Last weekend (18-20 July) the Formula Windsurfing European Cup came to Leba, Poland joining Slalom and SUP Racing at the Lotto Windsurfing Cup event. It's great to see international windsurfing coming back to Poland after a 3 year break after those huge AllegroCup events stopped happening.
50 competitors from 8 European countries plus Australia showed up to compete in what happened to be pumping, classic Leba conditions. First day begun with 4 formula races in 20 knots of wind, rising swell, sun and thousands of people on the beach watching the sailors fly thru the unconventional "formula diamond" course. Those kind of races are super short (around 5 minutes) but also really really intense, with a lot of crashing, tacking in each other's way, long reaches with slalom-like action, jibing the marks etc. etc. Super good show for the crowds and super-challenging for us on the water!
As always - when it's challenging and tricky - Steve "sneaky kangaroo" Allen is the man to beat. So spot on with each and every little detail of the race, pretty amazing. So he took 3 out of 4 bullets that day leaving one to Michal Polanowski. I was right up there as well, but there always seemed to be something and kept ending around 3rd. Breathing down my neck were Sean O'Brien and Hubert Mokrzycki, so it all was lining up to be a 3 on 2 Polish-Aussie battle for the rest of the event. It was definitely 1-0 in catapults in favour of Poland, when I decided to throw myself over the handlebars so hard I went fully dizzy and my ears were ringing until the end of the day. Well that's what happens when you're on a 10.7 and a meter-wide board in 20 knots and head-high waves and trying to sheet in to overtake somebody on a reach to the finish line.
Later we quickly switched to slalom as the wind and swell was increasing. The committee went for a show again and set up a beach start and beach finish with the jibing marks being like 10 meters away from dry sand as well. Yet again Steve proved to be the man to beat simply flying out of the beach and getting onto the plane before even his feet stepped onto the board. I guess 20 years of PWA experience ain't exactly for nothing, specially that they used to run those beach starts back in the day. So how am I supposed to compete with that? Well, I was just a touch quicker in straight line and not that bad on my jibes, so I could give him a hard time and that's exactly what I was doing.
Behind us was Polanowski pushing harder than ever. Too hard at times, i.e when he wanted to land a huge unintentional jump planing and catapulted on the landing, or catapulted almost into me when getting to the shore (we had to step off, grab the kit and run across the line). All in all super exciting racing and the forecast said it was just the beginning.
The following morning greeted us with even more wind and even more swell. Proper wavesailing conditions, so slalom was on again. First final of the day I managed to grab a bullet, closely followed by Steve, but then the wind started dropping again and getting inconsistent close to the shore again and AGAIN the kangaroo was just hopping out of the startline and over the shorebreak and claimed another 2 bullets to take the event.
The last day of the event the wind was already backing off and teasing with a 10 knot onshore breeze, but the waves were even bigger, so formula racing was lining up to be ultra-intense. This time a more classic, still short and dynamic course was set. And yet again we all did battle, but Steve was the one to come out on top in 2 out of 3 races and had 2 trophies in his pocket.
The wind completely disappeared for the afternoon so we switched to SUP racing which was also a part of the event. And guess who won? Yeah, you're right - that bloody Aussie was starting perfectly off the beach and effortlessly riding the waves back on the way in. Triple-crown for Stefek, who already won 5 times in Leba before. I guess we gotta work harder to snatch at least one discipline out of his hands.
Anyways, the event was great. The conditions were pumping, we put on a good show for the public, the closing and beachparty afterwards was up to Polish standards and only if you see it you’ll believe it - couldn't really imagine a better comeback of international windsurfing to Leba. Let's hope it lasts and grows, who knows - maybe we'll see a World Cup here one day? Fingers crossed!
Maciek Rutkowski POL-23
(Burn energy drink, Patrik, Point-7, Unifiber, Quiksilver, Sylt-Brands)
Results: Slalom / FW / SUP