Sunday, July 31, 2011

Just say no to Speed Jibes!

The title may seem a bit contradictory for a wannabe speed surfer, so let me clarify: I am talking about jibe where the sail is flipped first, and the feet are switched afterwards - also known as "Sail First Jibes" or "Euro Jibes". I will be using "Speed Jibe" here because that's the term used in the Tricktionary.

Here on Maui, many sailors do Speed Jibes. I have noticed the same thing at home on really windy, choppy days - so the naive observer could come to the conclusion that Speed Jibes are the jibe to do in windy and choppy conditions. Gullible as I am, I actually worked on Speed Jibes for a few days here.. but not without having Andy Brandt's voice in the back of my head, telling me not to bother with "Euro Trash Jibes". Matt Pritchard pretty much said the same during my private.

The final nail in the coffin came down when watching the racers at the Maui Race Series. Here's a video of one group jibing around a mark:

Everyone is doing Step Jibes, with some variation in how far the sail is laid down, but little variation in the timing of the step forward (for the purpose of this discussion, I'll treat Step Jibes and Laydown Jibes as the same). What I found amazing is that falls during the jibes where rare - despite having to jibe at a pre-determined spot, plenty of distraction (the other sailors), and quite a bit of chop. Any single one of these things is likely to make me fall when I jibe...

Going through the movies I made during the races, I actually did discover one Speed Jibe:

This one was from a sailor at the tail end of the pack - no big surprise, since he lost a lot of speed during his jibe. For comparison, here is a jibe by Phil McGain, who dominated the races, winning all races except the one where his universal broke:

Looking at other jibes in the movies from the races, I noticed a very strong correlation between stepping late and loosing speed during the jibe. In jibes that kept the most speed, the back foot moved forward at the same time that the sail was opened up. Even stepping a tad later, as the sail flipped to the other side, typically resulted in significantly more loss of speed. Two screen shots from the movies above illustrate why:
With both feet in the back of the board, the tail sinks, putting the brakes on big time. Compare this to the how flat the board is in Phil's Step Jibe when the sail is in exactly the same position of the board:
Well, if this isn't a convincing argument for the step jibe, what is?

Of course, there is plenty of stuff that can go wrong during a Step Jibe, too. Here's an example of a bad jibe that Matt Pritchard caught on video during my first private with him:

I have been working on the things that Matt suggested to improve my jibes in chop:

  1. Keeping the front arm long during the entry and oversheeting.
  2. Stepping forward when the sail moves forward, and bending the front knee to put weight on it and flatten the board out.
  3. Looking where I'm going (instead of succumbing to the dreaded disease called "Sail Fascination"), especially during and after the sail flip.
A couple of days ago, we went for a late windsurf session after work. Nina had some shoulder pain and decided not to go sailing, so she took videos from the beach. Knowing that this would be a short session, I worked a bit harder, concentrating on my jibes. I definitely noticed some improvements during the session, and felt pretty good about the last jibe, even though I did not plane through. Here is the video, with an inset from the clew-mounted GoPro HD:

When my typical (rather than my best) jibes in chop look like this, I'll be quite happy. My arms are straighter than usually, I oversheet nicely, and I look where I want to go (at least at the end). Still, there are a few things that can  be improved that even I noticed:

  • The front arm should be straighter during the carve.
  • Knees should be bent a bit more during the entire jibe.
  • The step with the front foot to the back is pretty big, which sinks the tail a lot. Just sliding the foot out of the foot strap and placing it right behind it should keep the board flatter, and thereby keep a bit more speed.

This might sound a bit like nitpicking. But looking at lots of boom cam videos, I found that I make the same mistakes in most jibes; the difference between the dry jibes and the wet ones is mostly in how badly I'm doing these things wrong.
Enough about jibes, here's a brief summary about what else went on during the last week. We did not sail last Sunday and Monday - Sunday because we needed a break, and Monday because the wind came up very late, after we had already given up hope. On Tuesday, I tried out sailing with slalom gear in Kanaha (iSonic 101 and Vapor 6.7). That ended up being too much of a change - just getting into the tight outboard footstraps after being used to big center footstraps was a challenge. After a couple of runs, I switched the board to my trusted Angulo FW 93 so I could concentrate on just the difference in going to a cambered race sail. The sail felt very slippery, I would have loved to try it on flat water - but for Kanaha, I switched back to my 5.7 Manic after a few runs. This gave me a whole new appreciation for how easy the wave gear is to sail under the conditions here - and on the skills of the racers that practiced on even bigger slalom gear the entire time.

Last Thursday, we went to Kihei for the first time, since winds there looked a lot higher than in Kanaha. We sailed from the Sunset launch, since that was the first spot where we saw a lot of other windsurfers. The sailing was very interesting. The wind was side shore at the launch, and the waves had about 3 miles to build up, so the water was definitely not flat. With gusts in the 40s, I found myself keeping the 4.5 I used pretty open a lot, and using all the things Matt had told me to keep control. The session was fun, even though my top speed ended up being rather low. The rigging area with perfectly manicured lawn was nice, but the water was much dirtier than on the North shore. I paid for that with a headache the next day - something that happens to me at home sometimes the day after sailing, but has not happened after sailing Kanaha or Sprecks.

Nina sailed only a short time in Kihei before her fingers started hurting badly - maybe from holding on so hard in the crazy gusts. She had a much better time yesterday in Kanaha, until she hit a turtle on her last run that stopped the board dead, and sent her catapulting and hitting the mast with her head. Fortunately, both her head and the turtle's shell are very hard, and neither Nina nor the turtle seemed to have any lasting damage. In Nina's case, that's a safe bet, she has neither a headache nor bruises; in the turtle's case, we can only hope. During the races earlier that day, one of the racers had hit a at turtle full speed, and got catapulted over the handle bars. That ended the day for the sailor, but again, the turtle was hopefully ok. I usually have between 1 and 10 turtle sightings a day; if turtles were easily damaged by windsurf boards and fins, the dozens of sailors on the water anytime it's windy would have had a negative impact by now. It seems that the turtle shells of Maui turtles are a lucky case of evolutionary pre-adaptation to windsurf fins :)

1 comment:

  1. OMG, did you move to Hawaii? How many weeks did you stay? Nice jibe observations. Bring some of that wind to the East Coast. Glad you both are improving.