Story by Oisin van Gelderen:
For some sailors, last weeked was racing mode in CapeTown. The Annual Langebaan Downwind Dash was held on Saturday 4th Feb, and I was invited along by Paul from Bay Sports (new JP/NP shop on Blouberg Road, TableView). Always up for an adventure, and Langebaan is such a cool place, we headed up to check out the action. The idea of the race is a giant downwind slalom, kites vs windsurfers vs hobiecats. Beach start at the lagoon where we normally go freestyling, and have 2 huge downwind reaches, gybing around moored yachts, before entering the mouth of the harbour and making your own course downwind to another yacht, before a final dash to the finish line on the beach at Saldanhas Beach Club. As the crow flies it\’s about 15kms, but the course you sail about 26kms.
Gear choice was of course critical. I had heard tales of huge confused chop, as the regular chop is met by the open swell that comes in at the mouth of the whole Harbour. When we arrived there was little wind, but as is always the way in Langebaan, over the next hour, the wind consistently built to around 25knots at the start line. We also got reports that it was the same in the harbour, which is apparently uncommon, usually there are lulls in there.
Still wondering aboutr the lulls, I pretty much decided on the new 2007 JP Slalom 94, and a Pryde RS4 6.7m. All the info I got was that the wind would drop a bit once in the harbour, so I figured I could hold into the power. Two of my Irish buddies also entered, William Kelly on a 5.8m Pryde Search and Proof freestyle board, and Ben George on a JP Super X96 and 6.1m Pryde RX2. Also my freestyle buddies Mario Inthal and Boro Mar entered. Mario on a Naish Boxer 5.4 and Hybrid 90, and Boro on a 6.3 Maui Sails Race sail and JP 106 SuperX. (Boro had never ever used a race sail). Local top S.A racers Matthew Swart and Derek Kliebeler (Werner Gnigler\’s testing partner for JP boards) were also rigging 6.7 like me, so I figured I should be OK.
Missed the start ! Doh…. first mistake. Heard the 5 minute gun while getting my gear to the beach, and set my watch. Turns out it was the 3 minute gun! I was 50 feet form the water when I saw around 100 windsurfers and kiters leaving the beach in a mass start. So I dropped my Redbull and sprinted to the water. Being 30 seconds late meant having to race through the pack of out of control sailors and kiters, and the reaches turned out to be VERY downwind. Overtaking was a problem with so much chop being created, and kiters getting lifted and tea-bagged downwind straight in front of you. At the first gybe mark I had 10 sailors downwind of me, too overpowered to gybe, so I had to overshoot the mark by 150 metres just so that I didn\’t get run over.
On the second reach to Club Mykonos, the chop started to show itself, but at least the pack were starting to spread out. I could see the leaders in the distance, but had no chance of catching them at this stage. After the second gybe, the chop met the swell coming in at the harbour mouth, and also an oil tanker was leaving the harour, so add his wake into the mix and it became very interesting ! I had one major crash here, catapulting myslef into the boom while hooked in. No gear broken so get the rig flying again and off more downwind into the mouth of the harbour. I aimed for the far shore for flatter water, bagged out the sail with the adj. outhaul and followed the coast on a 2 mile speed run through lobster pots. This was pure joy ! One more gybe mark at another moored yacht (picked the wrong one first), and then a final reach to the beach, where you had to run up the beach and hand in your tag to the timing crew.
To my suprise it turns out I had managed to overtake most of the fleet, and got 11th overall, and 4th windsurfer. Defending title holder Matthew Swart was first over the line again, with French PWA Slalom sailor Cedric Bourgs finishing a few seconds behind him. Then a bunch of Kitesurfers, whose gybing advantage showed well in a race like this. I cannot imagine the chop was easy for them either though! Just in front of me was Peter Lumley (SA 1), while Derek Kliebeler was unfortunate to break a harness line, and drifted for 10 minutes before finding some rope on a bouy to make a replacement harness line.
A huge thanks must go to Paul from Bay Sports, who gave us all the gear we wanted, and drove it back upwind again, while all the competitors got on a coach laid on by the organisers to bring us back to our cars. Then we went to the prizegiving at Club Mykonos, where Boro and Mario and Ben went for a freesailign session in teh waves, maxed out on 4.2metres!
Photo Credit: Bay Sports & Derek Kleibelner