Sunday, January 3, 2016

United Speedsailors of America

Jamaica has a bob sled team, and the US has a speedsurfing team: the United Speedsurfers of America. The name reflects how the team was formed - by merging the "West Coast Speedsters" team with the "Fogland Speedsurfers". Regular readers of this blog may be aware of how our Fogland Speedsurfers team has bravely fought for years to not land on the last place in the monthly rankings at the GPS Team Challenge. We had several fast guys on our team who have reached 35 knots (40 mph, 65 km/h), but they don't sail a lot. The windsurfers who do sail a lot are much slower; some of them are simply more interested in freestyle than in speed. The main reason that the Fogland Speedsurfers were not in the bottom ranks most months was that the GPS Team Challenge includes two "distance" categories - total distance sailed in a day, and 1 hour average. Turns out that you can cover more distance in 6 hours of freestyle than most speedsurfers will cover in a day. I think holding on to these huge speed sails while standing on tiny itsy bitsy speedboards is just too exhausting...
I love the GPS Team Challenge, because you can compete with teams from all over the world, with new ratings every months. Strap on a GPS, and give you back-and-forth sailing a meaning! Cool. You can even learn new stuff by from the better sailors on your team, and discover new windsurf spots (after countless hours on Google Earth). Our team was not really competitive on the international scale, but we did have a bit of a competition with the West Coast Speedsters. They had a few very fast guys, but not good avenues for long distance. So it was a close fight over the past 4 years, ending with 2 years won by each team.

Did I mention that the West Coast Speedsters had a few really fast guys? Several of their team members have broken the magical 40 knots barrier, and their team member Boro has set several national records for Croatia during his trips to Lüderitz. His top speed was 51.16 knots!
Boro at the Lüderitz Speed Channel
Since Boro was backed up by Roo, who posted a top speed of 42.49 knots the same day from the Gorge, the West Coast Speedsters held the #1 spot in the top speed categories (2 second peak and 5x10 second average) in October 2015. That same month, the Fogland Speedsurfers were ranked #5 in the 1 hour category, and #8 for distance. That immediately brought up the idea to join the two teams - we'd actually have a shot of a top-10 spot in the overall monthly rankings every now and then!

So with help from the nice folks at the GPSTC, we combined the two teams for 2016, and the United Speedsailors of America were born. The team has 27 members, which might seem like a lot; but the vast majority of the team members posts results only a few times a year. The reasons vary,  but prime culprits are regular jobs that interfere with windsurfing; lack of wind or suitable conditions (read: flat water); health issues; and a combination of these and other factors. On most windy days, we have only a couple of windsurfers posting results; a day with 5 posts is the exception. To get two of our fast guys onto the water on the same day is even rarer - here's a picture from a day when Dean and Bart sailed together for the first time after several years on the team:
For comparison, let's look at Australia. Speedsurfing is much more popular there - they have plenty of great speedsurfing spots, and the GPS Team Challenge originates there. The GPSTC site shows 29 Australian teams. Some of them, for example the Tassie Speed Seekers, have more than 50 members, and it is not unusual to have 10 team members posting results for the same day. In comparison, the United Speedsailors of America team is still small! We try to compensate with an extra dose of enthusiasm, though :-).
Today looked like a great day to post the first results of the year - warm (45ºF/7ºC), sunny, and wind in the mid-20s. Nina and I sailed at Kalmus, and were joined by about 6 other windsurfers - quite a crowd for a January session! Tides were not as low as hoped-for, and WSW wind created plenty of chop, making this a bump & jump instead of a speed session (except for Nina, who of course did here usual freestyle, which included her first Duck Tack of the year). But speed or no speed, it was sure nice to get out on a warm and sunny day!

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