Friday, June 1, 2012

Light winds & longboards

I just read Mike Burns' blog about preparing for the East Coast Windsurfing Festival. Mike is organizing this great event which will take place a week from now in Long Island, NY. As he points out, the last month has not brought a lot of wind to the area - quite untypical, since May can be a great month, with thermals enhancing underlying SW flows.

Well, I have to admit that I actually do not wish for a lot of wind for the ECWF. Ok, if we get strong winds, I'll take it and be happy; but if it's light, I'll be just as happy. This year, I am planning to bring our Kona Mahalo to the event if there is any chance for non-planing conditions. I love sailing the Mahalo in light winds: it brings back the gliding sensation of old long boards like the original Windsurfer, the Windglider, HiFly boards, and so on. I'm curious to see how it will do against the racier longboards like MegaCats and Equipes at light wind races. Last year, when I had to sail my 117 l slalom board in light winds, my best hope was not to finish last - and even that required a lot of effort!

Besides the long outlines and high rails, a 56 cm fin, and a long daggerboard for racing, the Mahalo also offers plenty of stability for light wind freestyle. As my karate teachers have pointed out more than once, I am a bit challenged in the balance department, and tricks like duck tacks or back-to-back sailing in light wind are a tad too much for me on my 110 l freestyle board. But on the 280 l Mahalo, we can play. And play we did last weekend, when we had nice weather but little wind. Nina took my Skate 110, which seemed huge to her after she had just transfered most of her tricks to her new 90 l Skate. I fooled around on my Kona Mahalo. On my Skate, board steering can be done by simply shifting weight from one foot to the other; but on the Kona, I have to take several steps to accomplish similar, albeit less dramatic, things. So I admit that it is not the best board for tight upwind 360s - but for learning the sail handling in duck tacks, it's perfect. After a couple of hours of practice, my duck tack success rate went up to 80% or higher, which made me quite happy.

Back-to-back sailing it about as old school as it comes; I remember trying it on the original windsurfer more than 30 years ago. Andy Brandt is the master of back-to-back, and I was lucky enough to hear his lecture at the recent ABK camp in Long Island. With the huge Mahalo and the perfectly flat water of Fogland, it only took a few tries to get the trick - cool! I still have plenty of work to do on the exit, which ends up being wet more often then not. But I have to leave some things for future ABK camps :-)

On both days in Fogland, our friend Dani was also sailing. He actually managed to get planing a few times in puffs, but most of the time, even his 8.5 m sail and slalom board did not get him going. So on the second day, we showed him a few basic light wind skills & tricks - sail 180s and 360s, clew first sailing, and backwinding. He picked up everything very quickly, and even added a few things just from watching Nina, like fin-first sailing. Dani is a hard-core speed junkie, but he definitely enjoyed doing something else in light winds:
Dani's "partner in speed" Sabah was also there and played along, initially even with a cambered 8.5 m race sail. Just like Dani, he progressed quickly and enjoyed himself a lot. Here are a few more pictures:




So if we should have light winds at the  East Coast Windsurfing Festival, we'll have plenty of fun with light wind freestyle and longboard racing. If the wind is strong, I'll race my slalom board, but I'll probably sit out the freestyle competition and instead watch Mike Burns, Chachi, Chris, Jake, and others through Vulcans, Spocks, and plenty of tricks I can't even identify. Either way, it will be great!

1 comment:

  1. I'll go out and railride with you this weekend in NY !

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