Monday, October 1, 2012

Rocktober!

Today, October showed why it's called Rocktober in New England: we had SW winds with averages up to 35 mph, and gusts in the low 40s. This is the first time in months we saw this much wind: the summer seemed rather windless, with my 8.5 m sail being the most used sail; September got better, with 7 days on mostly 5.5 m; but today's call was for the 5.8 m speed sail and some Slicks sailing.

High tide around noon and WSW winds would have called for sailing the Kennedy Slicks, but there are still at least a dozen boats anchored in the harbor, so we went to Egg Island instead. It seems the sand bars have changed a bit since we sailed there last year - the second sand bar that's ideal for speed was fully submerged, even 3 hours after high tide. So we had to sail inside the little bay that is formed by the two sandbars, one of them submerged. The problem with that is that at the end of the speed run, you are sailing full speed towards the tip of the first sand bar that wraps around. Jibing there is possible, but the radius has about 50 meters or less, or you hit sand again...

Needless to say, the first few runs were scary. We missed the strongest winds in the morning, since we had to wait for our sauna to be delivered (which arrived with fork lift damage and had to be sent straight back to Canada). But gusts were initially still in the mid-30s, plenty for the first real speed session of the fall season. When I arrived at Egg Island, Dean had already been playing there for a while, and gave me some helpful pointers where to sail. By the time I had finally gotten comfortable with speed again, though, the water level had dropped enough to keep maybe 50 meters away from the sand bar, and therefore in a bit of chop.

Nina came a bit later on her  90 l freestyle board and a 3.7 m sail. The wind had gone down a bit, and she was underpowered and under-happy at first, until the wind picked up a bit again. She did some nice duck jibes ("boring", she says), but got blown off the board in donkey jibe attempts, and did not get enough pop in the small chop during her flaka and vulcan attempts. Still, she ended up having fun in the relatively smooth water.

With a total run length of only about 400 m, which included a rather gusty start area, it was more a day for 2-second top speeds than for 10-second averages. I saw 30 and 31 knots on the dial of my GPS many times, which made me quite happy - I'd seen 31 only once before, about a year ago at the same spot. I ended up being only 0.07 knots below my personal best for 2 seconds, despite shorter runs this time and a couple of mph less wind. Not bad.

Dean managed to get 36 knots on his dial (35.94 knots for 2 secs), beating my speed once again by almost 5 knots. Some of that is probably due to his earlier start that allow him to catch some gusts into the 40s. But I am not sure that I would have managed to go much faster in stronger winds - I'll need a few more days in the 30s to get used to overpowered speed sailing again. I cannot blame his gear for his faster speeds anymore, since I finally was out on a 90 l slalom board and a cambered speed sail today. But I may catch up a bit by using better fins in the near future (I was on a "regular" 28 cm weed fin today). I tried several of Dani's Vector speed and slalom fins recently, and they felt a lot faster. Actual speed differences where only about a knot or less, but that was in a lot less wind - I think the faster fins will really start to shine in stronger winds.

So Rocktober is living up to its name on the very first day of the month. We're back to a pattern where SW/WSW winds on a sunny day come in much stronger than forecast, which should remain with us for the next couple of months. Oh, did I mention that we had plenty of sun today, and water and air temperatures in the upper 60s (near 20 C)? Fall rules!


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