With the launch of Ski Racing Australia’s “Get Out on the Water” recruitment campaign we are welcoming many new members to the sport. At Zig’s Marine we have had quite a few calls from these newbies seeking advice on what gear they need and what is safe to buy used rather than new.
This month, Zig’s Tips is dedicated to ski racing’s new skiers but also anyone else who is in the market for race gear. We’ll cover what you should look for when buying second hand and what gear really needs to be bought new. Your safety is paramount and all the advice contained in this article focuses on that.
Skiers Helmet – Buy New
There is no problem using an older or second hand helmet for training runs, but in race conditions I recommend that you invest in a new skier’s helmet.
Your helmet is a vital piece of safety equipment and should be respected. Buying a new helmet from a professional will ensure that you are properly fitted.
You don’t know the history of a used helmet, and the rule states that skiers helmets must be fluorescent orange to increase the visibility of your helmet when you are in the water. Unfortunately this required colour fades easily, we do offer a re-painting service, however you won’t know how much life is left in the paint on a used helmet.
You have two options for skiers helmets, the first is a plastic surfing helmet (Gath $179), the second is a carbon fibre sky diving helmet (Bonehead $430). The difference between the two in terms of comfort and strength is vast, as is the price. If you are entering the sport in a speed restricted class and are looking to only run a few races a year then the first option would suit you. If you have made the commitment to race long term and do lots of it then you can justify the second option. The carbon fibre option also has the benefit of using an adjustable liner, allowing the helmet to grow with the junior skier’s head.
Wetsuit – Buy New
I recommend buying your wetsuit new. Even a wetsuit that appears to be in good condition but is more than a few seasons old may have had its buoyancy compromised, with age the material inside the wetsuit starts to absorb water, rather than re-pell it which means the older suit will not float as well as a new suit. A new and more buoyant suit will also help you with your starts as it floats you and holds you up higher in the water, and the start is where a lot of new ski racer’s need help. This piece of gear along with your helmet is designed to keep you safe. It will not only float you in case of a fall but protect your body against injury on impact with the water and should most definitely be respected. Most ski racing wetsuits are custom made and you want this to ensure the suit fits your body as snuggly as possible reducing the chance of any water entering your suit in case of a fall.
For wetsuits try Wizard, Wing, Shyside or Rubber Jungle.
Ski – Buy Used
Skis are expensive and as a ski racing newbie you won’t know exactly what you like until you have raced for at least a season.
When looking at used skis, you can expect to see some general wear and tear. Any shallow scrapes or gouges are ok. If you see any fractures in the bottom laminate, structural timber damage, or a bent fin you should seek the opinion of an expert. We keep a range of good used skis in stock at Zig’s Marine and before we on-sell any of these we give them a service, replace the ski tips if needed and add a ZMR fin to ensure they are safe to race on.
Most skiers in expert classes use specialised race bindings but these too are expensive. If you are racing in a speed restricted class or in any junior class where speeds have not yet met 70mph, you can use a set of double high wrap social bindings rather than race bindings. This will cut the cost of your bindings in half and offer a much more comfortable ride at slower speeds.
Rope – Buy New
In the grand scheme of things rope is relatively inexpensive and a roll of rope (SkiFast $115 – $150) has enough length for team of skiers to make up their race ropes and all their extensions. Used race rope is great for social skiing and so it will never go to waste.
Harness – New or Used
If you can find a used harness in good condition with no frays or signs of wear, it will be fine to use second hand. Harnesses are customised by the skier to suit their body shape, height and stance and so you may have to adjust the front handle position if you find yourself a good second hand harness.
Holeshot – Buy used if you can
‘Holeshot’ is a word you may have never heard before entering the world of ski racing. Put simply though it is a device specific to our sport which you load your ropes into prior to the race, it is attached to the back of the boat and allows your ropes to run out tangle free at the start. A Holeshot is a product of convenience and doesn’t offer you any protection or safety and so there is nothing wrong with a used one.
(ZMR Holeshot $180 each or two for $320 at Zig’s Marine)
Some other pieces of gear that we haven’t spoken in length about here include skiers gloves, goggles and ankle tape. There are also many optional extras you can add to your gear bag along your ski racing journey. Zig’s Marine stocks a full range of ski gear, both new and used. If you have any questions about what you need or if you need a second opinion on any used gear you are looking to buy, you can contact us for advice at anytime.
Next month we’ll focus on drivers and observers gear.
Welcome to ski racing. Have fun and stay safe.
02 4587 8224
Zig’s Marine talks to Jake Tegart about his recent, record breaking win at Catalina – The World’s Greatest Ski Race.
ZM: What an amazing achievement Jake, not only winning Catalina but breaking the record in a time of 45:31. You’ve raced Catalina five times now, what made this year so different?
JT: A definite advantage this year was being with the Warpath Crew, with three ski racers in a boat set up with the sole purpose to race Catalina, we wiped seven minutes off my intermediate record. Mike has a very professional approach to his racing which gave me confidence as a skier. Knowing that he has successfully towed World Champions Pete Procter and Wayne Mawer, I knew I was in good hands.
ZM: How did you pick up your run this year?
JT: I wasn’t even meant to be going to Catalina this year, with a trip booked to the Diamond Race in Belgium and only having a few weeks break between uni semesters it all seemed too hard. One morning a few days before leaving for Europe, I was at work and got a call from Mike Avila, he told me that Wayne Mawer had picked up an injury and asked if I would consider skiing with them.
ZM: How did you feel about skiing with a new crew?
JT: Like I mentioned, I hadn’t planned on going this year so I’d given it no real thought when I said yes, I only knew that if I ever wanted to have a good crack at winning Catalina I’d just been given the best opportunity you could ask for. So I guess you could say I felt pretty good about skiing with Mike and his crew.
ZM: You were racing against the most capped skier to ever win Catalina. How did you get on top of him, what were your strengths over his?
Mike and I had talked about going out there and doing our best, but we both knew that with the short stop over and no experience together, beating a guy like Todd Haig seemed impossible. There’s a reason he’s won it 12 times. We put a few really solid training runs down and started to think maybe we could at least put a bit of a show on and it might not be a walk over. I don’t know that I necessarily had any strengths over him out there. Our plan was to race as hard as we could for as long as we could once the flagged dropped. We got off to a great start and just tried to make him play catch-up for as long as possible, he was there the entire way never dropping more than a few ropes until the turn less than a minute from the line.
ZM: What ski did you run?
JT: I ran my Maha Longboard, I’ve been playing with a few styles of different Mahas recently but for the big occasion I went back to the old faithful.
ZM: What other equipment did you use?
JT: For Catalina I used my ZMR web harness with double front bar, SkiFast 5.3mm rope, Cookie helmet, Oakley goggles, Wedge Bindings and Wizard wetsuit, all my gear has been great to me so far and I don’t plan on changing anything soon.
ZM: How would your equipment set-up differ for a river race?
JT: I try to run the same gear throughout all styles of racing from the river to the ocean. Running all the same gear across all racing conditions allows you to get to know your gear more thoroughly. It’s not rocket science or brain surgery, there’s only so many things you can change on a skier and the most influential would be boot and bar positioning. The beauty of the double bar is you can change your position throughout the race to get more upright in the rough stuff or really get back and get the ski out in front in the smooth. As for boots it all comes down to style. A skier’s style is reflected in their setup. My boot positioning is setup around 905mm to the back of the front boot from the back of the ski, this allows me to keep enough control of the ski at all times, well most of the time, but still allows me to get back and let the ski do some of the work at high speeds as I tire up long straights.
ZM: What’s next?
JT: Next is another full season with Donny, Kris, Grant and Trenno with Team Mercforce.
ZM: Thanks for your time Jake, is there anything else you would like to mention?
JT: Yes, thanks for all the support from my sponsors – Zig’s Marine, Coldys, Wizard Wetsuits, Cookie Helmets, East Coast Commercials, Acclaim Aluminium and Cave-fit.
ZM: We look forward to following Jake throughout 2015/16 in what is sure to be a successful season for him and Team Mercforce.
Your Ultimate Start
This post touches on one of the most important parts of the race, one that claims or has claimed all of us at some point. The Start!
You’re sitting on the deck, your heart is pumping, the 30 second flag drops and you’re in the drink with lines running out of the boat to a tight rope, flag drops and you’re away – well hopefully!
We have no problems in training but race starts are without doubt much harder due to nerves, pressure and often rougher water in the start area.
So what can we do to make things easier on ourselves?
Be organised prior to the 30 second flag going down, have your goggles on, harness ready and not twisted giving you as much time as possible to steady yourself in the water to be ready and waiting for the start flag to drop.
If you are skiing 2up, communicate with your partner and push off the deck at the same time. This will help to keep equal pressure on each side of the boat, keeping the boat straight in the water and keeping your driver happier.
When Chris Gelle (Stoppy) and I skied together, we would always count down the last three seconds before the 30 sec flag dropped to ensure we both entered the water together. Considering Stoppy is a good 15kgs heavier than me (have you seen those legs?) I would compensate for this by giving the boat an extra push away as I dropped into the water.
A good push off away from the boat also helps to keep you away from your skiing partner, helping to avoid a collision or bumping into your partner during the start. This way you will also avoid being disrupted by each other’s start water during take off. You also want to be well clear of the boat to allow your ski to swing into a forward position.
By wearing a stop watch on the wrist of your front arm, you can set the watch to count back from any preset time so that your ready for the flag and know exactly when you will be taking off.
Your buoyancy in the water can have a considerable impact on your start. The better the quality of your wetsuit and the more buoyancy it has, the higher out of the water you will float while anticipating take off.
Ensure your wetsuit is the correct fit for your body shape and fits you perfectly. If any part of your wetsuit is too loose and not fitting snug against your body, it will fill with water, act like a parachute and bog you down.
Take a deep breath just before you start. This is not just to calm nerves, by filling your lungs with air you will rise another couple of centimeters in the water, making it just a little bit easier for you to get out and get going.
The most efficient and most common way to start is wrapped up. Some skiers are comfortable with the ski outside the V of the harness (right foot forward starts with the ski to the right of the ski, left foot forward to the left). But you may prefer to start with your ski within the V. There are ski harnesses designed specifically for this with a wider front bar and longer V.
Always keep your head up and look to where you are going, use your front arm to help yourself out of the water by pulling the rope towards you.
It’s no secret that race planks are hard to balance on at slow speed. This is due to their length and narrow surface area, we have no problem on our social skis. By keeping your weight on your front arm it will assist your balance as you plane before getting up to a faster speed.
If your starts are a struggle, the best thing to do is get out on the water to practice. A good way to do this is a ‘reverse start’. Ski along at slow speed, have your driver slow down progressively until you are just planing and practice skiing at this speed. You could even try some small turns to improve your balance and ability to ski ‘slowly’.
Next, practice skiing slowly on your rail as described above and then have your driver drop the speed right down until you sink into the water and drag to a stop. Then take off and repeat again.
If you don’t go out and practice this, you only ever experience skiing at slow speed for a few seconds at a time during your starts and it is this point in the race that claims many skiers.
Often it’s not the getting out of the water that is the problem during race starts, it can be the skiing at low speed that brings many skiers unstuck. Think about riding a bicycle, it’s much easier to balance as you are pedalling along, it’s once you slow right down that balancing becomes difficult.
Social skiing on your race ski is also a great way to get to know your rail and improve your balance on it. Get out there and do a few jumps and turns. Leave your boots unclipped though. They don’t need to be super tight for playing around and at slow speed if you fall, you need to release easily from your boots to reduce the chance of injury.
So with some practice on the water and good preparation leading up to the flag dropping, hopefully this info will help take some of the nerves and pressure out of your starts and ensure a clean, fast getaway.
Good luck in the first few races of the season.
Choosing The Right Rope
Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran your choice of rope can have an impact on your performance in racing from start to finish.
As I watched from the bank at the last round of racing I couldn’t help but notice many skiers out there struggling with a rope not suited to them. This was mainly evident younger skiers who were using rope that was far too heavy for them.
SkiFast rope is by far the most commonly used rope in Ski Racing and is the only rope that has won world titles and broken the record of every classic river race. Rope is graded according to its width in mm and your choice of rope size is determined by your weight. SkiFast rope is available in five sizes –
4.0mm (for skiers who weigh up to 40Kg)
6.0mm (over 95Kg)
Each roll holds 200m (656ft) of rope and all sizes are available in pink and lime.
Buy it here
While this guide will apply in most cases, there are some exceptions to the rule. Depending on your skill level and technique you may need to choose a thicker rope to avoid rope failure during your start. If you tend to drag through the water before you’re up and going, you should probably go one size up just to make sure you don’t snap your rope.
If your rope is too heavy for your body weight you’ll see the rope dip into the water while you’re skiing. This is also common with excess rope length. When this happens, the rope ‘sucks in’ the water, pulling you over the front of the ski. It will feel like your harness is being ripped out of your hands. This becomes dangerous as it increases your chances of skiing over your rope which will nearly always lead to a fall.
Rope length is also critical and choosing the right length rope for your ability and the conditions is a process that takes a bit of trial and error and will be determined by speed, boat configuration and race course.
As a rough guide to choosing rope length, estimate your average speed
40 mph – 130 ft
50 mph – 150 ft
60 mph – 170 ft
70 mph – 190 ft
80 mph – 215 ft
90 mph – 240 ft
100 mph – 265 ft
110 mph – 290 ft
120 mph – 315 ft
Exceptions to this guide include races like the Southern 80 where long ropes just aren’t practical due to the sharp corners. Keep in mind that a long rope is also a heavy rope which as explained above can lead to dipping.
There are two reasons you need a longer rope as your speed increases. 1) The boat wake narrows as speed rises and so being further back from the boat gives you more room in the wash and 2) The faster you are going, the less time you have to read the water in front of you as it comes out from the back of the boat, the longer rope length will give you a fraction more time to react to the conditions.
In rough water skiing eg. grand prix or while skiing at slow speed we shorten the rope to prevent it from dipping and to get closer to the boat which gives the skier a better ride.
The reason we can ski on longer ropes at high speed is due to the extra drag associated with ‘water friction’, this adds more load to the rope keeping it from dipping into the water.
Make up your rope according to the guide above for your speed in rough conditions and then carry a 10ft, 20ft and 30ft extension with you in your ski bag allowing you to customise your rope to suit the water conditions on the day.
It’s vital to give your rope a thorough safety check prior to every race. This involves going over every centimeter and checking for frays, burns or knots. If your rope is in any way damaged you need to either replace the section that is damaged by cutting, re-splicing and making a join to connect your new section. Or depending on the extent of the damage replace your whole rope. Any old ski racing rope is suitable as social rope.
As with your harness, be sure to keep your rope off the floor of the boat and away from any hot engine exhausts after the race. Rinse any salt water out the rope and allow it to dry thoroughly (but not in the sun) before storing it away for your next race.
Below are some questions regarding rope that I have been asked previously
My partner and I want to buy a roll of rope to share, I’m 60kgs and he is 87kgs? Can we share the same roll?
Unfortunately in your case it is not practical for both to be on the same weight rope. Many 2up teams are able halve a roll, but you would be best to each buy the rope that suits your body size.
I’ve just bought a new roll of rope, is it ok to race with straight away or does it need to be stretched before my first race?
You do need to stretch a new rope before you race with it, either by using it in a couple of training runs or another method is to stretch it out behind a car. Attach your rope to a tow ball and stretch it out until the rope is firm. The rope will stretch approx 5-7% of it’s length. So, if you run it out on the reel to 200ft you should be able to stretch it out to 210 – 215ft. Leave it overnight to ensure there is no additional stretching on race day.This applies to all ski classes.
Does colour matter?
Your options are pink or lime. One is no more stronger than the other and no colour will outlast the other. The only advantage that pink has over lime is its visibility in the water, slightly reducing its risk of being run over. Some crews prefer their skiers to chose a colour each, enabling everyone to quickly identify them.
If you have any questions that you’d like to see answered in a blog post, write to us at email@example.com.
Ski Set Up
I take a lot of calls at Zig’s Marine regarding ski set up and I’m always happy to offer advice on all makes and models of race skis. The frequency of calls however tells me that many skiers out there may be struggling both with their stance and control of their ski due to incorrect binding placement.
Incorrect binding positioning will affect your stance, balance and control and can result in unnecessary strain during and post race as your body contorts to manage the ski. Here I will go through the four errors that are often made when setting up a ski for racing.
Bindings Too Far Forward
If your bindings are set too far forward on your ski, the wet area of the ski is significantly increased. With your weight over the front of the ski, you are pushing it down in the water so that it rides very heavy on the nose. In smooth water you will experience a lot more drag on the ski much like a boat lacking trim.
In a corner, you’ll need to drive your weight through your back leg to turn the ski, resulting in calf burn.
In rough water, you may see the water breaking over the tip of the ski. You’ll be getting sprayed in the face and the chance of you having a fall over the front of your ski is increased.
If your bindings are too far forward, your stance is compromised as you compensate for the incorrect positioning by putting pressure downwards on your back foot.
If you think this may be a problem for you, adjusting the position of your bindings by 15mm will offer a noticeable difference without drastically altering the behavioral characteristics of the ski.
Bindings too far back
If your bindings are set too far back on your ski, you may experience the ski ‘flapping’ or bouncing up and down in smooth water. If your ski is bouncing uncontrollably you have a problem and your boots are too far back. If you are able to stop the ski bouncing by shifting your weight to the front leg then you are more likely to have a problem with your stance (which is a whole other Zig’s Tips article!).
With the boots too far back you may experience the ski ‘flapping’ through the corner or with your weight too far back, your ski may not settle through a corner.
In the rough, bindings set too far back cause another set of problems, you may find that your ski is “wheel standing” or forcing itself upwards towards a vertical position. If this is the case, you’ll feel it in your back as it arches in an effort to bring your weight over the front of the ski. This will cause you to expend a lot more energy than you need to. You’ll know it too after the race as you feel the stiffness and soreness in your back.
Bindings Too Far Apart
It surprises me the number of skiers who are skiing with their bindings too far apart. Many skiers call looking for advice on front boot placement and when I ask them about their back boot, it’s not something they have even considered. The position of the back boot is equally as important as the position of the front boot. The main consideration in binding placement is the skiers height matched with the type of ski they are riding. If your bindings are too far apart your range of movement will be limited, compromising the amount of control you have in all conditions. It’s all about balance, if your feet are too far apart you increase your chances of tipping too far forward and too far backwards while you are skiing. Rather than using your energy to ski hard, you’ll be using it to constantly correct your stance.
Bindings Too Close Together
If your bindings are too close together, you’ll feel very awkward on your ski. You’ll lack stability and balance. A simple way to test this is to just stand comfortably on a flat surface in your preferred stance. Slide your feet together and apart until you feel comfortable and balanced. Based on this position take a measurement from the back of your back foot to the back of your front foot and compare it to your ski.
99% of the bindings we fit to skis at Zig’s Marine are offset against the centre line and by this I mean we turn the toes on both boots outwards i.e. the left foot is turned anti-clockwise while the right foot is turned clockwise. This puts you in a much more natural stance and allows you more freedom of movement as you control the ski in both smooth and rough water. You can test this theory out just by standing on a flat surface. If you place one foot directly in front of the other in a straight line and try to bend at the knees, your range of movement is very limited. By turning your toes outwards and bending again, you’ll see how much more movement you’ve allowed yourself. This additional movement makes a considerable difference especially when skiing in rough conditions.
If while reading this article you’ve recognised a problem that you’ve been experiencing make one of the suggested adjustments before your next training run. Never make a change just before a race, all adjustments should be tested during training.
Be sure to contact us at Zig’s Marine for any advice on specific measurements as these can vary widely depending on the ski you are using and your own height, weight, leg length, stance and class you are racing. We are always happy to help with free advice so don’t hesitate calling, emailing or messaging us on Facebook. If you aren’t confident making the changes yourself, we do ski re-fits and re-furbs as well.
02 4587 8224
Racing for a Win at the Mildura 100
The GTS Freight Management Mildura 100 is considered the fastest ski race on the planet. The many long, wide straights on this section of the Murray combined with the fact the race is broken into two halves, means that this race sees speeds across all classes that other events can’t match. Given the unique qualities of this great race your preparation and race strategy should be adjusted to suit the conditions you will be facing.
Without the corners and turns that skiers encounter during races such as the Southern 80 and Robinvale this race is grueling on every muscle in your legs, hands and neck. These muscle groups are put to the test without many chances to relax and stretch out during a slow turn or corner. In the lead up to the race, neck and hand exercises are important on top of your normal leg and fitness routine.
To strengthen my neck, I simply lie flat on my back across the bed, but with my head extended off the mattress, hovering over the ground. It looks simple and feels easy at first but after a few minutes you’ll feel the muscles working and burning, giving a similar sensation to how it feels to hold your head up in the wind drag while skiing. Try this two or three nights a week for around 15 minutes in the weeks leading up to the event. With the neck being a small muscle group you’ll see results fast.
For hands, particularly my back hand I use a pair of old fashioned hand squeeze exercisers to pump the muscles in my forearm and hand. You should be able to pick up a pair from a sports shop. Alternatively use a squash ball or tennis ball and squeeze and release your hand for as long as you can.
It’s important before any race to check over your ski, looking for damage. Any chips or dents will create drag which will affect you a lot more in a river race like Mildura than a rough water race. If you come across a chip in your ski, you can use some two-part epoxy to fill the cavity then rub back with sandpaper until it is nice and smooth again.
A graphite paint application to the underside and edges of your race ski is a popular and wise upgrade for skiers who are competing at speeds upwards of 85mph. As you ski faster, drag can become an inhibiting factor, reducing a skiers tolerance for speed. The graphite paint coating reduces friction between your ski and the water, hence reducing drag.
Check your fin for damage and ensure it is sitting straight in your ski. It may have been damaged or bent in your last race without you realising it. Fins are often damaged in transit and storage as well. Consider upgrading to a stainless steel fin prior to the race as the SS fins are far superior to those made from alloy and are designed to retain their shape on impact with debris in the water.
(For more info on graphite paint, fins and ski repairs, contact Zig’s Marine).
It is common practice now to use harnesses lined with rubber and to have rubber added to the outside of your wetsuit around where your harness wraps. This works very well when it is new, taking the load off your back hand as the two rubbers grip together. However, over time, the rubber loses it’s stick through both wear and residue build up. To improve the performance of the rubber again, use some thinners or acetone on a rag to remove any build up, then wipe over with a clean rag and this will help the rubbers stick again.
Use the Half Way Stop to Your Benefit
It’s important during the first half of the race to ski as if you are racing to the finish line. Don’t leave anything in the tank for the return leg because you have a lengthy break at half way to re-group, re-fuel and re-charge. Once you are at half way go for a jog or a walk and do some stretching, keep your muscles warm and moving yet relaxed.
Team Hell is very lucky to have the wonderful Tracey Cranny on hand at half way with eskys full of healthy snacks and drinks. If you are not lucky enough to have such a wonderful person like Tracey taking care of you, you’ll need to pack your own snacks and liquids for half way. Use this stop as an opportunity to refuel for the return leg. Have at least a sandwich and a couple of bottles of water during this time.
Ensure you pack some extra skiers tape for half way, your tape won’t be doing the job it’s meant to after such a lengthy stop and so re-taping is a must. I also always carry an extra pair of goggles and a fin to safeguard against minor incidents that could as affect the second half of the race. At half way I’ll give my goggles a once over with Plexus cleaner, which cleans the lens and disperses water away from the lens while skiing.
The Return Leg
It’s now up to you and your crew, if you’ve put in the preparation and looked after yourself at half way, you’ve given yourself the best chance for a great and safe race.
Good luck to all the crews competing at this year’s Mildura 100, enjoy your weekend away and stay safe.
Skiing the Southern 80
Former World Champion Jason Walmsley (Zig) shares some hints and tips to help you improve your performance on the water.
This month, Zig’s Tips are specific to racing the Southern 80. As the outright record holder and five time outright winner of the event, his advice is sure worth reading!
With the Southern 80 just days away it’s the perfect time to touch on some different set up options for this unique skiing event. When you compare the Southern 80 to the other classic river races on our calendar the biggest difference is the number corners and turns in the race. These bends and winds have a big effect on how we ski and will affect how we prepare our gear for the race.
Have a good look over your ski, particularly the sides, bevel and fin, given the the number of turns in the 80 these parts of the ski will be used a lot more. In this race it is more important than ever to ensure that no part of your bindings are overhanging the sides of your ski. If this is the case, you should definitely make some corrections, grinding a few mm off the side of the boot may be necessary for skiers with a wide foot. It is a good move for all skiers to run some tape up the side of your bindings to be sure that the water will not grab any part of the boot during the tight, slow turns when your ski is banked over.
Your rope should be shortened to help you corner around the sharp turns. It’s important also to ensure that your rope is not too heavy for your size (skiers rope now comes in six sizes ranging from 4mm for skiers around 40kg up to 6mm for a skier over 95kgs). You risk your rope dipping on the corners if it is too heavy. Use one continuous line of rope for the Southern 80, any extensions will weigh your rope down and grab if they come into contact with the water.
While shortening your rope will help you during the corners, the side effect is that you will have to deal with the spray that comes off the back of the boat. A neoprene face mask worn around the lower half of your face protects the skin that is left exposed by your helmet and goggles. I will also be wearing a neoprene shin cover to protect the lower half of my front leg from the spray off the boat as we are cornering.
With the extra spray hitting you in this race it is worthwhile using a new pair of goggles and taping across the top of them to prevent water getting in and behind the lens. Apply a water dispersible cleaner such as Plexus to the lens of the goggles to improve your vision.
With much of this race made up of tight bends, the corners are where the Southern 80 is lost or won. Knowing the course is invaluable, which is proven by the drivers who have success year after year. For those who aren’t familiar with the course, it’s important then to take each corner as it comes and prepare yourself as best you can for the next. Much like riding a motorbike on the road, look up and through the corner as you are skiing, by looking as far through the corner as you can, you give yourself the most time possible to prepare for where the course is taking you next. There is no other race run on such a narrow, tight course, as you are looking through the corner you must at all times be looking out for obstructions hanging from the the bank. Given that most skiers will be outside the wash, there is no need to follow the path that the boat takes. Timing is important, you don’t want to start your corner too early or too late, ideally the skier will be making their turn as the boat is exiting it’s turn so that ideally as the boat straightens and accelerates, the skier has completed their turn and has straightened up again to prevent being drawn into the wash under acceleration.
The Southern 80 is by far the biggest and such an exciting event on the Ski Racing calendar. To keep yourself safe it is so important to ski within your limits. While the constant turns in this race mean it’s not as physically draining as other river races, it’s a very busy race mentally. Your concentration during turns is vital to your safety, one small slip up may see you come unstuck. Be on high alert for any slack rope and be ready to deal with it if you get it. Give your downs as you need them, you’ll be a lot further away from your partner in this race so you need to look after yourself.
Good luck everyone, I’m looking forward to the action!
Racing for a Title
Jason Walmsley has skied the Australian Titles since 1992 and has his name on every age class and Marathon trophy from under 13 Boys to Open Mens. Here he shares some advice to help you ski for a win at Jindabyne.
The Australian Titles present a unique racing event for skiers to compete against the best competition from right across the country. It’s only once a year that you get the opportunity to test yourself against every skier who is at your age and level. You’re not racing the river, there’s no record to beat and the maximum speed recall on your GPS means nothing; your competition is strictly the skiers in your class and you need to know how to race to win.
Prior to the race, study the draw and the grid positions of your competition. Don’t make the mistake of stressing over the position you were given, you can’t change it and all positions have their advantages and disadvantages. You need to know where your toughest opponents are before the race starts. If your opponent is starting in the grid in front or behind you, make sure you and your crew understand what 30 seconds means on the water and how far you are traveling in this time. I have always worn a stopwatch on my front arm to gauge this, but your crew is in a much better position to record splits. Discuss some signals with your observer that he can use to let you know if your competition is gaining on you vs. you pulling away from them.
Consider your rope length carefully. Conditions on the lake can change day by day, even from morning to afternoon. You may spend your morning watching the other classes race around in smooth conditions only to have the wind come up for your race. If you know that you will be racing in choppy conditions, shorten your rope to suit. Your grid position will also play a small part in the rope length you choose to race with. If I was racing from behind, I would shorten my rope by around 20ft. If the water’s calm, the first grid will get a faster first lap than the rest of the field, the following grids will race their first lap in rougher conditions and so if you are in the first grid you may consider a slightly longer rope to take advantage of your position. Keep in mind though that as you get into the race and the water chops up, a longer rope will become your enemy in corners and will also take away some advantage of the better ride close to the boat.
Don’t be tempted to try something new at an event that is this important. If you have always started unwrapped and it’s working for you, this week is not the time to try a wrapped start. Save the testing for training and club days. The same applies to all areas of your preparation, don’t change your nutritional plan or warm up, let your experience guide you. Keep hydrated, this is the hottest time of the year and it’s critical that you consume plenty of fluids.
You’re sitting on the deck, your heart is pumping, the 30 second flag drops and you’re in the drink, your line running out of the boat to a tight rope, flag drops and you’re away – well hopefully!
We have no problems in training but race starts are without doubt much harder due to nerves, pressure and often rougher water in the start area.
So what can we do to make things easier on ourselves?
Be organised prior to the 30 second flag going down, have your goggles on, harness ready, not twisted, giving you as much time as possible to steady yourself in the water waiting for the start flag to drop.
This is a critical part of the race as it determines how well you can get up to race speed and hopefully put some distance on your rivals. It is also a time where mistakes are made easily and egos can get in the way of ability, so keep it real and remember that although it is important, it’s not the end of the race if things don’t go to plan at this early stage.
So you’re up and away, first lap nearly complete. Your nerves should have subsided a little and it’s time to settle into a groove. Don’t relax though, the most dangerous part of the race is nearing as we finish lap 1 – the dreaded start washes!
This is more of a problem at the titles due to the high number of competitors racing. With multiple grids needing time to start, there is always some nasty water for the front runners as they come from the fast smooth waters of the first lap to the dirty churned up start water. It is important for both skiers and drivers to anticipate what’s approaching. This part of the race can end up a graveyard of fallen skiers, once you’re through though assess the water conditions and adjust your speed which will steady now with the water building rougher and rougher until the end.
Compared to other races throughout the year, the Aussie Tiles races are much shorter so don’t think too much about pacing yourself. Keep your eyes on the water, ski to your limit and take advantage of every opportunity. Be aware of the time and don’t just wait until you see the blue flag to make your move as you may leave it too late.
Now that your race is over be mindful of and start preparing now for your other events over the course of the titles. Your recovery is more important than you may realise and much can be done to decrease muscle soreness after each event. Some skiers use ice baths to increase blood flow to the muscles which assists in the repair of your torn muscle fibers. As a guide, ice at one minute intervals, any more and you can make yourself ill. Gentle stretching is important as is light exercise. Focus on fluid replacement!
Be sure to look after your gear as well. Check over your ski and rope and let them dry between races without leaving them in the sun. Sort your gear out early so it’s not a stress getting it done before your next race.
Have a great time everyone, good luck to all skiers and crews. If you have skied well enough to get your hands on one of the perpetual trophies take some time to look through the list of awesome names that won it before you. The Robertson’s, The Brown’s, The Dipple’s, The Stouts, The Mawer’s and The Proctor’s are all skiing legends and the Australian Titles is a great celebration of the skiers.