Saturday, July 20, 2019

Jibe Practice for Foiling

We got our second foil three days ago: a Slingshot Infinity 84. I've foiled on it only for two short sessions, but so far, I love it. It gets me flying as quickly as Nina on the Infinity 76, with a sail that's just one sail size bigger. But more importantly, it can handle all my extra pounds much better than the 76 - no more spinouts and breaches! But my first attempts at foiled jibes on the i84 looked quite similar to those on the i76 - mostly crashes, with an occasional exception where I plane out of the jibe after the board touches down.

As new foilers, we are in a stage where we often hope that the wind does not pick up beyond 15-18 mph. This summer so far, the wind often has played along, but not yesterday - it picked up to the high 20s, gusting to 30. So it was time to take the old slapper out for a change - my white Skate 110 that I had repaired for foiling, since I had forgotten to put my new Skate into the van. Off to Egg Island we went. Nina tried her usual freestyle moves, but I was on a foil related mission: practice the sail first jibe!

After more than 20 AKB camps, I am a step jiber - when the sail moves, the feet switch (or at least they should). But for foiling jibes, there's plenty of advice to do a sail-first jibe (also called Power Jibe and Speed Jibe): flip the sail first, and the feet later. That's what the Horue jibing tutorial suggests, and Balz Muller says the same thing. I have tried enough step jibes on the foil to see that separating the sail and foot movements might be a good idea, but I almost never do sail-first jibes .. which means I did not really want to try them when flying. But being nicely powered on a 5.0 on perfectly flat water at Egg Island - there's no better training grounds!

So after a few regular jibes and a 360 try or two, it was sail-first jibe practice. I was surprised to find me planing out of them after just a few tries, and having tons of fun! I'm not good at multi-tasking, so flipping the sail first while maintaining the carve, and then switching the feet, seemed more natural to me than doing two things at once. When the wind picked up after a while, I ended up doing tacks on one side so that I'd be able to do some "slow speed runs" along the sandbank on the way back. Since I tack the foil much more than I usually tack my shortboards, my tacks had improved a bit - nice!

Here's the GPS tracks from the "forbidden jibe" session in the "kiddie pool" at Egg Island:
The jibe analysis with GPS Action Replay showed that this was one of my top-15 best jibing sessions (from more than 1300 sessions). Cool!

Hopefully, the wind will remain lighter today, so that I'll get a chance to try foiling sail-first jibes. For anyone who wants to foil at Kalmus, check these tracks from my last foil session there:

I was using a relatively short (71 cm) mast, but still ran aground about 800 feet from shore at low tide (0.2 ft). I tried walking into deeper water several times, but always made ground contact again when I tried to foil away. You can see the stones pretty well on the Google Earth image. I would have probably been fine another 100 or 200 feet further out, but the ground there is uneven, and my head was barely above water in the deeper spots. I ended up just body-dragging in.
So if you foil at Kalmus, check the tides, and make sure to walk out far enough at low tide! Once the tide level goes beyond 1-1.5 ft, even a 90 cm mast should be fine, though.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Foil pictures

We had another nice foil session 2 days ago, and Eddie took some nice pictures. Here's Nina on the foil and Gonzalo on a longboard:
Nina was on a 5.2, Gonzalo on a race sail (8.5 or 9.5). He was one of the few windsurfers who was planing consistently - most guys on 7 m sails had a few good runs, but mostly slogged.

Fortunately for me, Nina was a bit overpowered on the 5.2, so she came in after a short session and let me have a turn. I started out on the 6.5:
I never like this sail very much, largely because it is low-end oriented, while all my older Gaastra Matrix sails were top-end oriented. However, it was great for foiling, powerful but stable. Cool!

The picture above shows my favorite "flight height" on the 60 cm mast: just barely above the water, so that the board just touches the waves a bit every now and then. One excuse for flying low is that I frequently get spinouts when most of the foil is out of the water. Those are usually not very dramatic, but often end up with the board slapping back down onto the water. The gently touches when flying low are much nicer, and loose a lot less speed. But perhaps it's really just my inner chicken asserting itself.

We took turns on the foil a couple of times, and I used the 5.2 for my second session. Here's another "flying low" picture:

Occasionally, I ended up foiling a bit higher, and I'm definitely making progress controlling the height.
I'm still amazed how much fun foiling is even at low speeds. My speeds typically were around 10-13 knots, with only rare spikes above 15 knots. That's about half of the speed of sailing on freeride or slalom gear! Here are the tracks for the day:
I had a few runs of 700-800 meters, pretty much the entire distance I foiled (limited by shallows on the left, and the stones from the old pier on the right). The longest "high foil" without touching the water was probably less than half of that distance. I made a few dry jibes, one of them close to planing, but did not foil through any. In contrast, Nina foiled through one of her jibes "by accident". I'm sure she'll have more of these "accidental foiled jibes" soon.

We have ordered a second foil, and it should arrive early next week. Maybe that will cause the strong summer winds to come back? We stayed with Slingshot because we really like the modular system, and the short 60 cm masts are great for low tide foiling. But we decided to get an Infinity 84 as the second foil (together with last year's front wing which Slingshot pretty much gives away for free), since I hope that it will push my almost 200 pounds up sooner. It may be a bit slower, but I don't think that's a bad thing anymore!

I almost ended up buying a Starboard GT-R foil. It would have been a few hundred dollars cheaper, and comes with a longer fuselage, which should make keeping a constant height much easier. One of the speedsurfers we met in Western Australia, Stroppo, regularly posts sessions with top speeds in the mid-20 knot range from the Starboard GT foil. Without any doubt, I'd be at least 5 knots slower (just like on the windsurf board), but that would still be plenty fast. However, I did not see any option to buy a shorter mast for the Starboard foil, which would have made foiling at Kalmus during low tide questionable, and foiling in the Hatteras sound impossible. So all I could do to imitate Stroppo was to try to look a bit like him:

During the session, wind averages from the iWindsurf meter at Kalmus were mostly 15 mph, with a few readings of 17; gusts were mostly in the 17-18 mph range, with a couple of 20 mph readings. I tried to plane with the 6.5 m sail on my Skate 110 a few times, but either the wind was too light, or I have forgotten how to sail a "slapper" in marginal conditions. When foiling, the 5.2 m sail was mostly ok, and only a bit smaller than I like in the lulls; the 6.5 was plenty big, and I could get up onto the foil pretty much anytime I liked, with (at most) minimal pumping. After 12 sessions on our foil, and about 20 foil sessions in total, foiling already had dropped the "good day" wind definition from 18-20 mph to 15 mph (and probably 13-15 mph). Sure, I could have planed with a 7.8 m sail on the 70 cm slalom board, but that would have been a lot more exercise and a lot less pure fun :-).

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Light Wind Foiling

Yesterday's wind forecast was light, but it predicted a slight increase in the late afternoon. When the local wind meter readings increased to 11 mph, Nina suggested to try foiling with her 7.5 m longboard sail to find out how low she could go. Here's yesterday's wind graph:

By the time we were rigged and ready to go, meter readings were down to 8 mph. This may be foilable for PWA pros with huge sails and foil boards, but Nina only had 3 or 4 foil sessions on our gear, and fewer than 15 sessions overall. For more than an hour, her board stayed solidly in the water, except perhaps for a couple of seconds after vigorous pumping. But then, the wind picked up just a bit, and for 20 minutes or so, she was foiling most of the time, getting nice, long, controlled flights. When we got back home, we looked at the wind graph:

The highest wind average reading was 10 mph, gusting to 12, for about 10 minutes (9 knots gusting to 10.4). To plane on windsurfing gear, she usually needs at least 13 mph on the big slalom kit, and perhaps 18 for her freestyle gear.

Foiling in 10 mph with pretty limited experience is pretty impressive. The sail certainly helped - it's extremely light, has a deep profile and a tight leech, and soft cambers. But it was not rigged quite right, and Nina has not yet figured out how to pump it really well with the foil, so there's some room for improvement. We also just ordered a Slingshot Infinity 84 foil, which is larger and should lower the planing threshold a bit more. Hopefully, though, the larger foil will mostly help to get me going in similar light wind. Even on foils, bigger guys need a bit more power...

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Silly Grin

I can't wipe the silly grin off my face. What a great day! It was raining. The wind meter readings were at 20 mph for about 20 minutes, and that was after I had left the water. I crashed a lot. My top speed was 17.3 knots, and my distance sailed 14.6 km - both numbers that usually would indicate a terrible day.

But I was on the foil. I had spend about 8 hours repairing my 71 cm slalom board that had a large-scale delamination on the bottom. Here's a picture of the zombie board in its current state:


Well, the little zombie works  a lot better than old Skate 110 or Nina's Bic Nova 170 I've tried before, so I've been foiling every time I got a chance in the last week, even when we got enough wind to plane on regular gear. Here are today's tracks:
It was low tide, so I stuck with the 60 cm mast, which probably limited my upwind angles (at least that's my excuse :-).  I spent a lot of time pinching upwind, but I was just barely powered most of the time. That limited the number of jibe attempts to less than a handful, but even in several of these attempts, I was amazed how long the board stayed on the foil and out of the water. Here's a video of one of the attempts:
I was so surprised to still be foiling that I just held on to the mast and waited for things to drop down...

I'm not sure what it is about foiling - the silent flying? The gently touches? The 100% concentration that forces you "into the zone"? The fun of learning something new, and be scared by going about half as fast as when windsurfing? Whatever it is, I love it! So big thanks to Andy Brandt and the ABK Boardsports crew for giving me lots of opportunities to try foiling; Slingshot for sponsoring ABK; and Britt Viehman from North Beach Windsurfing for advice and hooking us up with a great foil.