Don’t Freak Out – Part 1

Further Adventures of the Defi Diva

by Amber Kasbeer, aka Defi Divadefi_logo

“I’m SO sorry! I don’t know what happened? Everything was fine last fall when I booked everything! But listen, don’t freak out, I’ve been working with Paolo in Montreal and he is working a solution.” A solution was necessary to fix the issue that Air France had some how decided to reject Chris Wattengel’s and my windsurfing gear on the second half of our journey.  A journey that I had started on last summer.

It was early last June, when I popped on to the DEFI website to read up on the race and indulge my YouTube addiction of watching cute puppies and windsurfing videos. After three hours of trance-like assimilation into the ether, I found myself on looking up the rates for the little bungalow I stayed at during my first DEFI sojourn. I selected 5-8 May 2016, curious to see what it would be listed for during this year’s race. The answer came quickly enough…”Sold Out”. “What!??”  Ack! Sold out already?? Crap!” it was then by some completely visceral, reactionary response that I pulled out my rainy day credit card and committed myself and future retirement funds to going again… After hemming and hawing, and clicking on a myriad of different locale properties I finally settled on a little beach house which was a little over 400 euros for the week.  By the time I had clicked “buy” and put in all my personal information, including height, weight, and eye color, that I looked up at the clock to see that it was almost 2:00 am in the morning.  As I crawled into bed letting the reality of what I had just started to sink in that I realized the depth of my compulsions. Some people stay up late and spend their money on trinkets from the QVC channel at those late hours of the night, but in my case it is the DEFI channel and it usually costs thousands of dollars…

Somehow, somewhere after that, I had convinced Chris that he needed to join me on the frigid waters of the Mediterranean and ride the insane winds of the Tramontain.  And luckily for me, he thought that it was a great idea! So after that, I called on my dear Belgian friends, Bart and Els, to join us as the little beach house had plenty of room.  And of course, I was very eager to see them again and perhaps join up with some of my Belgian Slalom team mates that had so graciously adopted me into their little circle during my first race.

East Coast Championships Regatta 2014

Longboard StartBABA had a warm, sunny and light wind ECC Regatta on September 20 & 21st.  Longboard racing was the call as the wind remained light and variable both days.  Our Formula fleet showed up on Saturday and kept the benches warm waiting for enough wind to run a few races, but mother nature didn’t cooperate.

Big thanks go to Jeff and Darlene Forte for bringing Something Special, our committee boat for the weekend.  Guillaume Vernieres (aka G) brought his RIB (that’s rigid inflatable boat) which Race Organizer Warren Evans captained to place marks, run the photographer around (that was me) and serve as safety boat in case anyone needed to be rescued.  Warren learned that G’s boat only speaks French, but once over the language barrier, some sweet talk kept her running for the weekend.  Race Director Dave Iseri motivated the longboard fleet to complete 6 races and our dedicated volunteers made the weekend fun for everyone.

Our land and water volunteers for the event also included Tom Caswell (aka Scooter), Janice Emerling, Ann Jackson, Amber Kasbeer, Fan Pat, Collin Pitts, Mike McCormick and Helen Van Gelder.  Helen is  behind the scenes for every event, trip and membership drive making sure fees are deposited, expenses are paid and our books balanced.  Thank you everyone!


Guillaume swept the event with 5 firsts and a DNS.  The Men’s Open Class had a tight contest for 2nd & 3rd with the tie breaker going to John Contos over Colin Pitts.  Congratulations to everyone who competed, especially Novice racer Anthony Burrows.

Novice:  Anthony Burrows (1st)

7.5 Limited Men: Chris Wattengel (1st)

Open Women: Fan Pat (1st), Amber Kasbeer (2nd)

Open Men: Guillaume Vernieres (1st), John Contos (2nd), Colin Pitts (3rd)

Picture Gallery follows…… click the first picture to open the gallery as a slide show.

Spring Regattas

Lining up for a start from the beach
Lining up for the Le Mans start.

We had a great start to the spring racing season with our annual Gerry Brown Memorial Regatta for Cancer Research at Baltimore County Sailing Center.  It was a light-wind day for an enthusiastic bunch of long boarders.  BCSC Director Eileen Fahrmeier set some marks for and upwind downwind course and we had a Le Mans style start from the beach.  The wind was flukey and dying so the crew completed one race and spent the rest of the day free sailing in Hawk Cove.  BABA members contributed about $500 to the Sidney Kimmel Center for Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins.  Thank you to everyone who contributed and who came out for the event.  It was great to see Jack Ames back out on the race course after a long hiatus.  Big thanks to our host, Eileen and BCSC.  Check out their website and programs for youth and adult sailing.  There’s also a week-long windsurfing camp for kids every summer.

Wind and Sun for the East Coast Championships Regatta

BABA racers and Meet at the Beach inspired windsurfers scored a big weekend at Mayo for the East Coast Championships on September 21 and 22.

We’ve got lots of pictures and words to share, but in case, dear reader, you don’t make it through the entire post, I’m going to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who pulled together to put on the regatta.   As Myles Borash said when asked why he traveled all the way from Boston to compete – he makes a great effort to travel to our regatta because BABA still cares about racing and has volunteers who will work to put on an event, while his local windsurfing community gave up long ago.

Gunpowder Regatta and Learn to Windsurf

Longboard Start
Longboard Start

Your BABA peeps had a big weekend at the Gunpowder in June.  Where were you?  The threatening storms never materialized even though it was raining cats and dogs inland, and we had nice thermals both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday the wind came early enough for 5 competitive longboard races.  The Formula kiddos decided to play rather than race and they were blasting downwind of the race course.

Big thanks to Jeff Forte for ably running the races from a kayak on Saturday.  BABA racing is going green – no carbon  except for our masts and booms.  For the final race of the day we had a self timed beach start in  rapidly increasing winds.  Stuart Annapolis Wind and Sam Berry returned to the race course after a long hiatus.  Welcome home guys!

On Sunday BABA’s Learn to Windsurf took center stage with an enthusiastic group of newbies ready to get on the water.  Storms were raging inland again but the bad weather was magically diverted around Gunpowder by BABA juju.  Hal Ashman of Ultimate Watersports was the lead on-land instructor.  I don’t think the students realized that they were being instructed by one of the East coast’s best.  Thanks for being there for BABA, Hal!  Winds were increasing through the afternoon so the LTW students had light wind to get started and a bit more of a push once they got their basic uphauling and sailing skills under wraps.  I heard one exuberant student cry out “I CAN DO IT!”  Congratulations to Janice E for continuing a tradition of well attended LTW clinics.  Thanks to all the folks providing on the water coaching – Mark Windz41, Helen VG, Bill A, Coby and Dennis.

Defi Diva – A Final Run

#803Amber standing next to American flag

When Philipee Bru got up in front of the crowd for the last Skipper’s race, he could barely speak. With a warm scarf wrapped around his neck, it became apparent that he had given his all to put on such an amazing event. But even through his horse voice, he still managed to provide the daily instructions. “Derriere, Bouee, Derriere, Bouee, Arrivee!!”  After the instructions had been provided, they announce that they would be delaying the start.  The winds were still too unpredictable, and the race committee did not want to start a race until conditions had steadied.  In particular they were concerned about a significant increase in wind speeds after the race had already started. By delaying it, the sailors would be able to rig a more appropriate sail for the conditions. So we waited…By noon, the winds had done just as predicted. They were now significantly stronger from the morning, and they had filled in.

Defi Diva – Diva in Blue

by Amber, aka Defi Diva
(ed note – I changed the title of this post without Ambers’ permission….)
It had taken me close to two hours to complete the course.  And while Wind Magazine and other windsurfing paparazzi were no where in site to document my return, I was on a high. I pulled my board and sail from the water and set them on a small piece of sand in between the hundreds of sails that blanketed the beach. I then walked over to the check in table, found my name on the clipboard and signed back in.  It was now official!  I had completed a race! I practically skipped back over to the Belgian Slalom team’s staging area.
As I crawled over the wall with a huge smile on my face, Xavier and Bart looked up. “I did it!” I cried. A hearty round of congratulations rose in the air. Bart then smiled and said, “We were talking, and decided that if you completed a race we would give you one of our jackets.”  OOOhhh the coveted blue Belgian Slalom Team jacket??!! The Fashionista in me had goose bumps! This was a prize more coveted than any statue or bottle of champagne! I imagined myself being invited to Presidential balls and other Washington DC galas, where I would walk into a room wearing it and the women’s  heads would turn eying it greedily.  Perhaps I would even make the fashion watch section of Vogue magazine? It was official, I had now not only completed a Defi race, but I was also now an official Belgian Slalom team groupie!

wearing Belgian Slalom Team jacket
Belgian Slalom Team Honorary Member

Defi Diva – On the Scoreboard

Amber showing her race t #803

by Amber, aka d’FEE dee-VAH

The winds were only slightly less gusty than they had been at the start of the previous day’s race.  But it was  enough that I no longer was fighting extreme lulls. As the other sailors raced back and forth around me, I used the time to set my harness lines and find out how the wind was going to play on the start of the course. At the Skipper’s meeting they had warned that it had shifted to a more north direction, so I set a course that would get me a closer start to the starting boat and allow me to make a bee line to the shore.

Eventually the sails once again started to amass in the direction of the starting line. This time, however, everyone was a bit more open and staggered giving themselves an opportunity to get up good speed.  I hung back a bit to allows those that this was “serious business” for to have their space, and so that I could witness that infamous rabbit start this time from the water. As my watch hit the 60 minute mark I again saw the farthest sails start to break away, I raked back my own sail got up speed and headed toward the start.  I again was slow across the starting line.  I had miss judged my starting direction and had to ride downwind with my sail wide open, bleeding air. Eventually I got my line back and was able to set my course. As I crossed the starting line, my heart lept again! “YESSSS!” I was back!

Defi Diva – The Diva Rides Another Day

by Amber, aka d’FEE dee-VAH

By the time I had warmed up, eaten a huge hamburger sandwich, applied some of Jurgen’s 50SPF sunblock on my now deep fried skin, and found my gear, the second Skipper’s meeting for the day was in full swing. The wind had picked up from where it had been during the morning’s race, so this time there would only be two laps. My heart sank a bit.  I knew that even if I did manage to get all my equipment rigged and ready, that it was too big for the now even stronger conditions. Besides, it would be foolish of me after the morning’s fiasco not to take a bit of time to make sure that the rough transport back didn’t put any holes in my board or rips in my sail.  I would have to sit this one out.

Bart decided to go for it. So after he launched, Jurgen, Els, and I headed to the jetty to watch the start. The sight of 100’s of sails amassing on the start line was nothing short of spectacular. The sails were grouped tightly, making for dangerous starting conditions (and the sailors were later warned as much during future Skipper’s meetings) however at that moment witnessing all those sails shimmering in the wind took my breath away.  I had never in my life seen such an incredible spectacle. Slowly you could start to see the farthest sails break away as the race started. Philipee Bru’s speed boat then popped out and headed up shore, releasing the rest of the sails. They were off, and I no longer was lamenting the miss of that race. It had been pure exhilaration to witness a Defi start.

Defi Diva – Tramontane 1, Diva 0

by Amber, aka Defi Diva  (and in your best pseudo French accent, say d’FEE dee-VAH!)

As I pulled myself and my gear from the rescue boat and sloshed toward the shore, I looked out at the distant sand dunes through a brown gritty haze. The sand was whipping in finger-like strands along the beach. I had been in a similar wind many years ago at Virginia Beach.

Having at the time just newly acquired the 4.7 Ezzy sail I was now sailing, I didn’t bother looking at the forecast that day.  I just knew it was windy and I wanted to go out and give my new sail a try.  I had been staying at a hotel on the beach that day so rigged in the shadow of the building. As I moved my board and sail toward the water, I could feel the sand scouring the skin at my ankles where my wet suit and booties did not quite connect. “That hurts!” I remember thinking before I dismissed it and plunged into the waves.  Not having ever really surfed waves, my naivety provided me with resolve that I would probably now lack. As the wind that day was a side shore and blowing from the north, I quickly made it out past the break and into the deep waters. At that point my brain engaged and I thought that perhaps it was not wise for me to be out in these conditions. I struggled to turned the board back toward shore spending more time in the water and waves than on them. Having just
also newly acquired water starts, it took several attempts before I was once again up and riding in the direction of land. The “non–windsurfing” colleagues I had been traveling with came to the shore to help me with my gear, as I had been blown down shore quite considerably. That evening they teased me relentlessly during dinner. But after I got home a few days later I checked the wind for that evening, it had been blowing 50 mph.