Leba, Poland -July 30, 2008 - I recently finished some intensive training with the Polish Olympic Windsurfing Team. Their top two sailors are on their way to Qingdao, China, and for the rest of us, it’s time for a little fun. After a couple days’ break, the rest of the team and I rallied for the Formula Allegro Cup.
For us Olympic-class sailors, Formula is a great opportunity to cross-train with different equipment, and to enjoy some "easy" racing (i.e. only planing races). You’ll see the best Polish RS:X sailors racing right up there next to the international, professional Formula sailors, although minus the state-of-the-art, newest Formula kit. For the pros, it is a taste of how good Olympic-class sailors are, and for us, it’s a chance to see the other, more exciting and less intense side of windsurfing.
The Allegro Cup is a huge regatta held every year in Leba, Poland, a resort town on the Baltic situated on a wide, white sand beach. The Allegro Cup is basically a big promotional event for Allegro.pl, which is the Polish version of EBay. The organizers have a huge tent, a stage, logoed vehicles driving around, and thousands of flags staked everywhere. In addition, you gotta put on your sail the biggest bright orange sponsor stickers you’ve ever seen.
The regatta is basically a weeklong party with the Formula sailors as the stars of the show. There is a film and art festival as well as DJs and live bands every night. Although the party is serious, the racing is serious as well. The regatta has the dual title of Formula European Championship. All the pros are here, and behind the scenes is the hard-core Polish race committee whose style I know from all the local regattas. All in all it’s an event completely in the Polish style: race hard, party hard, ignore the bad weather.
Luckily for us, the weather has been incredibly good. So good in fact, that today there was not a cloud in the sky…and not a breath of wind. For me it was a good chance to catch up on the organization of my equipment (scrounging for parts) and take a nap.
Logistics became very complicated the morning before coming to Leba. At 5:30 am. I went outside to make sure my car would start. A couple turns of the key, a few coughs and sputters, and the car finally decided that it would not go to Leba with me. That meant some fast organization. After a few phone calls, I had a ride to Leba with my Formula equipment, which I am renting from my friend Piotr. Unfortunately the ride was leaving about four hours later than I wanted. I re-packed everything, stuffing all my wetsuits, tools, and camping gear inside my duffel with my clothes. I then dragged everything to the bus stop down a big hill.
After waiting 15 minutes for the bus, I was silently thankful that I have one of the earlier stops on the line, because at each stop about 20 more Polish people got on the bus until we were all squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder, breathing down each other’s necks. The good weather meant that the inside of the bus was about 95 degrees. After 20 minutes, we arrived at my stop…and then the half-hour walk to the club dragging the suitcase…and I was ready to pack the equipment.
Piotr and I went through his gear and pulled out his Formula board, a fin, a mast, 9.5 RS:X sail, and boom. I threw it all fast into another kid’s van, and away we went. It was early evening when we arrived so the time was spent finding a place to camp, and looking over the equipment. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, it was apparent that a bunch of small but vital parts were missing. The next morning was a frantic scrambling to find all the parts. I ended up writing a list of who I borrowed what from…and it read something like this:
• Front fin screw and washer: Natalia
• Rear fin screw and washer: That Czech guy with the big trailer
• Footstrap: Steve Bodner
• Screw and washer for footstrap: Max
• Clip for boom end: Max’s friend
• Acetone: The cute Lithuanian guy
• Marker: That British guy on the race committee.
And so forth…. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to use all that borrowed gear tomorrow.