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2024 UKWA: SEASON OPENER

2024 UKWA: SEASON OPENER

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2024 UKWA: SEASON OPENER

Summer is almost upon us, so that can only mean one thing… it’s time for the first event of the 2024 UKWA Tour in Portland Harbour, Weymouth.

Words: Scott Harrison // Photos: Andy Stallman.


The weekend of 23rd/24th April will see the first of the UKWA Slalom events for 2024 with competitors descending upon Portland Harbour. Sponsored by the OTC and Surf Doctor, and hosted by the WPNSA, it is a fantastic venue for all levels of windsurfers and wingers.

What happens is simple, we race downwind as fast as we can, no upwind racing, the kit doesn’t have to be specialist, it’s stripped back to basics for fun and simplicity, if we were musicians, we’d be the punk rockers of the watersports world.

There is a “Master Blaster” group, aimed at newcomers. No race experience is required and if you can uphaul and sail out and back then you’re more than good enough to get involved and there is plenty of racing to enjoy.

WING-FOIL

The most popular fleet last year was the wing-foil slalom, which features simple downwind racing where just 7 knots of wind are needed to be able to compete in ultra fun racing. Don’t be fooled though, as there is still an underlying competitive nature, which only fuels the fun, while giving those all important bragging rights come the end of the event.

 

Blasting in Weymouth

FIN PURISTS

Next up, the fin purists race in the national fleet, from 11 knots onwards using the same downwind course as the wings. The standard varies tremendously across the fleet, as does the kit spend, so don’t feel you need to be a hotshot to have a good time, and literally any gear that will plane in 11 knots and above will be enough to join the fun.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIR

Finally, we have the international fleet, which is a proper no holds barred, cut throat, downwind racing contest. From 7-15 knots we race on foils, while from 11 knots and above there is the option to race on fins, however, this is at the Race Officer’s discretion. As a general rule we usually race on fins when it’s enough for medium slalom boards. You’re definitely going to want to put in some practice and be at one with your gear, but whether you are challenging for top honours or jostling for position somewhere else in the fleet, the challenge and intensity is what it’s all about.

Fingers crossed that there’s enough wind for some full on fin slalom, but either way I can’t wait to spend 48 hours in the company of other windsurfers, talking about nothing but our favourite sport. Summer time will hopefully be showing its face by then, while there’s ample parking, hot showers and a great cafe to enjoy the food and/or a cup of tea or coffee. You can push yourself on the water as hard as you like. Don’t let this season be a “what if”… seize the day and see you there!

Let’s hear from Tris Best, director of the OTC and Surf Doctor, event sponsor, and for many years one of country’s “fixers”, a brilliant windsurfer and a visionary about what slalom in Portland Harbour means to him: “When we were offered the chance to setup an Official Test Centre (OTC) back in the UK in 2009, I travelled back from Tenerife and was introduced to local legend Kev Greenslade by one of the UK’s national slalom champs, Dan Ellis. Amongst many other things discussed, we all agreed on the potential the area had and that there needed to be a pathway into slalom and speed sailing for the next generation. It was a vision we all had back then for Portland Harbour and I’m stoked to have played a small part in putting that desire into action over the last decade or so.

Portland Harbour is a staggeringly good place to windsurf. Predominantly flat; accessible in any tide state (even the lowest of spring lows), and with some of the best wind stats along the south coast, (due to the prevailing wind ‘squeeze’ between the Isle of Wight and the mainland), it’s just such a safe place to learn and progress. The centre teaches grass-root windsurfing to all the local primary and secondary schools, with the support from various local and national charities (Will Mackaness Trust, The Chesil Sailing Trust and Will Houghton Foundation), which is the feeder for our after-school clubs. Those young sailors who show a keen interest in racing are then encouraged down the RYA pathway and/or UKWA route, so that they can progress faster and discover that windsurfing, as a sport, offers so much to people of all ages and backgrounds. The healthy, friendly camaraderie on the UKWA Tour is mirrored at the centre and amongst the local community, providing the foundation for slalom and speed sailing to thrive. It’s an ode to the area’s heritage and past… but more importantly ensures the disciplines’ future in the sport. We’re proud to have nurtured young talent and have many of the recent national champs (in all three fleets) grow up with us. We set the goal back when the centre was established, and will continue to do the same for future generations.”

Last word for this month comes from our 2023 international fleet champion James Faley, who as you can see is fully frothing for the event: “Last year for me can only be described as stunning. It was so rewarding to see all my hard work finally pay off. For 2024, kicking off in Weymouth, I’m hoping to start off with another bang. With Weymouth being the UK’s premier windsurfing destination and my hometown, it means a lot to perform on the home stage. The events at Weymouth are always a hit, with the best facilities at the prestigious OTC, it promises to be a great time both on and off the water. I’m not only looking forward to the racing, but also the social side, catching up with all my friends and other competitors.

 I’m so proud and lucky to be part of such an amazing community where you can take the racing as seriously as you like. The events mean a lot to me and I’m pushing for the win.  It’s so inspiring to see so much talent coming through from non-windsurfing backgrounds and Olympic class sailors alike.  I love that at Weymouth you can properly see the racing, which makes it possible to watch and understand our beautiful format of racing.  There’s going to be a hive of activity going on with lots of different categories, so no matter where you are in your windsurfing journey this weekend promises to be a banger.”

The post 2024 UKWA: SEASON OPENER appeared first on Windsurf Magazine.

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