JD at PWA Alicati 2013 (John Carter PWA)
James Dinsmore, GBR-659, British Slalom Champion and current leader of the 2014 British Slalom Championships, is yet another of the amazing competitors who will be lining up for the NWF ‘Blast from the Past’ Pro-Am slalom race! As a Hayling Islander, James admits to being a little bit biased about the NWF – “At the end of every NWF, be it windy or not, I have come away inspired to make the most of my sport. I always enjoy the mass participation racing and like many others have worked my way up the fleet over the years as I have got better.”
Sponsored by Starboard and Severne Sails, James also organises the Hayling Slalom Club. We caught up with him to find out if age matters, if anyone can succeed in Slalom and how he balances Club and family commitments with a full time job as well as training and competing to defend his title!
1. What was your first experience of windsurfing? What do you love most about windsurfing?
I have my father to thank for getting me hooked on windsurfing. In the late 1980s he bought himself an F2 Lightning longboard and taught himself the sport. Not long afterwards I had my first lessons on a flooded gravel pit in Surrey and I’ve loved it ever since. Windsurfing has so many aspects to it. When I’m heading out over the water at full tilt, life’s problems and stresses always seem less. Through windsurfing, I have had the opportunity to meet great people and travel to wonderful places around the globe. It is also a physical and mental challenge that never ends as there are always new things to learn.
2. There are lots of youngsters on the tour, but your debut on the PWA was in 2010 when you were in your mid ‘30s. What prompted you to get on the competition circuit? Does age have a bearing?
I have always enjoyed competitive sport so for me it was natural to start competing at windsurfing sooner or later. However, I lived inland and didn’t have the opportunity to windsurf very often until I went out to work in Western Australia in 2002. In WA I tried my hand at the Lancelin Ocean Classic marathon race and the Margaret River Wave Classic and really enjoyed the buzz. I find the best way to improve is to push yourself by sailing with those of a higher standard and as I got better, the PWA was the place to go to push myself the most. The great thing about slalom is that you can do it to the very highest standard at an older age – you only have to look at Antoine Albeau still on top of the world aged 42. As the wind minimums are less it is also realistic to be able to practice slalom regularly on the South Coast of England, unlike wave sailing or freestyle.
3. You have a full time job as an anaesthetist in Portsmouth; how do you find time to train and attend enough events to keep your place in the rankings, especially now that you have the British title to retain!
Having won the British Slalom Championships in 2013, I was keen to try to retain the title this year (and let my close competitors have the chance to knock me off the top spot!) Unfortunately, this year there have been a lot of clashes between British and PWA events so by committing to the British Championships I have forgone the chance to do any PWA events, which is a great shame. I am pretty busy with work and family life but I am lucky to live near the seafront on Hayling Island, so I can nip out for a quick sail and be back within an hour, making it just about possible to juggle everything.
4. Would you like to windsurf full time, or would making your passion your job take away some of the appeal?
That is a tricky one. I wish I’d had the chance to get into windsurfing properly at a younger age as I think I could have gone further. It would have been great to have the opportunity to focus on the world tour for a couple of seasons to see what results were possible. Having it as a passion has kept me always wanting more and so my enthusiasm hasn’t dwindled, which is certainly a risk when it is a career choice.
5. Does your wife Aneeta windsurf? How does she feel about your success and all your travels?
My wife Aneeta likes to windsurf when the weather is tropical and the water very warm, so she doesn’t sail very often in the UK. She is fantastically supportive of my windsurfing. I think she can see that it is a key influence that keeps me sane and calm in life and knows that if I go for long stretches without a sail then I am not my usual cheerful self. I am lucky that most of our holiday travel in recent years has been to windy places and we’ve had some great adventures. One of her favourite locations was the town Reggio Calabria in southern Italy where there was a PWA event in 2012. Just behind the event site was a high street full of the latest Italian summer fashion so she could shop until she dropped while I practised.
6. What does it take to get to the top?
In addition to physical fitness and technical skills such as great gybing, there are a lot of pieces to the slalom puzzle that take years to learn and which explains why older guys do very well. For starters, in order to win you need to have put in the hours on your equipment so you know how to tune boards and sails for a variety of water states. Having chosen the right size of board and sail you then need to take to the race course and make a series of (often split second) decisions about where to start, lines around gybe marks, what risks to take etc. Finally you need to have the composure to hold it together when things are going badly or even very well.
JD at PWA Fuerte with his father who introduced him to windsurfing (A Dinsmore)
7.What are your training tips and schedule?
The main thing is to try and achieve something everytime you go out on the water. In a given session, that might mean finding a buoy to practice mark rounding or starts or focussing on trying out a range of downhaul settings or mast foot positions. In an ideal world you would train with other sailors but the vast majority of my time is spent sailing on my own, so you need to be motivated. Off the water I do high repetition weights classes which are good for the generalised strength you need for slalom.
8. Can anyone get into Slalom racing?
Very much so. It is a great way of improving and there is an excellent set-up in the UK for newcomers through the UK Windsurfing Association. There are a number of UKWA local clubs, such as the Hayling Slalom club that I help run, which offer informal racing off the beach. We meet on alternate Wednesday evenings in British summertime when the forecast is good and have a huge spectrum of sailor abilities come along (from people still learning to waterstart to world champions) with a similarly wide range of equipment from longboards to the latest race kit. At all UKWA national slalom championship events there is off-the-beach masterblaster racing (just like at the NWF) which is the first step towards slalom racing with on the water starts.
- 9. What do you think of the NWF?
As a Hayling Islander I am a bit biased and think it is the event of the year! The NWF brings British watersports enthusiasts together and is important as it makes the individual realise that they are part of a huge community. At the end of every NWF, be it windy or not, I have come away inspired to make the most of my sport. I always enjoy the mass participation racing and like many others have worked my way up the fleet over the years as I have got better.
10. What is the killer tip or tactic that you are prepared to share with the NWF community to help them triumph in the Master Blaster races?!
Getting a clean start is the first step to a good result. With the rabbit jet ski start you need to make a decision as to whether it is best for you to start downwind and earlier or upwind and a bit later. The latter has the advantage that you are more likely to have clean wind and so may be less of a gamble. Either way, secure yourself a front row spot well ahead of the planned start time. Having gybed, try hard to sail upwind on the way back so that you are sailing in clean wind. Good luck!
JD far right coming into gybe mark in first PWA event in Fuerteventura 2010 (PWA John Cater)
11. You had a close heat with current World Formula Champion Ross Williams to take the 2013 British Slalom title at Weymouth. You are both taking part in the NWF ‘Blast from the Past’ Pro-Am Slalom event planned for this year – is Ross the one to watch?!
Without a doubt Ross is the one to beat. There are some great British racers but as current Formula World Champion and 5th in the PWA slalom rankings he is the Brit who is at the top of his game at the moment. There is no doubt that his presence has brought the standard up in the rest of the British slalom fleet over the last couple of seasons.
12. What are your best and worst windsurfing experiences? On the competition side the best bits have been winning the British Championships last year, making it to a losers final at the PWA Aruba event and having the opportunity to race at Defi and Lancelin Classic marathon events. I have also had great fun being involved in Hayling Slalom. Off the race course I have great memories of sailing with friends at epic locations in South Africa and Western Australia. There haven’t been all that many bad experiences over the years although I have tried to forget a few disastrous slalom events when everything went wrong and also one particular pasting in the waves at the Bluff in Cornwall.
JD on right slalom training earlier this year in Tenerife
13. Who do you most admire among your contemporaries in the sport, past and / or present? Who has inspired you most?
Having got into competition late and now nearing forty myself, it has been inspiring to see the old boys like Bjorn Dunkerbeck and Antoine Albeau continue to perform at the top level into their forties. I admire successful sportsmen and women who don’t get carried away by their egos and remain approachable and have time for the grass roots participant. I look at someone like Andrea Cucci (the man now behind Point-7 sails) who is a top sailor and at the same time one of the most down-to-earth and friendliest guys going and who remains as enthusiastic about the sport as ever. I would also not want to forget the quietly inspiring role of those who dedicate huge amounts of time and effort to make windsurfing competition accessible in the UK such as Bob Ingram and his team (including family) who run the UKWA.
14. Describe which windsurfing move you found the most difficult to master and why?
I am a bit biased as a slalom racer but if I was to consider the amount of time spent trying to get good at it then I would have to say that the humble carve gybe is about as difficult to master as any. Back loops would be the hardest jump.
15. Where is your favourite / local spot to sail? What would your fantasy windsurfing day be?
I am fortunate to live on Hayling Island and so do the vast majority of my sailing there. I love learning new things and so any opportunity to spend time sailing with and learn from top sailors is a great day in my book. I guess a fantasy slalom racing day would be to make it to a PWA final in somewhere like Fuerteventura and a fantasy ‘fun’ sailing day would be the chance to wavesail somewhere like Maui or Chile which both remain on my bucket list.
- 16. You enjoy wave and freestyle windsurfing as well as SUP. How do the different disciplines complement each other or are they a distraction? Do you compete or feel compelled to take these to the same level as your Slalom?
In order to put in enough time to be competitive in slalom, I have had to put the wave sailing and freestyle on the backburner. I used to go out to Dingle with friends every autumn but sadly haven’t managed it with my racing commitments in recent years. I miss the wave sailing although during the off season I get out the wave board and last winter I had some great sessions at Hayling, Wittering and Pagham. I have thought that one season in the not too distant future I might do some of the UK Wave tour events for a change. Being comfortable in waves definitely helps when you are ocean racing in difficult conditions so it compliments slalom.
James Dinsmore GBR-659
Current leader of 2014 British Slalom Championships
British Slalom Champion 2013
Winner of BSA events: Marazion 2014, Weymouth & Worthing 2013, Christchurch & Weymouth 2012, Worthing 2011
PWA debut 2010 Fuerteventura Grand Slam, Slalom
2010 Western Australia South Beach Slalom Champion
Long distance results
Defi Wind 2013 16th
Defi Wind 2012 16th
2009 Lancelin Ocean Classic 8th
2008 NWF Pro Fleet Racing 2nd
Starboard, Severne Sails
Current organiser of Hayling Slalom Club https://ukwindsurfing.com/slalom/clubs/hayling/