Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WISSA 2012: Video and Notes

Hello again-the previous post mentions topics I wanted to expand upon. It's too bad that the video doesn't show the race where Annie Tuthill came really close to beating both of the best Swedish racers, Peter Klingvall and Lars Frommell (the one with the big skate sail). The course was a downwind "zig-zag" layout with four marks. Annie somehow took the lead and maintained it until Peter caught her at the last mark and finished first, but she did finish ahead of Lars with his 9.0-meter draksegl. (Not sure of the spelling - it's Swedish for "dragon sail"). In the video on FB, she finishes last. I like this ST format - I hated every minute of the course racing due to the soft sticky snow and spotty winds that made it a light person's race - but in ST I was actually able to pull off a few wins and finish 10th overall. It wasn't enough to catch the really fast guys but I'm pretty happy with it all the same, it being my first time racing in this format. (Side note: The U.S. representative - me - at the 2008 WISSA meeting spoke for and subsequently voted for including this discipline in future events.)

ST is fast-paced - no race lasts more than a few minutes and there is always someone on the course as the next racers head out as soon as the previous ones round the last mark. It rewards quick thinking and the ability to see and exploit opportunities to advance. An opponent may lose control or simply make too wide of a mark rounding and all of a sudden you're back in it. We had up to five racers on the line at once. Usually the upwind end of the line is favored but a good start and a fortuitous puff can erase the disadvantage of being caught behind everyone else's dirty air. This what happened to Annie and also to me where I started at the downwind end but somehow got the jump and won.

It may seem as though racing in such close quarters is risky but the usual ROW rules apply and I never saw more than incidental contact between riders, if at all. In one race Klaus Faisst and I bumped wings a little but it wasn't serious and neither of us protested. Once I got used to it, I felt perfectly comfortable racing with the others. I can't carve on skates like the Swedes do (yet?) but I did hit every jibe.

The ice was cleared and the zamboni was in use but it was also being used to set up the rinks for the youth pond hockey tournament that took place there last weekend. So the ice wasn't absolutely perfect but good enough for the most part.

The tall blades you see in the videos were specifically designed for skate sail/wing sailing and the design has several advantages. The height enables use in up to a few inches of powdery snow, and allows the wing to be held that much higher. You can also generate an extremely sharp angle to the surface while turning without fear of boot/ice contact which would cause loss of edge. If you look at the "Sail 365" website in the Links section, you'll see a page devoted to these skates. They are offered for sail there but we're going to work on making our own for next year. Lars and Peter sail their own custom designs and they carve them with surgical precision. It's quite a thing to watch, I can tell you. I'm a ways from competing at their level but I'm pretty sure that my parking lot sessions with the inlines helped me here. Whether I'll be able to go to Finland next year to try again is another story, but there's no reason some of us couldn't set up a few cones and give it a go some time.

I've been busy try to catch up at work and home after the trip but hopefully I'll be able to obtain more photos and/or video from the event to post here. As well as another few paragraphs... meanwhile I yield the floor back to the group and other ongoing discussions.

Anyone interested in joining me for a possible session on Sunapee this weekend is welcome... I know the weather outlook is not good but I have to go anyway to return Will and Annie's equipment. Meanwhile keep 'em flying!


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