Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winter storms are fun

Would you go sailing in a winter storm if you have a trip to Bonaire, the windsurf paradise in the Caribbean, in the near future? That's the question we had to answer today, and the answer was a "YES". We could blame it on our friend Martin, who needed to test and then maybe buy the Ianovated wetsuit I had bought for him; or on the wind direction and tides, which aligned nicely for a local speed spot that we had never sailed in the promised ENE winds. But I'd probably blame the need for speed - our Bonaire trip will be dedicated to freestyle, so getting a speedsurfing in before just seemed right.

Air  temperatures were forecast to be around 40º F (5º C), and water temperatures are now about in the same range, so this "winter storm" did not feel so wintery anymore. We saw a few snow flakes on our drive to the launch, but most of the water coming down was unfrozen. Not that we liked the rain much, either, but it fortunately mostly stopped by the time we were ready to go out. The water looked quite choppy, with lots of white caps everywhere. The previous few times we had sailed the same spot, the water always seemed to understate the actual wind; the nearest wind meter with readings around 32-35 mph seemed to confirm that. So we rigged small - 3.7/90l for Nina, 4.2/95 l for Martin, and 4.5/82l for me. If not for the upcoming trip, I might have chosen to go out on slalom gear and a larger sail, but today's primary objective was not to get hurt. Since the tide was going down, we all went out on small fins, ranging from 18 to 26 cm.

The winds were a bit gusty, so the two real freestylers in our group paid for their tiny fins by not always being powered, and having to fight a bit to go upwind. I was a bit more fortunate with the largest fin and sail on the smallest board; I was pretty much always able to plane, although the sail ended up being a bit small for downwind speed runs. Nevertheless, I had a blast, and eventually even got the jibes dialed in after having gotten used to the conditions. I think it helped that the water depth on one side was less than two feet - enough to plane through jibes, but when I lost to much speed, my 200+ pounds sunk the tail of the board straight into the mud. So I just had to plane out of the jibes :-)

Martin and Nina actually played around a little with freestyle. I saw some duck jibe and 360 attempts. As usual, Martin had a big smile on his face every time I saw him. The wetsuit was a tad large for him, but he liked it so much that he did not want to give it back to me. He was amazed how well the hand warming system worked (which Nina did not need at all today, but which I used a lot at the beginning of the session and after falling). This should be the end of painful finger warmups after winter windsurfing sessions for Martin! I think the Swedish speedsurfer Anders Bjorkqvist is correct with his prediction that "all winter surfers (also kite) will buy this or a similar suit within a few years".

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