BWA Rhosneigr 2017

Sooo. The Pro fleet, back to that old chestnut. Last year I re-qualified to sail back in the pro fleet. After quite a few years of turning up to competitions and having a good old time in the amateur fleet and frequenting and sometimes winning the finals I finished 2016 promoted to the pro fleet. I was quite up for this at the time, however roll on 6 months and I have been wavesailing perhaps that many times. In fact in the last 6 months, the most time I have spent on a windsurf board was on my old raceboard on a mini two day expedition with Jono Dunnett. This was to help him prepare for his Round Europe (wow) expedition that he is just about to start.

You can find more about that here: (notice he seems to be missing the UK out, not sure that is intentional).

To cut a long story short, my winter training had not gone quite as planned. In fact I guess most of it was watching and reading about the other 'pro' windsurfers training in Cape Town, Chile, South Africa and even Tenerife! I hadn't actually seen a quantifiable wave for a long time, such was the let down of the British winter.

Some how May was upon us and Coxy and myself made the 6 hour journey up to Rhosneigr, getting high on toxic fumes from his recently painted waterproofing of his new van. Seriously, we both had hangovers the next day. My advice to anyone is too stick to beer, or even e numbers. Solvent based paint vapour filling a large panel van is a definite no.

During our long journey we had plenty to talk about, but in terms of expectations mine were pretty low (not of the quality of our conversation, although our conversations probably wouldn't meet some peoples standards). Anyway, of the competition. My discussed aim was not not to come last and get knocked out in the first round. That would be a total disaster.

Roll on the Pro fleet draw I was first up, first round and just like a badly predictable novel, I got knocked out in the first round. The worst thing was that I sailed like a total spoon. I had been sailing well in the warm up and actually felt quietly confident. The conditions were not great, but improving and actually favouring me, because I figured I wouldn't stand a chance against some of the giants in the pro fleet in really big conditions. I just don't have the moves. I can do a good forward loop on port tack and even some stalled ones with practice and a table top. I had Corky Kirkham, Dave Horrocks and Ben Page in my heat, so it was always to be tricky. My aim was to hit the biggest ramp I could find and then do as high forward loop as I could. It was only one jump counting and two waves in the variable conditions. I was actually on a 5.0 and 85, so it was fairly windy. Just not that wavey. The buzzer went, I bore off and saw a ramp that looked promising, unhooking I set up for a big jump into forward. The wave then kind of backed off and lost it's steepness. At which point I couldn't decide to commit to a fairly average forward or just not bother. Turned out the decision was made for me and I just catapulted. Great start, the judges were probably pissing their pants. From that point forward I struggled to find any ramps and I didnt really think much of the waves I caught. Despondency set in.

Seems like I was set not to be part of the comp any more. Apart from breakage, I couldn't remember the last time I lost a heat which made things worse. The usual suspects were getting through, although because of the marginal conditions, the show was not as good as used too where the guys do huge jumps, whip out taka's and wave 360's. It was clearly hard on everyone. In the end it was Adam Lewis, Bubble, Phil Horrocks and Luke Smith getting through to the final. Luke who is a new name to you sailed incredibly well. Coxy probably should have made the final, his semi with Phil (I know, strange, but Phil obviously does it for him), looked a struggle for all sailors involved. Waves were hard to hit with style and jumps looked difficult, it looked pretty close, but in the distance Coxy landed a decent backie. I thought to myself, bet that got missed. Turned out it did. Later that day when I was doing some judging I thought I would check the heats, the backie was not on the score sheets. I think Bubble probably stood out the most in the single elimination, for consistency and racking up the points on the score sheet. In fact he was probably winning the final for over half of the short ten minutes, where Adam Lewis seemed to be all over the place. It was only at the end where Adam pulled it back with a really high backie and and some stylish smacks.

After the single elimination it was Adam in first place, Bubble in second, Phil in third and a very credible 4th to Luke Smith.

Now that I had clearly also no more part to take in the competition, I got roped into judging the amateurs. This was actually really interesting as a, you could see just how hard it is for the judges to keep an eye on everyone all of the time - quite stressful and b, you could see what stood out. Reuben Shaw did a fine effort of doing just that in the amateurs. He took a bigger board and chose waves carefully, milking them as much as he could. There were fine efforts from Lucas Meldrum and Tom Bennett Lloyd.

By the end of day 1, the Avon Beach team (Bubble and Reuben) were doing quite well in their opposite conditions.

One of the things that keeps me going back to competition, apart from the need to quench my competitive thirst, is the social and the atmosphere. These events just have such a buzz, on the water, the beach and in the bar (maybe not the buffet), the Saturday was no exception with plenty of good quality banter and laughs. It really is worth entering just for the vibe.

Back to windsurfing. The Sunday forecast was probably better than expected, flat in the morning but as the tide came in so did some waves. I did in fact have my best sail of the weekend in the morning and felt really hopeful for the double elimination. I thought I sailed well and had a bit of luck go my way when Alfie Hart was rushing down to his heat a little last minute. To be fair though I didn't realise it was my heat because I thought we were having a heat break. I decided to sail as if it was just in case. Turns out it was my heat and I got through. I was pretty elated.

Next heat was against. Coxy, Thorpy (who had now put a 5.8 on his substantial cow board) and Scotty McDowell. By this time the conditions were deteriorating and getting pushed down into the corner of the bay was hard to avoid. I got a crappy forward loop and picked off a couple of reasonable waves doing what I could and hoping the others were having the same issues. I would say only one was of heat standard. With about 3 minutes to go I actually managed to get a fairly high forward for the conditions off a wave Coxy was lining up to ride and with 50 seconds a reasonably sized wave to finish the heat. I was hopeful. Turns out a few people on the beach who watched thought I might have got the heat, saying it was really close. I knew though that the other two probably landed backies and backies score more than forwards of the same height, which would mean that my waves would have to be significantly higher than the others. Still though, it was nice to know that I didn't look out of place and was competitive. Turned out I didn't go through, but I also didn't come last in that heat. Objective achieved.

From that heat on Thorpy stormed it all the way to 4th place. The front runners were getting worried as his bigger kit, ability to move around the bay and pick off the bigger waves (and ride them really well), meant he was cruising through the heats. It must have been really close between him and Phil Horrocks (who always sails well). Probably just the one wave in it.

By this time, quite late on Sunday when we were getting a bit itchy to get home, the conditions had really deteriorated. During the Pro fleet final the standard of the waves were questionable and it was a shame that luck and kit size had a bit more to do with it than anything else. However, I guess at comps you have be prepared to use big kit. Unfortunately the Avon team suffered in the double elimination as Bubble got relegated to 3rd place and Reuben to 2nd in the Amateurs. Adam Lewis back from injury taking a well deserved win and a nice ending for Tom Bennett Lloyd (1st in the Amateurs) who had such an awful time at last years event where his girlfriend came close to drowning. It was fantastic to see her back and helping out.

On to the next event which for me will be Cornwall in October. As much as I would love to go to Tiree, I don't think my school will give me 5 days off. What I am though, is really fired up about windsurfing again. Comps do that to you, they give you a reason to push yourself further, learn and master new moves and maintain fitness and hopefully renew some energy to write on this blog!!

Watch this space.

photographs borrowed from BWA page and Timmy Vowles Photography.