Foil Fest at Pro Vela Spain
Reviewed by Simon Propper
Inevitably the Moth blogosphere this week has been buzzing with trivia about what middle aged men got up to on the Costa del Crime. Really you’d be better off renting ‘Sexy Beast’ with Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley. None of that here: just compelling reasons why, if you are remotely interested in Mothing, you absolutely should not miss an opportunity to do it at Pro Vela.
An alternative to championship racing
Foil Fest was a new idea in Moth events. Part training, part racing and part messing about on foils, all in 25 degree sunshine with winds between 10 and 20 knots every day.
The brains behind it is Alan Hillman, proprietor of the Pro Vela sailing base on the Mar Menor, effectively a large lagoon separated from the Mediterranean by a sand bar. Several people were thinking we needed a new format, but Alan was the one who made it happen.
With the traditional World and European championship circuit getting ever more hardcore professional, and the venues becoming truly global, many were left wondering if they really belonged at the Gorge or Dubai. Championships can be a stressful place to do your learning and nobody likes to think they’re getting in the way as they are being lapped.
From the start Alan set the tone to ‘chilled’ and guest coach Si Payne followed suit. We launched lazily after a great cafe con leche at the beach and always returned for an excellent lunch at the club. Alan adds nice touches – at one stage circling the dinghy park with a shopping trolley loaded with iced beers. But a relaxed vibe doesn’t mean you just mess about. On the contrary, the flexible format allowed short course racing, pursuit racing based on personal handicaps and rules that build in training like three compulsory gybes per leg. Everyone improved as a result and in my view much more than they would have by attending a championship. Si hopped in and out of many boats checking the set-up and giving advice. The expression on his face while teetering on the brink of a pitch-pole in one particular Axiom was priceless.
We even had sponsors, Marlow (special thanks to Simon Reynolds), Spinlock (best kneepads ever thank you thank you) CTM/SP and Henri Lloyd to whom we owe thanks for great prizes and freebies. I won’t even bother to talk about the après-sailing which was a significant part of the fun – see the blogs. Honestly, Foil Fest was the most productive fun you could have in your Moth. We simply have to do another one and you simply should not think of missing it.
Thinking of learning to foil?
If you are thinking of getting into foiling or have recently bought a Moth and are struggling alone up a chilly creek, book a week at Pro Vela. They have two properly set up Bladeriders and the perfect environment to learn safely and progress quickly.
Pro Vela isn’t just another sailing school cashing in on the interest in foiling. Alan is a Mothie himself – he owns a Mach 2 – and has become pretty good at it. But as a hugely experienced coach he has applied the teacher’s brain to learning to foil. To watch him gybe is to see the manual being written with accompanying line drawn sketches. Most of the top sailors struggle to tell you what they do because it’s so instinctive, but Alan has foiling by numbers imprinted in his brain. It’s not pretty but it is replicable.
And lastly, the next great championship venue
All the above has focused on learning and fun. But Pro Vela is also the ideal venue for a major championship, perhaps a Europeans next year followed by a Worlds the year after. The wind is thermal and in a great range for our class – 10 to 20 knots. Less than Torbole but more than Dubai. It seemed highly reliable. I’ve heard Mar Manor described as flat water, but this is nonsense. The lagoon is shallow so a half to one metre chop develops very quickly. Getting downwind is a challenge and will certainly allow those with the best skills to shine.
Launching is from a large sandy ramp and the onshore facilities are excellent. Alan is a consummate event promoter and organiser – of eXtreme 40s amongst others – and is all fired up to get a chance to host a Moth championship, for which he would partner with the local sailing club. If we go before the main tourist season, say June, accommodation is plentiful and cheap, food is good and cheap and the beach is excellent and – free. So you can bring the family and promise them more fun than a week in Weymouth.
If any of the IMCA world committee is reading this: please seriously consider Pro Vela as the next venue as soon as possible. We will get the biggest turnout ever. Alan will be more than excited to hear from you. Here’s his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do it now!