Windsurf In The City

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SUP Mammoth Blog

That was some day we had on Sunday! For those of you that want to go straight to the results, see the end of this article. 
Pouring rain and south winds of 27mph at the originally scheduled 10am race time had me worried if we'd get in a race at all. Not surprisingly, a few people saw the bad weather at 10am and decided it wasn't worth it. Sure glad we can get weather radar on our phones - it predicted the system would move on shortly. An hour later, our patience was rewarded with sunny skies and still strong but manageable winds of 17mph from the SW. Due to the strong SW winds, we decided to modify the SUP course so that it didn't go all the way around the Island. Instead, the SUPs took a detour in the Inner Harbour at the east side of the Island airport through the Island canals followed by a portage at the Gibraltar Point lighthouse and then back to the TWC on the south side of the Island. 
Here's a map of the SUP route:
 6.3km from TWC to Gibraltar Bay (or about 1km longer if you paddled an inefficient line like I did) 250m portage 4.8km downwind from Gibraltar beach to TWC 11.1km total paddling distance
The race started upwind against the waves at Cherry Beach for about a km, then we got break from the wind in the Eastern Gap, although it was pretty choppy in there. Once we turned the corner and entered the Inner Harbour, the full force of the wind hit us again and by this time it had picked up a bit as well. I could see the Island airport waaaay at the end of the Inner Harbour and it sure looked pretty far away in that wind. I tried veering close to the Islands to see if they would provide any shelter from the wind, but it was no better there and I also had to deal with the reflected waves. A few of the long course SUP paddlers turned back in the Inner Harbour and returned to the start line as the winds were getting stronger and the airport seemed so far away. Normally this is the perfect place to have a quick glace of appreciation at the Toronto skyline from the water, but not in that wind. The upwind torture subsided as we got closer to the airport and the wind shadow of the Islands was making life easier. The Inner Harbour upwind leg was just under 3km if you paddled a direct line. 
Once we entered Blockhouse Bay in the Islands, the water went completely flat, but we still had some quartering wind gusts to deal with - a welcome respite from the Inner Harbour. We could also enjoy nice Toronto Island views while paddling the almost 3km to the Gibraltar lighthouse - picnics, yacht clubs, and cruise boats (anyone get any good drafting behind one?). 
It seems that everyone found the take-out point for the portage at the end of Lighthouse Bay (Hanlan's Bay). There was a 250m portage to Gibraltar beach on the south side of the Island. Here we were met with SW winds of 19mph and rows of breaking waves off the shallow beach. It was a bit tricky getting out beyond the line of breaking waves. Once past the breakers, it was downwind paradise! The wind direction was perfect for a run all the way back to the TWC at Cherry Beach. The stronger winds earlier that morning had built up some nice sized swell. Going upwind in the Inner Harbour was definitely worth it to earn this almost 5km downwind leg. 
Unlike the SUPs, the surfskis went all the way around the Island by going through the Western Gap. I was told there were 5 foot waves coming at you from multiple directions at the same time just outside the Western Gap. Going up the west side of the Island was also tricky since the wind and breaking waves were coming at the surfskis directly from their right. Good thing the SUPs avoided this nasty section. 
On the downwind leg, a couple of surfski racers lost their boats (always wear a leash in windy conditions!). One surfski racer was swimming for some time in the rough waters when Del DaSilva, another surfski racer, spotted him. Del jumped out of his boat to let the other racer take it. Del was swimming to the beach when this time he came across a SUP racer that was having trouble in the downwind conditions. Del paddled the other racer's board back to the finish while the other racer waited for the safety boat to pick him up on the beach. So that's how Del started the race on a surfski and finished on a SUP! Meanwhile, another surfski racer lost his boat and was picked up Tracey Finlay on her SUP. She put him on the back of her board. Jeff Martinek, Chris Lightbound and I grabbed the runaway surfski and were waiting for Tracey and the surfski racer to reach us. Ultimately a police boat picked up the racer off Tracey's board and also picked up the surfski. The four of us then continued on our race. 
Thanks to Del, Tracey, Jeff, and Chris for helping out our fellow racers! Some things are more important than racing. Del ended up with a DNF for the race but he's the leader in terms of rescues on Sunday!
The SUP short course was also quite a challenge as it started in WSW winds of 18mph, gusting to 22mph. The race was held just off the TWC beach. Hugh Wilson and his team wisely shortened the course distance and it went off without any issues. The racers did a nice job dealing with the strong winds and waves - which come in unobstructed in a WSW or SW wind. 
Seven year-old Hugo Robinson was the sole competitor in the Kids race and he did a great job. Impressive that he spent 20 minutes battling the tough conditions to complete the course. 
The sunshine continued on the for lunch and the awards and it turned out to be a great day. Despite a few on-water incidents and weather delays, I'd say overall, it was the most fun Mammoth SUP/surfski race we've had in the 4 years we've been running it. 
Contrats to the winners:
- Tamas Buday, Mens long course Overall
- Larry Cain, Mens long course 50+
- Tracey Finaly, Womens long course Overall
- Ulrik Bedos, Mens short course
- Irina Anisimova, Womens short course
- Hugo Robinson, Kids course
- Brian Heath, Surfski Mens
- Mike Fekete, Surfski Mens 50+
Thanks to all our volunteers that made the day possible:
- Hugh Wilson, Nadia Rahman, Karen Wilson, Sierra Wilson, Susan Pospishil, Glen Buchanan, for organizing and running the Short Course and Kids Races, handling registration, recording race results, colour commentary during the races, and their general all-round helpfulness! We couldn't have done it without you!
- Henric Wiegenbroeker for organizing the safety boats and Murry McKercher for piloting the boat for our race
- Mike Fekete of for contributing the trophies, gift certificates and draw prizes
- Aaron Pilon of Bluwave for contributing draw prizes
- Silent Sports for contributing event shirts
- Andree Gauthier and her team for getting lunch ready
- And all the others not mentioned here that helped plan, organize and run the event 

Race Results

If the results table below is not displaying properly, you can go to the following link:
Interesting to note that 4 of the top 8 SUP finishers are former Olympic athletes in paddling. Quite a few of the top paddlers in Canada came to our race. 
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Since the weather was pretty interesting, here are all the gory details from our weather station at the TWC:
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