Indoors 2005 - Ladies report

Louise Emery and Ruth Elliot line up for slalom. I decided to enter this year while watching the show last year – it was all so exciting and I really could not believe this was happening in London for one thing and not confined to PWA for another. No other country can boast a National Indoor Windsurfing event! I remember watching the vids of Robby Naish, Robert Teritehau etc at Bercy (what’s with Robert’s and windsurfing?) and could only have dreamt of even having a go, yet here was an opportunity to actually compete!

So, a year on and we all congregated at a chilly warehouse behind Excel, for the first practice session and qualifying rounds. As at most events, there was the ubiquitous issue of lack of wind, but as this one was mechanical not meteorological only took an hour to get it sorted…

Louise Emery gybes. A few of the usual suspects were missing – Sonia made the tough decision to stay in Cape Town and Charlie in Barbados, Camilla is now becoming a high flying lawyer so was barred (sorry…). A nice neat 8 of us were there: last years Champ, Ruth Elliott, plus Louise Emery, Lucy Horwood, Becky Ellis, Lucy Robson, Amy Carter, Jilly Bromley and myself, Caroline Radway. We were all pretty nervous, especially those of us who hadn’t done it last year. I was convinced the ramp would be a nightmare – last year bottoms and dignity were bruised but a bigger gap before the fans and ramp meant this year it was no problem at all. To make up for it, the wind was fiercer! I only had a 5.4 and Skate 111 combo and had thought it would be too small but it was way too much! We had 3 practice runs each and most of us ended up crashing into the end of the pool at least once – certainly no gybing on the cards, but then neither were the guys. That took the pressure off a bit – if they couldn’t then we weren’t going to look too stupid for not getting round.

Most people went to re-rig before the qualifiers (I had no other kit with me!) and we watched the guys crashing and burning which was actually quite satisfying!! Then we had 3 runs each – the fastest of the 3 determining whether we qualified or not. I did one good run which would have seen me about 4th but that was disqualified as the judges deemed that I had ‘deliberately crashed’! I think they should have had a go – I really had no choice in the matter as the 40 knot gust hit me, but nevermind. Lucy Robson surprised everyone including herself by hurtling down the pool and back in the fastest time – was she going to prove a threat to the reigning champ? This was going to prove an interesting contest!

A week later I returned for a pre-work windsurfing session – better than the usual gym session that’s for sure! A smile on my face all day at work knowing I had been sailing (even if it was only 3 runs in a pool on a terrible sail…). Some people had had practice sessions the week before and others went different days so not all of us were there. And that was it, until the real thing on Thursday! We were all pretty gutted not to have had more time in the pool – the guys were getting better and better with quite a bit of practice and we had not progressed as much as we could have done given the chance. Ruth, Lucy and Helen (Cartright – a late entrant) all managed to pull off gybes in practice sessions at some point, but we all would have liked more time to ensure we had the right kit and then get to practice on it properly before doing it in front of an audience!

On Thursday we had a whole 2 runs down the pool first thing then a day of seriously stressing (in my case, anyway!). Watching the guys made me so nervous – the lights, the screen showing your every move (and inch) in big screen, plus the commentary – and not to mention the audience! At least they were still falling off gybes and getting stuck in the lulls too… I was a bit concerned that my 5.4 would be too big – although in theory going big should equal going faster being totally overpowered obviously slows you down as you try to control it – and the key was a swift turn, or in most cases, a swift and neat crash, a speedy rig recovery and lightning waterstart! Finally we were all rashied up and ready to go and actually I felt a lot more chilled now the waiting was over.

Off we went, one by one, and our times were shown on screen but we had no idea how we were doing. Man on man would have been good the whole way as you have something specific to beat – time trials are just a bit hard to gauge – although you do know full well when you mess up! Louise looked pretty glum as she came off the water but I was sure she had got through. Ruth was a dead cert in my view – all along she had looked in control and even comfortable in the pool, despite the odd crash. Helen’s racing skills and steely determination got her into the semi’s along with Becky Ellis. I was more concerned about the fact that I had stood on the ramp waiting to start for a fair old while and the camera was pointing at by butt! I couldn’t believe it when I turned around to see said derriere amplified unnecessarily on the big screen! The trauma of that far surpassed not making the finals for me. Lucy Robson was gutted, after her promising qualifying time, and Lucy Horwood must have hoped for a final spot – unfortunately it didn’t happen this time but she was definitely in the running. I don’t think she minded too much though – after all she has another 3 days of it with the PWA!

The first semi saw Helen and Becky racing man to man in a sudden death situation – the tension was fierce but Helen took it. The second semi was Ruth and Louise – an extremely competitive pair from the same home beach, Rhosneigr. Ruth won it despite having a severe bout of car-park / pool flu (a bug going round the sailors) and left Helen and Ruth to replay last year’s final and battle it out to the end! A stunning sail from the undisputed Indoor Queen meant that Ruth maintained her crown, and more importantly, can leave work a month sooner thanks to the prize money!

I was so pleased to have sailed in the pool – it really was so much fun! Next year I hope we get more time to practice and would be good if it was (wo)man on (wo)man the whole way through but other than that it was awesome fun and a great experience. Thanks to Trevor / Fred etc for bringing it to the UK in the first place and to everyone for all the effort put in. The crew had the thankless task of working all day to see it run smoothly and despite the ear-protectors their heads are surely going to be reverberating from the fans for weeks!

- Caroline Radway

Caroline is sponsored by: Specialised Sailing (Arrows and Fanatic from 604 distributions), Windsurfing Hawaii, Hythe Marina Watersports, and Team SurfKraft.