Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fast Fogland

Spring is close, and the winds are starting to change - south winds now are often better than the north winds that dominate fall and winter here. We scored a couple of nice S and SW sessions in Fogland today and two days ago.

The Monday session started a bit crazy. The weather forecast called for "showers", which did not sound too bad. But when we arrived in Tiverton, it had been raining cats & dogs for an hour straight, and there was no indication that the rain would end any time soon. We stopped at the Coastal Roasters for a coffee and cookies, and then drove to Fogland. The rain had created a little lake at the entrance that looked like it was about 4-6 inches deep - or so I hoped. Well, it was not much deeper, my little Civic made it through just fine, pulling out trailer. Winds were very much up and down, but the rain was constant. With temperatures just a few degrees above freezing, we seriously considered just driving back home. But my iPhone and the NWS radar maps saved us - looking at a few successive maps, it became apparent that the worst of the rain had already passed us. Indeed, the rain stopped 20 minutes later, the wind became more stable, and we decided to give it a go. The goal was to get some speed runs, so that the Fogland Speedsurfers would not end the month of February at the bottom of the GPS Team Challenge Ranking.

Nina went out on her 76 l wave board with a 4.2, I used my 82 l Super-X and a 5.5. Winds were rather gusty and dropped a bit after a while, so we were a bit underpowered most of the time, but fully powered in the gusts. Nina set a new 2-second speed best, and I got some ok runs in, too, that moved us out of the last place in 2 and 5x10 second ratings. However, the short runs and gusty winds did not allow us to get good long-distance speeds or total distance, so we remained in last place on the team challenge.

Well, today was a new month, early morning wind readings were in the mid-20s, and the forecast predicted even more wind around noon. It was also sunny, so we just had to go back to Fogland. On the way, we saw more white caps on the river than I had ever seen before, and the meter readings showed gusts in the 40s - nice! We rigged our smallest sails (3.7 and 4.2), and went out on the same boards as two days before. It was definitely windier! Alas, it was also low tide, which shortened runs even more, and created some unwanted ground contact a few times. After an hour, the wind dropped a bit, and we were underpowered again - so I rigged my KA Koncept 5.8, and Nina switched to the 4.2. She was nicely powered then, and so was I, with gusts still in the upper 30s.

I played around with a few things today. The first one was a switch from a 28 cm slalom fin to a 26 cm Tangent Dynamics Reaper weed fin (while I was still sailing the 4.2). That gave me an immediate speed boost, and a more controllable ride - nice. Indeed, the small Reaper almost looks like a modern speed fin with a lot of rake. When I switched to the 5.8 later, the fin was a bit small to go upwind well; but the short runs (400-450 m) did not help, either.

I rigged the 5.8 m sail when the wind had gone down a bit. Of course, as soon as it was ready, the wind came back as strong as it had been when the 4.2 had been big enough. This was an interesting test - how would the cambered speed sail handle the gusts? Not surprisingly, it did great, and handled gusts close to 40 without any problems. My top speeds started to go above 50 kmh in almost every run, which is pretty fast for me. The wind was definitely strong enough for faster runs, at least in some gusts. I could blame my limited speed on the short runs or the bad timing of the gusts, but it probably was mainly just me not putting the pedal to the metal.

But on the other hand, this was my third-fastest session even (based 5 x 10 second averages), and my fastest session ever in Fogland - so I'm really not unhappy. I got a nice jibe in, too, where I was standing on the board without power in the sail and saying to myself "I can't believe the board kept this much speed!". Unfortunately, all my good jibes today were at the end of long downwind runs into low-wind regions, so I did not get a good alpha. Nina beat me on the alpha today, and by quite a margin, too!

Nina's jibes are definitely looking ever-better. She still has not planed through one yet, but she is getting close, and the GPS readings confirm this. She made most of her jibes dry today, too, and overall looked great on the water. Her top speed readings were very close to her personal bests, even though she did not do any speed runs until the wind had gone down a lot towards the end of the session.

Air temperatures today were about 5 C (41 F), and water temps probably a few degrees lower. We were nice and warm the entire time; it probably helped that we mostly stayed where we could stand, but we also did have a few falls where we could not touch ground. The dry suits and 7 mm boots are definitely great; for hands and heads, open-palm or open-finger mitts and gloves and light neoprene hoods were good enough. Just to stay really warm, I also tried my NRS Reactor gloves again today, and loved them. They have pre-bent fingers which makes holding onto the boom pretty easy, with minimal lower-arm fatigue, and were plenty warm today.

Today was just a great day, and for once, the wind forecast was right on target. Looking at the iWindsurf sensors, Fogland had higher average winds and gusts today than West Dennis, which will happen more often as it gets warmer. Winds in West Dennis were steadier, but again, as it gets warmer, southerly winds in Fogland will get steadier, too. Hopefully, we'll see more of the Fogland windsurfers on the water soon!

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