Sunday, August 3, 2014

Nice Kitty!

"Do you guys have lanes on the water? You all seem to be going the same way back and forth all the time!" That's what an astute observer who obviously never windsurfed asked me the other day at Kalmus beach. Looking at some of my GPS tracks, I must admit he had a point:
These are tracks from the first half of my session a few days ago. I had just enough wind to get planing, and was using a weed fin. But these tracks are pretty typical for how most windsurfers sail at Kalmus.

But when the wind dropped a bit, I decided to switch to a longboard - my Fanatic Ultra Cat from the 1990s. At least twice as heavy as the Fanatic Skate I had used, almost twice as long - and, it turned out, about twice as much fun:
On the newer shortboard, I had exactly two speeds - really slow and fast. I had just one angle to sail - close to beam reach. Theoretically, I could have sailed more downwind, but that was not really an option because going upwind at any decent angle would have meant switching from fast (= fun) to really slow (= no fun).
But on the longboard, I suddenly had options. I was able to go upwind at 45ยบ angles. Just one tack, and I was out much further than during the entire session on the Skate. I had a lot of different speeds to choose on, depending on the angle to the wind and the current wind strength. On the Cat, a bit more wind meant a bit more speed. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Even the relatively slow upwind legs were a lot of fun, since the board railed up a bit on it's huge racing daggerboard. Not even the famous Kalmus voodoo chop bothered the board! Fun, fun, fun. Since going upwind was easy, I could also go downwind at much steeper angles, and start playing around with the waves. Sure, a 12-foot board won't do radical turns going down a 3-foot wave, but it still reacts fast enough to be lots of fun. For the number-curious: the wind meter showed readings between 10 and 18 mph, with averages near 15. My top speed on the Skate 110 was 24 mph, on the Cat 21 mph; I used a 6.5 m sail.

I had to stop when it got dark. I tried for a repeat session the next day, but the wind dropped to 9 mph averages just as I hit the water. So it ended up being more work and less fun - but every day of sailing is a great day of sailing!

On other news, I finally got an opportunity to practice my windsurf instructor skills on complete beginners today. Conditions were pretty good, but the wind was a bit light. Watching the two guys try there best made me wonder how I ever got past the initial steps. It looked so hard! The lighter guy was on a 10 ft Exocet WindSUP. He managed some back and forth runs, with tacks in the middle, towards the end. The other guy was a bit taller and heavier, and really had to fight for his balance on my 75 cm wide Kona Mahalo. Very light winds and small swell did not help at all! But he bravely kept at it, and managed to get reasonably good at uphauling and getting going. I always thought the Kona Mahalo was pretty stable, with it's 12 foot length and looong daggerboard - but I'll clearly need a wider beginner board for future lessons.

So begins August - often a month with very little wind here. But July was fantastic, with 15 days of planing fun. So much wind that even I got bored of mowing the lawn, and started to play around with new school freestyle. I'm pretending to work on the Grubby, and if I'm very generous, I can claim about 60 tries. Most of those were just pops, though, with the highlight being a pop where I turned the board about 90 degrees in the air, and then landed nose-first (no, dear mother-in-law, do not worry: I did not land on my nose! The nose of the board touched the water first, which is what's supposed to happen in new school freestyle). You call it what you will, I'll call it progress, albeit slow progress. But I already have a good idea what I should do next. Let's hope I don't forget until the winds return in a few weeks!
Nose landing
Butt landing - I'm good at these!

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