Slalom was the most popular form of high-wind sailing in the 80's and early 90's, but the discipline gradually declined due to the very complex equipment quiver needed to stay at top level in various conditions and wind speeds. To race in the PWA (Professional windsurfers Association) events you are allowed to register 2 boards, 4 sails and unlimited fins. With this variety of equipment allowed it has opened up the wind range capabilities of the class with races being held in as light as 12knots all the way up to 40knots. This sport can become very expensive though due to the amount of equipment needed to be competitive. Most of the top racers are fully sponsored by industry companies that want their brands to win, hence the development of this class has come a long way in the past few years.
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| Photo credit: Neil Pryde|| |
The thrill of board speed of over 30knots, high speed jybes and close encounters among the competitors makes slalom one of the most exciting spectator sports because the racing is often commentated being so close to the shore.
Slalom is purely down wind racing in an M like course, the amount of marks is up to the race committee and the course area, often with a 3 minute starting sequence with knock out heats, semi finals, and a final system, only allowing 8 boards to race at one time. The races usually only last about 6 minutes which places more emphasis on getting a good start to increase the chance of being in first position at the first buoy, with fast clean jybes and speed very important aspects to winning races.
| ||Photo credit: Neil Pryde|
Boards usually range between 85 litres and 150 litres. It is up to the individual sailor to choose the sizes that suit their body size and style the best. This allows men that are 120kg to be competitive with 80kg guys by just taking a larger board and sail in the same strength of wind.
Sail areas range between 4.5m and 10.0m. Most companies have sails stepping up in range every half a metre to ensure that you have the best chance of being competitive in every condition. If the wind forecast for the regatta time period is going to be strong then competitors won’t register anything bigger than a 7.2m sail and step the sizes down from there. For a light wind event it is likely sails registered would be 10m, 9m, 8m and 7m.
Fins are very important for control, speed, and stability when going at such speed. There is much development that also goes into slalom fins by all the team riders to ensure they have the best fin for their size, and board/sail combination.
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| Photo credit: John Carter|| |
Special mention to www.formulawindsurfing.org, www.rsxclass.com, www.neilpryde.com, www.f2surf.com and www.windsurfing-academy.com for some of the information and pictures on this page.