Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Who Is Faster?

The idea: 
GPS Freeracing: put on a GPS, pick your own course, and go as fast as you can in a given period. Whoever covers the most distance wins! Could there be a simpler race format? I think not!

The attraction: 
No complicated starts, no pileups around buoys, no upwind or downwind legs - just sail as you like against a bunch of others.

The when and where:
At the 4th Annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod, Kalmus Beach, Hyannis, September 17 and 18, 2016.

The wind:
Just enough to get planing on larger slalom kits; sail sizes ranged up to 10 m, some competitors used their longboards. Average wind speed was around 12-15 knots, gusts never exceeded 18 knots, even after taking into account that the iWindsurf wind meter reads low in the SSW wind direction we had.

The players:
A wide mix of freeriders, freestylers, wave sailors, racers, and speed sailors. Some came from Cape Cod or the Boston area, others traveled further to be here - even all the way from Reno, Nevada. They included Mike Burns, seen by many as the best amateur freestyler in the Northeast US; and special guest "Boro" Boris Vujasinovic, the fastest windsurfer in the US. Both were on 115 l slalom boards and race sails - Mike on 7.8, Boro on 8.6. But since Boro is about a head taller than Mike and 30% heavier, he was at a disadvantage in the light winds - he would have needed a 10 m sail to be even!

Race 1:
The first GPS race was held on Saturday afternoon when the wind had picked up. Here are Mike's and Boro's tracks:
They started on opposite tacks, and would cross each other's path many times. Boro was faster, but Mike kept more speed in his jibes, and got right back to speed after every jibe. Boro, who regretted not bringing his big gear and was just marginally powered, several times had problems getting up to speed again. The result: Mike's distance of 12.14 km beat Boro's distance of 11.71 km; Arnold came in 3rd with 10.75 km. Boro's top speed during the race was 26.58 knots, Mike's 25.05 knots.

Race 2:
Boro switched to a racing tactic: he stayed close to Mike, so that they would have the same wind; any lull should affect both of them. He planned to sail just a bit further than Mike before each jibe, so that he'd make up the distance he was behind from the first race. But Mike quickly realized what Boro was up to, and turned it against him. When he saw a high-speed ferry coming, he knew that it would create a lot of chop.  Mike sailed towards the ferry, and then turned in the last possible moment to avoid the ferry wake; Boro went too far and lost precious time in the famed Kalmus voodoo chop. Perhaps falling behind Mike demoralized Boro, or perhaps the wind dropped a little - after the next jibe, Boro had to slog for more than two minutes before being able to plane again. Here are the GPS tracks for this "tactical incident":
In the end, the result for the second race was similar: Boro had the higher top speed (27.63 knots vs. Mike's 25.02), but Mike had the higher distance (11.6 km vs. Boro's 10.52; Bart, who did not sail in race one, finished 2nd with 10.78 km and 27.02 knots).

Here are the complete results for the GPS racing:

Mike ended up also winning the "Pro" freestyle and the 6.5 m class in racing, and was crowned King of the Cape (again, after passing the title to Rich Simmons in 2015). 

Boro took home one Rob Biaggi's great metal trophies for top speed:

I'm planning to write another post with results and details from racing and freestyle soon, but now, I have to take care of my lovely wife - I've passed the cold that I collected from Boro on to her...

Monday, September 5, 2016


I like seals. Maybe not the same way a great white shark likes them, but I think they are cute. They make me smile when I see them.

But today, they scared me. We wanted to do speed runs in a marsh.  The seals just wanted to hang out. Lots of them - I saw at least 5 of them at one time. Once, one of them was about one meter away from me in the water. I started wondering if my fancy windsurf boots look like fish, and if they'd start nibbling soon. But the bigger worry was to run into one of them going almost 30 knots in a speed run. Not something I wanted to do. Nina actually did clip one of them, but it was not a full-speed hit.

Maybe I was too scared already. Wind averages were in the mid-30s (mph), gusts in the 40s. It did not help that I was on unfamiliar small gear (my 72 l speed board and a 5.0 m race sail), and that the wind had big holes that made me sink into the water to my knees. Half a second later a gust would come and rip the sail out of my hands. Ha! Very funny!

Nina was on a 4.2 m freestyle sail, and complained that it was extremely unstable. It was not. The wind was. But at least it was warm. Kind of. And it did not rain all the time. And the fog was there for only part of the time. There were only a few minutes the fog and rain were so dense that I could not see Nina, who was in the water maybe 100 feet from me. Both of us were body-dragging downwind to get back to the launch. I tried butt sailing instead, but it was too windy for that. I'd end up with an involuntary water start, followed by a 30-knot catapult. That was me being catapulted at 30 knots. The board was too slow to keep up with me.

Fun day. Did I mention Nina also beat me in every single one of the six speed categories we use ont he GPS Team Challenge? Girls rule. Boys ... well, Bart was there to represent boys properly. He sailed through the chop as if it was not there. Except when he exploded every now and then. But he had fun, and was smart enough not to follow us upwind to the speed strip. So he sailed back, instead of improving "being dragged" skills.

We windsurfers are a funny bunch. Yesterday, I felt like I knew stuff - giving a jibe lecture, planing for hours, getting a 1 hour average good enough for a top-10 ranking on GPS TC. Fun! Today, I got a swimming lesson, and was scared by friendly seals. Fortunately, I did not see the manatee (Seekuh) that Nina saw. If I had seen it, I'd probably have night mares about speed surfing into an endangered 1000 pound sea mammal!

The GPS tracks below are from yesterday. I am not going to show you today's tracks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gear For Sale

Our garage is overflowing. No, not with cars, silly. Garages are for windsurf gear. We have to much, so we need to sell stuff. Here's a list of things we are selling, with pictures below:
  • Gaastra Manic 5.3 HD and 5.7, 2008, $60 each. The sails are in good condition for their age.
  • Mistral Edge slalom board, 92 l, $100. 268 cm x 54.5 cm. This is an older, but amazingly fast, slalom board. It has a working adjustable mast track so newer sails work perfectly fine on it.
Mistral Edge

Gaastra Manic 5.7 (also have a 5.3 that's HD/XPly)
The gear below has been sold already (for the Hawk 95, pending a test sail):
  • Fanatic Hawk 95 from 2006, $250 - probably sold. A great little board to go fast on. I broke 30 knots on it a few years ago, but it has since been replaced with a slalom board.
  • Exocet WindSUP 10, $650 - sold. 175 l, 305 cm long, 76 cm (32") wide. Big enough to learn windsurfing on, and the daggerboard makes getting back to where you started easy. Also fun for more experienced windsurfers. Unlike many other SUPs, this board will plane, thanks to the step tail. This board has a major professional repair near the nose.
  • Maui Sails RDM 400 mast, 100% carbon, $150 - sold. Very good condition, not used much.
  • 400 cm RDM mast, 55 or 65% carbon, $75 - sold. I believe this is a Fiberspar mast.
  • JP Real World Wave 76, $180 - sold. A wave board for the really windy days or for smaller sailors.
All items are for pickup on Cape Cod (Centerville or Kalmus) only. Lowball offers will be ignored. The easiest way to get in touch with me is through the Cape Cod Windsurfers group on Facebook, where most of these items are listed for sale, too. Or leave a comment with your contact information.
Exocet WindSUP 10 (sold)

Fanatic Hawk 95 (sold, pending a test ride)

MS RDM 400 100% (sold)
JP Real World Wave 76 (sold)

RDM 400 55% (sold)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Das Boot

When we started to organize the 1st Annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod in 2013, the Barnstable Harbor Master told us: "You need a rescue boat!". For the first three installments from 2013 to 2015, we used a jet ski (kindly loaned to us by Fast Eddie from Cape Cod Windsurfing). But last year, Eddie pointed out that rescuing a windsurfer and his gear with a jet ski might actually be illegal in Massachusetts: you are not allowed to tow anything with a jet ski!

Perhaps many would have ignored that. But the organizers of the ECWF Cape Cod are Germans. Germans know how important rules are. We have no speed limits on the Autobahn because we can rely on everyone following the rules  (well, almost everyone). For example, that you should move to the right lane immediately after passing someone, even if you are going 100 mph, so that the guy coming from behind can pass you at 150 mph. Ignoring rules makes a good German almost as uncomfortable as not being able to get good beer.

But there was another issue of concern: if we should ever get a typical Kalmus "southwest" day, we'd get 25-30 mph wind, and tons of voodoo chop at high tide. Sure, we'd set the course as far away from the shipping lane that the high speed ferry uses, but in such conditions, drifting a few hundred meters can happen very quickly. With more than 30 racers out in challenging conditions, it's not a question of "if" something will happen - it's just a question of "when".

Of course, jet skis can be used to rescue windsurfers even in crazy conditions. But that's if you have someone who has spent a lot of time riding them. That's not me. I get quite uncomfortable on jet skis even in small chop. If I went out on a very windy and choppy day to rescue someone, chances are that someone else would need to rescue me. Yes, there are usually a few windsurfers at the event that have more jet ski experience, but they want to race, not stand around waiting to maybe rescue someone.

So we needed a boat. Small inflatables can be found on Craigslist for less than $1,000, including a motor, but the pictures on these ads did not always instill confidence. So when Jim from Sailworld Cape Cod offered to sell us his Zodiac with an 8 hp motor, we jumped at the opportunity. We know Jim well enough to trust that he would help us with any problems we might encounter.

Problems? What problems? Well, they started out when we tried to register the boat (you must register any boat that uses a motor in Massachusetts). The friendly lady at the registry looked a the bill of sales, and pointed out it has to include the registration number! This required a trip back home, some phone and email exchanges with Jim, and a return trip to the registry. First problem solved.

Our first attempt to test the boat and motor failed because we had under-estimated the time we needed to paint the registration number onto the boat, as required by MA law (with "paint" I mean "draw with permanent markers). But a few days later, we made it to a local lake early in the morning. The initial plan was to make two trips - one trip with Nina and the motor, and a second trip where I'd just put the inflated boat into the van. Good plan ... except that the inflated boat did not quite fit. So deflate it, drive to the lake, and inflate it again. By now, I was getting hot!

But we finally got the boat into the water, and the motor attached. We had forgotten to bring paddles, but were able to anchor close to the shore to get the motor started. Or at least that was the plan. But the motor had not been run for about 2 years, and 2-stroke motors do not like standing around. I pulled the starter cord. And pulled again. And again, and again, .... I think you get the idea. I played around with the choke. But except for a few promising turns early on, the motor just would not start. So a very sweaty hour later, we carried everything back to the van, deflated the boat, and went home again.

Did I mention that this was the first time I tried to start an outboard motor? I have owned a few motor cycles over the years, but they all had 4-stroke engines, which always started right away. A quick Google search showed that that's definitely not the case for 2-stroke outboard motors; many owners run the motors every couple of weeks, just to make sure they turn on again. But I also found one useful tip: try starting the motor with the throttle two thirds open. I hooked up a hose to the motor so the water cooling would function, and tried to start it in the drive way. A few pulls later, it was running! It coughed a bit and stank a lot, but it was running!

So far so good. But the next problem was right at hand: the shift lever did not work! I could get the motor to run, but I could not get the propellor to turn. Not so great if you need to rescue someone. Jim did not know anything about the issue, but the motor had been standing around for a couple of years - plenty of time for things to rust into place.

Squirting some WD40 into a couple of places did nothing. I did a quick Google search which indicated that fixing the issue would require removing the power head. That's a bit beyond my skill level, so I went to find a boat mechanics. Every place close by that I called did not work on the brand of motor I had, or had a waiting list of 4 weeks, which would have brought us way to close to the event date. Thanks to a suggestion on the Cape Cod Windsurfers Facebook page, I finally found a place 45 minutes away that accepted the motor. Well, 45 minutes without tourist traffic ... in the middle of summer, this ended up as a 3-hour round trip.

I called the shop a few days later, and got some bad news: the mechanic estimated that it would take 3 hours to remove the power head, fix the stuck level, and put everything back together. With some added time to check out the motor for any problems and the cost of parts, that would bring the bill to about $500! Way more than what we had left in the budget.

I got back in touch with Jim from Sailworld Cape Cod, and he said: "Let my guy look at it". So we picked up the motor, waited a couple of days to find a break in the tourist traffic, and dropped the motor back off. A couple of days later, Jim sent a message "All set - only needed a bit of grease". He later showed me where exactly the grease was needed (a spot I had missed before). About $500 saved! Seems not all mechanics are created equal. Although I did really not get the impression that the other guy had wanted to screw us over - he seemed to be talking about experience from other cases he had seen, where the corrosion was a lot worse than in our case.

Fast forward a few more days, and we are back on the water for a second try. By now, we have a nice dolly for the motor, and a small mover's dolly for the boat, so getting everything onto the water is a bit easier. The motor starts on the first pull! We let it warm up and drove around a couple of miles, bouncing across the small chop on a full plane at times. Not too bad! This is definitely something that's easier to control in chop than a jet ski. And it will even be legal to tow a windsurfer back to shore, should that become necessary! Whether the little boat and motor will allow for tow-in windsurfing if we get a windless day is another story, though - the top speed we measured was 15 knots, although that was in some chop. But chances are that we'll get two planing days for the event this year, thanks to Jay who bought a longboard specifically for the ECWF Cape Cod.

So, once again many thanks to Jim from Sailworld Cape Cod, who sold us the boat at a significant discount, and was very helpful to sort out all the little unforeseen problems we ran into. I hope he and Pam can find someone to tend the shop on September 17 and 18 so that they can make it down to the event! If you are planning to come and play, please register!