It’s been an up and down year so far for Ben Proffitt, from the trials in Tenerife to now winning the Slalom Indoor World Cup (and becoming Slalom Indoor World Champion!?!).
Boards catches up with Ben after the indoors for a full run down of the event, including the thrills, spills, crashes, equipment and finally taking a world cup win.
“Originally I thought I would be doing the commentary for the event, but as it turns out the PWA didn’t need me, so I could enter the event. I wasn’t in the original line-up, but after a few people pulled out space became available and I was in!
“At first I just signed up for the slalom, but then places opened up for the jump too so I just thought, why not! I’m not a starboard tack jumper, but I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity.
“In practice the jump was so scary, a lot more than it should have been. The guiding ramp, that’s supposed to guide your fin into the slot, was a little off so wasn’t doing it’s job. It was a little too low in the water so your fin would bounce out and over it, instead of going through, meaning you lost speed before you hit the ramp… which then leads to disaster!
“For the finals they put it a little higher in the water, stopping this, which made it a little easier.
“I was using an old 100 litre JP Australia board with a 5.3 Simmer Apex for the slalom. Unfortunately Simmer didn’t have a suitable board I could borrow, so on the way over I nipped into Boardwise and Doug found the JP. That board had been used a lot in London and seemed to do pretty well, so I knew I was onto a winner.
“Despite not having any cams my 5.3 Apex was pretty stable, I used it because it’s a 5 batten and I wanted something as powerful, yet stable, sail as possible. I don’t think I would have wanted a full on cambered race sail, but if I could have taken a twin cam I think that would have been perfect and given me a little more acceleration.
“Once I got to the pool I just rigged my gear up and that was that. I didn’t put too much outhaul on, left it nice and baggy, then I whacked the fin in the board and that was it for the event… no tweaks or tuning at all. I didn’t adjust a thing. It was pretty funny as everyone else seemed to have a million equipment options and were trying and testing various things. But from the start I was happy with what I had and that made me confident going into the trials.
“After the first set of trials I knew I could do pretty well and thought I could get a top three finish, but I also know racing is racing and anything can happen. I did pretty well at the indoors last time and I felt super confident after a couple of runs. Getting the fastest time in the first trials gave me the best gate for the first round.
“There was a near disaster moment when Ricardo hit me on the back of the head with his board in one of the races on the Friday! After the crash I just waited behind the other two, hoping they would make a mistake and luckily they did. But I had a massive lump on the back of my head and felt really sick the next day, not ideal!
“We had to do time trials again on the Saturday, to decide the starting spots for the finals. I was up first and as we had two runs each I held back a little, getting a time of 43 seconds. Then Rosati came and got a 42, which was then beaten by Nico who got low 42s. After that I thought, it’s ON! So for the second run I went balls to the wall, and clocked a 40 second run! Beating the rest by a full two seconds, even Nico came up and congratulated me, from then I knew I could really win this.
“I was so focussed for the finals, and knew I had to just not mess up. I didn’t… and the rest is history! It’s probably the first event ever where I haven’t made a single mistake, I did everything I could, and that feels pretty good. It was easily the best competition experience of my life… to all the sailors that passed on their places, guys, you missed out!!!
“I don’t think you could really see on the video coverage but the stadium was packed! Honestly, when Zofia (Polish Olympic medalist) came out it sounded like someone had just scored a goal in the stadium, it was insane and pretty daunting. Then it erupted again when Justyna (Sniady) came out and I was like, ‘Oh God!’
I’m not just a commentator!
“It winds me up when people just think of me as a commentator, I’m not just a commentator! Sometimes at events being so busy with the commentary means I cant focus on my sailing, so I know my results suffer a little. It was unbelievable to be able to fully focus here, and I knew I could nail it. Also, to be fair, it would have been incredible to have commentated on it too!
“It’s a completely different technique to any other racing in the indoors. It’s windier near the fans and you have to gybe tight and keep your speed, which isn’t easy. It also certainly doesn’t pay to be 100+ kilos! My racing background obviously came into play too, I think people sometimes forget all the racing experience I have, the Olympic campaigns etc. I’ve been part of.
“In my windsurfing career there’s been a few too many ‘almost’ wins. From the youth worlds, to the previous indoors, where I lost to Baker by mere centimetres, there was just no way I was going to lose this one.”