The eagerly awaited inaugural British Indoor Windsurfing Championships got underway on Sunday in the East Hall pool watersports feature at the Schroders London International Boatshow.
The pool sessions had been due to kick off on Thursday 8 January, but a spectacular collapse of the pool structure during the filling stage forced the postponement. Thanks to much midnight oil burning over the days leading up to the show by the UK Windsurfing Association, National Boat Shows and Excel, the health and safety issues were quickly addressed.
In the practice sessions on Sunday afternoon, first to do battle with the 30 knots of artificial breeze was Nick BAKER, former 3 times Indoor Windsurfing Champion, who demonstrated the technical difficulty of such a sailing venue by wiping out at the first gybe.
Some adjustments to advertising boards, which were interfering with the wind, were duly made and the pros were soon getting on top of the unique conditions.
Giant turbines provide the wind
Monday's slalom qualifying time trials involved the sliding start, a gybe round the far buoy, another round the near buoy and ended with a hook finish round the far buoy. The leading men, such as Guy CRIBB, John SKYE and Steve THORPE were sailing the course in a mere 20 seconds. The slalom sailors are using relatively high volume boards, (about 110 litres) and six metre sails, which although overpowering on the first leg near the fans, are necessary for the lighter conditions on the far side of the pool. Helen CARTWRIGHT, RYA Windsurfing's coach was fortunate enough to experience the sensation of sailing in the draft of the 25 huge fans for herself;
"The straights are so short it's not even worth hooking in. Some of the other sailors aren't even bothering to put on their harnesses. The speed down the straight is phenomenal, you're setting up for the gybe halfway up the pool. We're seeing plenty of aerial manoeuvres already and the ramp hasn't even been set up yet. Jamie HANCOCK and Nick BAKER, amongst others, have been pulling off flat water forward loops."
Racing will continue through until 18 January 2003.