Saturday, November 9, 2019

Ocean Air Windfest 2019

During the last week of our October trip to Hatteras, we had fun at the Ocean Air Windfest, with a day of high wind racing, a day of light wind racing, and gear demos. We skipped out on a foil demo session, and the high wind freestyle competition was canceled because nobody showed up, but we got to see Mike Burns showing his freestyle skills instead, which was cool.

Ocean Air posted a video of the event on Facebook:
The event was a lot of fun. As usual in racing, there were a few things we learned, and some of that learning was less fun. On the light wind day, both Nina and I tried to copy Andy Brandt's strategy from last year's racing: going down the start line on starboard, forcing everyone on port to wait. Even last year, that cause a couple of crashes, when the port starters could not stop in time. This year, almost everyone was lined up on port. With the whole crowd moving to the start line at the same time, there was no way they would or could stop for a couple of starboard starters. The result was a rather poor start and a mediocre finish in the race. Lesson learned - in the following races, the first priority was a clean start. It helped that the wind turned a bit so that the other end of the start line became favored, and that most racers kept starting where they had started in the first race.

In the high wind racing, Nina learned another lesson the hard way: if near the front of the pack at the first mark, you need to either go wide or plane through your jibes - otherwise, chances are that someone will run into you! That happened to her in a couple of races where she was second or third at the first mark. Needless to say, she was quite unhappy about this - especially the first time, when the person who hit her was a pro racer.

I faced a different problem because I had signed up for the "Limited" class, where the sail size was restricted to 6.5 square meters. In about 20 mph wind averages, that was plenty when I was just sailing around on my own. With gusty offshore winds, though, it was not enough for flying starts: I could not get planing in the lulls, and if I approached the crowded start line semi-planing, the dirty air from the other sailors would stop me dead. So after the first race, I did standing starts, and followed the guys in the Open class who hit the start line at full speed. That meant that I'd often have to deal with someone in the water at the first mark - usually really close to the mark. Going wide while barely powered also did not work so well. Even in dry jibes, I usually lost most speed, and would have someone on the inside who'd steal the air I needed to get going.  Falling was much worse - in the last high wind race, the wind had dropped, and I watched the entire fleet pass me on the inside while I desperately tried to pump on a plane. Overall, my high wind race results were all over the place, with just a couple of first places in the Limited class when I got lucky with wind and jibes. Fortunately, the light wind races went a bit better, since I was using the same board I use for light wind freestyle - my Bic WindSUP.  Knowing the board really well was essential in one race where I had goofed off a bit at the start, and had to catch up with the guy ahead of me. I got close before the last jibe mark, which he took quite close. But I was able to turn the Bic on a dime right at the mark, and therefore got the inside position. After some furious pumping, the better board speed of my SUP allowed me to get next to him, at which point he had to deal with my dirty air. Game over!

The complete race results are below (click on the images for a larger version).
Overall race results (1-5 high wind, 6-10 light wind). Note that scoring
Scoring was done with Sailwave version 2.23.4.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Weed Foiling

I had a frustrating foil session session yesterday. The wind was strong enough for the 5.0 - averages around 15 mph, gusts to the high teens. But every time I got up on the foil, things felt wrong. I had plenty of power; at times, there seemed to be more power than in the morning, when I used the same sail with the Skate 110. But I could not get the board flying properly - the nose would ride high, and it would come down again every time I tried to even things out.

Nina had a similarly frustrating session, but she figured out what was going on when she saw Derek sail backwards before taking off: weeds! When she turned her board over, she saw a big clump of weeds on the back wing. The thin sea grass in Hatteras was particularly bad this year, and strong winds, lots of chop, and high water levels made things worse. Yesterday, the water levels had finally returned to normal - but that made things worse, since the foils was close enough to the bottom to collect sea grass from the bottom!

Even the days before, when the water level had been a foot higher and foiling was easier, the same problems existed, albeit on a smaller scale. The nose would ride too high, and the sail pressure was higher than normal. My GPS showed that my speeds were a few knots lower than usual - instead of the typical 13-16 knots, I was foiling at 10-13 knots, even when I was nicely powered. All that sea grass on the foil must have slowed me down! Fortunately, the amount of sea grass in the water changes with the wind direction and strength, so we may get a few decent foil sessions in the next week.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Backloop Try

"I saw you try a backloop!" said Nina. We had sailed at Chapin in pretty strong winds - I fully powered on 4.0, Nina on 3.4 and her 72 l wave board.

Anyone who knows me also knows that I did not try a backloop - at least not voluntarily. But on my last run out, with some speed and very close to overpowered, a big wave ramped up just in front of me. I could not escape it downwind as I usually do because of a kiter close by, so up I went. In quite a vertical fashion, with lots of weight in the back. Somehow, the board turned in the air, probably something like 180 degrees, and landed nose-first. A nice, soft crash it was. It did indeed remind me of some of the backloop attempts by freestylers and wave sailors at the PWA event in Sylt earlier this week.

Funny thing is, it was not scary at all! Pretty much the same thing had happened to me the last time I had sailed at Chapin in similar winds. I also had to think of Manuel in Cabarete, who worked really hard to get the front loop, but got the backloop very quickly (in less than 10 tries if I remember correctly). Maybe I should sail at Chapin more often, and actually try backloops?

I was a bit surprised by all this, but then I looked at this video about how to do backloops:
Right at the beginning, Jesse Brown says: "If you hit a wave late enough, it really just wants to throw you into a backloop".

Another encouraging thing is what Adam Lewis says at about 1:23 into his instructional video:
"Bring the sail in towards you"!

Whenever I watch myself jumping on GoPro footage, I see that I do exactly that - pull the sail in with both arms. Now for regular jumps, that's bad technique - but maybe that makes me a natural for back loops?

Or perhaps I am just confused. Life used to be simply - give me lots of wind and flat water, and I just to go back and forth. Now, I like to foil in less wind and big chop, where squiggles are more fun than straight lines; and perhaps I'm even developing a taste for waves, and will try a jump I never imagined doing on purpose.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Longboard Racing at Lake Q

Last Saturday, we drove to Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield for a bit of longboard racing at the Quannapowitt Yacht Club to get a bit of practice before the WET Fall Regatta and the Ocean Air Windfest in October. This is a small but very lovely venue. 16 windsurfers participated, most of them on longboards from the 1980s and 1990s. This was probably the largest number of F2 Lightning Race boards at one location in the US for the year!

For Nina and me, this was a big learning experience. We always sail at locations with very steady wind- mostly the ocean, or large bays like Hatteras or the Laguna Madre near Corpus Christi. At the little inland lake, the wind was a lot gustier - the local wind meter showed readings between 0 and 25 mph during the time of the races! We both briefly considered giving up and not racing at all, after sudden lulls and direction changes had dropped us into the water what seemed like 10 times in the first 5 minutes. In the first race, Nina came in dead last. I probably would have taken that spot, but my uphaul broke on the way out, and I missed the race completely while replacing the uphaul.

In the second race, I think I was successful in stealing the last place from Nina. I held back at the start since I did not want to be in everyones way after falling right before the start line, which seemed very likely. A lot of the racers have been racing continuously for the 36 years that this September race has been held, and I think the first one finished the race while I was just rounding the first mark. But at least, my falls were getting a bit less frequent. We did about 4 races around 4 buoys, and then one long race around the entire lake, before breaking for lunch, and another 4 races in the afternoon. By the last race, my arms were starting to cramp up from holding the 8.5 - with the gusty winds, hooking in was a luxury that was limited to only short periods in some races.

The cool thing about so many races in one day was that we got lots of starting practice, which I sorely needed. I discovered a whole bunch of ways to screw up the start, but in the last races, I managed to get across the starting line in the first third of the field.  Somehow, I also ended up in a similar position at the finish line a few times, and in the top half of the overall rankings. After the early falls, my goal had been to simply not finish last in all races - goal accomplished!

It was a ton of fun to race with a mixed crowd of enthusiastic longboard racers - some who were struggling as much as I was at the beginning, but also several others who where way better racers than I am. The organization was perfect, and so was the weather. What a great day!

Below is a video from my helmet cam from on of the afternoon races, and GPS tracks from the same race.