Info – Freerace

Freeracing is an evolutionary discipline introduced in 2013 by Ian Fox as the basis of an ongoing national championship. Initial response to this challenging discipline has been very positive and the 2017 Championship will again be hotly contested. Freerace offers enormous potential to encourage widespread participation worldwide thanks to the availability of modern freeride and freerace equipment combined with hi quality wearable GPS units. Riders compete “freely” over a set period of identical “real time”, without any set course but within a defined and limited area. All sailing distance accumulated within an allocated time and sailing area limits accumulates to define a winner. Combining the very best of many aspects of existing slalom, marathon and GPS competition formats, Freeracing extends the use of the basic data inherent in GPS windsurfing tracklogs; synchronised realtime and accurate track point positional data.
The concept focuses on two core fundamentals ; simplicity and accessibility.

Simplicity: the format is very easy for both organisers and competitors, yet at the same time extends the boundaries of sailors skill and aptitude by challenging them not only in outright speed but also tactically and strategically. Modern GPS technology provides enormous potential for accurate event timing, position measurement and elapsed distance analysis.

Accessibility: the proposed Freerace format deliberately aims to level the playing field by reducing the advantage of specialist equipment, minimising gear wars or reliance on extreme conditions. Elite skills (timed starts, aggressive man on man race jibes) aren’t essential to be competitive. Participation and equitable competition becomes easier, more practical, enjoyable and engaging for a wider range of participants utilising common everyday “freerace” or fast freeride windsurf equipment. Measuring relative performance allows for more events to be held successfully in more moderate, available locations and conditions.

Courses: Ideally, Freerace courses will be set to challenge riders with the option of making shorter faster runs at higher peak speeds in more protected waters of one section of the sailing area (but increased average loss potential in higher frequency transitions) versus longer runs in more exposed water yielding moderate peak speeds but good average thanks to lower transition and reacceleration loss on longer runs. Individual riders on varying equipment will find different strategies more suitable to their individual technique, stamina or equipment and tuning.

Duration: Any practical amount of time can be nominated and competed. Historical experience has shown one hour to be a typically challenging benchmark in marathon or endurance racing.

Conditions: GPS speed has focused on outright speed, requiring riders and events to seek ever increasingly extreme conditions, which in turn become exponentially more difficult to locate and achieve, especially within a scheduled competition event format. Freeracing is ideally conducted in far more accessible “ideal” windsurfing conditions; typical planning wind ranges of 15-25 kts allow the widest range of commonly owned equipment to function efficiently while reducing the technical advantage associated with “gear wars” common in marginal (or extreme) winds.

Familiarity: Typically the majority of non wave riders participate in back & forth, in and out reaching style sailing.

Strategic: Depending on course and conditions, strategy and stamina help level the playing field vs outright peak speeds.

Travel: less rider equipment required to transport vs increased chance of competiveness at destination.

Equipment: Technically, traditional short course slalom equipment design and tuning balances the need for acceleration versus ultimate top speed. Riders typically carry more sail, fin and board size to maximize acceleration and simply hold onto the excess power once top speed is reached in relatively short bursts. Conversely, pure speed equipment has exceptional top end potential in perfect conditions, but with significant compromise of acceleration or early planning. Speed advantage over less racy freeride equipment reduces as water state becomes choppier and control becomes more vital. Modern freeride equipment in moderate conditions and sailing angles can be remarkably competitive. Removing the necessity to race over extreme course angles or in tight packs of riders further opens the opportunity to flatten the technical performance curves between different equipment.

For 2017 the proven 2 Board : 2 Sail (option; 1 Board : 3 sails) equipment limits apply.

Most racers run 90/110Lt or 100/120Lt boards in 2 boards option, or 100-110 as single board option, Slalom sails in the 7.0 to 8.5m range are typical. The typical wind range for Green Island Nats is 15 to 25 kts, although 2014 enjoyed racing well into the 30 kt range. For Freerace, many riders find a slightly smaller sail size optimal because of the endurance aspects.

Technical: Freerace results are derived from the software analysis of individual rider GPS track log data, which contains positional trackpoint data combined with highly accurate satellite synchronized global timing references in each trackpoint. Relative simple analysis of individual tracklog files allows only trackpoints within the prescribed competition area and reference time window to be accepted and distance travelled within prescribed limits measured accurately. GI Nats relies exclusively on GT11/31 GPS units in conjunction with special event software for championship analysis.

Green Island: Inner areas of reef protected flat water versus longer wide open outside runs in choppier conditions make Green Island the perfect venue for Freerace. Add the potential of wanting to get more fun from less equipment (both travel and simply more people owning freeride gear) and the potential for great 15-25kt conditions – where a huge bunch of guys can plane powered comfortably on a range of gear – and you got the ideal setup for a load of competition and a bunch of fun.