Saturday, June 4, 2011

Three great days

We just had three great days of wind sailing, with wind in the upper mid-to upper twenties two of the three days and plenty of sun. It started Wednesday afternoon with SW winds. We went to Fogland for some flat water fun - duck jibe tries with a 5.0 for Nina, and speed runs with a 7.0 on my Warp SL 71 for me. Here's a short video of one of the earlier speed runs:

I had a bit of a hard time to find a nice combination of flat water and wind. With 25-30 mph winds, the chop in the middle of the bay gets big enough to slow me down. I tried going up towards the street, but never caught good wind there. I had better luck at the tip of the peninsula, where the water was nice and flat and the wind was offshore; but as you can see in the video, the wind dropped quite a bit there because the peninsula created a bit of a wind shadow. Another minor issue I had was that the only speed fin I currently have for the Warp is 44 cm long - great for an 8.5 m sail, but about 20% too long for the 7.0. I tried putting in a weed fin that I have for my speed board, but at 28 cm, it was a bit small. When sailing the weed fin, I was glad that I sometime ride freestyle boards with small fins, because I did need the "sail forward, dig the windward rail" technique to get back upwind on this fin. So after a few runs, when the wind had gone down just a bit, it was back to the 44 cm race fin.

I think the combination of the wind shadow and the long fin kept me from finally breaking 30 knots - although I did get very close, and set new personal bests for 5 x 10 second average speed and 500 m alpha. This was the first time I sailed the Warp fully powered in more than 20 mph winds, and I think I learned a few things. Perhaps the most important one is that even the Warp, which has a relatively conventional and narrow shape for a slalom board, really wants to be ridden "pedal to the metal". At full speed, it's on top of the water and pretty much ignores the chop; but whenever I tried to slow down a bit, things got harder to handle. But after a couple of hours, I got used to this, and ventured out onto the river, where the chop is quite a bit higher - no problem. The only thing that I did wrong was to switch from a downwind course onto a beam reach course about halfway through the mile-long run. Looking at the GPS tracks later at home, I discovered that I should have been able to obliterate my personal bests for the nautical mile if I had stayed off the wind. As it was, I still got my second-best ever average for the nautical mile (and the water was a lot flatter when I set my PB behind the sand bar in Duxbury).

As usual, Nina worked harder than I did, practicing duck jibes, shove-its, and 360s all day long. She got really close to completing a duck jibe, but not without exploring the many ways to crash in duck jibes. One spectacular fall had her face plant at full speed into the water so that her entire face hurt for the rest of the day...

Even though the conditions were great, we saw very few other windsurfers. One of them, however, Jeff, praised the wave sailing conditions at Horseneck beach, so when the wind turned to westerly the next day, we decided to do some beginner wave sailing. Here's a short video:


The quality of the video is not great - the angle to the sun was bad, and there were too many drops of water on the lens. I had treated the lens with Rainex, but the Clew View mount (which I otherwise love) places the GoPro exactly where the drops come off the boom, as you can see in the video. Mounting the camera upside-down, as I had done in the first video above, fixes this problem, but I don't like the view angle as much. I think that a mount which places the camera either a bit higher, or directly below the boom (instead of below and behind), might have fewer problems with water dripping onto the lens.

As Jeff had promised, getting out through the break was not bad (although it got more challenging for us wave-sail beginners as the tide came in). The wind was very much up and down; down when we rigged, which prompted us to go "big" (5.5 and 4.2), and then up after the first few runs, which had me way overpowered. And while the breaking waves near shore where small enough, the non-breaking waves on the outside where quite often taller than Nina. They also were not very nicely organized, probably because of the wind directions and the cross currents caused by the little island. In comparison, the waves and swell in Cabarete on a typical 5.0 summer day are much better organized and easier to sail. So this was definitely more an "interesting" than a "fun" session, and we stopped after spending less than an hour on the water (with plenty of breaks in between), when Jeff and the other local sailors also got off the water. Since it was still somewhat early, we decided to drive over to Fogland, which is only a 20 minute drive away.

In Fogland, we were greated by NW winds in the upper 20s, and smaller, much more organized looking waves. I sailed my 82 l board for the first time in a while, which was quite a change after mostly being on larger freeride and slalom boards recently. I definitely had a lot more fun than at Horseneck, and I was pleasantly surprised when the GPS registered a top speed of 28 knots, even though the chop was big enough to keep me from making any deep downwind runs. Maybe I am finally learning how to sail a bit faster...

We got home too late to put away the trailer and the gear, so when the wind and forecast looked good again the next morning, we decided to go sailing in Fogland once again. When we arrived, a couple of windsurfers where just leaving, and they mentioned that the wind had been very much up and down. Indeed, the iWindsurf reading ranged from 8 to 30 mph, so rigging "right" was just impossible. We switched back & forth between boards a bit (Warp SL 71 and Skate 110 for me, 76 l wave board and Skate 100 for Nina), and had plenty of opportunity to practice schlogging. But in between, the wind was great, and Nina finally made her first fully planing jibe. For once, she was sailing with the GoPro camera, but the camera stopped recording exactly 2 minutes before she made her best jibe so far! However, her GPS was on, and it showed a minimum speed in her jibe of 8.9 knots, which is definitely fully planing (jibes with minimum speed above 5-6 knots can look liked plane-through jibes from afar if you accelerate again right away, but jibes above ~8 knots are definitely planed through). Considering that she learned how to initiate jibes when planing less than 1 1/2 years ago, this is pretty cool - I know many, many windsurfers who worked on planing jibes for many years before every planing through (I am one of them). But then, she learned it the right way at the ABK camp in Bonaire, so maybe her success is not surprising.

Ok, I am biased, but still I think she did quite well. Before yesterday's jibe, here minimum jibe speeds have been going up steadily, and Andy Brandt called one of here jibes in Corpus Christi last month "planed through" (here minimum speed on that jibe was 5.8 knots). I think that planing through a jibe may be technically about as difficult as a learning the Vulcan. For the Vulcan, 500-1000 tries before landing the first one are not uncommon, although some windsurfers may get it in 250 or 300 tries. Nina had more than 100 high wind sessions since last March; many of those included 3-5 hours on the water, and relatively short runs (e.g. 1/4 mile in Fogland). Nina's 3-hour session yesterday had more than 30 jibes, according to the GPS records - so she probably did more than 2000 planing jibes before planing though one yesterday. Now, when we are driving home, she usually is doing Vulcans in her head - it will be very interesting to see how many tries she'll need before the lands the first one. My bet is that she'll land the first one before I do - I better keep working on the loop so I can have a trick she can't do. So what if the loop is easier - it looks at least as cool...

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