Speaking with Boris Ljubtsenko after he had achieved his dream. World Championing Short Track Slalom, Ice Windsurfing. He is also World Champion in Course, so overall World Champion. He also came second in the speed.
Like in all sports, dedication and preparation is the key.
TWH:– The platform you stand on, are the sleds you use production or custom?
BORIS:– The sled I use is a Latvian production board, Hiberna. It is pretty much all stock, except all fine-tuned to fit my needs- like tight turns or softer feel in turning. There are multiple board manufacturers around who make small series custom boards and all of them are fast.
TWH:– Can you use different blades? Depending on the state of the ice.
BORIS:– We have quite an arsenal of sharp blades. Due to weight I only took 4(!) pairs of blades. Each pair with different ice contact length. Even so I had to adapt to conditions and totally reshape my blades: From standard 90 degrees to a radical 35 degrees. On softer ice we use bigger angle, and more contact length. On harder ice shorter contact length and sharper angle. In USA it was hard ice.
TWH:– You do many races in a day, can you change blades when they are no longer sharp, or must you use the same blades all day?
BORIS:– Yes, we do change them between heats if they are dull, and sharpening by hand is not option. Usually we have up to 10-12 races a day in two disciplines total , depending on weather. Day when wind was howling up to 25 knots gusts in – 15 degrees weather we had 2 course races and 8 S.T.S races. And after lunch it was long-distance race and speed race simultaneously.
TWH:– Are there measurement rules for the sleds? They seem quite short, maybe longer ones for course and speed would help?
BORIS:-We have some basic dimension regulations. But on S.T.S most important criteria is 20 metre turning radius. That idea is correct, wide ones are especially good on course, also long ones are the best on speed and course.
TWH:– Speed sailing on the sand and dirt boards they use straps, I notice on the ice you do not. Is there a reason for this?
BORIS:– There are some kinds of safety precaution, for example most Swedes don’t have straps. But mostly all boards have one strap in the back. Most surfboard-like boards are the ski-sleds, they are like formula boards, wide and same strap arrangement.
But it’s mostly up to the rider to decide how he feels himself most confident.
TWH:– At Point-7 we design high performance radical sails plus easy to use sails for everyone, but on the water. (Well liquid water) Which sails do you use on the sled?
BORIS:-I have a set of AC-one sails (9.2 /8.6/7.8/7.1 /6.1) with one extra AC-k sail sized 5.2. In US in had them all with exception of 8.6 . I use the minimum downhaul tension available, just enough to get cams rotating normally. And i add tension if the wind picks up. My beloved has set of AC-x which have proven as really easy and also fast. You basically can use any windsurf sail.
TWH:– We take care of our equipment and when it is very hot we have to take special care, especially in direct sunlight.
Are there things you must especially think about in your environment? THE COLD.
BORIS:– We had slush (ice rain) on Tuesday. It was not fun, sails all under thick layer of ice(2-4 mm). I had a car scraper made of rubber to help me. Also, boom was all iced up, restricting the grip. Had to de-ice it during the lunch break. So, if possible i would avoid ice rain for the sails, also extreme sub-zero temperatures-20 and lower.
This event only thing that has broken because of cold is my mast bags transparent mono-film. If you have snow somewhere between mast joint, it will freeze up.
Photo Credentials: Enda Parisma
TWH:– My immediate thought is that you are sailing and competing in light wind, but with very little resistance.
Does this change the way you set the sail?
BORIS:– Yes. As said, little bit less downhaul. And the sail is mostly over-sheeted in. It’s a little bit of a weird position but it minimalizes the drag. While sail tends to have best drive at little more upward position.
TWH:– Looking at the worlds you also had 20 knots plus, on ice!!!!!!!!!!! The thought of this scares the SHIT out of me. Is it fun?
BORIS:-Its super fun, day before we had speeds of 27 knots and 30 knots( Stefan). Ski-sled tends to jump little more than a wanted but it’s under control. We have guys who regularly do 50+ knots in strong winds. Its scarier on snow mixed with ice pieces like we had, but on solid glassy ice it’s a blast and relatively safe.
TWH:– The Short Track Slalom is your discipline. Can you explain how this works and how it is run?
BORIS:– Depending on conditions of the ice(ploughed area or clear ice) we have a either a regular downwind M-course with up to 100 m legs or figure 8 with an extra turning mark before finish straight if there is smaller area or ploughed course. We use fleet system and usually from 4 to 8 racers in fleet, depending on course length. Smaller course , smaller fleet. Slalom is intense.
TWH:– 16 races in the worlds and you scored 10 bullets. This is highly intensive racing. What is your key to stay focused? Or is it, you just run with the adrenaline?
BORIS:– I’m trying not to think who is chasing behind me, that moment when i think about them , the mistakes come in. Adrenaline has a major part in it. Its indescribable feeling what overwhelms you in the start and your feet and chest start to feel shaky from it. Sometimes music before racing day helps, other time just keep head clear and don’t forget to breathe.
TWH:– Course racing seams a little bit simpler. 7 races and you had 3 bullets. With racing it is always consistency that wins. You did just that. Can you explain the course race format?
BORIS:– I would say for me it’s more complicated. The timing of tacks and a downwind jibe with right course is essential for success. I had a ski sled from Igor Renkas, who makes custom skis and sleds, and black sail made this sled really fast on down wind, basically as i turn from upwind mark to downwind mark i start gaining and passing them with exponential power. Course race consists of a Start from where you have to gain height to get to Up-wind mark, from where you go to crosswind mark, there you do straight downwind make a jibe take the downwind mark Go in crosswind to lower finish mark, gain height, make a tack and straight to finish. Basically, same course, what sailboats and Techno and RSX use.
TWH:– For the majority, windsurfing is just a warm weather activity with Sun and Wind. The winter comes and they go and do there winter activities. They ski, Snow board…………. anything. But windsurfing is out of their mind. How do you think Ice windsurfing can be introduced to more people?
BORIS:– I actually snowboard too, at least one day a year. Ha. Got no time with all the windsurfing. We have strong and very helpful Ice-surfing communes around Europe. Mainly Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia. We all are doing local championships and involving more and more people.
Main advantage is your balance and jibe skill improvement. And the speed. And you don’t need a wetsuit. And did I say that it’s fun?
Send me a message and I get you acquainted with right people.
TWH:– You have me hooked and I look forward to the European Championships.
I would very much like your sport developed and available to everyone. Can we get windsurfers Ice windsurfing rather than Skiing or Snowboarding?
I’m glad to hear that! Our sport is available for all who are interested, if you have sails, all you need to get is a board. And with all the manufacturers around North-Europe there is a lot of choices. I have a snowboard as a plan-B for no wind days. When they will see, how easy it is to get speeds, bigger than on average windsurfing speed, I am sure they will be hooked like you as well.
Photo Credentials: Enda Parisma