Irish Slalom Series Round 2

Round 2 of the Irish Slalom Series took place a couple of weeks ago, the 7th and 8th of June.

With only some light wind days, everybody tried to make the most of how the conditions were, ending up with a fantastic weekend of activities, demos, fun and beers. There were plenty of activites and to give you a full report, we better let the organizers let you know in their own words:

The revival of the Irish Racing Scene has experienced some fantastic weather and a healthy stream of new faces adding to the action. Glorious weather beamed on Malahide to kick off the series, and the Kerry event over the 7th and 8th of June was to be no exception.  If the 2008 Slalom Series gains nothing else, we’ll all at least be the most relaxed and tanned windsurfers in the country!  Windguru predicted a 14-knot forecast for Saturday, with lighter airs for the Sunday – Ideal conditions for all abilities to get involved in some windsurf racing.
A sun drenched Saturday morning registration set the event off on a good note at Jamie Knox’s HQ.  The competitors briefed, it was over to Scraganne to get the kit rigged before the scheduled rigging demonstration.  The wind remained on standby while Tushingham’s Paul Simmons, fresh from a 6am Brandon Bay paddle surf session earlier that morning, delivered a comprehensive rigging and tuning session to the group of students assembled in front him.  Not being shy to engage, the crowd made good use of Paul’s knowledge base. Jamie Knox assisted by sharing his wealth of experience to the group on kit setup and the latest techniques being used by the pros.  Professional tuition at its best!   
Greg Day, Irelands most experienced race OOD, remained true to his form by taking the initiative to set a course in the shifting winds mid morning.  Sure enough, Hannes Louet Feisser, at six and a half foot tall and an unstoppable smile as wide as he is tall, started planning across the bay. The sight of Hannes motivated the group into their wetsuits and out onto the water.  With the marker buoy positions adjusted for the freshening wind, the hooter was blown for race 1. The fleet set off on the first of five, figure of eight races.   
The racing featured everything from good starts, scrappy starts, near misses, overtaking, shouting for water, shouting for starboard, waving at the “top heavy” Maurice Owens with “in-built” head cam, roars of encouragement from the race boat, crashing into and falling at marker buoys with some unrepeatable “French / Irish vocabulary” being broadcasted, dodging seaweed and a memorable catapult on the start line for Alastair Nichol.  Those who had with them and had opted to register their formula boards as one of their two boards for the weekends racing were rewarded with the ability to plane easier than the newer generation of slalom boards, and to keep planning through the lulls as the thinner winds played havoc with the lead positions.   
Our first time silver fleet racers, got stuck straight into the thick of the action, and were able to get a good feel for the tactics required to push for positions on the race course.  Some were surprised at how competitive they actually were – as they say, the racer comes out in all of us at some point!  Gold fleet racers were on hand for encouragement and by the silver fleet simply positioning themselves behind the gold fleet; good starts were achieved for relatively little effort.  Everyone had something to learn, from kit selection (never mind what age or shape it was), pointing to reach the next marker buoy, planning tips to glide through lulls, getting clear wind to maintain a lead, timing starts, and to something people often overlook, how to keep warm during races during postponement.  Needless to say the fight for 12th position was as energetic as the fight for 1st.
Silver fleet victory was claimed by Hannes Louet Feisser (no chance then of removing that smile), followed by Barry (White) Whitelaw (week training in Achill before hand paid off), followed by newcomer to the racing series and representing the Cork camp, Richard O’Mahony.  Dublin based Ross Gsamelon, newcomer Ian Deacon from Cork, Dave (the “mooch” – possibly saving himself for the hen party later on) Minton, may have missed out on the top spots, but promised to be back to fight for top position another day.  
In the gold fleet, the lighter winds that sometimes swayed in direction, played havoc with the top positions, but rewarded those who opted to register their larger formula boards for the weekend.  All that extra windsurfing “muscle” on our stronger Gold fleet sailors couldn’t compensate for the shifting winds at times, in turn keeping the racing tight and interesting changes in lead positions.  Fintan Day having missed Round 1 due to an injury, blew the field away with lightning starts on a number of occasions but fell foul to a few shifting winds meaning a number of tacks would be required to get back on course.  Paul Simmons drew on his experience and perfect rigging abilities to bring home the 2nd position, but without doubt the star of the day was Stevie Flanagan from Dublin.  His 10 year old Neilpryde race sail blew onto a trailer earlier that morning in a shifting gust, in turn producing a gash to the monofilm big enough for a bird to fly through, but he kept his cool, and despite the quick “duck tape” repair job to the sail, he selected the right kit for the job, and sailed near perfectly to record 3 wins and 2 thirds, enough to seal him overall victory!   
Marie Buchanan took the first ladies position, and while being the only lady on the course, her lightweight and superb style placed her in a very strong position in the overall fleet.  Although they won’t admit it, she left a lot of the gold fleet lads bobbing in her wake on more than one occasion!  With 5 races completed, event officials reorganised the marker buoys for a downwind blaster, but the winds weren’t having any of it, and switched off with racers reading themselves for the start line.  Some 10.0m freestyle tricks, fun with a head cam and a barking / swimming dog kept the racers entertained until the event was postponed
until Sunday.  
Sunday morning arrived with hazy sunshine, and only a light air, so Jamie Knox’s fleet of paddleboards were brought into service.  With first time paddle boarders Danny Mulryan and Alessia opting for relaxed dry clothed paddle boarding, it wasn’t long before they were purposely submerged by others.  Ralph Ferguson being the tall power house that he is, caught up with 3 other boarders to disappear off around an offshore island for a leisurely cruise, while others took the opportunity to recover from the Saturday evenings festivities and to tune some windsurf kit. Tom Knox, still brimming on having pulled 77 mackerel off the point at a rate of 3.85 fish per minute the previous day, dropped a buoy 100m off the shoreline and with that 2 teams of 5, a mixture of first timer and experienced paddle boarders, were assembled on the beach for a relay race to last about 30 minutes.  With roars of encouragement, Jamie Knox’s team powered home to victory, despite a last ditch attempt by the opposing team to steal victory.
The event was wrapped up with a prize giving at Jamie Knox’s shop, with the journey home for most starting soon after and a sneaky few nipping out for a late evening windsurf!  Acknowledgements must be extended to Plug and Play watersports for sponsoring the marker buoys, Mary O’Neill at the wonderful Brandon Bay Lodge for the hearty breakfasts, warm showers after sailing and for putting up with the early morning returns to bed by some party goers (you know who you are), Niall who leant us his RIB with its newly rigged 4-stroke motor (carefully minded at all times, although Jamie did manage to get his hands on it at one point), Tom Knox for assisting with the paddle boarding, Paul Simmons for coming over from Tushingham UK , the IWA slalom series sub committee for putting the whole thing together, Greg Day for making light conditions into once again an exciting race event and Jamie Knox for sponsoring prizes and hosting the competition.  All in all, a very enjoyable event.  
Round 3 will take place in Downings, Co. Donegal, organised by Nick Fletcher and company.  For a taste of beautiful Donegal, swarms of young sailors, superior event organisation, competitive racing, windsurfing tips, the “buddy” system, and a serious party atmosphere, be sure to come along on the weekend of July 19th & 20th.  Look forward to seeing you there!”


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