it was better to have extra lift in the lulls and accept the possibility that the board might want to take-off at times. My variable harness lines were set at about 27-28cm and my boom was probably about chin level.
BM: Talking of tuning, can you give us 5 top tuning tips to go faster?
JD: Having your gear set-up right is half the battle in slalom. When you are sailing try and think hard about how your gear is feeling and then after you have changed something think again about how it feels. If you do that then over time (years) you will get better at understanding the subtle interactions between rig settings and components. Initially you will learn to recognise the more obvious. e.g. when you are oversheeting and the sail is twitchy it means that you may be overdownhauled. Eventually you will start to notice the more subtle differences in rake angle of fins and the effects of different bend curve masts. What is particularly difficult is that the same problem may have several different causes. The reason that you can’t point upwind could be an issue with your fin size or design. However, it may be you have overdownhauled your sail … or compared to your competitors your board (or you!) may simply not have the same pointing ability.
BM: Congratulations on your result, any final words?
JD: Cheers. Please can I thank:
My wife Aneeta and team manager Allan Cross for their support.
Severne, Starboard and Tushingham for the fab kit.
Bob Ingram and the BSA race crew and sponsors for delivering an excellent season’s racing. Also Pete Davis, Dave White, Andy Stallman, Alastair Campbell and others behind the lenses who have captured our sport for the outside world.
Finally thanks to my friends on (and off) the racecourse, in particular Kev Greenslade for being great competition and pushing me to my limits year after year. See you all in 2016!