Friday, December 3, 2010

Low tide at West Dennis

Wednesday gave us a rare SE wind, predicted to be in the upper 20s. For December 1st, the air temperatures were nice, too, in the low 50s (~12 C). West Dennis is one of the best spots for SE winds on the Cape, and low tide was in the early afternoon, so we went there.

On the way to the beach, we stopped at the little restaurant next to Inland Sea for an early lunch. Nina soon discovered that the (kite surfing) waitress was not only from Germany, but had grown up in a town just a few miles from her home town. Small world!

We almost expected to be the only ones on the beach, but a couple of kite surfers were there already, and so was Hardie, already planing on 5.8/84 l. A few minutes later, Dean pulled in, and Jeff and Graham showed up a bit later, despite being short on sails after a Hatteras vacation. We knew that Dean was coming, but had never actually met him - he had signed up as a team member for the Fogland Speedsurfers after reading my invitation on the iWindsurf forum. He turned out to be a really nice guy, who also happened to know a lot more about speedsurfing than I do. With his help, I finally got my KA Koncept 5.8 trimmed right for the first time, which made it a really pleasure to sail.

We ended up sailing for almost 3 hours, with the wind picking up the entire time and reaching averages in the low 30s. I experimented with gloves a bit, trying out Ron C's suggestion to use nylon mitt shells over cutout neoprene gloves. The combo kept my hands really warm, but it felt a bit slippery on the boom, so I later switched to O'Neill gloves. These were warm and stuck nicely to the boom, but made my lower arms a bit tired. Well, the lower arms need training for the upcoming freestyle camp in Bonaire, anyway, so as Coach Ned says, it's all good.

I love speedsurfing even more when it gets colder, since I don't really want to work on new freestyle tricks when falling into the water is no fun anymore. Also, getting of the board to turn around and take short breaks is a highly regarded practice in speedsurfing, which gave my lower arms time to recover. In one of these breaks, Dean suggested that I should bear of 10-15 degrees more during my speed runs. This was somewhat a funny suggestion: I knew that I should to deeper for speed, but since I had not been trying hard to go upwind, I always was just going back and forth at more or less right angles to the wind. Another kind-of-excuse I had was that the water was not exactly flat. Low tide at West Dennis means you can stand several hundred meters out, and I actually could touch the ground every single time I fell - but we still had a bit of chop, and even some waves on the outside. But with Dean's example and prompting, I did go deeper off wind right away. Here is what the initial GPS tracks looked like:

Notice that I got my best speeds going out, against the waves. I was bearing off more - not for speed, but to go to the downwind section in search for flatter water.

After Dean's advice, I went for some speed runs going in, with the waves:

Right away, I increased my top speed by 4 miles, nice! The polar graph indicates that I probably could have gone even faster by bearing off more. I dug up some GPS tracks from "real" speed surfers to check this, here's an example:

The track is from Tom Hammerton, downloaded from the HAM Speed Challenge site. He reached his top speeds at much deeper angles, from 133 to 147 degrees. This is consistent with what other sites say, that top speeds are often at 130 degrees or even further downwind.

When going back through some of my saved GPS sessions, I discovered that I had reached my fastest speeds so far without going deep enough - typically at 100 to 110 degrees. Comparing my tracks with Tom's, it also obvious that I do not go hard enough upwind - the pronouced S-shape is missing. That gives me a couple of things to work on next time :)

Well, Wednesday was another great day of sailing: we had a lot of fun, met old and new friends, and I was faster in chop than ever before. It also showed me quite nicely how little I know about speed surfing technique - Dean easily beat my speed by about 5 mph. I can't blame it on my equipment anymore, either - both the board and sail have been clocked at more than 40 knots, and my 28 cm Select Supersport fin, which work beautifully, should have been faster than Dean's weed fin. Dean did have a larger sail (6.7 m vs. 5.8), but he felt that his sail was too big, and I also think that my sail size was probably more appropriate for the 31 mph averages. Clearly, speedsurfing is not just about the equipment - there's quite a bit of skill involved, too. It was great to have help from Dean to get started on learning some of these. And mostly thanks to his speed, we don't have to worry about being dead last on the GPS Team Challenge ranking for this month :)

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