Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fighting Chicken

Our first five days in Hatteras were windy - we planed every day, usually in wind that was higher than the forecast. Friday took the crown - the forecast predicted 20 mph at 8 going down to 15 during the day, but we got 23 mph going up to 30 and staying there.

I took the opportunity to fight my inner chicken. It's quite a loud-mouthed beast, and I often listen to it. Not this time! Out came the 72 l speed board, even though the wind had turned from NNE to NNW by noon, meaning higher water levels and more chop. I had been overpowered towards the end of the morning freestyle session on my 5.6 m sail in 25 mph wind. With meter readings of 29 mph after lunch, switching to a 6.3 m race sail sounded about right. You need to go big for speed, right?

Well, the 6.3 turned out to be encouraging the chicken just a bit too much. In theory, a 6.3 should be easy to hold in this wind and "moderate" chop. Indeed, the sail never felt overpowering; instead, it combined the best characteristics of a freestyle sail with amazing stability. But with the inner chicken constantly screaming "Not so fast!", I never quite got the feeling of being in control.

On the verge of once again loosing the chicken fight, I rigged down to a 5.6 Loft racing sail. That made a lot of difference, and I was finally able to get a few runs near 30 knots. That may be nothing to good speedsurfers, but for me, it's a lot in chop. With the chicken finally under control, I even found a patch of flat-ish water near shore, and get a 32 knot run - 2 knots faster than my previous best in Hatteras, and my 5th-fastest session ever. Take that, chicken!

We'll be at the ABK camp for the next five days, so we'll focus on freestyle instead of speed. Maybe I can beat the chicken once again and try a few loops...

Monday, October 9, 2017

WET Fall Regatta

The WET Fall regatta took place the last two days at David Kashy's place in Seaford, VA. We took that as a reason to drive down to Hatteras a week before the ABK camp, and had a blast.

The weather was nice, the wind great for longboard racing, the organization once again excellent - thanks to all who made it happen!
Racing is always a good way to learn where you need to improve. I had plenty to learn! Some of these things are:

  • Practice the hard stuff, not just the fun stuff! I fell a couple of times in long downwind legs, which I never practice.
  • Check your gear before the trip! When I took out Nina's Ultra Cat at the end of day one, I discovered that the mast foot tendon had about 10 deep cracks; it was just pure luck that it had not broken during the races. Nina ended up using slalom gear for several races on day two, which was fun in the gusts, but had her drop to the rear of the field in lulls.
  • If you're racing with your MSO, she might expect exceptions from the right-of-way rules, even if she knows them perfectly well. Or perhaps she never practiced stopping with a cambered sail on a race board, and absolutely will not drop a 3-cam 7.8 m sail. Well, at least not before the inevitable collision. 
  • Listen carefully at the skippers meeting, and then look at the flags! More about that below.
The races also illustrated nicely how much gear matters. Steve was in a league of his own on the Starboard Phantom 377:
Although looking at the picture, maybe he just discovered how to sail downhill all the time?

John was in second place in most races on a Mega Cat with a 9.5 m raceboard sail. When Nina was on her Ultra Cat with a 7.8 m 3-cam freerace sail, she managed to pass him a few times; taking the weight difference into account, she was on comparable gear. I'm much closer to John's weight, and was on my Lightning that does not have a race daggerboard, so I was far behind John in the light wind races. In the second race on Sunday when the wind picked up, I managed to get close, and might have had a chance to beat him ... if I had looked at the flags and seen that we were going around the course twice this time, instead of just once as in the first race of the day. By the time I understood what all the "2" signs that the boat crew was making meant, the entire field had long passed me. But at least there was nobody else in the picture when I finally crossed the finish line:
The pictures are from Marcia and David - big thanks! Here's a final one of Nina having fun:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Speed Spots

Jose left us and took the wind with him. While waiting for the wind to come back, I think of past sessions, and wonder - where did I go really fast in the past? Thanks to my sessions database with 1,113 entries since 2009, that's easy to answer. Here's a list of the spots where I have reached top speeds above 30 knots:

No big surprises here. Three of the top 4 spots are Slicks, and the remaining spot (Corpus) is shallow everywhere, and also has excellent speed strips. Perhaps the more surprising thing is that my home spot, Kalmus, is at the very bottom of the list - I sailed faster than 30 knots in only one session out of 251! Compare that to Sandy Point in Connecticut, where I sailed only twice - and broke 30 knots both times.

But as the avid reader of this blog knows, my Kalmus sessions are usually freestyle or bump & jump sessions. It's rare that the wind is strong enough to make speed sailing interesting, and when that happens, I often sail upwind or downwind half a mile to the nearby slicks - Egg Island downwind, and the Kennedy Slicks upwind. If we look at only sessions where I used slalom gear, and then sort by the percentage of sessions where I did 30+ knots, a different image emerges:

Now, Sandy Point is on top, followed by Egg Island and two other slicks on Cape Cod. Of the spots on the list, I would indeed rank Sandy Point as the spot with the highest speed potential when wind, tide, and wind direction all come together. But that does not happen often; furthermore, Sandy Point requires a 3-hour drive, while all the other spots are a lots closer (with Salvo being a vacation spot, and Corpus Christi a winter spot). So we sail at Sandy Point only when we can be darn sure that it will be really windy!

The table above includes sessions with large slalom gear like my 117 l slalom board. When I use the large gear, the wind is typically around or below 15 knots, which makes is darn near impossible for me to reach 30 knots. To get a better idea of the "real quality" of the speed spots, let's look at only sessions on slalom boards below 100 liters:
Now, Egg Island and Barnstable Harbor jump to the top - two of my local favorites. Kennedy Slicks also looks better, with 5 out of 8 sessions above 30 knots. Overall, there are now five spots where sailed faster than 30 knots more than half of the time - cool! The four spots within a 45 minute drive work in a variety of different wind directions: SW-WSW, NW-NNW, and NNE-NE-ENE. You just have to know where to go...

Of the other spots, some indeed make it hard to go faster than 30 knots, at least at my skill level. But some spots are not quite as bad as they seem, for a variety of reasons. Of the 40 sessions that I hit 30 knots, I had wind gusts above 23 knots 38 times. But in Corpus Christi, only 10 of the 26 speed sessions had wind gusts above 23 knots; counting just these 10 sessions would give a much better ">30 knot percentage".

Fogland is another example of a spot that looks worse in the tables above than it really is. The first time I broke 30 knots was in November 2011; the next two 30-knot session were in early 2012 in... Fogland. But after we moved to Cape Cod in the summer of 2012, we stayed on Cape Cod, and went to Fogland only on rare occasions - usually for Dani's BBQ.

Have you ever played a multi-level video game where it took a while to get to the highest level, but once you got there, the lower levels seemed much easier? I think speedsurfing is similar: once you reached a certain speed, reaching what used to be your top speed before becomes much easier. This applies to many different speedsurfing categories: top speed, alpha 500, even the nautical mile. I have often seen speedsurfer "unlock" new speed levels, and afterwards post sessions where there numbers where much higher than they would have been before the "unlock" event. Sometimes, there's an obvious reason for the new "top level", like new gear; at other times, it's a trip to a much faster speed spot like the Lüderitz speed channel or La Franqui, or the opportunity to sail with better speedsurfers; and sometimes, there is no obvious reason. But whatever the cause was, reaching a new top speed level can definitely have an "unlock" effect. So go pick a spot and play a lot!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Wheelie Stop

The one thing that surprised me most in yesterday's speed session was that Nina had problems getting dialed in, and stopped early when her forearms started hurting too much. Nina has become a better windsurfer than I am. She mostly does freestyle, but we have had several speedsurfing sessions where she has beaten my top speed. So what happened?

One thing I noticed yesterday was that she was staying relatively far away from the shore than I was - check the GPS tracks:
Nina's tracks are red, mine are light blue. With wind around 30 mph and stronger gusts, every mast length away from shore meant a lot more chop. Nina's average distance in the middle of the tracks was about 100 meters (350 ft); mine was closer to 30 meters (100 ft). Being closer to the shore meant not only more speed, but also a lot easier sailing.

I was puzzled why she stayed so far away from shore. Perhaps fear? No, that makes no sense - she is rather fearless when she goes through endless crashes while working on new freestyle moves, and keeps trying them when it's so windy that many windsurfers find jibing scary.

When we looked at our GPS tracks today, things became clear. The easiest way to make it back to the start is by stopping right at the edge of the reed islands, where the water was about hip-deep. But nobody ever taught Nina the Wheelie Stop on a slalom board! Her only way of stopping was to go upwind until she ran out of speed. But on a fast speed board with a cambered sail, that takes a long time - so she stayed far away from shore.

So, let's review the Wheelie Stop. If you're ever on a slalom or speed board, you absolutely should have this way of stopping dialed in; it can also be very useful on freeride (and other) boards. Let's start with a picture:
That's me stopping (probably 2 seconds before my fin hit the only big stone far and wide). I have sheeted out - my front arm is bent, the back arm long. But the cambered sail still keeps a bit of power, and the speedboard would happily coast for a long time, so I also put all my weight on the back foot to sink the tail and raise the nose up - putting the brakes on with a wheelie. The picture is from when I am just starting to brake - usually, the nose goes even higher, and there's more spray flying. But it should be good enough to get the idea.

Here's a short section of the GPS track where I slow down this way:
I want to stop at shore at the end of a 34 knot speed run (the wind is from the top-right). Just opening up the sail a bit got me down to 30 knots, but that's still pretty fast. But 10 seconds later, I have come to a full stop, exactly where I wanted to be. The track shows the third element of the wheelie stop: going upwind as you put on the brakes. With the nose of the board high in the air, the apparent wind from the front helps slowing you down .. a lot. You just may want to be careful using this technique when it's choppy and crazy windy, or you might find yourself jumping onto shore!
If you are a want-to-be-looper, there's and additional reason to practice the Wheelie Stop: Andy Brandt and the Tricktionary teach it as one of the pre-exercises for the front loop. But even if you're not interested in looping, it's a useful stopping technique that should be in every windsurfer's arsenal. Have fun trying it!

Friday, September 22, 2017


Rain, fog, temperatures in the high 50s - it must be speed time! So out we went to our favorite slicks:
That's Bart on the left, me in the middle, and Dean on the right. Here's a picture of our playground, taken from the hill where we parked:
Bart ready to go out:
That's Nina's 5.0 Loft Racing Blade he is using. Nina sailed for about an hour before Bart came, but could not get dialed in quite right in the gusty conditions, and decided to take pictures instead. Bart was happy to use her sail, and never finished rigging his own.

Dean had some fun, too:
Once he remembered that this was supposed to be a speed session, he stuck to the water a bit better:
Dean's 2 second top speed was 36.25 knots - that's darn fast! But Bart was flying fast, too:
This is what Bart looked like when he checked his GPS after the best run of the day:
He had 38 knots on his GPS - plenty of reason to be happy! That's a full three knots faster than his previous best, and the fastest GPS speed in New England that I have ever seen. He was quite willing to share the excitement, and tell us where he had hit his top speed:
Later analysis showed that the 38 knots were an artifact; Bart's actual 2 second top speed was 35.77 knots. But that was still 0.7 knots faster than he had ever sailed before. Bart also improved his personal best for 5 x 10 seconds by a knot - congratulations!

He set his top speed just as the incoming tide had started to cover the islands in the bay - the wind had gotten a lot steadier then, and felt stronger than before. My GPS tracks show that the slicks got faster as the tide came in:
I barely broke 30 knots in the first few runs, but later had five runs with a 2-second top speed above 34 knots. The max speed the GPS showed was 35.66 knots, which is cool.. except that recording at 5 Hz is likely to add some little speed artifacts, and my 1 second top speed was just below 35. Still, I set two new personal records for 2 seconds and 5 x 10 second speeds - great! I also was just about 1.4 knots slower than Dean, which is a big improvement over the usual 3 to 5 knots that I'm slower. The Loft Racing Blade 5.6 I used today for the first time certainly is one reason I was able to narrow the gap - great sail! But maybe Nina had the 5.0 that Bart used rigged a bit better :-).

This was our third day of small-sail sailing in a row, after overpowered sessions on 4.7/5.0 at Pleasant Bay 2 days ago, and 3.7/4.0 at Chapin yesterday morning. Those were fun, but I certainly liked today's session the most!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ECWF Cape Cod 2017

The 5th Annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod took place at Kalmus Beach last weekend, and we had a blast. For the first time in 4 years, we had no "special guest". We had invited three well-known windsurfers, but none of them could come, and it took some them so long to tell us that is was too late to invite anyone else. We also had a very low wind forecast - mostly less than 10 mph. That kept some windsurfers from coming, but the most enthusiastic folks still showed up:
Over two days, we were able to have 8 races:

Six windsurfers battled it out in freestyle:
 The level was amazingly high - most competitors threw beautiful Duck Tacks, some added Ankle Biters, Back-2-Back, Matrix,Rail Rides, and Upside-Down tricks:

Even the organizers got to play on both days - Nina competed in all races on day 1, and did showed Sophie from Canada some light wind freestyle on day 2:

Once again, one man was in a class of his own:

Gonzalo won all races, usually far ahead of all other competitors. His "longboard" was less than 3 meters long, but certainly long enough to keep a few 25 to 30 year-old 12-footers from Mistral and F2 in check. Full results are here.

We crowned a new pair to be King and Queen of the Cape - Liz and Michael:

I was very impressed with Michael's progress since last year. He beat several other guys who have also improved a lot in the past 12 months - but not as fast as he did. Liz won the women's racing; every time she had a chance to race on a longboard instead of her Starboard Go, she left about half of the men's fleet behind. Impressive!

This year, we had a new shop sponsor: 2 Rad from Canada. We had contacted the two local shops in the past about demo gear for the event without success. But Vincent and Bruno from 2 Rad managed to convince Fanatic and North to send a whole bunch of demo gear to them, and then drove 6 hours from Quebec to show the gear at the event:
 During a no-wind phase on day one, they and local Fanatic/North team sailor Chris Eldridge have us a great introduction to the gear they had brought:
Unfortunately, the wind never picked up enough to plane, to only very limited testing of the demo gear took place. Vincent managed to get the demo foil out of the water for a few short runs, though:
Without any doubt, though, 2Rad, Fanatic, and North certainly earned an enormous amount of goodwill! For next year's event, we plan to set a "rain date", so that we can delay the event by one week if we have a bad wind forecast.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures from the event:

Michael, the new King of the Cape, ducking the sail

Queen of the Cape Liz ahead of Jay

Myles, Jeff (who dominated the 7.5 class), and Jay

Marty smiling

Michael and Martin

The Flying Spaniard way ahead of everyone else

Friday, September 1, 2017

BaHa Session

No, I did not turn into a wave sailor.  It's BaHa, not Baja. The great spot 12 minutes from our house that I usually have for myself. The GPS tracks:
94 km before noon - that's fun! The wind dropped at the end of the session, as northwest wind likes to do. The wind dropped just as I started, but 16 mph averages on the Chapin meter were enough to get going on the 7.0 Racing Blade with the 117 l slalom board. I got lucky about 2 hours into the session, when the wind turned more northerly and picked up to 21 mph average / 29 mph gusts, just as the tide level was perfect for speed runs in the slicks. The wind is weaker and quite gusty there, but I got lucky and caught a good gust, which gave me a new 2 second top speed on the big board (30.85 knots, 57 km/h). That's not much for most speedsurfers, but enough to make me happy: in the 1100 windsurf session since I started using a GPS, I was faster only 20 times. The 3rd-fastest nautical mile I ever sailed (26.58 knots) was just icing on the cake. 
Once again, the Loft Racing Blade behaved beautifully, letting me plane in 16 mph and just getting into it in the 29 mph gusts. I also was very happy with the Tectonics WeedDemon 33 today. Near high tide, plenty of dead reed stalks were in the water, so that a pointer fin would not have been fun. But when powered up today, it held beautifully in downwind speed runs, and going back upwind was absolutely no issue. Of course, having 2 km long runs helped :-).
That was a great start into September. I don't want to jinx anything so I'll be quiet - but have you looked at the wind forecast for Kalmus recently?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Amazing Sail

That's what she said.
Nina on a Loft Racing Blade 7.0 in 14 knots
I agreed. That's pretty much the story. The impatient can stop reading now.

For the patient reader, we'll go back in time. Ever since I owned more than 2 sails, I had a mix of different styles and brands. At some point, I came close to have a collection ranging from 5.5 to 7.5 square meters of the same model .. only to discover that the manufacturer had totally changed the character of the sail, but kept the name, when I bought the last missing size. Bummer!

When I started to dabble in speedsurfing, things got worse. The first sail I bought was the sail that had held the top speed on for years: a 2007 KA Koncept 5.8. The fact that the sail was about 5 years old and a real bargain made the purchasing decision easier. Even though the sail was supposedly developed for light weight surfers (which I am certainly not!), I liked it. Over the years, the 5.8 Koncept got larger and smaller speed sail companions - some where gifts (thanks, Dani!), the others were bought used and cheap. They were all decent sails that had a well-established fan base - but they also all rigged and behaved differently, and I can't say I loved any of them.

In stark contrast, my lovely wife approaches windsurfing in a much more orderly way. Once she discovered that (a) freestyle was her thing, and (b) she liked North Idols, she made sure she had the whole quiver: 4.0, 4.2, 4.5, 4.7, and 5.0. I also bought a 5.6, but she never uses that one. So she can use a sail that feels pretty much the same, regardless if it's blowing 18 or 30. Maybe that has something to do with her being so good.

While freestyle is Nina's first love on the water, she also likes slalom and speed on occasion (for example when she can leave tons of guys behind at a Kashy/WET slalom regatta). When it was time to replace my old Koncept 5.8, we ended up buying a "barely" used Loft Racing Blade 5.6 from Boro. I have not yet had a chance to use it, but Nina sailed in both both light and strong wind, and loved it both times. That alone is quite unusual - the other racing and speed sails we sailed usually did not behave well in light conditions if they were great in strong wind, and vice versa. But I had an opportunity to sail a Loft Racing Blade 7.8 last year, when Boro visited, and liked the sail a lot.

We had also bought a used Loft Switchblade 7.8 earlier this year. That's not a full race sail, since it has only 3 cams and a narrower mast sleeve, but it has plenty of low-end power and top-end stability. More importantly, both Nina and I like it a lot (Nina especially if I rig it and then the wind drops, so she does not have to rig it or carry it to the water).

So when our fellow speedsurfer Al from New Jersey reported that he had bought several Loft racing sails from Poland, Nina started talking - "wouldn't it be great if we also had the same sail for speed in all different sizes"? Who am I to disagree? So we placed an order for 3 sails (5.0, 6.3, and 7.0), one mast, and a few more things. That included a couple of mast bases and extensions, since the racing sails need 3 pulleys, and all RDM extensions sold for the "US" 2-pin system have only two pulleys. This ended up being the biggest order for windsurf gear we had ever placed - with a shop in Europe that we had never done business with!

But within less than 2 weeks, everything arrived in perfect shape. Even the weather played along: yesterday was windless but nice to allow for some practice rigging and batten tuning; today, we got perfect wind to try the 7.0.

At first glance, today looked less than perfect. It was rainy and cold (57ºF, 14ºC) in the morning, and the wind meter readings were just around 20 mph. That may sound good, but the Duxbury meter tends to read high, since it's sitting on a very tall pole that has a much better fetch than a windsurfer in the bay. For my older MS TR-7 race sail, that would have been marginal wind - I would have chosen to rig the 7.8 instead. But the new sail needed to be tested, so out I went. Here are the GPS tracks:
A few things to note:

  • I was planing the entire time until the wind dropped near the end of the session (when averages dropped to 17 mph, then 15).
  • I planed through a whole bunch of jibes. That's amazing since I often have problems when jibing cambered sails.
  • At the end, I switched gear with Nina, who had a total blast on the slalom gear (117 l board, 7.0 sail) in 15 mph wind. I had somewhat less fun sailing her 90 l board / 5.0 m sail back to shore. The board plaid submarine most of the time - U-Boot windsurfing is not so much fun.
I was quite amazed how much power I had in the relatively light wind. At the same time, this was "easy power" - the sail never felt heavy. Nina said it felt "like a freestyle sail", and I have to agree. On land, the sail feels a lot heavier than a freestyle sail - on the water, not so. Even the slogging, which can be a pain on some race sails, was nice and easy. The wind was too weak to test top end stability, with gusts never exceeding 24 mph, but the "locked-in" feeling was superb - substantially better than in the Switchblade 7.8, which does already feel very stable. My 2-second top speed today was 33 mph- that's 13 mph faster than the average wind speed, and 9 mph faster than the strongest gusts during the session, quite decent by my standards. I can't wait to see how the sail does in strong wind and on my speed board!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Surprise Fun

The wind has been pretty light this summer, so when I saw gusts above 20 mph today, I just had to go sailing. Despite a few light wind freestyle and longboard sessions, my withdrawal symptoms were strong enough to overlook a few minor issues. Kalmus was the only spot showing halfway decent wind, but the wind was from the northwest - offshore and not a good direction for Kalmus. According to the iWindsurf meter, it was rather gusty:
Gusty, offshore, best wind probably in Lewis Bay: a longboard day! When I got to the beach, I could see lots of white caps a few hundred meters from shore, so I rigged the Loft SwitchBlade 7.8. That's usually not my preferred longboard sail, but 3 cams and tons of stability meant I did not have to worry about strong gusts. What followed was more than 2 hours of fun in what felt like my most-powered longboard session ever. Here are the tracks:
At times, I was in both back foot straps on holding on with all I had, 10 feet of board fully out of the water in front of me. At times, I briefly thought that a slalom board might have been fun too, but almost every time, the wind would drop to sub-planing within a minute or two. The speed graph shows the variability quite well - I was mostly just going back and forth on a beam reach, where the board speed is typically close to the wind speed. On a slalom board with the same sail, I probably would have slogged often, which is no fun; on the longboard, I felt lightning fast most of the time. In gusts, the wind was strong enough for deep downwind runs, but the chop was about a foot high, which slowed the longboard down with every little wave I crossed. Threading the chop on a course close to a beam reach ended up a lot faster, and less scary.

As much fun as that was, I am looking forward to September, when the crowds are gone, all beaches are open for windsurfing again, and the wind (hopefully!) returns. Just three more weeks! Lots of fun action in September, too:

  • The ABK Camp Hyannis from September 8-10. I hope all you local windsurfers have signed up already - the camp has sold out every year in the last 4 or 5 years!
  • The East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod on September 16-17. Fun races, freestyle competition, GPS racing, and probably some cool demo gear - sign up and join the fun! We'll start this year with a "Beer Social" at Kelly's on Main Street in Hyannis on Friday, September 15, at 7 pm.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Borderline Breaks

The things we can learn from board repairs ... for example where you should not put your feet. Let's start with the end:
This is my blue Skate 110 which I bought to replace the white Skate 110 that I wrote about in my previous post. The picture shows the end result of my latest repair attempt. If you click on the image to see the larger picture, you'll notice a slightly different blue in the repaired area, which extents from the back of the pad to the edge of the board at the "F", and extends forward to the "N".

I discovered a soft spot towards the rear of this area last fall. Upon exploring, I discovered that the glass and the PVC foam underneath had a break. I dug out the core foam all the way to the sandwich at the bottom of the board, filled the void with polyurethane (PU) foam, and glassed it over. The PU foam is harder than the original EPS core, forming a hard "plug" that connects the bottom and the top - good enough, I though.

When putting the fiber glass on top, I noticed bubbles forming: the new structure had several little "pinholes". The inside of the board was still under a bit of pressure, and the air coming out pretty much kept the little holes open. I tried to fix this with an extra coat of epoxy while the board was cooling off, hoping this would pull the epoxy in and close the pin hole in the process. However, this did not work as expected, and I saw bubbles forming after a few sessions.

The next repair attempt including removing the glass around the pin holes, and glassing the entire area over again. This repair held for a couple of month, but then I noted a new soft spot right next to the initial repair. I used some Solarez since it was freestyle time, but that barely held for one session. So .. time to try again.

When I opened the board up, I saw that the initial repair was still intact; however, the top glass fiber layers were broken right at the edge of the repair. When I made the initial repair, I did not rebuild the PVC sandwich layer because I had neither divinicell nor the vacuum setup. I figured that having the PU plug extend to the bottom would make it stable enough; but what I had not considered was that I would have a hard plug right next to the somewhat softer, slightly elastic sandwich construction. This create a "Sollbruchstelle", which then indeed created a break.

This time, I tried to do things right. The first step was to open up a relative large area that included the previous repair area, and digging out all the soft EPS foam. I then hooked up the area to a vacuum pump to see if I could draw any moisture. This removed some slight dampness from the top of the EPS foam, but the vacuum trap remained empty after several hours. Fortunately, very little water had gotten into the board.

The next step was rebuilding the foam core with PU foam:
That was followed by sanding the excess foam off, and removing additional foam to allow re-building of the PVC sandwich. After some filling, glassing, and sanding, here's what the repair area looked like:
When you look closely, you'll notice a slightly different color along the top and right side. This is the edge of wood veneer reinforcement. It extends about two thirds of the way to the edge  near the front of the repair area, but not nearly as far at the back. The original soft spot that had developed had definitely not been covered by wood.

Using wood veneer as reinforcement under the rear footstraps makes a lot of sense, since wood has excellent mechanical properties to absorb and distribute the impact after jumps. Extending the wood past the padding makes sense, too: the padding under the foot pads is not very wide, and my size 12 feet need to be quite deep in the foot straps for my heel to be on the padding. Most of the time, however, I sail with just my toes in the foot straps, so my heel rests on the board next to the foot straps. I must say that I find it somewhat peculiar that the wood reinforcement did not extend further back. There are several possible reasons for this, like to much deck curvature, or "interference" by the fin box. Whatever the reasons were, it seems my heels were often positioned right next to the reinforcements, which eventually led to damage. It's no surprise that the damage was on the right side of the board, either: my home spot Kalmus had starboard jumps most of the time. Even when not jumping, just going over the chop there would put a lot of stress on the back heel, which does not even have any padding underneath.

I am quite sure that the reinforcements in my older Skate 110 were quite different. I use the old Skate a lot more often than the new one, and often with bigger fins, which lead to more outboard foot placements and more back foot pressure, but the old Skate never got soft in the back. The old Skate seemed to have a lot of carbon reinforcement, while the new Skate seems to have wood veneer instead (although the areas I repaired on the two Skates are different). But mainly, the old Skate 110 actually had two sets of footstrap positions, including a more outside one that's missing on the new Skate; and the padding on the old Skate extends further to the rails. So placing the back foot more outside on the old Skates was not a problem, but it appears to be a problem on the new Skate, at least when sailing in heavy chop or jumping a lot. Maybe I just need to go to tiny little freestyle fins to enforce a more centered foot placement and less back foot pressure...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fixing My Favorite Board

In 2010, I got a white Fanatic Skate 110, and it has been my favorite board ever since. But last year, I discovered that the deck near the front foot straps was getting soft. My favorite board repair guy, Donnie in Hatteras, did not want to repair it, so I figured I'd use it to learn board repairs on. The first installment was a big nose job last fall. A while later, bubbles started to come out near the soft area, so it was time to learn new stuff - soft deck and sandwich repair! Most of the things I did are based on the excellent instructions on "The Board Lady" web site.

The first step was to take the padding under the front foot steps of:
That took a while. I started to understand why Donnie did not want to do the repair.

A small exploratory cut was next:
You can see the sandwich construction: a few layers of glass fiber on top, then a thin (~4 mm) layer of high density foam, a single layer of glass, and the EPS foam core. The sandwich looks good, but there's a big air gap that should not be there. It seems the EPS foam got compressed just too many times and eventually tore apart.

I enlarged the cut-out area, but the soft area was quite large, so I decided to treat most of the affected area with expanding polyurethane foam, introduced through many little holes that are covered with blue tape in the next picture:

You can see the foam expanding all the way into the cut-out area. In the cut-out area, I removed some of the damaged EPS foam, so I had to build the area back up, also with marine polyurethane foam:
I just love playing with the pour foam. You mix together a couple of liquids, and then you have about a minute to inject it before it expands about 50-fold. Fun!

After sanding down the PU foam, the next step was to rebuild the sandwich layer. I used one layer of glass and two layers of thin divinycell. To press everything together, a vacuum setup is needed, as shown in the next picture:
Once you have the stuff and know how to use it, this is easy. The PVC foam must be covered with three layers of different plastics: perforated release film, then "breather" material, and finally vacuum bagging film. This was the first time I did this, so I made one small mistake: I put the sticky stuff that connects the vacuum bagging film to the board to close to the treated area. That made it a pain to take off later!

I also had to close all the little holes I had drilled to get the PU foam into the board to fill the air spaces. That required some sanding first, and then some epoxy and lots of small little glass fiber discs:
Once the epoxy had hardened, each of the little holes needed to be sanded again to smooth things out and to get a good feathering connection between the new and the old glass.

The divinycell also needed to be sanded down and glassed over. I used two layers of glass, but no carbon. The original construction appears to have a layer of carbon cloth on top, but it's very thin; you can see in the next image that I accidentally sanded through it at a few spots.

The board came with two sets of foot strap positions, inner and outer. I never used the outer positions, so I simply filled the holes in the outer plugs with some epoxy mixed with low density filler (the brown stuff). The next step will be to add one more layer of glass over the entire center area; some sanding and filling; putting new padding down; and painting over all the little holes (more to protect the epoxy from UV than for cosmetic purposes).

This repair has already taken quite a few hours, and still needs more work. Someone who repairs boards professionally would have to charge at least $400-500 for such a job, and even that assumes he'd be a lot faster than I was, and that he'd charge an hourly rate much lower than what I have to pay a local car repair shop. How long the repair will last is an open question, so I can definitely see why Donnie did not want to do this.

For me, however, this was fun, and a useful learning experience. The Skate in the pictures above is not the "Team Edition" model, but this repair clearly shows that it still contained quite a bit of carbon - it looks like at least one thing layer of carbon cloth over most or all of the top. In contrast, the 2015 Fanatic Skate that I got as a replacement did not seem to have carbon reinforcements, at least not at the places I looked so far; instead, the 5 years newer models appears to use wood for reinforcing (more about that in a future post). I always had the impression that my blue 2015 Skate was not quite as lively as my white 2010 model - but the newer models seemed a bit easier to sail in very choppy conditions. I now think that this is because only the older model has the extra layer of carbon, which gives it a bit more stiffness. So I'll be very glad when I can sail my white Skate again on the lighter wind days!