Weymouth Speed Week 2023; changes with the times!
It's that time of year when the need for speed returns to the waters off Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, with the famous Weymouth Speed Week(WSW). The competition that is steeped in heritage is causing waves within the watersports community, with everyone watching the wind and waiting to see who will grab that gust with a triumphant time and top the leaderboard!
A new way of recording the sailors has revolutionised WSW this year, the iconic and historic competition has once again galvanised a tremendous gathering of watersports legends, Olympians, Professional Riders and the windsurfing, winging, foiling community as they all strive to be the fastest on the speed strip of Portland Harbour! Running from Saturday 7th until today (Friday 13th of October 2023.)
Here at The Official Test Centre (OTC) and Surf Doctor we are one of the sponsors of the event and The OTC Pro-Rider Scotty Stallman holds the current harbour record that he smashed last year. All eyes are on Scotty! Will he break the record again? We have OTC Team Riders taking part and OTC staff. In this blog I was lucky to chat to the WSW Chairman, Pete Davis on how Weymouth Speed Week changes with the times!
By Emma Nicholson.
Behind this iconic competition is a band of volunteers, whose astonishing passion, dedication and enthusiasm is led by Weymouth Speed Week Chairman, Pete Davies, on a no wind day (Monday this week) I caught up with Pete, we had a chat about what is the success of the competition and its longevity!
Pete said: "The theme this year it is the 51st year, the other thing that has changed is we have moved our timing system to the new Mini Motions, which I know is a bit boring, but we were using an old system which we couldn't replace so we have spent an absolute fortune on these units, that record your speed, your time and all the participants have to do is put it on their arm, go out sailing, come back and give it to us, they are GPS, but they are completely sealed, we charge them on like an iPhone charger, they are completely waterproof, we basically issue them, the sailors bring them back in here, we press two buttons, sends the data on wifi.
Mini Motions revolutionise speed week!
Pete said: "On Saturday (7th October) the first set of results for Speed Week it was done in 30 minutes, before we had this new system we very often didn't get the results till the following day, because the old, old system had to be inputed manually one at a time, for example number 47, start... get to the other end and very often we would miss people out, if you were a slower rider someone may overtake you on the course. So this system, everyone gets timed."
The future of the sport!
Pete added: "We had the prize giving for the juniors on Saturday and it was fantastic. We had two new fleets, we had the junior windsurfers, which we have always had. We had the junior wing foiling fleet, which The Official Test Centre sponsors and the kite fleet, it was so lovely to have such a nice mixture of kids taking part, they are the future of our sport."
Waiting on the wind!
Pete said: "This year same old, same old to an extent, we haven't got as much wind, as you can see it is like a millpond out there today (Monday), we had some fantastic racing on Saturday and what was amazing is, we had two Olympic kite foilers take part and the speed, we had 12 knots really on Saturday, 12, maybe 15 knots in a gust, and they were doing 33.24 knots over 500 metres, three times the wind speed! It is just unreal."
Who is Pete watching?
Pete said: "I think Scott Stallman will probably top the leaderboard again this year, he broke the harbour record last year, and he did a fantastic talk (see photo below) for us, because this is Scotty's first year on the PWA circuit completely, and he did a great talk on Sunday morning, so we had no wind so he did a talk for us, he talked about his first year, the equipment he is using and that sort of thing, so that was fantastic to see him grow within the industry."
What motivates competitors to take part?
Pete said: "I think what motivates people to come back year after year, there is a few reasons people come back, the back team boys do a great job and we are well supported by the trades, the t-shirts you can see with all the sponsors on, these guys put a lot of effort in making speed week happen, so I don't think people turn up just for the prizes, there's a lot of effort that goes into making it an enjoyable week, we see our competitors as our customers, we want them to have a great time, they have taken time off work, they are paying a lot of money to come and enjoy the week, we want to give them a return, so I think that is one thing that is important, that people go it doesn't matter if it is not windy I am still going to have a good time."
Foiling was invented in the 70s!
Pete said: "Second thing that is the most important, is the history, the heritage of weymouth speed week, we played a video on Saturday night when we had our opening dinner up in Spinakers bar, we got some footage from the original 1972 weymouth speed week, the first year it started. and there was no sound, but the boats on there were just incredible, there was about ten foiling boats, we think foiling boats are new and the Americas Cup is an all new thing, 1972 these guys were producing these foiling boats! There is a boat called Crossbow which was Sir Timothy Coleman of Coleman mustard the first time that went down the course was on this video and the concepts they were using then was just incredible, there was a sail that went up on one of the rigs, with a fully cam reduced race sail, my god, I thought that was invented by Gaastra 10-15 years later, no no it was already there."
Pete said: "I think the British really appreciate the heritage, yes and then it becomes a competition between Mr Smith and Mr Jones he doesn't want his mate beat him. The heritage attracts a lot of people. We have regular visitors, we have two people here this year who have been here regularly for ten times from Belgium, two different families, we have German, French, we have an American kite foiler, it is fantastic and the fastest wing foiler at the moment is from France. I think the British appreciate it but I don't think it is solely a British thing, because this is where it all started."
Pete said: "The World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) started here and it has grown into measuring speed records around the world, transatlantic, clipper racing, 24 hour records and The WSSRC is still going strong, it all started here! So I think that heritage is part of it, these are hallowed waters!I think people appreciate that!"
Why this location?
Pete said: "The Academy is perfect, we have amazing facilities, the staff are amazing, they look after us so well every year and the access to the 100 metre course is on their doorstep, so why would we not be here! the academy does a fantastic job. Richard has now taken over, looking after us and he has been brilliant, worked with us, setting things up, so we can just turn up and do our job, because we are all volunteers, at the end of the day, it is not our day job, it is great that we can just turn up and it all works, we have a great team here, with Mike, who lives locally who has set up the timing system and the results system, stuff comes in, bang there's your results, it is just amazing."
What motivates Pete to keep volunteering?
Pete said: "I started in 2004, the happy faces I suppose, the people that come and have a great time, I get a big buzz out of that and it is hard work, I am lucky that I know a lot of people in the industry and I have known them a long time, it would be quite difficult for someone to take over what I do and bring that together and Nick and Norman have been involved even longer than I have, so they just know what they are doing! and we are constantly evolving and improving what we do."
Evolution of kit?
Pete said: "The wing has become a lot more prevalent this year, what blew me away was on Saturday that in 12 knots of wind, someone is doing 33.24 knots, on pretty much equipment you can go and buy in a shop. That was pretty amazing, yes the foiling side has really made a big difference, but the majority is still windsurfers on fins!"
Pete said: "Wednesday is looking good and unfortunately for me Friday looks really good, if you look at the forecast, at 4pm which is technically when the course closes on Friday we have 50 knots! That is a nightmare for the organisation , because you think I have got all the results I know who has won, he can have that extra large t shirt, done, finished, oh no it is all change! So it is anyones game!"
Don't forget if you are looking for fast kit, Surf Doctor is the place to go, with boards, sails and everything in-between, click here, https://www.surfdoctor.com/ or looking to make your windsurfing, foiling or winging go faster, call the The OTC for some tuition, on 07817 717904. To follow all the action, here is the Weymouth Speed Week website; https://weymouthspeedweek.com/