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.