From the 10th to the 13th of January 2013, the small fishing town of Lancelin hosted the longest running windsurfing event in Australia: the Lancelin Ocean Classic. For its 28th consecutive year, the event attracted close to 4000 visitors and hundreds of competitors such as world-class sailors Björn Dunkerbeck, Peter Volwater, Steve Allen or Ben Proffitt.
The Lancelin Ocean Classic 2013 opened with the waves competition in 15-knots winds and 2m waves and saw Ben Severne take the victory, closely followed by UK's own Ben Proffitt and Severne's product manager Simon Hurrey who managed to beat Peter Volwater in the losers' final to grab 3rd place. In the Women's division, Karin Jaggi snatched the win away from Laure Treboux.
On Saturday, over 100 sailors gathered at Ledge Point for the LOC Marathon; a 25 kilometer-long downwinder to Lancelin. With 41x world champion Björn Dunkerbeck, 10x world champion Steve Allen and defending champion Peter Volwater, the show was guaranteed. In standard Lancelin Ocean Classic style, the winds picked up to 25 knots right before the race and forced the competitors to downsize their sails. Steve Allen grabbed the win and broke the event's record with a time of 24 minutes and 38 seconds. He was closely followed by Peter Volwater and Björn Dunkerbeck who all finished in less than 25 minutes. In the Women's division, Karin Jaggi recorded a time of 29 minutes and 40 seconds to win it.
Competitors, sponsors and spectators gathered afterwards for the prize-giving ceremony and legendary after party. We managed to get a few words from Ben and Steve, who are already looking forward to next year's LOC.
Starboard: Congratulations Ben! How does it feel to win on your turf?
Ben Severne: Always good when we stop the Poms from winning the Lano event! This year with Ben Proffitt, Adam Lewis, Simon Hurrey and Greame Woods signing up, it was looking like the odds of a Brit taking it out were high.
Starboard: What were the conditions like and do you think they were good for this kind of contest?
Ben Severne: We had plenty of wind, and if you knew where to look there were some nice bowly sections. They scheduled the contest for 1 day, so they got pretty lucky really. The format this year was 3 waves and 3 jumps, which I reckon was a bit much for the short heats – not a lot of time to get the basics down and then try to scale up some bigger moves, so equipment choice was critical.
Starboard: What were you sailing on? Is that your regular gear? What were the advantages of your setup?
Ben Severne: I was riding a Starboard NuEvo 80 and a 5.0 Severne S-1. The NuEvo 80 is a production version of the boards I normally sail; it feels pretty much identical to the customs just without the cool paint jobs.
I’m pretty confident I have an equipment advantage when it comes to competing at South Passage: my boards are real loose, so it’s easy to go square off the bottom and get up under the lip. There’s not a lot of time or space to do that there, and you see most guys on stiff boards either missing the section completely or jamming a pivot turn off the tail and skidding down the face. And then my rig gives me a lot of confidence, especially when you’re getting down to the business end of the contest after sailing a few heats back to back: I know everyone else is carrying way more rig weight, and as tired as I feel they are doing it a lot worse. I reckon whatever I lack in fitness and windsurfing ability I can make up in having better gear.
Starboard: Did you specifically train for this event (and the win) or was it more of a "on the spur of the moment" thing?
Ben Severne: Yeah, I specifically train for what happens AFTER the win!
Starboard: You certainly have the level; what would it take for you to compete in a PWA event?
Ben Severne: Not sure that really looks like a lot of fun to me…
Starboard: Are you still thinking of sail designs when competing or are you 100% focused on the win and your wave sailing?
Ben Severne: If I’m thinking about sail designs when I’m competing it’s because something isn’t working right. I make sure I take gear that I’m confident in so I don’t need to think about it. Not sure that I’m focused on the win though, really I’m only focused on the next wave. I have a short attention span.
Starboard: Your brand dominated the 2013 Lancelin Ocean Classic; is it because you have great riders or great gear?
Ben Severne: Great riders for sure. But you can’t get the great riders without having great gear for them to use…
Starboard: Where does Severne stand in 2013 and what do you think are the next steps?
Ben Severne: We stand where we’ve always been; at the cutting edge of windsurf design. We’ll keep making stuff that works better. We’ll keep making it lighter and stronger. We’ll keep windsurfing.
Starboard: Congrats on the win! Peter Volwater is a solid force at the LOC, how did you manage to beat him?
Steve Allen: Thanks! I guess it was my gear just working so good; I just had to hold on and the gear won it alone! I had a good start, which is important in beach starts, but Peter was a touch ahead. Then, for most of the race I was just sitting in my harness trying to keep as much pressure off my legs and arms as possible as I had not been sailing for almost 2 months and knew that I needed to save my energy to try to catch and pass him towards the end of the race. But to my surprise my gear was working so amazingly good that I caught and overtook Peter just on cruise mode on the 3rd reach! With every gust, my gear just accelerated by itself without me needing to push; I was just holding on for the ride! Great great feeling!! As I was quite unfit, by the last jibe my arms were pumped and I could hardly hold the boom so I made the last jibe very wide and slow in order to hook in as quick as possible on the other side. This allowed Peter to make a faster, more aggressive jibe on the inside and overtake me but with my speed, I was confident that I could pass him again. He went a little high looking for the last gate, so I dropped my outhaul, sailed as deep as possible and overtook Peter just 100m before the finish. I pulled a bit more in the last meters to make it a little more comfortable win for the final run up the beach.
Starboard:How where the conditions and what were you sailing on?
Steve Allen: The wind picked up just before the start and I was fully powered on the new Severne 7.8m Reflex4, Starboard iSonic 107 and 36cm fin.
Starboard: Reports state Peter Volwater was on a 6.9, almost a square meter smaller than you, how's that?
Steve Allen: He told me that he was on a 7.1m sail and that it was an OK choice for him. I had my 7.8 Reflex4 pulled quite flat but it still felt easy and good to me.
Starboard: What does it take to be successful at these long-distance races? How is it different from a PWA slalom event?
Steve Allen: Basically as you can see from Peter winning many times, he is often on the smallest sail possible. I think it is not good to be overpowered in such a long race as it takes a lot of energy from you. Björn unfortunately found out fighting a little to hold his 8.6m sail for the whole race. Actually, I tried the 8.6 before the race and could have held it for a PWA heat but not for the whole distance of the LOC marathon.
Starboard: Do you think the long-distance race format is more suitable to be televised than PWA slalom events?
Steve Allen: I think it is great for media: one race, one winner, all fitting into a 45min time slot. We used to have some marathons in the PWA years ago and could be interesting to bring this back as it is very good for media.
Starboard: Did you specifically train for this event? How often do you do beach races (i.e. starting from the beach with your gear) and how does that differ from traditional starts?
Steve Allen: I have competed in WA a lot in the 90’s where every second weekend was a slalom or marathon event always with beach starts, so I know the beach start well and like them a lot. I think it is great to watch a start like this. And you don’t have any over early starters or need for a boat etc. Beach starts are like riding a bike, you never forget.
Starboard: What is your personal goal for the upcoming PWA season and what will your register?
Steve Allen: My slalom training will start in the beginning of March where I will test everything and choose my gear for the PWA season. But after borrowing this iSonic 107 and 7.8m Reflex4 for this event, rigging for the first time, putting everything just to the advised settings, going out and winning the race with the gear feeling so amazingly easy and fast, I am feeling more and more confident for the up and coming PWA events!
Starboard: How will your (voluntary!) weight gain affect your choice in gear and your performance?
Steve Allen: I actually lost a lot of weight recently and now range from 82 to 84 kg which I think is fine considering how easy the new gear is. I will try to put back on a little more weight before the season but already feel confident with my current weight.
Starboard: Finally, how does the Western Australian summer compare to the cold Polish winter?
Steve Allen: Well, less than 1 week before this event I was skiing with negative temperatures and transitioned to 29 Celsius weather in WA, so quite a shock! But the snow skiing helped to have some leg power and fitness I guess, apart from the fun!