Sunday, August 1, 2010

Maui Race Series State Championships: a racer's view - 60 Days of Summer Day 23

26 years ago (in 1984) the first Maui Race Series champions were being crowned. If you are old enough and were windsurfing at that time cast your mind back to what it was like in those defining years. I still have windsurfing magazines from 1984 (I was 7 years old); the iconic images of Robby Naish, Mike Waltz, Pete Cabrina and many more of that era inspired me and began to mould my future path. I was 18 when I put my academic career on hold, sold all my race gear and bought a ticket to Hawaii. I owe a debt of gratitude to those early pioneers just as the sport of windsurfing owes a debt of gratitude to the organisers of events and competitions around the world. Without event organisers there would be no stages for our champions to be born and publicized. I want to publically thank the Maui Race Series organisers and volunteers for their hard work, it was hell out there at times today and it took grit to get through the races, imagine how horrid it was on the start boat and this is Hawaii, people do it in Denmark, in Scotland and many other cold and wild places just so that we can race, jump and spin in front of the cameras. I also want to thank the sponsors of the series and all companies who have sponsored events in the past here and around the world, without this cash injection it just would not be possible. I am sure that association with such an amazing sport is beneficial to these companies so it is a win-win situation.

Some last minute advice is always good. You can see the flag order clearly writting on my arm so that I didn't forget! Picture courtesy of Jimmie Hepp

This post will concentrate on my experiences today and reflect on where my racing career might go from here. For an article about the whole event and all the results check out The Maui News - Double honors for McGain, Roediger.

The alarm sounded at 7am this morning and it took a period of total concentration for the next ten and a half hours to ensure that I was: prepared, rigged, at briefing, at the start line, ate food, drank water, changed sails, changed fins, completed races, de-rigged, packed my gear, attended the after party at Neil Pryde and finally drive safely home! I didn’t stop for a moment and had very little time to actually step back and ponder what was going on, I didn’t even notice the results to other divisions or races, how others were doing, barely had time to say two words to Liz who was gallantly supporting and assisting all day (Thank you xx). It was great to see baby Jack turn up to support his uncle on his first trip to the beach and I am sure that he will become a regular feature of the Kanaha and Ho’okipa car parks in future years. I did manage to grab my helmet cam for a couple of heats so that you can experience what it was like out there.

The Maui Race Series is split in two parts; first up it is age groups then in the afternoon it is mixed up into ability groups each section has four races with one discard and prizes are awarded for both. This format is excellent but some sailors do feel the strain and there tends to be a few less survivors on the start line in the afternoon (especially today with the brutal conditions). The quick running heats are extremely efficiently organised and a total of 44 heats were run in 4 hours of racing.

My camp during the pre-race set up. Picture courtesy of Jimmie Hepp

Nervous, yes extremely nervous is the best way to describe how I had been feeling in the run up to the event. I knew that I had put a lot into it over the last couple of weeks, I knew that I had been absent from racing for a long time, I knew that I had been writing about in online, I knew that lots of people have been reading about my adventures… the list goes on, lets just say I was nervous! I was pleased and sort some comfort into the fact that my logistical preparation had gone well and I had a very calm set up in the morning although the changeable wind made equipment choice critical and had many scratching their heads a little. Before long I was sat on the beach upwind of the start with just 5 minutes to go with a bunch of other racers. My nerves were calmed a great deal when Matt (Wicks) joined me (we races together from age 13 to 18 I think) and his cheerful words made me feel at home.

To the start, well I have been practicing so was a bit confident but the strong winds of up to 40mph+ of the last couple of days had made it extremely choppy with some rolling waves out to sea so setting up was rather hard. Two minute count downs go extremely quickly and all of a sudden I was crossing the line with the pack sprinting to the first mark at full speed and within just a few minutes I was crossing the finish line just behind Matt and in 8th place (out of 10). Wow that was quick, I knew that my hesitation on the turns had cost me a few places but I was so pleased not to have embarrassed myself and completed the first race.

End of Race # 1, Matt wins this one. Picture courtesy of Jimmie Hepp

During the set up for the second race I was concerned that a heap of the other sailors seemed to be way ahead, was I late? But, as we came within ten seconds of the flag it was clear that a number of sailors were over early and would be disqualified. Matt and I were again side by side, I led to start but my lacklustre gybes let him through and I was playing catch up. After 3 minutes with the throttle on full we both crossed the line within 15 feet of each other, that was so much fun! I thought I was in trouble with the officials as one came running down the beach screaming at me, luckily all he wanted was my name!

The end of race #2, maxed on a 6.0m. Picture courtesy of Jimmie Hepp  

The wind had increased and I just had time to change down to a 5.5m but didn’t have time to change the fin. Liz handed me the helmet cam and I dashed off to the start, you only get about 5 minutes before you need to get back upwind to the start area. The start was amazing, I think I reached the first mark in fourth but once again the turns were causing me trouble and I slipped to eighth by the end.

This is mens 19-39 age group race # 3 including the pre-race countdown. A good start but it goes wrong!

With the wind still maxing out at 40 mph on the course I stayed with the 5.5. Not such a great start but again I was right up there at the start before drifting down the pack after a series of poor gybes, I couldn’t understand why my corners were so bad on race day after being so good in practice. I was certainly playing it too safe. With some disqualifications I ended up with a sixth place in this race so it turned out to be a good result.

I didn’t stay for the final prize giving and results so it was only later I got to read the full results and much to my surprise I came 5th overall in the 19 to 39 division and in that second race where a few people were over early I WON! My results were 8th, 1st, (8th discarded) and 6th = 14.7 points. Consistency and start discipline had really paid off and I am really pleased because this was one of my major weaknesses as a teenage racer. I only wish I had known these results before going into the afternoon as it would have given me confidence to push a little harder.

I think this is the start of 19-39 Race # 2, you can just see me in the middle behind the white North.

After a short lunch break where I spent much of my time adjusting my 5.5 to cope with the increasing wind only for the wind to drop down and me have to switch back to the 6.0m! I did get some much needed rest back at my base camp, having a good race day camp is so important and I always try to get out of my wet gear whenever possible, the longer you are in wet clothes, wetsuits etc. the more energy drains out of you.

For the afternoon I had signed up for the Expert division and the increasing wind, swell and rain made for torturous conditions but it reminded me of racing in Denmark at the 1994 Youth World Championships and I was relatively comfortable. With even less time between heats in the afternoon there was barely time to catch your breathe before you had to be on your way to the start boat. The wind picked up some more and I could see more coming upwind. I just had enough time to change down to the 5.5 again and change the fin before the third race. Again my turns were letting me down but my speed was good between the marks. With better turns maybe I could have won the division but I ended up third with a 1st, 3rd, 3rd and 3rd (Discard) = 6.7 points. Again I didn’t realise that I had won the first race until later when I realised that Bernd was over early. As I rounded the final mark I started to reflect on the whirlwind of a day and smiled but was a little sad that it was all over and I would have to wait until next year to race again.

This is the Expert group  race # 3 including the pre-race countdown. Too many mistakes, really over powered on 5.5m.

Max 100m speed of 29.95knots during the races.

So where to go from here? I am certainly keen to continue with racing for fun and aim to compete in a few Maui Race Series events next year. In a month I will be leaving Maui and going back to Bahrain for a number of months and I will be sure to take some slalom kit with me because the conditions are perfect there to train. I had luckily borrowed virtually all the gear used from Hot Sails Maui and Tom and to compete in the future I will have to get some boards and order sails, booms, bases etc. This is expensive but with careful planning I am sure that I can reduce the cost a lot. Slalom racing is fun and my advise to any budding racer is prepare, get your practice in and get signed up, if you approach it with the right attitude you will enjoy yourself and your sailing with improve immeasurably. Now that this challenge has been completed it is time for me to start my next. Check back tomorrow for more info about my next mini-challenge!

Sailing record STILL 100%

More to follow…


  1. great story, I like the footage and the GPS map. How many miles did you end up sailing?

  2. Hi Chris,

    Glad you are enjoying the blog, it has been great fun writing and always good to hear that your efforts are worthwhile.

    Despite all the races you don't actually sail for that long and my total distance was only 69km. Later in the month I will take the GPS out for the day and see how long I can stay out and get a massive total distance. I am interested to compare to a day at hookipa so will try that as well.