Monday, June 15, 2015

Light Wind Freestyle Competition Tips

Andy Brandt showing Back-2-Back in light winds
The lovely Nina is back. The wind promptly dropped again after blowing hard for 3 weeks. So we went for a light wind freestyle session yesterday.

It was a lovely session, and I managed to keep my success-to-fall ratio reasonably high; I even got a couple of clew-first Ankle Biters. But I had to think of my p***-poor performance in the finals at the ECWF Long Island. Not surprisingly, Nina had a couple of tips to avoid such disasters in the future, and I came up with a few things to do myself. Here's the list:

  1. Check the competition area before each heat. Conditions can sometimes change dramatically within a short period of time: the chop may get bigger, making some tricks harder; or wind swell may develop and push you downwind and out of the competition area much faster. So get out a bit earlier! 
  2. Practice short combos with turns. Move combos are nice and get extra points. But if there's no turn in the middle, you'll end up too far away - out of sight. Add a tack or jibe in the middle, and you can stay right in front of the judges.
  3. Practice all tricks on your both sides. I have a couple of high-scoring tricks that I can do only on one side. During the heats, I often found myself trying to get onto the other tack so that I could show these tricks. Big waste of time! 
  4. Compete with small sails on a big board, but practice with bigger sails and on smaller boards. Flashy sail throws like Ankle Biters and Jaw Breakers are a lot harder on smaller boards, and can be almost impossible with larger sails. Even simple moves like Sail-Body 360s are a lot easier with small sails and big boards. So if you want to make the finals in a light wind freestyle competition, forget the freestyle boards and 6 m sails - get the big board (160 l +) and 4 to 5 m sails. But also practice the same moves using bigger sails and smaller boards to build precision. Things will seem a lot easier in competition!
  5. Practice a good way to go back upwind. You will need to go back upwind during competition. If you're just sailing upwind, you are wasting valuable time where the judges will focus on your competitors. So figure out a better way. That could be a tack combo; sailing inside the boom or back-to-back; sailing switch for a while longer before the Duck Tack; or even something simple like leeside sailing. 
  6. Ignore the MC when he calls for "only the hardest tricks". Last year, Eric showed fantastic tricks in the earlier heats, but in the semifinals, he tried only stuff that was very hard. He fell most of the time, and missed the finals. This year, I did (almost) the same thing. Not smart. Instead, start with moves you're certain to nail, and go to harder tricks after these moves have been seen.
So go ahead and start practicing for the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod in September! Here's a short video where Andy Brandt illustrates quite a few of the points above:

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