Monday, April 8, 2013

It's getting warmer

It's slowly getting warmer, and more and more local windsurfers are ending their long winter sleep. Yesterday at Kalmus, I talked to at least 3 sailors who were out for the first time in 2013. It was not quite as warm as promised, with air temps around 45ºF (7ºC) and water temps perhaps a tad lower; but it was warm enough for a 3-hour session on my 6.5 m sail. The wind was up & down a bit, so I ended up using 3 different boards - first my Skate 110, then the 3S 96, a short session on my XFire 90, and back to the 3S 96.

With south winds and a low tide, the water was just beautiful, with very nicely formed waves and perfectly flat water in between. The main reason I switched from my Skate to the 3S was that I wanted to play with the (non-breaking) waves a bit more, but a slight increase in the wind made this a perfect switch. I felt almost overpowered when I decided to switch to the XFire for a few speed runs - of course, that was just before the wind dropped again a bit for 15 minutes. Still, I got almost 29 knots on the dial. I'd be pretty happy with that on most days, but yesterday, I was on my "low-end", uncambered Gaastra Pilot sail, and the wind meter showed gusts of at most 25 knots, which makes this a darn good speed for me.

One interesting thing in sailing both the 3S and the XFire for a while was that it gave me the opportunity to compare the fins. On the 3S, I used a 29 cm Tangent Dynamics (TD) Reaper; on the XFire, I used a 23.5 cm Black Project (BPF) WEEDspeed (they call it a "28", since it's similar to a 28 cm pointer). The TD is a freeride fin, the BPF a speed fin with a longer base, and therefore an area that seems almost as large as the TD area. The BPF is noticeable thinner, with sharper front and rear edges. Both are weed fins, but they behave quite differently.

I like the TDs because they can take a lot of pressure right from the start - you can really push the fin to get going. I sailed the 3S with the TD fin a lot longer than the BPF fin, and ended up getting almost the same top speed (within about 1 knot); but I probably hit a stronger gust to reach this speed. With the TD, I had to be a bit careful about fin pressure at high speed - too much, and the fin would spin out.

The Black Project WEEDspeed was just about the opposite. I had to be careful at low speeds, but the faster I got, the more grip the fin provided. Once up to speed, the fin felt bomb-proof, giving a lot of confidence to go fast. I think this is pretty amazing, since this fin was quite a bit shorter than the TD; also, the XFire has outboard slalom footstraps which put more pressure on the fin than the single center strap on the 3S. I was clearly not anywhere close to the top end for the fin, which has been clocked at more than 40 knots by "real" speedsurfers.

The difference between the two fins is not really surprising. The thinner profile of the BPF WEEDspeed alone explains much of the difference - thicker profiles provide more grip at lower speed, thinner profiles will work better at higher speeds. Since I sometimes like to go fast on my non-slalom boards, I think I'll just have to get myself a few powerbox slalom or speed weed fins. Most of the slalom and speed fins are only available in tuttle versions, but at least one high-end fin company shows them as available in powerbox versions, too. I'll see what I can get and report back!

My focus in the session was primarily fun and distance, but since I had to turn around a few dozen times, anyway, I worked on jibes a bit, too. The good news is that sliding the hand to the mast has become quite natural now, after just one practice session. The bad news is that the oversheeting will need a bit more work. I did get the sail out of my line of sight a few times, but not always; and the timing of bringing it back up will need a bit more work. Looking at nice jibes in videos, this is just one fluid motion of moving the sail back and then bringing it forward again; in my better tries, its more like "Oh, cool, I remembered to push the sail back and keep my front arm extended! Cool! Now when do I bring it back up? Two seconds ago you say?" Well, ok, nobody really said "two seconds ago", but I'm sure someone would have if I had asked.

A brand new thing for Kalmus was the seal that was taking a break on the beach yesterday. Fortunately, it was still complete and alive, not half-eaten as the seal Jerry saw a few weeks back near Chatham. Maybe he just needed a break from the great whites.

Another great thing to see yesterday was young Graham in action. I admit that I stayed away from him most of the time, lest jealousy would overcome me. But I saw a nice Kono attempt that, to my unknowing eye, looked like he was almost there; and Nina reported that his Flakas have become "really nice" now. He is planning to spend the summer teaching windsurfing in Hatteras again - I can't wait to see him sail when he comes back, after sailing almost every day for a few months in a row.

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