Classic San Francisco Bay conditions and a world-class fleet of windsurfers combined this weekend to put the new Olympic windsurfing equipment through its paces.
The Neil Pryde RS:X 2005 Pacific Coast Championship, hosted by Saint Francis Yacht Club, saw 37 racers from many different aspects of competitive windsurfing hit the starting line on brand new charter boards. The highly experienced fleet included current and past windsurfing Olympians, open class World Cup professionals, national and international formula and slalom champions, plus top US juniors and even a Laser class Olympian.
The first two races held on Friday afternoon proved challenging: A strong 25-35 knot clearing wind buffeted the course and kicked up the notorious Crissy Field chop. Many sailors chose to wait it out and watch as a brave few attempted the rough and tumble conditions. Lessons were learned and shared as the fleet helped one another figure out how to set up, tune, and drive the new craft.
Over the next two days of racing, ideal seasonal conditions allowed the constant tuning and testing to progress. Lighter morning breezes showed racers the highly tactical, centerboard-down potential of the board, while the steadily building 20-knot afternoon winds taught them where and when to switch to the fin-only, Formula-style mode. Very close racing right off the beach, and an increasingly tuned-up fleet resulted in a fantastic regatta right up to the last race on Sunday. The inspired competitors developed a keen interest in continuing to learn what the RS:X can do, and had rediscovered the true beauty and excitement of one-design competition. Several racers discussed their intention to pursue Olympic Gold on the RS:X.
Winning the overall regatta (and men's division) was Wilhelm SCHURMANN, a Brazilian National and South American Formula champion, and a professional with a strong international reputation. He was very closely followed by Canadian Sam IRELAND, likewise a top international pro competitor in many types of windsurf racing. Taking third overall was 21-year old Seth BESSE, a former US junior champion who is rapidly moving up the ranks at major world-level Formula events. The women's division champion was Karen MARIOTT, while second place went to Farrah HALL. Third in the division was Angela HURLEY, who also took home the junior women's title. 17-year old Mark BOERSMA, a current US junior champion won his division, and rounding out the trophies was the first place master (age 40+) Mike Percy, a bay area local who placed seventh in the overall fleet score.
The RS:X, designed and produced by Neil Pryde, was selected at the 2004 ISAF Annual Conference as the Olympic windsurfing equipment following a series of evaluations the International Sailing Federation, an evaluation committee and top windsurfers who compared several types of design approaches from a variety of manufacturers. The RS:X is a hybrid of the two main types of race board. The first is a more traditional long board shape utilizing a retractable centerboard, and the second is a 'Formula'-style, wide board, using a single fin. The hybrid approach allows for competitive performance in the widest possible range of wind conditions, an essential element for Olympic venues.
Windsurfing became an Olympic sport at the 1984 Los Angeles Games as one of the classes in the sailing event held at Long Beach. Since then windsurfing has remained part of the overall Olympic programme, and is raced according to standard rules of sailing.