Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fin lesson

We had a southeast storm passing through yesterday that was supposed to bring gusts up to 70 mph and plenty of rain. Sounded like a great day to go windsurfing! Well, that is if you have seen a few Southeasters here, and know that the rain usually holds of for the first few hours while the winds build. However, the warm air arrives before the heavy rain - perfect to start the winter sailing! Here is a quick video:

The other windsurfer you see a few times is Jerry, who joined me since the ocean was just one big mess, and he still knows how to enjoy perfectly flat water. He was indeed having a blast, smiling from ear to ear every time I saw him. My session, which ended up great, had a much rougher start. Things started when the cam on my speed sail poked a hole through the mast sleeve while I was rigging. So I ended up rigging a 4.7 m wave sail, which was not quite a perfect match for my slalom board. I had sailed this board with a 25 cm Vector Delta Speed Weed fin and a 7.0 m freerace sail at the same spot a few weeks earlier. With the 7.0, the 25 cm fin felt a bit small, but other than having to watch back foot pressure at low speed, I had no problems. So I figured that the fin should be about perfect for the much smaller sail...

As you can see in some scenes on the video above, that was an incorrect assumption. Especially when starting, I was constantly fighting spinouts. It did not help that the wind was not nearly as steady yesterday. After a few runs, my forearms were getting really sore, a problem that I have not had for at least a year. I was trying my new suit, and the tight neoprene on the forearms probably contributed to the problem. I have had similar problems with my old 5/4 semi dry suit until I stuffed bottles into the arms to stretch the neoprene, so I'll just have to do the same with the new suit. With yesterday's air temperatures near 50 F (10 C), it was too warm to test the suit, anyway - I was hot the entire time, despite regular breaks to let my arms recover.

I took me about an hour before I got reasonably comfortable, and to finally get a 30-knot run. It ended up being my third fastest session ever, and the fastest with a wave sail, so I was happy enough with the speed. Nevertheless, I left with the feeling that I could have been at least two knots faster had I been properly dialed in. A faster sail would have help, but a bigger fin would properly have made even more of a difference. Interestingly, Nina was using the same fin when she had problems going upwind while sailing her new Falcon 89 recently.

So why did the fin not work as well as before, when I had been using a bigger sail that should have been a worse fit? The chop was very small to non-existent both days, so that was not the issue. One big difference was the steadiness of the wind: on the 7.0 day, the NE wind had been very steady. But yesterday, the wind was gusty and up and down, especially when starting near the dunes. Steady winds allow smaller fins - I have read that before, but I guess I had to discover it for myself. Variably winds and a hiked out position lead to foot pressure changes, which then can cause spinout. I think using a wave sail (and a rather flat one) exaggerated these issues. So next time on a slalom board, it's back to bigger fins and bigger, better matching sails.

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