Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fun at the Slicks

More pictures, less words:
The forecast was 22 mph WSW, sunny, and warm. No surprise we got low 30s! We started sailing just before noon to catch the high tide at the Kennedy Slicks. GPS tracks:
Falcon 99, Loft RacingBlade 6.3, BP Weedspeed "38". Top speed (2 sec) 32.4 knots. My fastest 5x10 second average ever on a slalom board; I was faster only 3x on a 72 l speed board. Nina did freestyle, overpowered on 4.2. A bit too gusty there for freestyle, speed is more fun!

A video from one of the runs:

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Racing Lessons

One of the great things about racing is that it shows us where we need to improve. Sometimes, these are things that are not obvious during the typical back-and-forth sailing, but the prospect of more races in the future can motivate us to improve. In races that are mostly beam reach or slightly downwind, like the recent ECWF Hatteras races, jibes are very important. Here's a list of what to learn:
  1. Jibe dry on any equipment you may use in racing.
  2. Jibe dry in chop, with distractions, and at any spot - not just in nice flat water where nobody is near.
  3. Learn to adjust the radius in the middle of the jibe to avoid obstacles.
  4. Get back to full speed quickly after a jibe.
  5. Plane through jibes.
  6. Pick your jibe path so your competitors end up behind you.
Most of these points seem quite self-explanatory, perhaps even obvious. If you fall in a jibe, you'll loose a lot of ground. If you usually jibe dry, but never jibe around people or jibe marks, the distractions and extra chop may make you fall. If you're in the middle of the pack, you often have to adjust your jibe radius because a sailor in front of you crashes or comes to a dead stop. 

However, I had never realized the importance of #4 - getting back to full speed quickly after a jibe. I had often worked on #5, planing through a jibe. But whenever I come off the plane in a jibe, I'd usually take my time and wait for the next gust or swell to push me back up on a plane. On the second day of the ECWF races, when we had planing conditions for four races, I learned the error of my lazy ways ... 12 times in a row (in 4 races with 3 jibe marks). On the straights, I had at least similar, and often better, speed than the two guys (Andy and Keith) who finished ahead of me in most races. In the jibes, I came off the plane most of the time, but so did Keith. But it took me about 25 seconds to get back up to full speed, much longer than Keith, so he usually gained at least 100 meters at every jibe mark. 

I'm pretty sure Keith does not train much for races, so why did he get going so much faster? Perhaps the reason is that he usually sails in waves, which I (almost) never do. Wave sailing at Hatteras often includes a lot of slogging and pumping practice - be it to catch a wave, or to get enough speed to make it over the shore break. Lazy sailors get pummeled and don't catch waves! Nor do they get to beat wave sailors in races :-(.

Point #5, planing through jibes, is really just a logical consequence of #4. However, chances that you'll plane through a jibe in racing are always lower than in free sailing, since the jibe mark dictates where you jibe; other sailors create chop and may disturb the wind; and the jibe radius is often chosen to keep others at bay, or to sneak around them, which can make it hard to plane through the jibe. Even PWA slalom pros often don't plane through jibes! But you can always see them pump like crazy to get back up to speed.

The last point about picking your path is how Andy managed to win 2 of the 4 races, despite being on slower gear. Andy was usually third at the first jibe mark, but always had the highest approach, which allowed him to see where both Keith and I were jibing. He could then come in between and end up before us. At that point, it did not matter much if he planed through the jibe or not, since he blocking us. This approach requires quite a bit of experience, confidence, and skills - perhaps more experience than can be gained by attending one or two race events per year. Some of the top level slalom sailors now train slalom on Tenerife, with up to 20 races per day, often for several weeks in a row - that can amount to hundreds of training races! So I'll put this one on the back burner for now, and concentrate on regaining speed after a jibe. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Too Much

The forecast called for wind in the 30s (mph, that is). That's what we had when I started rigging - a 4.7, since the wind cannot be trusted. The 4.7 never got wet. Neither did the 4.0 that I rigged afterwards - I switched to the 3.4 Nina had rigged, since the wind had picked up:
I got onto the water when the wind averages where in the mid-40s, gusting into the mid-50s. I took advantage of this rare opportunity to sail in a lot of wind. A lot. Enough for the Red Bull Storm Chase. More than I had ever sailed in before. At one point, the averages where 49 mph, gusting to 59 mph. For those used to other units: 59 mph is 95 km/h, or 10 Beaufort - Windstärke 10, "Schwerer Sturm".
That was a bit too much for me, even on the 3.4. I pretty much had to waterstart in both straps; sailed out of the harness half of the time; had the sail barely sheeted in, and was nevertheless fully planing on my small FSW board. The wind was onshore, the tide was low, and I was wearing a helmet, so there never was any real danger. But the fun-factor was somewhat limited, and when gusts hit, I had a really hard time to keep the board on the water. Back on shore, it was not just blowing sand - it was blowing shells! Even getting the gear back to the parking lot safely was a 2-person job.

Usually, low tide and SW wind at Kalmus is flat and smooth, but not today. Eddie caught Nina trying a Shove It (when the wind was "only" around 25-40 mph):
A few minutes later, it looked a bit windier:
It still does not look that dramatic on the picture, but she came in a few minutes later, too overpowered on the 3.4. When the wind picked up a bit more in the next half hour, we had smoke on the water. At one point, I thought it was getting flatter again, because the wind was flattening out the little waves.

Well, finally getting a session on a 3.4 was all nice and good, but can we now please go back to being comfortably powered on 4.0 or larger?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

ECWF Hatteras Day 2

Yesterday saw the second day of the ECWF Hatteras, with freestyle before noon and racing in the early afternoon. Results will be announced tonight at a party at the Mad Crabber in Avon, but it seems quite certain that Andy Brandt and Nina won the freestyle competition.

We had about 18-20 knots for the racing. Here's the course from my GPS tracks:
Total course length was 3 km (just shy of 2 miles). My top speed was around 29 mph. I was behind Keith and Andy in three of the four races; in one race, I managed to come in second after Keith. Keith had the best starts and was first at the first jibe mark in at least three of the races; Andy had the better jibes and won two races. My jibes were dry, but mostly quite poor, and my re-acceleration after the jibes was much slower than Keith's. I shortened the distance between us on most legs thanks to higher top speed, but could never get ahead of him. The speed tracks above show that it took me almost 30 seconds to get back to speed after most jibes - way to slow. Now I know what I have to work on for next year!

In the first race, I started with a beach start right at the pin end, but I forgot to properly orient the board in time. When I straightened it out during the last seconds before the start, I ended up over the start line.  Unfortunately, I could not see the lower mark because of several sailors in between, and neither could I hear the announcements from the boat, so it was not until I crossed the finish line before I heard that I was over early.  I was not worried too much about it because I assumed that we'd have at least one discard with 8 races. That later turned out to perhaps be overly optimistic .. which would have meant that Nina (or perhaps somebody else) would have pushed me off the third place, even though I finished second or third in the other seven races. Now I'll have to wait until tomorrow evening before the final results are announced...