Jamie Drummond reports from the finale of the UKWA Freestyle season at Windfest 2011…
“It’s going to be windy!" Looking at the forecast a week in advance, everyone was pretty pumped and ready for some blowy conditions at the Animal Windfest in Poole. The excitement obviously caught on and come registration on Saturday morning we had a truly excellent turnout; 32 competitors across the 6 fleets with an impressive 7 ladies showing up to compete too!
The wind showed up on cue and the event saw gusty 5.2 weather increase to solid crosshore 4.7 – great conditions for freestyle. The Minim, Junior and Youth fleets were the first to launch and work there way through three rounds of competition. Ike Bradley Baker pipped Harry Davis to the post in the Minim fleet, while Nik Hibidge posted two 1sts and a 2nd to take the win in the Junior fleet. The U20’s fleet saw Alex Mitchell fighting off competition from Will White to take the win with smooth Flakas and Forwards.
The level in the Amateur fleet was through the roof – a lot of the moves being thrown down would have been firmly at home in the Pro Fleet! The standout sailors having to be Ollie Action, Nick Bentley and John Yeomans – all putting on a really good performance for the crowds. Cana bravas, clew-first spocks, forward loops and shakas were the high-scoring moves and after three rounds Ollie Acton managed to push ahead of Nick Bentley for the victory.
The ladies were next to take to the water and they put on a great show! Carve gybes, duck gybes, downwind 360s, heli-tacks, chop-hops, bodydrags and vulcans were thrown down in the choppy conditions. The competition was close between Chloe ‘Snowy’ Goodyear and Julia Slack but Chloe’s consistency saw her win out in the end with a massive 7 point lead! The girls had a great time, pushing each other on all the way with bags of enthusiasm - let’s hope we see them all back competing next year.
As this was the final event on the UKWA Freestyle calendar it was all to play for in the Pro Men’s Fleet. To defend his four-time title, Andy ‘Bubble’ Chambers would need to win and current tour leader Adam Sims would have to come in at least 4th.
Straight out of the gate the level was sky-high with huge shakas, air flakas, ponches and loops being thrown by all the sailors. The first round saw Max Rowe leading, in the second Bubble edged back ahead and then the third round final came about! Everyone was gunning for the top spot and Sims knew he needed a good result to secure his overall series title – with this in mind he launched into a sick culo, some slick shakas, flakas and loops to secure the win…and his first British title!
I must give a special mention to Oscar Carmichael – after securing the 2011 Junior title with one event to go, he decided to have a go in the Pro fleet. After seeing him sail in Fuerte I thought that he could probably do pretty well in the UK Pro Fleet – when he actually registered though I got a bit worried! He sailed brilliantly, finishing in joint 5th – definitely one to watch for the future.
An amazing weekend was had by all and it was great to have some strong wind to let us show off our sport to the crowds. There was a great turnout and hopefully we will see the fleets continue to grow next year!!
Thanks to Trevor, Jules and all the judges, Animal, Gary and all the organisers of Windfest, see you next year!!
Oscar Carmichael remembers his experience of performing in the Pro Fleet...
Having worked out that I had already won the Junior National Freestyle Championship on points before this final event I thought it would be a good experience to try competing in the Pro Fleet at Windfest, alongside the UKs top freestyle sailors. Although I am only 15yrs old I have done a fair amount of competing, however my first heat was drawn against Andy ‘Bubble’ Chambers and Max Rowe which was a bit of a reality check as these guys have been my idols for years. Sailing in the Pro Fleet was a completely different ball game; it made my sailing strategy change and performance better.
After the end of three full eliminations I was placed 5th which I was super happy with. This experience has made me want to train harder ready for competing in the pro fleet next year and I also hope to get a wild card for a PWA event. Being awarded the Andy Funnel trophy at the Windfest prize giving with my name amongst sailing greats such as Dave White, Bryony Shaw, John Skye and Timo Mullen has given me something to live up to and a drive to be the best that I can!
Women’s Fleet by Julia Slack
A strong fleet of 7 female competitors turned up for the Poole event, with all the fleet entering their first competition there was no clear favourites for the podium, however fresh from a windy season in Vass, Bethany Mercer looked to have solid sailing in the warm up and Emily Hall straight from a top racing result in san francisco was also sailing confidently showing top form on day one taking the lead overnight after 3 heats . Sally Lambert showed good form getting close to vulcans while Lara Johnston showed off her newly learnt downwind 360's and crowd pleasing wipe-outs.
On day two, the level stepped up and positions changed all day with many of the competitors finding their feet . Stand out sailor was Ellie Ross who pulled off some solid freestyle moves in the wavy conditions to impress the judges. However, it wasn't enough to squeeze into the top spots where Chloe Goodyear put the pressure onto Hall throughout the day taking the victory with 2 1st and a 2nd on day 2.
The girls made a great atmosphere on the water, cheering each other on and encouraging each other to do bigger moves. Although everyone was nervous about competing at the start of the weekend, everyone came away super stoked with their performance, excited for future competition, and planning trips away to learn more moves ready for the 2012 season. Big thanks to Trev and the Judges for encouraging us to get involved and talking us through the rules, flags and timings to make it a pain free learning experience.
Women’s Fleet by Ellie Ross
This year’s Poole Windfest saw a brand new type of competitor take to the water. Introducing…the ladies.
Seven of us from the fairer sex decided to show our male counterparts not only that we can we crank on our own downhaul, but also that we can hold our own when it comes to competition. OK, so we may not all be graced with an inbuilt ability to shaka, spock or eslider, but we can rock a slick carve gybe and chop hop to our heart’s content. It was high time for the ladies to shine.
Enthusiastic as that may sound, that’s hardly how it started on that slightly drizzly Saturday morning as we huddled into the skippers’ tent for what was, for most of us females, our first EVER competition briefing. The boys stood there, nodding knowingly and making throwaway remarks about “ladders" and “heats". Meanwhile us girls exchanged bewildered looks. Different coloured flags? Streamers? And how were we going to manage not falling in on our tacks and looking like a total plum as we made our way upwind before the green flag went up?
Some of us had already made up our minds to take part; the weakest amongst us were coaxed into it with the following incentives: a) it would be fun; b) it would be fantastic sailing experience; c) we’d be involved in Britain’s freestyle event of the year; d) we would actually have a UK ranking and seeing as there were only seven of us, we would all make it into the top ten. Which sounds pretty good.
But the main selling point was that it was a great opportunity for us ladies to sail together, egg each other on and enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with being on the watery stage in front of a panel of judges that, instead of being scary, actually encouraged us to take part no matter our ability. It may have been X Factor for windsurfing wannabes, but there was no Simon Cowell here.
To say that we were the height of competitor coolness before our first heat would be a far cry from the truth. In reality, two minutes before the girls were up, you would probably have seen us all rushing around, frantically quizzing our fellow male freestylers for their competition top tips with a slightly crazed look in our eyes.
As all seven of us stood in the shallows, we quickly exchanged "what the heck are we doing?" glances before setting off. I don’t think that any of us will deny that the first heat was a mixture of blind panic, adrenaline and nutty confusion as to whether to tack, gybe, jump or just try something bonkers for the heck of it.
Our five minutes turned to mere seconds in the thrill of competition. In no time at all we were back on the beach, buzzing from the epic crashes and mental sea state (for once there was wind at Windfest!)
Somehow, despite the chop and big gusts coming through, we all managed to pull off a couple of moves in front of the judges - including helitacks, chop hops, carve and duck gybes and even the odd vulcan attempt. We had survived Heat 1 and lived to tell the tale!
We completed no less than three heats each day, our bodies slowly festering in our wetsuits in between sessions. By the time day two was upon us, we were trying new moves and there was a great sense of camaraderie between the ladies. Massive congratulations to Chloe who wowed the judged and was crowned 2011 queen of freestyle.
Many of us are relatively new to the UK windsurfing scene but what a great thing to be a part of. One of the best things about competing is the people you meet and the support that's around. There is nothing better than being out there sailing alongside like-minded ladies. With each new heat, you learn something fresh and someone is always on hand to offer tips on how to finish off that move you have been going for. Girls, this is your chance to come and get involved!
1. Max Rowe
2. Andy Chambers
3. Adam Sims
4. Jamie Drummond
1. Ollie Acton
2. Nick Bentley
3. John Yeomans
4. Dave Williams
- Chloe Goodyear
- Emily Hall
- Julia Slack
- Lara Johnston
- Alex Mitchell
- Will White
- Charlie Wilson
- Nik Hibidge
- Ollie Bradley Baker
- Jamie Howard
- Josh Sparks
- Ike Bradley Baker
- Harry Davis