Sunday, July 24, 2011

30=32, but 24-30=sh*t

Did you guess from the title that I am talking about harness lines? If not, don't worry about it :)

For more than a year now, I have been sailing single-point harness lines. They worked great for me (or so I thought). One big advantage is that swapping lines is so easy: my wife and I sometimes use the same boom, but she's about 9 inches shorter than me, and uses a lot shorter lines. I have been using 26 inch lines for speed and 30 inch lines for choppy conditions and freestyle.

All was fine until I took a private lesson with Matt Pritchard on Maui. For the larger part of the lesson, he was sailing close behind me, and he noticed that my sail was moving (opening and closing a bit) a lot. He suggested that I switch to traditional harness lines that have two separate connection points. I had noticed this before in a boom cam video I had made while speedsurfing, and I learned many times that ignoring the advice of windsurf teachers is foolish, so I went looking for new lines. I made a couple of interesting discoveries along the way that I summarized in the title..

My first idea was to get some NP Vario lines. Before switching to single points, we had always used vario lines to accomodate our different length preferences. But more importantly, Anders Bjorkqvist, a fellow blogger and speedsurfer, had suggested these particular lines because they tend to break in bad catapults (like when hitting a sand bank at 40 knots).  I have broken a boom and a sail in catapults, and seen others inflict even more damage, so I liked Anders' argument that a broken harness line is much cheaper to replace than anything else that might break - and if the catapult is bad enough, something must break.

So I went to the Neil Pryde Maui store, and picked up 24-30 in vario lines. These work beautifully when used at 24 or 25 inches - but when close to fully extended, they tend to dangle around a lot, making it really hard to hook in in high wind and chop. Here's a short video illustrating this:

 For comparison, here's a hook-in into fixed lines:

A lot faster and easier! This was on the first day I was using the fixed lines, so I still looked down at them in the video. However, that was not necessary most of the time, since they will stay exactly where you put them. With the vario lines run at close to full extension, you absolutely have to look down - you have to time the hook-in with their swing! A real PITA in chop and high wind!

So I figured that I'd use the vario lines only for speed surfing, where bad catapults are most likely, and went to look for fixed lines. Earlier this year in Andy's Wind-NC shop, I had learned that lines from different manufactures with the same length label are not actually the same length, so I went with Dakine lines, the same brand as my single-point lines. I got some 30 inch lines - but when I tried them on the water, they were noticeably shorter than my 30 inch single-point lines! They felt uncomfortably too short, and my stance on the boom cam video looked really bad, with arms bent way too much. So a couple of days later, I went back to one of the many windsurf shops here, and got a pair of 32-inch Dakine lines. There worked just fine - finally! So, 32-inch 2-point lines are the same length as 30-inch single-point lines; and NP Vario lines near full extensions are sh*t (the NP Maui store did not have any longer vario lines than 24-30).

Oh yes, some of my regular readers may wonder about the windsurfing the last few days. We have had an unfortunate change in wind patterns: the evening drop-off has moved forward from 6-7 pm to around 4 pm for the last 2 days. We got caught schlogging the first day, but went earlier yesterday and caught one hour of good wind before it died down. We had some swell and breaking waves in Kanaha, which I used for a bit of chicken play and to get my hair washed, before I decided to leave the waves to the better sailors. Still, a fun session, with a nice  nautical mile run above 20 knots, and a few jibes where I looked where I was going (surprise - it works!). In contrast, today was a lot of work. Wind averages were above 20 until noon, but dropped to about 17 mph when we made it to the water. Even the "big" 93 l board and my biggest sail (5.7) did not get me planing consistently. Well, schlogging upwind needs to be practiced, too...  Back home, we saw that the wind meter readings for Kihei looked better, with averages in the mid-20s, and gusts in the 30s. Apparently, this would have been a good day to sail in Kihei for the first time. Well, on the upside, we got home early, so I had enough time and energy to blog.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting Hawaii learning trip Peter. For sure higher booms + longer lines + adjustable can equal sloppier hook in's. Every time you rig, are you getting the booms at same height? How do you know? If off on boom clamp by 1 cm, what is the effect on the lines, fixed or adjustable? How do the pros know exactly where the boom height for them is located?

    Hi to Nina and love your quest for better sailing.