Friday, April 12, 2013

Fun in the rain

Air and water temperatures around 44ºF (7ºC), showers turning into steady rain, wind predicted in the low-to-mid 20s (mph) - who would not be eager to go windsurfing? Well, I could think of a few names, so I ended up on the water alone. Part of my excuse to go out was that Dean had a very nice forecast down in Hatteras, and was planning to "sail his ass off". But I also wanted to explore another new potential speed spot 10 minutes from our home: East Bay in Osterville. Here are today's GPS tracks:
The forecast had predicted that the wind would pick up in the morning, with occasional rain showers before noon, followed by steady and heavy rain. So I left as soon as the local wind meters showed some promise, and was at the beach before 9 am. The initial gear choice was my XFire 90 slalom board with the KA Koncept 5.8 m sail. Since the tide was low, I used a 23.5 cm weed fin from Black Project Fins (the one they call the "28").

Since I had never sailed this spot before and the water looked shallow, the first few runs were slow and cautious. I got off a number of times to check the water depth, which was just deep enough. Sailing slow on slalom gear that's meant to go fast is a bit of work, so after a few runs, I gave my arms a rest and went back to the van to get the GoPro. Back on the water, I started going a bit faster, although I still got off several times, and even walk the shore line for a while at what looked like the spot for speed runs. Meanwhile, the wind was picking up steadily, and I fiddled around a bit with the sail trim to adopt.

Being overpowered while exploring a new spot was more tiring than I had expected. I did a few downwind speed runs on the left side, and suddenly found myself in chop that made board control a bit challenging. It also took a while to learn the wind patterns - what I had originally taken for gustiness turned out to be strongly linked to upwind and downwind obstacles. When I analyzed the GPS tracks at home, I discovered that I had gotten my top speeds not at the spots where I went for speed runs, but rather in the middle, where the wind came unobstructed through the inlet, and thus was stronger than at the sides where the water surface was a lot smoother. Here's a GoPro picture from one of the speed runs:
The picture shows that my stance is not quite perfect; I never really got the feeling that I was 100% dialed in. However, I did see some pretty decent top speed numbers on the GPS display, and ended up with my 4th-best ever 2 second speed (30.5 knots, 56.5 km/h). Quite happy with that, I decided to switch to something more comfortable to get a decent 1-hour average for our Fogland Speedsurfer team.

Out came the Tabou 3S 96 and the Gaastra Manic 4.5. Since the water in the bay was quite flat, I decided to give the Maui Ultra Fins 19 cm Delta Freeride fin another try. I had loved the fin the first time I used it on flat water, but had serious spin-out problems when I later used it in chop. Today, the fin worked quite well. I had one spinout when entering a jibe at high speed with too much back foot pressure and too little rail engagement, but a small technique adjustment made sure that did not happen again. After a few rig adjustments during the first runs, I was off to jibe practice! The short run length in the bay (about 650 m) meant about one jibe every minute, but I had wanted to work on jibes, anyway. The water surface at both ends of the runs was nice and flat, just about perfect for full-speed jibes. I ended up with quite a few planed-through jibes that I was happy with. They helped to forget the pelting rain that had now started. I sometimes had rather reduced vision, with the windward eye closed, but fortunately, I had the entire bay to myself.

Back at home, I discovered that I had set a new personal best for alpha 500 (that is a 500-m run with a jibe in the middle, and the ends of the run must be within 50 meters of each other).  The top three alpha results were all on the XFire 90, even though my best 15 or so jibes were all on the 3S. My best minimum speed in a jibe on the XFire was 6.5 knots, which is marginally planed-through; on the 3S, it was 9.5, a lot better (these speeds are doppler speeds, which tends to under-estimate the actual speed, especially for tight turns). Part of the difference was probably due to the sail - the 4.5 wave sail was a lot easier to handle in turns than the 5.8 m cambered speed sail. But part of the difference probably was also due to getting a bit better at jibing again, and to figuring out where exactly the best spots to turn were.

After 90 minutes on the 3S, I had to call it a day because my leg muscles were starting to cramp up. I really need more practice sailing overpowered on slalom gear! But is was a great session on a new spot.  Next time the wind direction is right for East Bay, Nina promised to join me. She likes the fact that large parts of the bay are shallow enough to stand, and can't wait to practice freestyle there.


A few hours after I wrote this post, Dean posted his speeds for the day. His day had started badly - he was out at the reef when the wind died, leaving him with a 2.7 mile schlog and a 2 mile "walk of shame". But he went out again when the wind picked up a bit later, sailed a total of 115 km, and easily beat all my speeds by at least 3 knots. No surprise there, he usually does that, and I actually liked it - this briefly gave our Fogland Speed Surfers team a top-10 spot in the monthly rankings. That only lasted a few hours, until other teams posted more sessions, but we're still much closer to the top than to the bottom. Quite a difference to most months, where we fight not to be on the last place! In the alpha ranking, we are currently #6 of 39 teams, less than 2 knots behind the top spot. I have to say that I am proud of that, since alpha is the most technical of all the speed rankings - you cannot get a good alpha without a good jibe and good speed. More reasons to keep improving the jibes...


  1. My wife is learning to get into the footstraps. She sort of managed one down in Bonaire, but hasn't repeated the magic. So I'm looking for flat water, not too gusty, and no huge downside if she gets pushed downwind. How would East Bay be? I assume it works in E to SE winds? Would be nice if it were not so offshore from the parking lot, but you can't have everything.

    Thanks for the tips!


  2. John, East Bay works for E-SE, which often means rain. Perhaps the best spot for your wife would be Fogland bay in SW-SSE. It's shallow and friendly. West Dennis can also be very nice at low tide, with side onshore winds and a long stretch of shallow water.

    I see East Bay as an off-season spot; it's not one of the "official" windsurfing beaches. Even if you could get out there in the summer, there might be too much boat traffic. But that's just a guess, I have not actually been to East Bay in the summer.

  3. Thanks for the tip. We love W. Dennis, but low tide doesn't always match the wind. I keep forgetting about Fogland so glad to have the wind direction guidance.