SAILOR IN FOCUS
Eyes are on the prize for Britain’s James Dinsmore
James Dinsmore (Starboard / Severne) manages to combine being a full-time doctor whilst also being able to attend several of the PWA Slalom events, as well as competing on the British Slalom Tour. The thirty-eight year old made his debut on the PWA World Tour in 2010 and since then he has consistently been improving his results. Now the Brit faces a tough decision whether to fully commit to the British Slalom Tour in order to chase the British Title, or to attend more PWA events.
PWA: Firstly, what are your thoughts on how the 2012 season went and how would you rate your results?
JD: The 2012 season was full of ups and downs for me. I changed sponsors to Starboard/Severne just before the season, which was a bit unsettling, but as it turned out the gear really suits me. I did 3 PWA events in 2012. Reggio Calabria was fun location with the racing happening from the town beach. Unfortunately I hit some debris on the first reach in the only heat that I raced in all week. The week was still a good one as I had the chance to learn how to tune the new gear from other Severne sailors like Steve Allen (Starboard / Severne). At Costa Brava I sailed solidly all week to get a 36th place which I was really pleased with, as there was strength in depth throughout the field and I beat some guys who I really respect. Fuerteventura was relatively disappointing, as the weather was unusual and we didn’t get the usual 5 days of wind. I made a couple of mistakes with sail choice and also dropped a couple of gybes whilst in good positions.
Back home in the UK I was only able to attend 4 of the 7 counting British Slalom Championship events so my overall British ranking suffered. I did win two of the four events and they were some of the highlights of the season. The event that I won in Christchurch was particularly exciting, as Ant Baker had been leading the competition up to the eighth and final round. Slalom doesn’t get any better than that final round when I was flying down the first leg on a 7.8m sail and 107 board in a lumpy sea knowing that everything depended on me getting to the first mark in the lead.
PWA: How long have you been windsurfing?
JD: Near enough 20 years. Whilst I did try it a few times as a teenager it was not until I was almost 20 until I really got the bug.
PWA: Who has been you biggest influence on your sailing?
JD: Being a slalom sailor in my late thirties I have to say that I find it inspiring that Antoine and Bjorn are older than me and still on top of the world.
PWA: What do you do when you aren’t windsurfing?
JD: I am a doctor at a public hospital specialising in anaesthetics.
PWA: How do you find trying to juggle a full-time job and training to compete?
JD: With great difficultly! It means trying to catch an hour on the water before or after work whenever I can. In the summer the longer daylight hours mean I can get out quite often but the winter can be very frustrating especially when the top guys are all tweeting their exploits from the southern hemisphere. The last couple of years I haven’t really had much time for wave or freestyle, which I miss.
PWA: Where is your favorite place to windsurf and why?
I lived in Western Australia for 3 years and would love to go back for a trip. I have great memories of Gnaraloo, Geraldton, Esperance and the Lancelin Ocean Classic. The only problem is that it is a very long way between spots and they are very isolated which makes it difficult for a trip with a partner.
PWA: What is your favorite move and why?
JD: I just love always trying to learn new maneuvers and it is one of the ways the sport stays interesting. Whilst looping a wave board is very exhilarating I have to say that gybing a slalom board very well in all water states is a very difficult thing to do and continues to be a path of discovery for me.
PWA: What aspects of your sailing are you currently trying to improve?
JD: I have always found that light wind racing doesn’t suit me as well as strong wind racing so that is definitely an area I am trying to improve. Last year my biggest sail was a 9.6m but I found that by the time we had enough wind to race I was often a bit overpowered and didn’t have good board speed. It isn’t all that surprising as I am quite a bit lighter than the likes of Bjorn who was using the same 9.6m Reflex 3. This year I have downsized to a 9.2m R4, which will hopefully improve my speed around the course in the lighter airs. Starts are always important but never more than in the light winds so improving those will also make a big difference.
PWA: How do you learn new moves and improve your sailing? Videos? Watching others?
JD: I think that video has transformed my understanding of windsurfing maneuvers. Often moves happen so fast that it is hard to work out the technical points in real time so using slow-motion is the way forward. I find it very helpful being videoed trying moves and I have to thank my wife for the many hours she has spent on the beach doing that for me. It may be that it is possible to copy and learn a move from just watching a video but it is also really helpful to talk to someone who can do a move so that they can advise how it should actually feel, when to sheet in/out, what part of board to weight etc.
PWA: Where is your favorite spot on the PWA Tour?
JD: Overall Fuerteventura. It is a tough place to complete for five days because the rigging tent is hot and sandy and the conditions at the outer marks can be savage when it is really windy. On the other hand there is a great crowd and a brilliant atmosphere as the inside gybe marks are very close the beach. It is also reliably windy which is important for me as I can only take a limited time off work and don’t want to fly to an event and sit around on the beach.
PWA: How does competition sailing make you feel? And how do you prepare for your heats?
JD: Competition sailing takes you out of your comfort zone and because of that it is very exciting. For me the main thing with my preparation is make sure that I am happy with the set-up of my gear well before a heat. The last thing I want to be doing is re-rigging a sail just before the start sequence, as it is very unsettling. I have also learned the hard way that you have to be very careful not to miss your heat as there are so many in PWA events that it is very easy to get confused. If I can make to the start boat in good time with my gear set-up right then I usually feel pretty relaxed and can focus on the race with a clear mind.
PWA: Where did you spend your winter training?
JD: I have just come back from a fortnight in Boracay in the Philippines.
PWA: What did you think of the location as a whole?
JD: Boracay fitted the criteria of being windy with warm air and water temperatures in February/March. It is a beautiful tropical island with white sand beaches and a sailing area that is a large lagoon protected by a reef. At low tide it is very flat and mid-thigh depth so great for learning and freestyle. At high tide the reef is submerged and the lagoon gets rougher so is good for slalom training. It was windy almost every day during our trip with the strength varying from 8.6m to 5.0m weather. I took my iS107 medium slalom board and got the chance to tune up some of my new Reflex 4 sails. We stayed right on the beach in a great place called Reef Retreat Resort and I was even able to rig my sail in the grounds. When it was 25 knots I hired gear from one of the centres and tried to remind myself how to do freestyle after a long break. The conditions are great for improvers and my wife sailed most days and made big progress with her sailing. We tried a tandem for the first time, which was awesome fun. The island is a very relaxing place to spend time as the Filipino people are so friendly. It is very multi-cultural with visitors from all around Asia and there are lots of places to eat out and things to do. On the occasional windless days we paddle-boarded and snorkelled.
PWA: What are your goals for 2013 and the future?
JD: I am faced with a bit of a dilemma at the moment in that several of the British Slalom Championship events are going to coincide with PWA events in Europe that I would also like to go to. It is a great shame. If I try to do the complete British series then my goal will be to try to win that overall. At PWA events my goal is to break into the top 32. I have been gradually getting closer each year and after testing my 2013 set-up I feel that I now have improved board speed that might let me start to make a few more quarter-finals.
PWA: Thanks James and good luck for the year ahead.
Credit for photo: Aneeta Dinsmore