- 12 February 2009 | Windsurfing
The International Raceboard Class, which has been in a gradual decline for many years because of the manufacturers’ reluctance to produce any longboards and because of their concentration on Formula and Hybrid boards, has now received a major shot in the arm with the appearance of the Starboard Phantom 380.
At last the industry has realised that the concept of the longboard, which probably reached a peak of technical development in the 1990’s, can provide more racing for a wider spectrum of ages, sizes and abilities in a wider range of conditions, both on the sea and inland, than anything else yet invented. A totally new board, the Starboard Phantom has been embraced by longboarders who have been patching up their old Megacats, F2s and Mistral Equipe IIs for more years than they care to remember. The first Phantoms appeared in the UK in the late summer of 2008 and their owners have started to learn how best to sail them and take advantage of their early planing characteristics and upwind capability. They have compared well with the old boards which are still around but no doubt after the owners of the Phantoms have tweaked their technique they will go even faster.
Admittedly there have been a few teething troubles - Starboard have never produced a classic raceboard design so they had a lot of learning to do - but the bugs have been ironed out and the debugged boards will explode onto the scene at the first raceboard events in 2009. However, Starboard will not have the field to themselves as Mistral have at last come out of the shadows and produced an Equipe III which is expected early in the new season and in view of Mistral’s experience with longboard design, looks certain to provide a stern challenge.
Even the sailmakers have not been idle, Tushingham, whose 9.5 Lightning has been one of the favourite sails for Raceboard use have developed a new sail which is intended to compete at the bottom end of the wind range with the hard to catch Demons, whilst retaining the incredible flexibility and “get up and go” characteristics of the Lightning range.
The new boards and sails have received some stern testing at the hands of Raceboard heroes such as Rob Kent and Chris Gibson, and even Nik Baker has been involved, displaying some fantastic longboard skills in his role in the development of the Equipe III.
This new interest from manufacturers has received a very favourable reaction from the UK longboard fraternity, and with promises of assistance and co-operation from Tushingham who also import Starboard, and Mistral themselves, a UK Raceboard Class Association has been formed under the chairmanship of Rob Kent, with LWA Chairman Paul Robinson as Secretary. The aim of the Association is of course to breathe new life into the Raceboard scene in the UK especially by encouraging and promoting the Class within the framework of the UKWA’s national and regional events. Particular targets for the new Association are youngsters who are graduating from the Techno fleet and need a board which they can sail both inland and on the sea, and former raceboarders whose kit is in the garage, but is still competitive.
The first major Raceboard event of 2009 will be the UKWA Inland Series Event 1 which takes place at Pitsford Reservoir near Northampton on Sat 25 and Sun 26 April, closely followed by the first UKWA Cup Event at Weymouth over the Bank Holiday weekend, 2/3/4 May. Tushingham/Starboard and Mistral have promised prizes for all Raceboard entrants at both events and the scene is now set for a revival of the longboard! The Raceboard Youth and Masters World Championships, which are being held in Weymouth from 22 - 29 August this year, should provide a further major boost to the Class.
The UK Raceboard Class now has its own website which is gradually being developed at and the UK windsurfing press, in the shape of Mark Kasprowicz of Windsurf magazine has lent his enthusiastic support to the new venture.