Thursday, September 29, 2011

First flight

Yesterday's forecast was for "mostly cloudy" weather with 17 mph winds. Forecasts this low often mean slim chances of planing, but when we heard that our friend Dani was on his way to West Dennis, we decided to join him. The day turned out much better than expected:

With ESE wind measured around 20 mph, and probably a couple of miles more once you got a bit away from the shore, it was a perfect day to take the Hawk out for the first time. We got to the beach around 1 pm, just as the wind picked up:
High tide was at 1:15 pm, so we had a little bit of chop to play in. This was also the first time I tried to rig my Gaastra Pilot 6.5 on a 100% skinny mast, but the sail is spec'd for a 30% SDM mast, so that did not quite work as planned. I downhauled so that the batten over the boom extended to the middle of the mast, which let me use the specified boom length - but the sail looked wrong, with too little leech twist. I took it out on the water for a few runs, but everything felt just wrong. It's easy to see on the GPS tracks that something was wrong:
The first set of runs were much slower than later runs. So I went back in and downhauled about 2 more inches. That pulled all battens clear away from the mast; required an additional 4 cm of outhaul (for about 1-2 cm of positive outhaul); and made the leech look quite a bit looser than I'm used to from my Matrix sails. But on the water, the sail now worked like a charm - I could basically just forget about it and concentrate on the new board.

Since I had sailed the 2011 Hawk 100 and loved it, my expectations were high. The first thing I noticed was a bit of side-to-side instability. That really was no surprise - the boards I sailed in the past month were 68-71 cm wide, so you'd expect some difference from a 58 cm wide board. I absolutely loved how the board handled the chop - it mostly seemed to disappear, and keeping the board on the water and at full speed was just easy. On my second set of runs, I planed through a jibe with a minimum speed of 10.7 knots, which I was very happy with, especially for first time on the board, and using a large weed fin. Going upwind was easy enough, too, so I went for a nice long downwind run, and clocked a 22.3 knot nautical mile. Not bad for 17-22 knot winds and chop!

One thing where the board behaved quite differently than the FreeWave 95 that I tried last year was when it came to playing with waves. The Hawk showed a clear preference for going straight - but then, I had mounted double footstraps, kept them tight, and used a long weed fin. The board is certainly no wave board, but with a single back strap and a smaller wave fin, there is some fun to be had playing with chop. I'll try that at some time in the future - but the more fun thing will be to test the speed potential on flat water on a really windy day (30 mph NE in Duxbury, please please!).

Back home, I looked at my earlier windsurf sessions in West Dennis. I had sailed there three times before in similar conditions, using my Skate 110. While the Skate can be quite fast, my top speed in the previous sessions was just 25-26 mph. This time, my top speed was almost 30 mph, 4 mph faster. I think the faster speed can be attributed to the board as much as to what I learned about sailing in chop this summer in Maui. There was just one time that I had sailed faster in West Dennis - 32 mph last December in a session with Dean. Back then, we had a nice low tide, which makes the water a lot flatter, and 30-36 mph winds. Just 2 mph faster in 10 mph more wind, despite using a speed sail then (KA Koncept 5.8) and a "low end" RAF sail (Pilot 6.5) now - it sure would be nice to see how fast the Hawk would fly under these conditions!

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