Yesterday was another fun day, with winds around 20 mph. I sailed in Kalmus for almost 3 hours, and Nina joined me for part of that time. Wind and waves invited some chop hop practice:
I love the way the water catches the sun in the pictures above and below:
The bottom picture shows the main thing I was working on yesterday - hand positions during the sail flip in the jibe. I can jibe decently when everything is lined up right. But there are tons of things that will make me loose speed in my jibes, or fall: too much chop; other sailors or distractions near me; getting tired after sailing for an hour or two; too much time since the last ABK camp; and many other things. I think the real problem is that I jibed for a couple of decades without decent instruction. Some windsurfers like Hardie or Tom can learn on their own and develop a nice style, but I don't belong to that group. I have been doing things wrong for too long, building bad "muscle memories" that I fall back to whenever I start to get tired, distracted, ...
Every time I look at GoPro footage, I see myself making the same mistakes over and over again. In jibes, that includes:
- Placing the back foot so that it points to much towards the edge (instead of placing it parallel to the front strap, pointing more towards the front).
- Pulling myself up to the sail with bent arms.
- Not oversheeting (hard to do if both arms are bent).
- Not moving the hand towards the mast when flipping the sail.
- Looking down at the board or sail, instead of out of the turn.
There are other things I do wrong sometimes, but the things listed above I do wrong almost every time. Trying to remember all of them mid-jibe simply does not work for me - if I think of one, I certainly will forget the other four. So for yesterday's session, I decided to concentrate on just one thing - moving the hand on the boom towards the mast before flipping the sail. The idea is to do this so often and consistently that it becomes automatic. So when I then move on to the next thing on the list, I'm hopefully doing one at least that one thing right, without having to think about it.
In yesterday's session, I jibed about 50 times. It took about 10 jibes before I remembered what I wanted to work on, but after that, I did move my hand towards the mast in most jibes. On the water, I was quite amazed how much of a difference that made. Compared to leaving the hand near the front harness lines, as I had mostly done before, it's much easier to control the rig, and to move it towards the front during and after the flip. On the GoPro footage, I saw that I still did do the three other things wrong during most jibes, so it's no surprise that I lost a lot of speed in most of the jibes. Still, getting going again after the jibes was definitely much easier with the better hand positioning. That said, I did notice that my hand movements often were too small - I moved the hand maybe halfway towards the mast, instead of sliding it all the way towards the front end of the boom.
Some curious reader might ask why I started with the fourth step on my list of common mistakes rather than with the first one. The reason is simple: if I do everything right at the start of the jibe, so that I can oversheet nicely with a straight front arm, I'll often carry enough speed into the turn that the jibe is ok even if I do not slide the hand towards the mast. That takes away the motivation to keep improving - and therefore just re-enforces bad habits. In boom cam footage from light wind SUP sailing, I noticed that I had the same mistake of not sliding the hand; a SUP is stable enough that "little" mistakes are easy to overlook.
For the next session, the goal will be to focus getting rid of bad habits #2 and #3 (under the assumption that #3 is mostly a consequence of #2). At the start of the jibe, my front arm is often reasonably straight, and I do let the sail pull me into an upright position. The next step would be to push the sail out of my line of sight with a (mostly) straight front arm; but instead, I often open the sail up a bit (and too early), which leads to the dreaded "bent arms, ass out" stance. The motto will be "sail, get out of my way!". I have done this on occasion, mostly after being told to do so during ABK camps. It will be interesting to see if I can get this to "stick" by concentrating on it a few dozen times in a row. Considering that a typical sailing year with 100+ sessions includes many thousands of jibes, I may need a few "single-focus" corrective sessions to unlearn each bad habit.