Speed week has become an institution with windsurfers since the early eighties when the longest running speed event on the planet let them play on the hallowed ground of Portland Harbour. Since then it has had its ups and downs in popularity but the spirit has not changed and it's definitely on a high.
Even in today's tough economic climate it still draws a big 120+ entry list, from big hitters all over Europe to the novice Speed week virgin and in between the cream of speed sailors from the UK all out to prove how fast they are. Of course the whacky boats and Kiters enrich the mix. Its popularity is helped by the fact that under the umbrella of Speedweek, it is the host to the UKWA Speed championships, the BKSA kite championships and this year for the first time it is the venue for the final leg of the ISWC European Speed Windsurfing tour.
The only disappointment, the weekend wind was light (6 to 8 knots) which is when the youth fleet compete. They still went out and did well; mainly on Techno's the T15 weapon of choice. Boardwise a sponsor of the event also put up a youth racing harness for the fastest Techno to add a bit of spice. The winners in the Tushingham Youth fleet and some great prizes were 1st Andrew Robinson 14.03 k, 2nd Seb Round 13.93 (and fastest Techno), 3rd Henry Bloodworth. Considering the strength of the wind some pretty amazing speeds.
UKWA had 34 entrants this year for the Spartan Wetsuits UKWA Speed Trophy and racing was close. Kevin Greenslade took the top spot for a second year on the trot ahead of speed specialist from Guernsey Martin Ogier in 2nd place and Ant Baker hoping for a Speed and Slalom double had to settle for third. Zara Davis won for the ladies and a creditable 10th overall.
Speedweek also crowned a new ISWC King and Queen of European speed in David Garrel and Zara Davis. The tour took place all over Europe starting in the south of France, Sweden, Germany and finished in the UK on the legendary Weymouth Speed strip. The women's European fleet was dominated by Zara who missed the 1st event but convincingly won all the remaining three including the UK, to take the Women's European Speed title for a second time.
The men's European fleet was far from decided however. The title could have been claimed by no less than five riders. The favourite was Thorsten Mallon from Germany who led the tour since the second event and only needed 2nd place to win overall. The other contenders were Patrick Van Hoof from Belgium, two Swedes Anders Bjorkqvist and Daniel Borgelind and the Dark horse lying in 5th place, sailing for Luxembourg, David Garrel.
With no wind for the first two days the tension was building with the promise of wind on day two, three and four. David Garrel stamped his authority from the start of the strong winds with a clear win on day three but Thorsten taking second place he was still in the lead overall. David was again on form on day four but Thorsten was beaten into fourth place by Martyn Ogier from Guernsey in second and Patrick in third. This now put Thorsten in third overall and he could see the title slipping away. He needed a win, but it was not to be. Despite moderate winds on day five it was not strong enough to get a counting round, and light winds on the last two days the event and the European Crown went to David Garrel by a very narrow 2.7 points!
But speed week is not just about the stars, the amateurs make up the vast majority of entrants and rightly get the lion's share of the great prizes on offer from Simmer and Mistral. Again over twenty windsurfing speed week virgins entered in the fun all vying to win a fantastic coaching holiday put up by the Baker academy. This year won by Will Trossel.
For full results list go to the speed week website http://www.speedsailing.com/
As this year's event drew to a close the organisers were busy planning next year's event which is a milestone in its history, its 40th anniversary. Intended activities are a retro day so don't ebay that 70's board and sail just yet and getting some of the stars from yesteryear to make an appearance.
Finally thanks to the sponsors of the event: Simmer, Mistral, Baker Academy, Neilson, Boardwise, Fanatic, North, Ion, Natural Design, AYRS, OTC, Pura Vida, Spartan, Tushingham,Windtek, Black Project Fins, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, Weymouth Sail Sports, Weymouth Water Sports, www.gps-speed.com, www.gps-speed.co.uk, www.shop4leatherman.co.uk And their chosen Charity, Windsurfing 4 Cancer Research