Paulo dos Reis: the hippie windsurfer | Photo: Sean Davis

The 2010 Starboard Severne US Windsurfing National Championships kicked off today, June 20th, under typical San Francisco weather. That translates to cold (a high of 61 degrees) and 20-25 mph of wind.


With four races of Formula Course Racing on the agenda for the day the Race Committee sent the racers on a simple windward leeward course that featured two laps, port roundings, and an upwind finish.

Just after setting the course the wind clocked around about 5 degrees to the south which set the fleet up for some intense, exciting, and even somewhat dangerous starts. As the wind clocks south here in San Francisco it favors the port tack start, and the right hand side of the course. 15 or so of the racers had that figured out from the beginning.

As the gun sounded for race one the breeze was gusting 18-22mph and there was still a trace of ebb tide on the course. The ebb tide in San Francisco moves against the wind direction and actually aids the racers making it to the windward mark albeit under slightly choppier water.

As the 15 or so port tackers converged on the bulk of the starboard starting fleet it was an intense spectacle to behold as the two fleets became interwoven while each were moving in excess of 20 knots. Unfortunately the weave was a bit tight in some places and some contact was made.

Top local racer Steve Sylvester (s3, 10.0 North, Mikes Lab L10) was the a victim as one of the port tackers left with no room for movement took Sylvester out resulting in a scrape to both his hand and board. Showing remarkable resilience Sylvester quickly recovered from being fouled and charged out to regain his place in the fleet.(pictured below Paolo dos Reis rounding the windward mark).

With top guns Paolo dos Reis (BRA-3333, 11.0 North, Diethelm Board) and Wilhelm Schurmann (BRA 999, 10.7 Neil Pryde, Starboard) both starting on starboard they would have an extra tack to make to overcome the port tackers but that’s just what they did. Australian Phil McGain (KA7, Maui Sails 10.0 XT, Starboard) was back on Formula gear after some time off focusing on Slalom Racing and Triathlons but his performance looked as though he had been training all year.

McGain had his kit simply smoking downwind and was able to make up yardage on each and every downwind leg. Paulo do Reis on the other hand was just simply the fastest upwind sailor on the course and as they say in racing “it’s won upwind” and that’s just what Paolo did in race one with McGain taking second and Miguel Marthino (POR-5, Neil Pryde) getting third.

Race two saw the wind freshen a bit now gusting to 25 mph but the lulls seemed to be a bit deeper as well just as the tide turned to near slack water. McGain simply nailed the start and never looked back. Dos Reis was doing all he could to reel him in while Schurmann found the speed he was missing in race one to get around Martinho and the top Bay Area racer Seth Besse (USA-64, North 9.5, JP Formula).

As dos Reis and McGain rounded the leeward mark for the last time dos Reis took a flyer and tacked back to shore while McGain sailed on to bang the corner. It was a mistake by dos Reis that only allowed McGain to extend his lead in what was to be the biggest delta of any finish on the day with McGain way out in front at the final gun. Schurmann took third while Besse improved on his 8th place finish in race 1 to finish 5th. If only Besse actually practiced the podium may have been his.

As the third race fired off dos Reis got a bit buried with Schurmann starting on starboard while McGain also had trouble getting off the line. Getting the hole shot was Aurlien Le Metayer (FRA-105, 10. 0 North, Mikes Lab L8) who had a near perfect start on port and was sailing away from the fleet in what looked like certain victory. As Le Metayer rounded the weather mark he was 20 seconds in front of his nearest competitor.

This day however was one in which riding the puffs downwind was critical. As Le Metayer headed in towards the shoreline he sailed in to a hole while both dos Reis and Schurmann (who was now on his 10.0) were lit and sailing far deeper in a nice puff on the inside of the course.

When Le Metayer jibed to make the leeward mark not only had his lead evaporated but both dos Reis and Schumann had passed him by. Leads they would not relinquish. They finished dos Reis, Schurmann, and Le Metayer in that order. Showing solid representation for the local fleet Seth Besse improved a place from race 2 and came in fourth.

As race 4 started the ebb had disappeared, and turned in to a 1.5 knot flood tide, while the wind held its speed over much of the course. Unfortunately the wind at the windward mark however became extremely unstable. With big shifts and even bigger holes many a sailor was caught double and even triple tacking to make the mark as they battled the changing winds and charging tide that was now pushing them away from the mark.

Both Schurmann and dos Reis again chose to start on starboard while McGain again chose port. By this time however the starboard starting sailors were getting the benefit of nice lift on the inside allowing them to sail a near perfect lay line to the windward mark. Despite a flawless start by McGain on port dos Reis was simply a man possessed and showing upwind speed that has him well on his way to being the 2010 US National Champion.

His race 4 bullet completed a scoring line of 1-2-1-1 on the day. While both Schurmann and McGain seem to be able to reel him in downwind they are going to need to find something extra to catch him upwind tomorrow. Race 4 wrapped up with dos Reis taking the win, Schurmann in second, and McGain in third.

Tomorrow’s tentative plans call for the racers to do two course races in the afternoon and then a long distance race that sends them on a 20 mile tour of San Francisco Bay. With the long distance counting as two races the results may shake up a bit tomorrow as open water speed will come more in to play. The skippers meeting is at 11am at Crissy Field with a first possible start at noon.

Source: Waterhound