Friday, March 19, 2010

Sailing on Mars: Getting Ready for the Formula Worlds in Mendoza, Argentina

Sailing on Mars: Getting Ready for the Formula Worlds in Mendoza, Argentina

My first international Formula event is shaping up to be really interesting. Like all events in remote locations, only the more dedicated professionals show up. Logistical complications, funding, and the timing of getting new equipment are all a detriment to travelling sailors who don’t windsurf for a living, no matter how good they are. The challenging aspects of this venue aren’t in fact the sailing itself, but how to get around, where to live, and the crazy journey it is to fly here.

It seems everyone has had some flight drama. My flight stopped for 12 hours overnight in Buenos Aires, and I had to switch to another airport and re-check my gear. This was accomplished by taking the gear to a hotel overnight, and getting a ride to the next airport in the wee hours of the morning. However, this was not the worst flight by far. A few Polish sailors were stuck in Rome for 37 hours, and Marta, the 2009 Formula World Champion from Poland, had to circle Santiago, Chile in the air for three hours while the country experienced a second minor earthquake! Flights are not the only complication, as the regatta venue, Lake Potrerillos, is in a very remote mountain location 50 km from Mendoza, the nearest city. If you want food, you had better have a car, or commute 100 km round trip to the lake every day by bus. Luckily, I found a place with the Polish sailors in a cabin on the mountain 10 km from the lake (and we have a car!). We don't have internet, so updates may be sporadic, with no pictures.

Apart from the logistics, Lake Potrerillos is incredible. The lake sits at an altitude of over 1,000 meters and it is 1,800 meters deep (no need to worry about hitting a fin on a sandbar here). It is surrounded by the Andes Mountains, which are incredibly dry and reddish. It is almost like sailing in a desert, with absolutely nothing around you but mountains and blowing red dust. It blows a gusty 12-17 knots every day with extremely flat water, water so clean you can fill your water bottle straight from the lake.

The other interesting and challenging aspect of the venue is the dust. The dust from the fluffy dirt beach and cliffs blows everywhere, and it is really tough on the equipment. Competitors keep the equipment in a big tent, which is quite far from the launch so that you have to prep everything on the beach and be really organized. Flying dirt covers everything, and it is a lot of work to keep the gear mostly clean.

Aside from the peculiarity of the venue, sailors are training as normal and really having fun in the optimal conditons. At this regatta, the fleet size is smaller than a normal world championship, but the level is very high as most of the pros are attending. Only a few girls are racing here (4), but they are all talented sailors from Europe (however, only 4 girls means no prize money!). The organizers may race our fleet with the men, which will be difficult but good training. I am getting faster in the flat conditions and am feeling pretty confident about my sailing. To most of the international sailors, I have unusual equipment. I’ve already fielded lots of questions about my Mike’s Lab custom board and KA Sails.

The Formula Worlds will be an interesting regatta, and all the sailors are happy about racing in this unique venue from another planet. I’m looking forward to testing my gear against the fastest and most experienced sailors in the world.


  1. How do they set the marks when the lake is that deep?

  2. Cool post! Good luck, and be careful about that "filling your water bottle right from the lake" stuff.

  3. Hi Jon,

    They have preset marks with loads of line. If they have to change it, they cut the line. This is how they do it in Lake Garda in Northern Italy.