Narrabeen Downwind - straight line not always the best line

By Jim on Monday, May 3, 2010

Round 4 of the LG Bing Lee Ocean Series was contested on Saturday 14 November with competitors and organisers delighted to see the wind gods whipping up near perfect conditions.

Despite the solid North-Easter that greeted paddlers it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Competitors had to negotiate a solid headwind for the first kilometer, around Barrenjoey Headland, and then some testing side chop until Whale Beach.

Very few competitors took the same line as they rounded Barrenjoey Headland, with Tony Schumacher and extreme example taking a sharp left and heading approximately 3kms out to sea in search of the perfect line – a move that saw him come home with a wet sail in the closing stages.

Murray Stewart and Nathan Smith took a more conservative line and worked the runners perfectly down the coast. The trick for all competitors, regardless of ability, was to find just the right distance to head out to sea to make the most of the tailwind.

All paddlers found the first 5km tough but from there it was all downhill or downwind in this case. “That was one of the more enjoyable ocean races I have competed in recently – it was a lot of fun from 5km onwards,” said womens winner and experienced ocean racer Kirsty Holmes.

An important lesson to be learnt from the race is to make sure you let the ocean do the work and don't try and pull your way down the 20km course. Ask the seasoned campaigners and they will tell you the most important aspect of downwind racing is to keep your boat speed up with a fast stroke rate and let the runners do the work.

Another lesson that can be learnt from Saturday's race is what is the ideal line to take in these type of conditions! It is hard to say what is wrong and what is right but its important to try and use the runners to cut back out to sea and ensure you do not end up to close to the shore and miss your finishing point - practice this everytime you paddle.

A good training tip is to pick a marker that you will head towards and practice surfing left and right towards that mark. You will finish in a different position every time but the more you practice this the better you will become.   

To get some more inside tips from the experts check out our first Podcast on Chasing Runners.

Meanwhile check out another great video of the race from Rambos

Narrabeen Downwind - Ocean Series Race 4 mk2 from Ocean Sports Media on Vimeo.