No windsurfing event would be complete without a healthy share of bumps and bruises. If the blisters on my hands are an indication of anything, it’s that this past weekend was full of high speed action on the water. Thanks to the wind gods and an amazing effort from Alex Morales and team Tillo iNTERNATIONAL the Miami Slalom Open ended with a series of eight competitive races, full of crashes, cuts, bruises and an on-water rescue thanks to Sunday’s breeze that kept everyone’s adrenaline pumping. Literally a “dog off the chain” morning had much of the fleet dusting off their small quiver of 6.2s and 5.7s, a few guys rigged wave gear just to control the conditions on the course.
At the skipper’s meeting Alex challenged his local fleet citing this regatta’s intention to pave the way for a higher level of racing in Miami. His message was clear “Thanks to everyone from out of town, but this is weekend is for the local sailors.” In true Miami style, the local fleet welcomed all the competitors warm as a croquetta out the fryer. I was one of a few out of towners including Danish superstar Jesper VesterstØm, who lead the fleet around each mark, and France’s speed-demon (17 year old) Martin Plissoneau.
Thanks to my official event sponsor Ron Kern (who not only leant me every piece of gear except the harness and drove me around all weekend- cheers Ron!), my magic setup was a 7.0m NP RS Slalom MKIII and Mike’s Lab with a 38cm fin. Ron stood on the beach that morning with the wind meter reading a steady 24 mph with gusts to 29 turned to me and said “I’m rigging the 6.2 with the small ML slalom board and you’re screwed.”
To put it plainly, I WAS LIT on the 7.0m. After about an hour of tuning the rig and changing out boards and fins, I finally felt comfortable on my kit (or at least not-totally-out of control). The lack of activity and wind on the first two days was well made up for on the final day of racing. A steady north-eastern breeze at 20 knots with pulses to 25+ kicked up a steep chop making it tough on both port and starboard tacks.
The first four races: I selected to shoot toward the favored pin end for the first four races to extend below the fleet. But the risk of a leeward end start in the slalom being the lack of room to bear away for speed, I got rolled a few times in the middle of the beat once the fleet’s pace started to level off. There was a lot of distance to be made on the beat to mark one by keeping the hammer down (fin loaded up and back hand heavy) blasting off the tops of each wave towards the mark. Mark one was set on top of the sand bar which made line selection around the mark tough, a tight turn with high risk of carnage, or over the back of each crumbling 2 foot wave. Alex was happy with his mark selection, before the R1 he said with a shaka, “You like the first mark? Right on the waves. It’s Perfect!”
The stretch from mark one to two was a tough deep reach. The higher tide in the morning tossed up rolling chop that took down many skilled sailors along this beat. I nearly t-boned into Martin after his front foot was knocked out of the strap before he slammed into the water two boat lengths in front of me.
Good jibes at the mark roundings was the key to success. I had a few hairy moments where I took some wobbly turns and deep breaths to make it around the course, I’m happy to say I made every jibe the whole event.
I always try to take away a lesson after each race and the lessons after this event were priceless. My brother Nic coached me between his own sessions, offering the same advice I can hear myself giving my sailors, “be more selective at the line and get off, front-row at full speed.” Proving fundamentals and rig set up are critical to race success. I am happy with my overall finish of 3rd place, but after putting up a series of 2nd and 3rd place finishes to Jesper and “the flash” aka Roger Rayes I’m left with a hunger to strengthen my game.
After such an amazing event in Miami, I can’t wait to get back on the board this winter. Special thanks again to Ron Kern for setting me up, Alex Morales and team Tillo iNTERNATIONAL for a great event, thanks to Chris Wands, Cedric Kleisler and the Adventure Sports USA squad for hooking up my dad and bro to get on the water. Gracias por todo, Miami.