With one round successfully completed following  the Ski Surf event at Clacton, it was with great hopes that  the JP and  Neil Pryde British Slalom series moved onto Isle of Sheppy and the beach at Minster for the second round of  this year’s series hosted by Wet n’ Dry. For many seasoned campaigners the trip out onto the Isle of Sheppy was into unknown waters, and this presented an exciting opportunity to see some new sights, meet new people and sail on new waters all within the confines of a well organised and enjoyable event atmosphere. The Isle of Sheppy lies in kent and stretches out into the eastern end of the Thames estuary, once across the impressive bridge that connects the Isle to the mainland it’s just a short drive down to the shingle beach and to where parking and overnight camping had been arranged for the gathering masses. The beach itself is a long shingle beach that has a fairly sizeable tidal range with low water exposing mud flats and long walk to get to the water and high water lapping gently against the shingle foreshore, where you can find plenty of rigging and parking space. An idyllic scene until a local walked passed and said to avoid the sunken ship over on the left which was full of world war 2 munitions and could wipe out London if accidently set off………hmmm, there’s an incentive to waterstart quickly. 

Local sailor Ricky Wooding and his partner Michaela had put in many months of hard work in organising the event site facilities, location and the all important onshore and evening entertainment ! and once parked and camped up it was over to the nearby Indian restaurant to kick the weekend off with some good food, some good laughs and many a tale of windsurfing mishaps that occurred since our last meeting back in Clacton at the first JP/Neil Pryde slalom event. Food and drink was enjoyed by all before finally all sailors and spouses alike said their goodnights and headed off to their individual sleeping arrangements, some being far more comfortable than others!

Saturday dawned with a generous westerly breeze and gratefully appreciated incoming tide! And as the competitors slowly began to rise from their beds the PWA fly boys Robbie Swift and Dan Ellis drove into town and started setting up their own camps also. Jamie Hawkins had also arrived and all of sudden the event had spring to life as attentions were turned towards the strengthening breeze and the prospect of some great racing. Although the wind itself remained light a strong wind tide added the vital few knots that made good slalom racing possible and after a short briefing for all entrants a course was quickly laid and the fleets went afloat together both challenge (newcomers and casuals) and top flight (guys who kind of know what they’re doing-or talk confidently enough to convince you they know what they’re doing!) the majority of the challenge fleet was made of local sailors and newcomers- guys, girls and juniors that were not racers but fancied having a go, getting involved, enjoying the atmosphere, and a windsurfing adventure. The Challenge fleet highlights exactly what this year’s series is all about, no hassle great fun, sociable and just going sailing on whatever kit you can find, own or even demo! Graham Dodds of Wet n’ Dry was also in a wetsuit and on the start line ready to give it all a go and see how far he could push himself, as it turns out, he nearly pushed himself all the way back to Sarfend!

The racing proved to very competitive with nearly every sailor swapping first places as the heats rolled on. In the top flight it was Jamie Hawkins speed and experience that was aiding his cause while Swifty was relying heavily on opportunity and amazing starts to help give him the edge, ultimately it was consistency in the tricky conditions that was to prove most valuable with Swifty narrowly beating Jamie into second place with the UK’s very own Xavier Ferlet (07 slalom champion) sailing well to take third ahead of the PWA man Dan Ellis who was still suffering from jet lag following his flight over from Maui-naturally sympathy was a little thin on the ground for Dan. The youths sailed well with Rich Jones showing some impressive form to lead home ahead of Dan Simpson and Liam Round.


The challenge fleet probably saw some of the more open racing with juniors and adults mixing it to score points. As the day wore on the challenge fleet, managed to complete 5 rounds of slalom of intense slalom at the end of which it was Sam Latham, who took the fleet win ahead of Alex Trickle and Andy Kearns, all of whom just pipped newcomer and local sailor Nick Pinkney who finished a credible 4th place using his old Gaastra and AHD  free ride combination.  David Wareing sailed well in his first ever event also, taking the first master title ahead of Sam Towers and Graham Dodds. Great sailing by all newcomers.  The junior fleet was won by Matthew Brown ahead of tom Bennet Lloyd and first time racer and local lad Liam Jackson who took to the water as possibly one of the youngest ever sailors to take part in the British Slalom Championships!

As the wind grew more fickle with the state of the tide beginning to turn a decision was made to call racing for the day and head ashore. Results were posted, kit was de rigged and competitors began to prepare themselves for the event party and BBQ which was to be held at a local Minster pub up the road from the event site. The promise of Chas and Dave, jellied eels and pearly kings and queens was replaced by the reality of a tasty and very generous BBQ, some quality piano playing and live music from a lady singer who managed to hit all the notes high and low, very low in fact. The minster local boys excelled themselves and made all feel welcome and contributed greatly to an entertaining evening for all those that attended. The “Maui Boy band” of swifty and Ellis soon found lack of sleep catching up with them and with the prospect of racing on Sunday headed home for much needed rest. Leaving the rest of the fleets to dance and sing the night away in hearty form. Sunday morning came far too soon for some of party goers but as the sun came up and turned tents into sauna’s the wind was struggling to establish itself and racing was looking like a distant prospect, and as the chances of getting afloat seemed to ebb away the opportunity was taken to organise a series of technique clinics hosted by Robbie Swift, Jamie Hawkins and Xavier Ferlet. All fleets were in attendance to pick up tips, improve their personal sailing skills and find out just what life is like as a pro on the world tour. The guys spent hours explaining and teaching the finer points of stance, speed, gybing, tactics and early planning tips answering questions from all and taking time to give individual advice for those with specific requests. Although the wind failed to blow Sunday proved to be a very valuable day for all those attended with great advice being given out.

The lack of wind led to an early call of racing and prize giving was arranged early in an attempt to set people on their way back home in good time, which considering alot of sailors had to face the M25 was a welcome decision! Pryde Group UK had donated numerous product prizes with every newcomer getting at least most of their entry fee back in prizes plus other attendants getting prizes for random acts of stupidity! With a prize Fund available of £1000 all winners and competitors had something to smile about and spend by the end of prize giving! Thanks go to Ricky Wooding and Jamie Dodds for giving out the prizes.

So at the end of the weekend it was time to pack up and head home. After the success of the first round at ski surf where we had serious wind and great racing it was hard to see how it could of been bettered, but Minster certainly moved onto another level with a great party Saturday night, great dinner Friday night, impressive racing with some windsurfing celebrities, and a relaxing day learning all the pro’s secrets on Sunday! Superb, a great weekend away and well worth the entry fee.

Boardwise will be hosting the next round of the JP/Neil Pryde British Slalom Series in the picturesque holiday village of Aberdovey in mid Wales, a location famous for its mountain driven sea breezes and super fast speed sailing strips. Expect some great racing and a great event organised by the Boardwise boys who have arranged mega demo kit and plenty of onshore entertainment and another great party planned for Saturday night. If your not sailing (family or spouse) the the location has alot to offer as mini holiday location with an amazing beach and plenty to do! The series has alot to offer wether you race or not, so come along and get involved, Minster has been bitten by the bug – will you?


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