Saturday, March 19, 2011

Speedsurfing in Hyannis

This is our tale from a day of windsurfing in Hyannis on March 18, 2011.

View Sea Street Beach, Hyannis in a larger map

7:05 am: 23 mph winds (20-28)
Getting ready to leave. The forecast predicts the best wind at 11 am, with a drop afterwards. The best forecast is for the Cape, but tides are very high, so we have decided to go to the Sea Street Beach in Hyannis, with plans to tack up to the "Kennedy slick" - the pier in Hyannis Port harbor that stops the waves and creates really smooth water. The parking lot of Ocean Avenue is large enough, and starting at the Sea Street Beach instead of Kalmus should cut the effort needed to cruise up into smooth water by more than half.

8:40 am: 29 mph (24-33)
We stop for a short coffee break in Hyannis. The wind is still picking up :)

9:10 am: 22 mph (18-25)
At the beach, ready too rig, but the wind has dropped. According to the wind readings, we'd have to rig big, which we don't want to do. We drive to Kalmus to check it out - more white caps, but similar wind. We decide to rig my 5.8 race sail and a 4.2 for Nina, hoping that the wind picks up.

11:00 am: 38 mph (33-47)
Finally on the water! The wind has picked up so much that the 5.8 is a bit big for the chop at the launch site. I go for one run out, then head back on the beach to warm up the hands.

Nina seems to have problems with waterstarting about 1/4 mile out, where the chop gets bigger and irregular. After almost 10 minutes, she finally makes it back to shore. She does not look happy. The open-palm gloves she was wearing are not warm enough for long stays in the water. As her fingers get warm again, they start to hurt badly. I carry her gear upwind while she screams into the wind.

With her 4.2 sail on a 76 l wave board, the sailing was ok, but she was totally overpowered when trying to waterstart. Wind gusts hit 47 mph, and she just got pulled straight over the board a number of times. We decide to rig the 3.7 sail for her. Here's a video from her run out:

11:45 am: 36 mph (32-40)
I hit the water again, this time with the 4.2. I still got plenty of power, but it's a lot easier to hold than the 5.8. I then watch Nina as she goes out. The 3.7 North Ice is not just smaller, but also easier to depower than the 4.2 Expression, and she's doing ok. I try to convince her to tack up to the pier to get some really flat water, but she looks sceptical and tells me to go ahead.

12:00 pm: 35 mph (30-42)
I sail upwind to the wall, hoping for some nice speed runs. The water is a lot rougher than it was last Saturday, since (a) the wind is stronger and (b) the tide is higher. Still, I make it up into the harbor inside of the boat ramp within 15 minutes. Launching at the Sea Street Beach makes the trip up to the wall a lot easier.

12:20 pm: 34 mph (29-42)
Time for a few speed runs at the wall. Today, the harbor is not really as smooth as I have seen it before. At high tide, some of the waves makes it through the holes in the pier. Furthermore, the wind is more WSW than SW, which gives the waves a bit more space to form. Once past the initial section of the wall, the water gets smoother, although the chop starts to form 100 feet from the wall. My speed runs are up to 300 or 400 meter long, although just half of this is downwind. Rather than running into the chop past the cover of the wall, I start my jibes well before the end when the water is still prefectly flat. Here's a video:

The video shows how much smoother the water gets closer to the wall. Is also shows that the tail of the board seems to constantly away in the speed runs. However, I think that's just an illusion from the boom-mounted camera, caused by sail movements. My stance was definitely not locked in enough.

Since Nina is not following me, I decide to cut the session at the wall short and sail back. Playing with the increasing chop on the way back is a lot of fun. Back at the beach, we chat with a few other sailors that have arrived, including Martin. Nina says she was sailing ok, but had some problems with waterstarts, and just could not make it upwind to the wall. I think it was a combination of the strong winds, the chop, sailing just once in the last 4 weeks, and the frustrating start with the too-big sail.

1:15 pm: 30 mph (25-34)
The wind seems to be dropping, but I go out for a few more runs on the 4.2. Not planing all the time, I go back in to switch sails.

1:30 pm: 25 mph
Sailing with the 5.8 again is fun at first, but within 20 minutes, the wind drops to below 20, which is just not enough from my 82 l board, so we call it a day. Back at the beach, a number of windsurfers have arrived by now, but they need to use bigger sails. After a short drop, wind averages stay above 20 mph until almost 4 pm, but we've had enough playing in the 35+ wind earlier.


Sailing from the Sea Street Beach was definitely a good idea. Right at the shore, the wind is perhaps a bit weaker that in Kalmus, but it picks up to full strength a short distance from shore. The chop at the launch area is nicely organized and smaller than in Kalmus, making it easier to get out on a very windy day when the tide is high, and allowing some fun wave rides. As you sail out for half a mile in SW, you loose the protection of the Hyannis Port harbor pier, and the chop becomes very similar to what you get sailing out from Kalmus. For speed runs in the "Kennedy Slicks" next to the harbor wall, this is a much better launch than Kalmus, since (a) you have to sail upwind only for 1/2 mile instead of a full mile, and (b) you avoid the worst chop, making it easier to get to the slicks with a larger sail. The parking lot is not as large as in Kalmus, but big enough for a number of windsurfers, and there is plenty of grass for rigging. That said, I'd probably pick Kalmus over Sea Street on a less windy day, especially when I am not planning to tack up to the wall for speed runs.

My top speed for the day (53 km, 28.8 knots) was a bit disappointing. The wind was definitely strong enough to go past 30 knots. The only thing that was apparent while I was on the water was that the sail was not quite as well-behaved as last Saturday, when I reached similar speeds in less wind. The different was probably the boom: I used an aluminum boom instead of my regular X5 hybrid boom with a carbon tail piece. Even though the boom was near it's shortest setting, I think it flexed more than the hybrid boom. The more interesting thing was the movements of the board tail ("mini spinouts") that I did not notice while sailing, but which are easy to see on the video. I'll make sure to use a large fin next time, and will check the videos to see if that helps. Trying out my old Mistral slalom board is another thing I'll try - it's not as wide, but has higher and sharper rails, and is still the board that I have set my personal records on.

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