19th of January 2005, Australia, The Neil Pryde Sail Melbourne National Regatta 2005 Victiorian Formula Windsurfing Championships

No Racing in Melbourne ...

by Ian Fox
advance of the "main event" Oceanics later this week, Day 1 of the Neil Pryde warm up regatta opened to hot skies and gusty offshore winds of 20 kts rising to 25 and even 30 knot gusts forecast. Not a good sign, as in this location a very hot day and strong Northerly offshore acts to prevent the otherwise reliable seabreeze to develop, and the wind grinds to a halt in a deadlock or standoff situation - as it did today.

With registration and briefing complete, some 40 top regional racers went to the start in very patchy and gusty conditions in the hope of at least one race complete, but after one general recall delaying the action even a few critical minutes, the restart went off in very marginal winds, especially for many in the fleet who selected smaller sails to handle the very strong offshore gusts that had been common in the preceding hour. Allison had a great start and went out like a rocket, Wojtek working smoothly but with energy (and "only" on his RS4 9.8 - "c'mon, I want an easy day today..." ) moved out quickly too and the leading riders quickly opened some significant gaps over others who were left underpowered on the startline. With hi temperatures and strong UV, almost all sailors had chosen to rig only one sail to avoid heat/mast/UV damage, which was a great idea until the race was ready to start and the strong previous winds died quickly but very unevenly. After six minutes, the wind had become very uneven on the course, and with careful decision from both course and tower, the race was abandoned.

During the sail back, a rather spectacular chase occurred as Wojtek on flat water but fully powered on a gust tried to race down one of the course boats and for some few hundred meters, the two seemed linked by an invisible rope, neck and neck at speeds around 30 kts. In the end, the course boat pulled away in front - only after reaching it's top speed of 39 kts !

Back on the beach the heat was rising, guys cooling masts and sails before rigging or tensioning downhauls - after some recent mast failures the past few weeks, everyone was very cautious today about masts, rigs and heat.

The long wait began, and for some 4 hours the event was on standby, racers and crew slowing tiring in the hot and windless conditions awaiting a late scheduled front to bring back the wind, but with no change in sight (or showing on the regional radar and weather links) the decision to abandon Day 1 at 4.00 PM was announced. Too bad, but most were relieved and happy just to be able to stand down from action stations until tomorrow when lighter onshore conditions will open Day2 before an increasing sea breeze to around 20 kts should allow a good 4 races complete before the event closes tomorrow night with a NeilPryde party/BBQ at the Melbourne Neil Pryde dealer, SHQ Boardsports.

Cheers ~ Ian