Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Kalmus wind meter reads low

Two things must be said:
  1. The Kalmus wind meter reads low.
  2. The "Human Forecast" for Kalmus is often too low.
There. I said it. Don't let faulty meter readings and forecasts keep you off the water!

I had the suspicion that the meter readings from the iWindsurf meter in Kalmus were low this year, especially in S and SSW winds, less so in WSW. It was either that, or my planing threshold for my most often used sail-board combos has suddenly dropped by 3-5 mph. I do get a bit better at planing every year, but that's usually more in the range of planing 1 mph earlier than last year. I got some better fins this year, too, and that may have also reduced my planing threshold - but not by that much.

The low Kalmus wind meter readings meant that I sailed without Nina a bunch of times this summer. She does not like big sails, and won't go if it looks like she won't be able to plane on 5.0. On her 90 l board with an 21 cm or shorter fin, that usually means 19 mph averages, better 20 mph for decent power. So what if we have seen many times that she will plane on 5.0 m / 90 l when I plane on 6.5 m / 110 l (yes, I do outweigh her a lot, and need more board and sail)? So what if I know that I'll be planing nicely if the meter reads 16 mph averages? If it was not 19, she did not go.

I had been watching the wind forecast for yesterday closely, and expected wind all day. We had a typical pattern: the NAM computer model predicted a few hours of S winds in the upper teens, the GFS model predicted 20 in the morning, raising to high 20s in the afternoon. I did not look at the human forecast, but heard that it called for something like 18-24 in the afternoon.

What we got was average readings around 20, with gusts in the mid-20s, at 9 am. Since low tide was at 8 am, and we like low tide at Kalmus, we went early. With straight onshore winds and low water levels, I decided to get some more practice on my slalom gear, and took out my 7.0 m race sail and my 90 l slalom board. Nina decided to use her favorite 4.5 m wave sail and a 17 cm fin on her 90 l Skate. If the averages had indeed been 20, that would have been too small to plane consistently - but she was planing close to 100% of the time as soon as she hit the water. That made it official - the Kalmus wind meter reads low, at least in S-SSW winds.

I have gotten used to sailing my comfy Tabou 3S 96 l board in Kalmus, so the slalom combo felt a bit scary. I was very nicely powered, even though the sail-board-fin combo seems to have about zero friction, which meant that I was going scarily fast over the (fortunately orderly) chop. My top speed was about 29 knots, but I was clearly the limiting factor - the gear would have easily gone several knots faster under a better driver. After a few runs, I switched down to the 3S and a 5.5 m non-cambered sail. Nicely powered right away, I went and played with the waves, even managing to get more than two or three turns on the same wave every now and then. Fun!

The wind kept picking up slowly, and I ended the session with a few nicely powered runs on the 4.5 that Nina had rigged. The smallest sail size on the water at that time was John's 3.2, and he was also nicely powered (you guessed right - he is light). By then, I had spent a couple of hours on the water and was starting to make stupid mistakes. Nina was done for the day, so we derigged an drove home. Here is the wind graph for the day:
I stopped sailing just before the averages hit 30. After lunch and a few of hours break at home, I figured that chances to sail in 35+ mph averages are rare, and drove back for a second session. On the way there, I saw tree branches come down while I was driving by; trees swaying in the wind like in a heavy fall storm; and a very angry sea at Craigville Beach. At Kalmus, nobody was on the water when I arrived. I walked down and chatted for a while with Martin, Jay, and Spencer. Standing on wet sand less than 10 feet from the water in onshore winds, we nevertheless got sandblasted, and every now and then, a gust would push one of us a few feet back. The wind felt stronger than anything I have sailed in for a long, long time, perhaps ever. Spencer, who is a better windsurfer than I am, had already hurt his ribs in a fall. Someone else stated that he was overpowered on 3.7, and he was not a light weight. One by one, the sailors went back out. They looked like they had decent control out there, except that everyone was flying the fin on wave gear, with just the last foot of the board touching the water most of the time. Jumps would occasionally end in a big splash, but usually result in pretty big air and prolonged hang times. I even saw something that was darn close to a table top - impressive!

So I suppressed my inner chicken and went out, after all. I almost never sail anything smaller than 4.5, which I have used in 35 mph averages several times in Maui, Hatteras, and Cape Cod, but I decided to rig the 4.0 North Ice, based on what everyone else was sailing and how strong the wind felt. I would have gone with the 3.7, except that the wind was supposed to drop a bit. The board I picked was the Goya One 77 l, which I had not used in almost a year. The small gear took a bit getting used to again, but I eventually felt reasonably comfortable. There were large areas where the waves jacked up nicely, creating very smooth downhill slopes. The waves sometimes crested a bit, but did not really break. It would have been perfect for serious short speed runs, but I focussed on retaining some control instead - after sailing bigger boards with big fins a lot, I had a bit of trouble controlling my back foot pressure. So I ended up going down smooth, steep ramps at perhaps 24 knots, with the sail wide open - and still a lot of pressure in the sail, even though I was going downwind! I'd guess that gusts were at in the high 40s; the wind meter only showed gusts below 40 during this time (6:30-7 pm).

I felt a bit out of my element, which was only reinforced watching the other windsurfers on the water. Martin did nice, long planing jibes, coming out dry or even planing as if it was just the average 4.7 day. He had sailed on his 4.2 most of the afternoon when averages where above 35, and he kept going strong in the sunset. But others on the water outshone him, with crazy slashing, perfectly dry turns, and higher jumps. Amazing to see! One of these guys had not sailed at all this year before today...

I only sailed a bit more than half an hour, and then called it quits, glad to be unhurt. I definitely had more fun in the morning session, which was in conditions that I am much more familiar with. But the evening session was the more memorable one.
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The day before also had been windy, and I did some freestyle on my Skate 110 / Pilot 6.5 combo. I tried some planing switch jibes for the first time, and was very surprised to plane out of the second try. My foot placement felt a bit funny, but I'll just have to try more often. Also made some progress on my duck jibes, which ended up being decent on the far side. With yesterday's session, that makes 5 days of sailing in August already. Not a bad summer so far :-)

1 comment:

  1. It is weird to sail on such small gear. And that you actually speed up when going downwind in a gybe. Cool post.

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