Gales and tribulations for young windsurfers
Event two in the South
Near gale force winds battered Oxford's Farmoor Reservoir for the second round of the RYA South Zone Team 15 inter club windsurfing series on 16 June 2012, where competitors experienced some of the strongest wind conditions ever in the competition's 11 year history.
Sailors lined up for the first start and it looked like a close and exciting day’s racing was going to be had until the wind picked up even more. With the fleet flattened and scattered the sailors had great fun blasting about and making their way back to shore.
Event organiser Chris Lewis said: “Despite the howling wind the competitors were ready and keen to get afloat, testament to their ability, motivation and perhaps over exuberant ambition!”
Two sailors almost managed the whole course, and Oxford's Aoife Calnan and Axbridge’s Bethany Horsnell received Merit Awards for their outstanding efforts.
The girls were thrilled with their achievements in such extraordinary conditions, and Bethany's mother commented: "Bethany is thrilled to receive the Merit Award and it’s possibly one of the most encouraging experiences she's had to date. It’s been really hard today but the sailors have had a great time and its something they will remember forever!"
The extreme conditions prompted a variety of comments from the sailors and safety boat crews, including: "I have never been so drowned and wet in my life", That’s three anchors out now, why are we still moving?" and "I thought it was a big bird but its actually a techno rig in the sky."
With the winds failing to ease and despite a lot of blasting, wipe outs, swimming and cheering, most of the races had to be abandoned. It was left to the 6.8m techno fleet which managed to squeeze in one race to settle the outcome.
Out of 12 starters starters only two managed to complete the course. Axbridge Animal's Domonic Colwell-Hector finished second just behind fellow Axbridge sailor Jack Bassett to give the fleet and event win to Axbridge Animals, prizing the event trophy from the home team and favourites the Oxford Zoomers.
With racing abandoned it left the remaining teams in joint second place, keeping the championship wide open with everything to sail for when the teams head to round three in Axbridge next month.
Chris Lewis summed up the event: "I am proud and excited by what the competitors have been able to achieve, and the enjoyment they got from being out in exceptionally tough conditions. Credit to them, their coaches and their parents. The standard of ability we are seeing these days eclipses anything that has come before."
Supported by industry leaders Tushingham/Starboard and Neil Pryde, T15 was set up by the RYA to help make windsurfing more accessible and appealing to youngsters at a grass roots level.
Fun and informal training sessions take place at T15 clubs all over the country for kids up to the age of 15, which are run weekly by specialist RYA coaches.
The T15 inter-club championship takes place regionally over the summer adding a competitive edge and race training for those keen to hone their skills.
Kit can be borrowed from the clubs and the cost of sessions is kept low.
To get involved with Team15 and locate your nearest local club visit www.team15.org.uk or contact the RYA 0845 345 0400.