Windsurf: Why raceboard? – Mark Kay talks competitive class windsurf racing

Words: Mark Kay

Pics: IWA

Starboard, Demon Sails and NCW wetsuits rider Mark Kay talks all things raceboard windsurfing. Over to Mark for the essential info.

I have been windsurfing for 35 years and started racing longboards (raceboard) from the beginning. Whilst teaching windsurfing to youth sailors I have tried RS:X, formula, slalom and have always turned back to the raceboard as for me it is the best all round sailing you can do – from 5 knots to 14 knots.

When the wind picks up you can blast around with full control due to the length and shape of the boards. Even with large sail sizes you are still in command due to the ability of altering the sail shape whilst on the water.


After recently coming back from the European Raceboard Championships in Brest, France myself and seven other UK sailors (four of them youths) proved we can still podium and the UK raceboard class has windsurfers all keen to show we’re champions.

The results were as follows.

2nd European Men Heavy Mark Kay

1st Lady Youth Molly Howell

2nd Lady Youth Alysia Gibson

3rd Lady Youth Rebecca Kent

2nd Man Youth Julian Tait

1st lady Grand Veteran Annette Kent

1st Men Veteran Tom Naylor

2nd Grand Master Robert Kent


What’s it all about?

Most People have in mind that raceboard windsurfing (longboard racing) is only for old people and boring. You may think it is old fashioned, outdated very slow and suffers from kit that is heavy. If this is your view then you are very well mistaken. In fact, many Olympic RS:X and PWA sailors sailed at this year’s European championships. My saying is: ‘The raceboard class will never die. Riders just get faster and faster each year’.

Raceboard windsurfing is becoming more and more popular with younger sailors. The average age at the Raceboard European Championships was 35 with 13 youth boys and five youth girls. This was out of a total of 90 sailors. The youth fleet mainly consists of Techno class riders who have transitioned this year. The results show that they are competitive in this fleet.


Most of the top professional sailors of today started off sailing around a local lake working their way from the back of the pack to lead the fleet; the next step is to attend a UK national event where you race against other sailors for around the country and really show what you can do.

Many may think: ‘long plank, very thin and hard to sail’. You could not be further from the truth… Developments of raceboard shapes over the last 20 years have come on leaps and bounds with better construction, outlines, thicknesses and innovations like wings.

Have a look at one of the main raceboard shapes – Starboard’s Phantom – to see what we’re talking about.

The kit

This style of competing is classic racing that is thriving with renewed enthusiasm at the moment. Race boarding, organised and sanctioned by ISAF, has always been popular thanks to its ability to deliver exciting competition in both planing and non-planing conditions.

Through natural evolution the winning designs tend to be long and slender, and they always include dagger boards and adjustable mast tracks. Starboard’s Phantom Race 377 has been race legal since January 2012 and the Phantom Race 377 L since January 2014. The largest sail size allowed for competition is 9.5 m2.

A second Phantom Race 377 was added to the Starboard family recently. This new model adds 3cm of extra thickness for added volume – ideal for heavier riders. The thickness in the tail, under the back foot in reaching position, remains the same as the standard Phantom Race 377 to maintain the same control in full-plaining conditions.

Phantom Race 377: Recommended for sailors under 80 kg
Phantom Race 377 L: Recommended for sailors over 80 kg

There are lots of different sails on the market to choose from – all have different aspects. Let’s look at one of the leading sail brands – the Demon VG7. ‘The fastest most adjustable raceboard sail on the planet!’, is what the brand say. They then add: ‘These sails require time and dedication to craft. When we come to build your sail we pay attention to detail, we assemble with care and we ensure that when it leaves us, it is the best it can be. We have World Champions using both the 9.5m men’s and ladies 8.5m designs as well as a World Youth Champion on the books. These sails offer very light construction and give the most amount of adjustment that any sail can offer.’



You don’t have to go out and buy the latest board and sail if you want to get involved in the raceboard class. There is a lot of second hand equipment on the market starting from around £200 for a board with a sail around £100. It all depends on your own budget. One thing is for sure: once you start you’ll never want to stop.



The main classes with in raceboard are:

9.5m sail for men

8.5m sail for ladies

8.5m sail for youths

7.8m sail for anyone moving from the Techno fleet and wants to try the raceboard

4.5m – 5.8m sail for junior

So there is something for everyone and a way all sailors can develop their racing skills. You can find more information on the UK Raceboard Squad Facebook page –




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