Well, I did not really have a clew. The GoPro is already packed for moving and in storage, so I have not been able to see myself for I while. I focused on a couple of things I often forget (keeping the front arm straight and pointing the back foot forward), so I was pretty sure that was not the problem. Maybe I had picked up some bad habits by often going for really tight jibes because going upwind in marginal conditions is so hard? Well, a few movies that my friend Dani made from shore last time gave me some pointers:
The first thing that comes to mind is that I am not putting enough pressure on the mast foot. Well, I have heard that mast foot pressure cures just about anything; it is indeed easy to imagine that somehow pushing down on the mast foot would keep the board flatter. My problem with "mast foot pressure" is that it does not really tell me what to do with my body. Perhaps I could pull downward on the front arm, but that does not really work from me when I am flipping the sail in the middle of the jibe. So let's instead look at what is happening a bit earlier in the jibe:
So ok, I should oversheet the sail - I knew that. But maybe I never really understood why. I have heard "to disrupt the laminar flow of air over the sail" - not convincing. I have also heard "to turn the motor off" - but I never knew why I should turn it off. Looking at the pictures above, some possible reasons come to mind:
- If you keep power in the sail during the turn, you need to counter that power by pulling in the other direction. When you are almost downwind and the sail is wide open, your body weight will be moving towards the back of the board, sinking the tail.
- But if you oversheet and remove any pressure from the sail, you will have to move your body forward, assuming a neutral, forward-oriented stance on the board. It is also easier to let the rig lean towards the water as in the last picture above, which drives the rail in for more control.
So far, so good - sheet in and carve, let the sail power accelerate you into the turn and pull you up over the board, keep sheeted in and carving so that the sail looses power. With a neutral "surfing" stance on the board, any bounces over chop will not affect your balance.
The next thing to look at is the sail flip and stepping. We'll only consider a step jibe here, where the feet move at the same time as the sail. In the jibe above, I started leaning backwards, so even after stepping with both feet, my weight was still too far back:
Again, the nose of the board is pointing up, the tail is sinking, and my speed is going down rapidly. Because my weight was to far back earlier, it stays back even after the forward step - basically, I am off balance.
One of the things about jibes that has always puzzled me is the pushing of the sail behind you, as Andy does in the picture above (and the video below). I have done it a few times, mostly during ABK camps, and it usually resulted in very nice jibes. But I never really understood why it works. Well, one thing it probably does is that it makes sure that you really oversheet the sail to the point of stalling, and before you are all the way downwind. But I think this is only part of the story. From doing plenty of dry jibes in my kitchen and basement, I think there is a more dynamic aspect to the "push behind": it is a way of winding up for the subsequent sail flip and foot switch. If you do a "Power Jibe" were you open the sail gradually, the step back with the old front foot and the step forward with the old back foot are "static": your overall body position and balance does not change much; if it does, your weight shifts towards the back of the board first, sinking the tail. This will be less noticeable on boards with footstraps that are forward and close to the center like freestyle boards, and more pronounced on slalom or freeride gear.
But if you first push the sail behind you for a second, and then throw your arms and the rig forward, while stepping back with the old front foot, the entire movement becomes much more dynamic. Through the "untwisting", the old back foot will naturally follow the boom end of the sail forward, and the body weight naturally shifts onto the front foot, flattening out the board. With more weight on the front foot, the rig can fall back a bit during the flip without sinking the tail and slowing you down. Then, as you pull the sail forward towards the nose of the board, you naturally move your weight back onto the back foot, and get ready to re-accelerate in bow-and arrow position. Instead of having several separate parts that seem independent from each other, you end up with one fluid, dance-like movement from oversheeting to re-accelerating. Just watch Andy demonstrate:
If you like what you see and you live anywhere close to Cape Cod, make sure to sign up for the ABK Clinic in Hyannis next month! The wind already is picking up, and my bet is that this will be a great fall season on Cape Cod. See you there!