Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Marco Lang at the ECWF Cape Cod!

It was a bit of a bummer that we had to move the ECWF Cape Cod back one week because of very light winds, but it had one great side effect: we will have a "special guest" again! This time, it's Marco Lang, a top-level PWA slalom sailor from Austria.

Marco finished 7th overall on the PWA slalom last year, and won the PWA slalom in Sylt. He is sponsored by Fanatic and Duotone, which also sponsor the ECWF.

To pay for Marco's flight to the US, we started a fundraiser on Gofundme - please feel free to help with a donation! Five local windsurfers have donated $420 in the first couple of hours of the campaign, but we still need more contributions to reach the goal of $1100. What would you give to be able to get tips from one of the best windsurfers in the world, and to ask him questions about speed, racing, or freestyle?

Here are a couple of more pictures from the Fanatic Team website:

For more pictures and videos, check Marco's web site or his Facebook page!

Big thanks to all who have contributed to the fundraiser, and to Vincent Lindauer for inviting Marco! I hope to see you all in Kalmus on September 22nd and 23rd!

ECWF Cape Cod Now September 22-23!

In view of a forecast of very light winds for this weekend, we will use the "no wind" option and move the ECWF Cape Cod back one week, to September 22-23. Here's a graph that shows the wind forecast for Sunday noon:

Sunday forecast from (European model)
The forecast from looks pretty similar:

Wind forecast from (US model, GFS)
Unfortunately, the European and US computer models agree, so it is very likely that there will be no wind on Sunday morning - not even enough for longboard racing! Both days, the wind will most likely to light for planing races or to test the demo gear that several sponsors will bring.

We do not yet have meaningful wind forecasts for the weekend of September 22-23, since wind forecasts are very unreliable for a week or more out. However, days with as little wind as shown in the forecasts above are quite rare on Cape Cod, so it will probably be windier.

To see what the event participants thought about moving the festival, we send out emails to everyone who had already registered, and posted a poll on Facebook. The response was an overwhelming vote for moving the ECWF a week later:
In the poll, 14 windsurfers said they would only come on the second weekend, while 3 windsurfers can come only on the original weekend. The (fewer) email responses showed a similar pattern.

Therefore, the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod will take place on September 22-23.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

So Much Fun

"I don't know why this is so much fun!" That's what Nina said during and after a windsurf session a couple of days ago. For a bit of context, here's what the wind meter readings looked like:
We sailed from about 4 to 6 pm. The wind was about 10-15 mph, with lulls down to 6 and gusts to 18 mph. That's not wind where most "sane" windsurfers would even bother to go sailing, but Nina had a big, fat grin on here face the entire time.

The reason? She was on a 30+ year old "round bottom" longboard, the Magnum 390. She was fast the entire time, even in the lulls, with a 6.5 m sail. She also snapped the board around on a dime when it was time to turn, and I don't think she crashed at all. We started at Kalmus in offshore wind, and sailed across the shipping channel where the wind was a bit steadier. When I dragged my WindSUP across the sandbar to see if the water in the "baby bay" at Egg Island was flatter (it was not), Nina sailed around and met me a few minutes later.

Why was it so much fun? I can only guess. I think a big reason is the excellent glide of the Magnum, which either is a D2 board, or at least quite similar (the back end is a bit flatter, and the nose is not quite as pointy, as other D2 boards). The board reaches about 8 knots speed in maybe 5-6 knots of wind, which feels almost as fast as planing on a shortboard. Another part of the fun may have been that the board is not that easy to sail, so it may have required a bit of concentration .. can you say "zone"? I also had fun working a bit on my back-to-back in gusty conditions, but the girl sure had more fun.

Things evened out a bit the next day, where I had a fantastic session in 10-20 mph wind on my F2 Lightning in Barnstable Harbor, while Nina stayed home. It was a beautiful day, and planing near the dunes on the far side, with miles and miles of water just for me, was just about perfect. I did not even mind the little swim when the mast foot came loose and the board started to drift away. Perhaps my conversion to a standard single-bold mastfoot needs a bit of a refinement...

Sunday, August 26, 2018

ECWF Cape Cod and Hatteras

Ladies and gentlemen, get your race gear ready, and polish your freestyle tricks - two East Coast Windsurfing Festivals are coming up in September and October! Both will include racing, freestyle competition, demo gear, a raffle for participants, and lots of fun!

The first ECWF will take place in September at Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, Cape Cod. The planned date is September 15 and 16 (with a social event on Friday evening before the action), but if the wind forecast looks bad, we'll move the ECWF Cape Cod to September 22-23rd, so that the demo gear from Fanatic and Duotone can be tested in planing conditions. This will be the sixth year in a row for the ECWF Cape Cod, so register now and join the fun!

The second ECWF this year, the first annual ECWF Hatteras,  will be run by Mike Burns at Ocean Air in Avon, NC, in the week of October 20-27. We are very excited to have an ECWF-style event at one of the best windsurfing spots in the US! The huge amounts of fun we had at Mike's original ECWF events on Long Island were a major reason why Nina and I started the ECWF Cape Cod in 2013. Chances are good that we'll have one day of high-wind racing and a day of light-wind racing, plus a day of freestyle competition, in Hatteras, since competition will take place on the days with the best wind between Monday, 10/22, and Thursday, 10/25. You can register for the ECWF Hatteras at Hope to see you there, and at the ABK camps on Cape Cod and Hatteras a week before the events to learn new tricks!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Punch the Giant's Nose

This post is not about boxing or football, sorry. It's about the loop. I like simple explanations, especially when thinking about a move that takes only a second. How many things can you think about in a second? For me, the answer is "one" - maybe two on a good day.

Some old loop instructions were simple: "Jump high and sheet in!". That actually did work for some people. But for many others, the advice resulted in "killer loop" attempts that broke gear and bones. You'll probably have a hard time finding a professional instructor who uses this advice. Broken gear and bodies are not good business.

I've been looking at loop videos a lot recently, and noticed a few things. Let's start with a picture:
This is from a Josep Pons video that I blogged about in the past. He is setting up for the loop. Note that his body is over the board, and both arms are bent, with the elbows at roughly a 90 degree angle.

Now check the next picture:
Josep is starting to take off, but the board has not yet left the water completely. The mast has moved towards the windward-forward side, and his front arm is fully extended. The back arm is still bent, but the hand is over his head.

Mr. Pons has some of the most beautiful loops in windsurfing. Lots of PWA pros line up to get lessons from him, often to work on double loops. Imitating him seems like a good idea!

The movement of the front arm is punch-like. Just imagine a giant standing on the front-right side, and Josep trying to punch his nose! The back hand also goes up; with the giant there, I guess he's protecting his head from counter punches.

The bent front arm in the first picture means that the sail is partially de-powered: bending the front arm sheets out, the same way as extending the back arm would. In the loop, the sail must be partly sheeted out at the beginning, so that the mast can be moved to forward-windward (where it is in the second picture).

Punching up helps to lift the nose of the board for lift-off. Interestingly, extending the front arm to punch the giant's nose also exposes more of the sail to the wind - it effectively sheets in. That starts to turn the nose of the board downwind, which in turn exposes even more of the sail to the wind - I call this "automatic sheet in".  This can be clearly seen if you compare picture 2 to the next picture, where the board has just left the water:
We've just punched a giant in the nose. That made the giant angry! I think it's a really good idea to make ourselves really small now, so the giant has a smaller target:
By curling up into a ball, we can rotate faster. If you've ever tried a somersault, you know that! In the process, we also pull up with the back foot, which keeps the tail of the board from going back down into the water prematurely.

If you're learning the loop and managed to first punch the giant's nose like Josep, and then curl up into a ball, you're well on the way to at least landing on your back, hopefully in a position to water start, so I won't go into what comes next - I think that's comparatively easy, if you managed to get into the position shown in the last picture above.

So, here's the really simple loop instruction:

  1. Before takeoff, get your body over the board. Sheet out by bending your front arm.
  2. As you go up the wave, punch the giant's nose. Just remember that the giant is standing on the windward-forward side of your board, and not on the nose of your board!
  3. Once in the air, pull up with the back leg and make yourself small. Enjoy the ride!
As I am writing this, I can't help but think back at the one time I actually fought a giant. Maybe "fought" is an overstatement - it was just point sparring at a Kempo Karate tournament. Maybe he was not really a giant, but he was at least a head taller than I was. The fight was over quickly. No, I did not manage to punch his nose - I had never before sparred with anyone who was a lot taller than I am, so I really had no clue. But the giant in the loop is imaginary, so he should be easier to hit, right? I won't say he does not hit back, though - I have had a few hard backslaps in earlier loop tries. Maybe it helps if I hit harder :-).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

ABK Camp Hyannis Questions

The ABK windsurf camp in Hyannis is coming up less than 4 weeks (Friday 9/7- Sunday 9/9/2018). This post contains some of the questions we are often asked about it, and (more importantly) the answers.
  • Is an ABK camp right for me?
If you are a windsurfer who wants to get better or learn new things, or if you want to learn windsurfing, the answer is "Yes!".
  • Will it be over my level?
No! ABK camps are for windsurfers at all skill levels, from "never before" beginners to experts working on freestyle moves and loops. There are typically 5-6 groups of different skill levels, and you'll be in a group with windsurfers of similar skills. There is usually  at least one group that works on jibes and tacks - be it to learn how to jibe without falling, or to tack a smaller board, or to plane through jibes.
  • What are the temperatures like? 
Typically, air temperatures are in the 60s early in the morning, and in the 70s during the day. It may get a few degrees colder if we have northerly winds, or on occasion reach the low 80s. Water temperatures are usually in the low 70s or high 60s (currently 75-80ºF).
  • Do I need a full wetsuit?
You may not absolutely need one, but it's probably a good idea to bring one, especially if the weather is on the colder side of the range. It may be warm enough for board shorts and lycras, but keep in mind that students typically spend time in the water in the morning and in the afternoon. Also, you may fall more often than usually since you'll be working on new things!
  • Will it be windy?
September is usually a pretty windy month on Cape Cod, so chances are high that you'll get at least one day with enough wind to plane during the three-day camp. In 2017, we had 2 windy days (5 m sail for lighter sailors, 6 m for guys like me). In 2016, we also had planing conditions on two days; in 2015, one day; in 2014, two days.
Note that there's tons of stuff to learn even in light wind that will help your high-wind sailing. For example, my lovely wife learned how to get into the back foot strap on a light wind day.
  • How big are the waves?
Kalmus has a reputation for being choppy, especially on very windy west-southwest days around high tide. However, the ABK camps usually use several options to allow campers to learn in less challenging conditions. Depending on wind direction and skill levels, some or all groups will often sail on the Lewis Bay side (which is not available for windsurfing in the summer, but becomes available after Labor Day). More advanced groups sometimes sail across the channel to Egg Island, where the water can be perfectly flat even in very strong wind - perfect for working on jibes, 360s, Vulcans, and more.
  • What can I possibly learn in 3 days?
That will depend a bit on you. Typically, windsurfers with less experience or those working on brand-new skills can progress more quickly than windsurfers who have sailed for many years without instruction, and then have to unlearn bad habits. I am a slow learner who falls into the second category, but nevertheless, I learned to plane through my jibes within a couple of days during my first ABK camp. My lovely wife, who learns faster and had fewer bad habits to unlearn, learned these things in her first ABK camp in Hyannis:
  1. The light-wind helicopter tack.
  2. Consistent water starts. She had done a few before, but usually would be totally exhausted when she got up. The ABK camp fixed this for good.
  3. Planing in both foot straps (she had learned how to get into the front strap at a previous ABK camp in Bonaire).
These skills were pretty solid - she had no problems sailing in 30+ mph wind on Maui and in the Gorge a few months later. As I said, she is a fast learner, and other campers may learn less, but usually, everyone goes home happy with new or improved skills at the end of a camp.
  • How many windsurfers and teachers will be there?
Typically, there are about 20-25 students in the ABK camp Hyannis, and 4-6 teachers.
  • How about food at the camp?
The Kalmus snack bar is right at the camp site, and offers surprisingly good food at reasonable prices. Theoretically, you'd also have enough time to drive 5 minutes into town, but I don't recall ever seeing anyone doing that.
  • When should I register? 
Register now! The ABK camp Hyannis usually fills up. Since the student-to-teacher ratio is fixed to ensure high-quality learning and teaching, Andy often has to turn people away who try to register in the last days before camp or on-site. But if everyone registers early, it is often possible to get another ABK teacher to come and to add another group. So register now! See you at the camp!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Bad Behavior

Let me start with a story. A bit more than a week ago, we were sailing in the late afternoon in a typical southwest wind at Kalmus. A beautiful, windy day. I'm standing in the water near shore, trying to get reoriented after a failed 360 or some such thing, when suddenly I hear a loud bang, a splash, and an "Oh no!".  One of the Kalmus regulars had been de-rigging in the water, as she often does. Another Kalmus regular had not seen her there, and jibed near shore. He just noticed her in the middle of the jibe, and his boom hit her board hard - hard enough to require a proper repair, ding stick would not have done.

The jiber was a guy who is (a) a pretty good windsurfer, (b) usually stays out of everyones way, and (c) is a nice guy. He's definitely not an aggressive windsurfer, and was very sorry about the accident. There may be a guy or two who sail Kalmus often where you might expect such a thing to happen, but definitely not with him.

Why did it happen? Quite simple: he was coming in against the setting sun, which severely limits visibility. He simply did not see that there was someone standing in the water. Nor did he see the board in the water until it was too late.

Why am I telling this story? Just to illustrate that accidents can happen, even with competent and careful windsurfers. Poor visibility against the late afternoon can be a big contributing factor. Note that in this instance, the person was standing in the water, and a board and sail were next to her. She was definitely a lot easier to see than the head of a swimmer in choppy water.

This (finally!) brings me to the real topic of this post: do not windsurf (or kite) through the swim area at Kalmus! This rule applies even when there are no life guard on duty. Looking at the accident I described above, it is actually more important in the late afternoon after the life guards leave, since the visibility is worse than during the day. If there is anybody in or near the water in the swim area, or even a chance that someone may want to swim, the entire swim area is a definitive no-go zone.

Most windsurfers who sail at Kalmus on a regular basis know this rule, and act accordingly. When the wind is straight onshore, it can be a bit hard to clear the buoys that mark the swim area, but almost everyone understands that safety is more important than avoiding a tack. Every now and then, someone who has not sailed at Kalmus does not know about the rule, but they are usually quickly informed about it by the regulars, and then stay out of it.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some thing has encourage some people to behave badly and aggressively in the past year or two, and there have been several instances where the person asked to not go through the swim area started arguing, and simple refused to listen, regarding his own convenience higher than the safety of others.

The first instance happened a few days ago. In this case, it was a kiter who routinely went through the swim area, and in at least one instance also kited very close to a beginner windsurfer (less than 2 feet away). This was quite threatening to the windsurfer, and definitely not safe. When her husband later ask him to keep a safe distance, the kiter denied sailing close to the windsurfer (despite this being witnessed by at least 2 people). When asked not to kite through the swim area, he insisted of having a right to do so. When other windsurfers in the neighborhood confirmed that he should not kite through the swim area, he started complaining about "harassment", and "threatened" to call the police. The windsurfers encouraged him to do so, since the outcome was predictable: the police came when he called them, and informed him that he is not allowed to sail through the swim area. They also mentioned that he would be banned from the beach if he continued to do so.

Just a couple of days later, a similar thing happened, this time with a windsurfer. It was a windy SW day, and about 30 windsurfers were on the water during the day. All of them avoided the swim area the entire day, except for one guy who showed up shortly after the life guards had left, and promptly proceeded to sail through the swim area. Several of the locals asked him to stop doing that; one of them was my lovely wife. When I jibed close by, I heard him yelling at her, so I walked over, and also asked him not to sail through the swim area. We tried to explain to him that endangering swimmers could get the only windsurfing beach in Kalmus closed for windsurfing, but he insisted that he had been sailing at Kalmus for 30 years, and had the right to go through the swim area. He also complained about having had a bad day at work, as if that gave him special rights. Eventually, he stated that he'd sail through the swim area even more now because of the "nagging" - which he then did, for several hours. During that time, he proved that he definitely was a good enough windsurfer to go upwind to avoid the swim area - he nailed fast tacks on a board that barely had enough volume to keep him above the water. He also proved that he was quite willing to aggressively defend his "right" to go through the swim area, at one point choosing to hit me with his boom rather than changing his angle to the wind when we were on a collision course at low speed. I was the downwind sailor and verbally asserted my right of way, but I think it is safe to assume he does not know or care for right of way rules (another Kalmus regular, Don, had an almost-collision when the guy refused to change his course, coming out of the swim area on port, while Don was pinching upwind on starboard to avoid the buoy).

There were several of our windsurfing friends on the beach who witnessed his behavior, and got rather upset about it. Someone had a camera, so pictures were taken of him sailing through the swim area on almost every run, and of the license plate on his car.

After two such incidences in about as many days, I must admit that I was starting to be confused: did the water really convert to a "no rules" area as soon as life guards went off duty? That did not make sense; was not what the police had actually said; and was not what almost everyone I talked to on the beach thought, but it deserved a check. So I place a call to the Director of the Barnstable Recreation Department, whom we know from organizing the East Coast Windsurfing Festival, to double-check, and perhaps ask for advice how to handle such situations.

But before I received a phone call back from the town, I had talked to this incident with another windsurfing friend who sails Kalmus about as often as I do, Joanie. She reported that she had a similar frustrating conversation a week earlier, where the guy also ignored the request not to sail through the swim area, and claimed to have sailed Kalmus for 30 years. Sounded like the same guy, and a quick email exchange of pictures confirmed it. So this was definitely not the first time the guy had been asked.

Funny thing is that Joanie has been friends with Patti Machado, the Director of the Barnstable Recreation Department for several decades, and that they ran into each other the next day by chance. They talked about the "Bad Behavior" incident. Patti, who bears responsibility for safety at Barnstable beaches, confirmed that sailing through the swim area when people are in the water is an absolute no-no. She suggested that we'd get the license plate numbers, and send them to her, so she could send a formal letter to the offender; repeat offenders would face a ban from all Barnstable beaches that would be enforced by the police and the Harbormaster. Since we already had the relevant pictures, I simple send them along by email, and a letter was sent the same day.

Hopefully, it will never be necessary to actually issue a beach ban, but it is nice to know that such selfish and potentially dangerous behavior will not be tolerated. Note that this is not about someone accidentally drifting into the swim area because they are beginners, or the wind suddenly dies, or some such thing - that can happen to anyone. It's quite obvious if someone is trying to stay out of the area, or if he just ignores rules because he regards them as inconvenient.

So, what should windsurfers do when they see someone sailing through the swim area? Simply inform them that the swim area is off limits for windsurfing, even if it is inconvenient, the life guards are off duty, or no swimmers are in the water at that moment. The vast majority of windsurfer will say "I did not know" and follow the rules. If someone is curious about the rule, go ahead and try to explain it. But don't get into an argument with someone who thinks the rule does not apply to him, or states you should not "nag" him or talk to him, or gets aggressive or loud. Perhaps point out that the town is perfectly willing to enforce the rule, all the way to a complete beach ban. If someone ignores the requests and repeatedly sails through the swim area, feel free to take pictures and send them to the Department of Recreation, so that they can help clarifying and resolving the situation.

Of course, there is also the issue of swimmers being outside of the swim area on windy days. When the life guards are on duty, they usually walk over and ask the swimmers to move to the swim area; but what if they are off duty? I suggest to politely inform the swimmers where the swim area is, and to suggest to them to move over there for their own safety. Of course, windsurfers have to avoid swimmers even outside the swim area, but on a windy day, it can be hard to impossible to see a head among the whitecaps, especially against the setting sun. It may be necessary to explain that windsurfers may be traveling at up to 30 miles per hour; may not see swimmers; cannot always stop suddenly; and may loose control of their gear. At times, I have turned over my board and pointed to the fin to explain that they probably would not want to be hit by such a thing, even accidentally; that worked quite well with large pointer fins.

Asking swimmers to move to the swim area really only works when windsurfers stay out of the swim area. Even a single windsurfer who goes through the swim area on a regular basis can make the request to move seem rather non-sensical - which is a good reason to stay out of the swim area even if there is nobody in the water at a given time. During a summer like this one, when the water is warm and the heat and humidity sometimes seems unbearable, it's just a question of time until someone wants to go for a swim.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Vulcan Theory

It's been a while. It's overdue. I must write another post about freestyle theory. There are many reasons for it:

  • It's been so hot that I want to spend as much time in the water as on the water. Freestyle is called for!
  • The ABK camp in Hyannis is coming in less than 5 weeks! (You have registered to reserve your spot, right? It often sells out!)
  •  Rumors have it there may be an ECWF-style event in Hatteras in October. Unlike the ECWF Cape Cod on September 15-16, I should be able to compete in Hatteras.
  • I've watched Nina for more than two years hacking away at the Flaka, with very slow progress. But she recently started to try Vulcans again, and progress seems a lot faster.
  • I recently tried to try Grubbys again, and was quickly rewarded with a sail-damaging catapult. I learned what the dreaded "loop crash" in the Grubby is!
So, taking everything together, there was plenty of reason to look at the Vulcan again. The final straw was when I looked at some videos on Continent Seven to check on a question that had come up from Nina's Vulcan tries - especially Yentel Caers Spock into Culo

Let me start with what I remember from previous lessons and videos about how to Vulcan:
  1. Twist your body and your feet.
  2. Move your hands into a rather uncomfortable position on the boom.
  3. Carve and S-turn, and pop the board out of the water, while at the same time flicking the boom, looking back over your shoulder, and letting go with the back hand.
  4. While most of the board is in the air, except maybe the nose, push down and pull on the boom, and move the rig around so you can grab the other side of the boom.
  5. Land sliding backwards, throwing your weight forward so you don't get ejected backwards.
  6. Sail away switch, or somehow change your feet and sail away.
All that sounds rather complicated - perhaps well suited for big-brained windsurfers, but too much to fit into my head. Then, there's the motivation issue: the Vulcan was the "must learn first" new school freestyle move, but in itself not much fun. It takes most freestylers between 200 and 1000 tries to learn; since I learn tricks a lot slower than others, my number would likely be in the several-thousands. Are we really surprised that I stopped after playing around with just popping the boards a bit? That I looked for alternative "first" moves like the Flaka and the Grubby? Even the loop has gotten more tries on the water, despite the fact that I try loops only once in a blue moon.

But now let's look at a screen shot from Yentel's Spock (for those not familiar with freestyle: the Vulcan is the first part of the Spock; you remember that Spock was half Vulcan, right?). Here it is:
This is just as Yentel takes off. Note that his front hand is close to the harness lines; his front arm is extended; and the sail is sheeted in (check the movie if you want to verify this). This is actually how most instructions for the Grubby start! Having the sail forward and powered after takeoff makes the nose of the board turn downwind, and starts the board rotation. Then, when the nose is in the water, it creates a rotation point, and the momentum of the board makes it turn around all the way to a backwards slide. 

In contrast to what we see in the picture above, most Vulcan instructions focus on turning the board with the body. That includes pre-twisting feet and body; looking back; and pulling and kicking the board around with your feet. All that "active board movement" happens while you also switch hands on the boom, and move the rig around so you can grip the other side! Did I say "complicated"?

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that the Vulcan can be done in different ways. It is perfectly possible to rotate the board with your legs and body. It's also possible to start the board rotation by pulling the mast backwards, and pushing down on the boom; or with "sail forward" pressure, similar to the loop, like Yentel appears to be doing.

Let's look at Yentel half a second or so later:

The nose of the board has touched the water. The board has rotated about 45 degrees. Yentel is leaning to the inside (away from us), and the board is tilted so that the leeward edge is closer to the water. The front arm is still long, and the tip of the mast is over the nose of the board. At this point, the weight of the rig is pushing the nose of the board into the water, supported by Yentel pulling up with his back leg. One more picture a bit later:
At this point, the board has turned 180 degrees (which is as far as it needs to turn for the Vulcan). Yentel's head is over the mast foot, and all his weight is over his front foot and on his arms to keep the nose of the board in the water, allowing the board to slide backwards. 

"So what?", you ask? Let me explain! 

In the first picture, Yentel starts the board rotation with sail steering, similar to what many Grubby instructions suggest. I've tried that a bunch of times. Most of the time, I held back, and got just a little rotation, with the nose of the board under water for just a fraction of a second. But the one time I really committed, I got a lot of pull in the sail, and got catapulted very nicely. The sail hit the water so hard that a top panel ripped just from hitting the water. My neck was sore for a couple of days. So there's definitely enough power for a rotation that can be generated this way! I know at least 4 people who actually learned to loop while trying to do a Grubby this way. For me, though, the idea of letting go with the back hand to avoid the catapult seems like a great idea,

In the middle picture, Yentel uses the weight of the rig, pushed forward by his extended front arm, to get the nose of the board into the water. In many of Nina's Flaka tries, and in my few Grubby tries, getting the nose into the water briefly was easy, but keeping it in the water was very hard. The common advice is to "lean forward" or to use "more commitment", but that's very hard to do. Using the weight of the rig on an extended front arm seems a lot easier. It's even similar to what you can do in a jibe to keep the board from bouncing! But perhaps the more relevant tidbit is that Nina reports that she had her best Vulcan tries when she acted on a tip to keep her front arm long and forward during Vulcan attempts.

From all this, a simpler approach to the Vulcan emerges:
  • Sail on a beam reach with decent speed and power
  • Widen the grip a bit by moving both hands
  • Pop the board while extending the sail arm forward and pulling in with the back arm
  • Let go with the back hand, pull up with the back leg
  • Keep the front arm long and lean "into the turn" as the board slides around
  • Extend the back leg, bend the front leg to keep your weight forward for the backwards slide. Grab the mast (or go directly to the new side on the boom).
  • Get both hands on the boom on the new side, pull down on the boom to stabilize, sheet in, and sail away switch (or switch your feet to sail away normally).
I don't have a clue if these instructions really work, but at the very least, they are simple enough to fit inside my head. I've done some similar things in the past, and the differences make complete sense ("let go with the back hand when the pressure gets too much") or are quite natural ("grab mast and boom so you can sail away"), so chances are pretty good that I'll actually try this. Maybe I'll just try a few until I have crashes that discourage me. Or maybe I'll have to try this a thousand times before I make a Vulcan, but as hot as temperatures are these days, crashing a thousand times seems like fun. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Summer Heat and Winds

Stupid weather. It completely ignored the so-called president's declaration that there is no global warming! It's been hot, even on Cape Cod. Temperatures have been in the 80s for weeks now, with humidity levels around 70-80 percent, going up into the 90s at night.

The southerly wind pattern that pushes the hot, humid air north has been good news and bad news for the wind. The good news: we got quite a few windy days. The bad news: the wind has been unstable and unpredictable. Here's an example that shows yesterday's wind at Kalmus:
For a couple of hours, we got nice and steady wind around 25 mph. After that, it dropped to anywhere between 15 and 23; if you look at lulls and gusts, it's 11 to 29. I had some fun with a 6.5 on my old F2 Lightning and with a 5.6 on my Skate; but since they both rig on the same mast, I still found myself without the right gear size on the beach a few times.

The day before was similar, except that the strong wind was in the morning, from 8:30 to 11:30. We got at least some of that for a 5.0/4.0 session, though. As soon as it got really warm on the beach, and hot in town, the wind dropped. The wind patterns can be quite localized: when I tried to escape the crowds by sailing less than a mile downwind to Egg Island yesterday, the wind there was at least 5 mph lower. Bad idea...

Today was different. Clouds and an incoming rain front meant steady wind of 19-22 mph from 8 am to 1 pm, when the rain arrived. This coincided with low tide shortly before noon, which made Kalmus into a lovely flat water playground. A big soccer tournament was going on which used up most of the parking spaces, but fortunately, the lovely parking attendants had reserved a number of spots just for windsurfers - big thanks for that! The GPS tracks show how steady the wind was:
I was nicely powered on 6.0 the entire time. Water temps around 75 F (24 C) and air temps near 80 still made we want to fall a lot, so I did a bit of old-school freestyle, which does the trick of getting me wet. Fun! I sailed until my GPS watch battery was exhausted (it still had not fully recovered from yesterday, where it also died on me). Just as I wanted to stop, Drew told me to try his Blast 115, which I eagerly did. I even went and got another GPS to see how fast the board was (it felt plenty fast), but the wind had dropped a bit, so I did not get a good comparison in the few runs I did. The initial impression was (once again) that Fanatic managed to create a board that combines fun and excitement with comfort and plain "easy" in the Blast. I definitely want to try it again! Since the Blast was not an "outstanding winner" in the tests in the German Surf magazine, I'd also be curious to try new shapes from other companies. Hopefully, we have at least some demo boards at the ECWF Cape Cod on September 15-16!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Foiling at Kalmus

Everybody seems to be foiling these days. I have tried to stay away from foiling - the chances of hurting yourself on the many large sharp surfaces seem to high! Just look at Vincent going out at Kalmus:
Even if you manage not to kick the foil trying to waterstart, the foil can push the board almost a meter out of the water. Sudden crashes from this height look rather dramatic!

But many things happened to slowly erode my resistance to foiling. The German Surf magazine had plenty of reports that foiling on new beginner-oriented gear is much easier than on earlier gear. Coach Ned, who has 15 years on me, recently started foiling, and seems to love it. I prepared myself for hard crashes by doing a few Grubby tries; in the one where I actually pushed the sail forward as I'm supposed to, I got catapulted so hard that a panel on the sail broke from hitting the water. So when Vincent first borrowed Nina's 4.7 to foil, and then made Nina try foiling, which led to a few short rides and no big crashes, I had to try it, too.

By the time I got out, the wind had dropped to around 16 mph, so waterstarting with the 4.7 was quite tricky. The chop were still high thanks to high tide and 25 mph winds earlier, which made getting out quite tricky .. until I finally swam the gear out an extra 50 feet, so that I had enough time to uphaul before the shore break pushed me back into shallow water. Fortunately, the Fanatic Blast 130 had plenty of volume and stability for uphauling, and the Fanatic foil only added stability. The long mast made slogging upwind to get past the swimming area buys easy; but it felt like I had been out for half an hour before I was far enough upwind to try to get on the foil.

Vincent had given me a few helpful pointers, and I could feel the foil pushing the board up as soon as I pointed a bit downwind, weighed the back leg, and pumped a little. For the first try, I put the front foot into the footstrap; but after having just met Kim, who popped a few tendons in a bad foil fall, I recalled some advice not to use the straps at all  initially, so I tried that next. A couple of crashes later, I was glad I did! As soon as the board got out of the water, it developed a mind of its own about where to go, and seemed to change its mind quite quickly. Just as I thought I was about to have a slightly longer ride, the board seemed to head straight for one of the swim area buoys .. a quick dismount seemed advisable. Another time, the board pitched me forward into the sail, which might have been a bit awkward with a foot in the straps. In the end, I got a few very short rides which ended with gently touchdowns rather than crashes - enough to make we want to foil again.

I never was on the foil long enough to get the "flying" feeling (or any resemblance of control), but I liked the very different way the forces on the board felt. Much to my surprise, the foil seemed to push the board up out of the water at low speeds, well below the planing threshold (it seems .. I did not wear a GPS). For many windsurfers with regular jobs, one main attraction of foiling is the promise of more sailable days. That's not much of an issue for me, since my job is flexible enough to go windsurfing whenever it's windy, and also because I like longboards and light wind freestyle. But foiling may well be the thing to do at high tides at Kalmus in the summer, when freestyling can become tedious due to chop, waterstarts, and crowds near shore. In WSW wind, we can escape to Egg Island, but in recent years, SSW-SW wind seems to be much more common, and Egg Island does not work as well in these directions.

Vincent foiling at Kalmus. Pictures by Eddie Devereaux.
Vincent foiling at Kalmus (and Nina trying) generated quite a bit of interest. Many of the "hard core" windsurfers have their own foils by now, but most windsurfers are still curious bystanders. If you're in the "curious" category, mark your calendar for the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod on September 15-16! We plan to have a foil clinic and foil demos (plus windsurf demo gear) available this year.  If the wind and weather forecast looks too bad for September 15-16, the event will be held one week later. Since September usually has plenty of windy days, there should definitely the the opportunity to try some new gear!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Round Bottom Fun Ahead

It's round. It's long. It's more than 3 decades old. It's the new water toy:
It is a Magnum 390 we just picked up. I always wanted a longboard with a round bottom! Last time I sailed one was in the 1980s. It will need a bit of Marine Tex and some glue, but should see the water within the next few days. Good that the water is warm - there'll be plenty of falling when trying to sail downwind :-).

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Windy Welcome

Maybe the wind missed me. Or maybe it's just coincidence. But while my wind sacrifice did not work quite as well as some hoped, I received a nice windy welcome when I got back from Germany. Within 12 hours of being back on Cape Cod, I was sailing nicely powered on a 4.7. Here are some pictures that Eddie Devereaux took at Kalmus yesterday:
Warm means freestyle
Nina working on Flakas
Chris looping

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Wind Sacrifice

I am the wind sacrifice. I'm good at that! Check today's wind meter readings:
At 4:45 pm, I took the bus to Logan airport. The wind did not even wait for me to get there - it picked up to 25 mph less than 30 minutes later. Coincidence? I think not! The forecast was for 16-17 mph; actual reading were in the high 20s for a few hours.

The next couple of days will be windy, too. Tomorrow's forecast is 16 mph again. I may not go quite as high as today, because it's predicted to be more southerly, but who knows? For Thursday, the prediction is in the mid-20s, so we'll see 30s. Some showers and maybe thunderstorms, but there will probably be a few hours in the morning where it's dry and windy.

So go and get some! It may be all over a week from now when I return...

Monday, June 25, 2018

1000 Million Millions

A large number: 1,000,000,000,000,000. That's 1000 million times a million. Or 10 to the 15th (but that sounds smaller). Or 150 dB. Or a quadrillion.

That's (roughly) the difference in the energy level between a typical GPS signal (-150 dBm) and a bluetooth signal being sent out by a Raspberry Pi (0 dBm). WiFi transmissions are about 10 times stronger still.

For reference, let's look at hearing. The human ear has quite an amazing dynamic range - about 12 orders of magnitude, or a million times a million. The lowest level humans can hear is about 0 dB; the level where instant hearing damage is a real danger is 120 dB - that's the sound of a jet engine pretty close to you. The difference between a normal conversation (50 dB) and a really loud rock concert (100 dB) is much smaller.

So we can't really blame a GPS chip for picking up some "noise" if it's placed right next to a transmitter that screams 1000 million million times louder! Yes, bluetooth and WiFi are at a different frequency, but the difference is not huge: 1.575 GHz, compared to 2.4 GHz for bluetooth and WiFi. It's almost as if the GPS is listening to the baritone in an opera while the soprano is singing a quadrillion times louder. I'm amazed it can pick up anything!

Such great listening skills require a closer look:

This is a section from the "noisy" speeds in my recent post. The blue line is the "doppler speed", or more accurately the "speed over ground". The problem is that it cannot go below zero, so it does not fully reflect the variation in speed caused by the noise. For that, we should look at directional speed, the speed vectors. That's what the yellow and red lines are - "north velocity" and "east velocity". The directional speeds can have negative values, so they often vary more than the "speed over ground" - but not always. The up-and-down that can be seen in the first two high peaks is what's we would expect from purely random errors. When the directional speed stays high (or low) for multiple points in a row, that's a possible indication of systematic errors. One potential source of systematic errors is "multipath" noise, where the same signal reaches the GPS over different paths, which include reflections. Since such secondary paths can remain stable for some time, they can "tilt" the solution one way or the other, and introduced biased, non-random noise.

There are a few observations and ideas that spring from the graph above:

  • When looking at stationary data, we must examine directional speeds, not just speed over ground
  • Moving average filters may be useful to differentiate between random and non-random errors
  • For some test speed data, directional speed data may be useful as as estimate of random speed errors. 
The last point is the most interesting. Since we usually sail  in a straight line during speedsurfing, we can re-map the speed vectors into two components: one in direction of travel, and a second one at a 90-degree angle to it. Any sideways speed, especially any fast variation, would definitively be error. It is probably reasonable to assume that the error in the direction of travel is of a similar magnitude.
However, a closer examination shows that this approach probably would work for test drives, but not for speedsurfing. We are most concerned about errors when they reach 1 knot or more, which is about 0.5 meters per second. When measuring at 5 Hz, this would correspond to a 10 cm lateral movement - something that could quite easily be caused by relatively small body movements, for example from a gust or a piece of chop. But when driving around in a car to test GPS units, such lateral movements do not happen, so the approach should be useful there .. especially on streets that go straight north-south or east-west, and that don't have any trees or buildings on the side. Maybe this approach is of somewhat limited usefulness... time to watch some soccer!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Foil Against Noise

Let me start with a picture to make clear what this post is about:
It's about how a little bit of aluminum foil can help against RF noise from Raspberry Pies(the kind shown in the picture above - if other raspberry pies make you noisy, try the gluten free versions!).
The graph above shows the results from a stationary test, with measured speed on top, and accuracy estimates at the bottom. For the first 5 minutes of the test (the left, yellow half), I had covered the Raspberry Pi with a bit of aluminum foil; for the second half of the test, I put the Pi on top of the foil.

The results show that (a) the Pi generates a lot of RF noise that's picked up by the GPS and introduces error, and (b) that this RF noise can be blocked quite easily. For those of you who like numbers, here are the averages and maxima for this test (all numbers in knots):
For the numbers, I divided the second half of the test into two parts: a transition part, where the speeds and error estimates where high; and a "not blocked" part, when the numbers stabilized. Moving the Pi took just a few seconds, but the transition period lasted about 2 minutes. I'm not sure exactly what was going on there - perhaps the software in the GPS module needed a couple of minutes to figure out which satellites and/or noise filters to use. 

The numbers in the table above reflect what I had seen many times before in other data sets:
  • At low error estimates (the "with foil" row), actual errors typically are below the error estimates.
  • With higher error estimates, deviations larger than the error estimate can be observed more often.
  • With poor data quality (high error estimates), the error becomes less random, with extended regions of larger error. This is illustrated by the high (false) speed over 2 seconds of more than 4 knots in the "Transition" period. In this region, 10 successive points had errors over 2 knots, about 2x to 5x as high as the error estimate. This would be extremely unlikely to occur randomly.
While the data shown are from a single test, the results are very reproducible. This is quite easy to do by simply hooking up the GPS to u-center, and opening a few graphs. Here's a screen shot from the part where the Pi was covered with foil:
Changes after uncovering the Pi where quite dramatic:
For a lot of the satellites (but not all of them), the observed signal-to-noise ratio dropped significantly, which reduced the accuracy of the speed calculations. So, if you want to use a Raspberry Pi to capture GPS data: cover your Pi!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Interference and Data Overload

I have been testing a few GPS prototypes with u-blox 8 chips, which promise better accuracy than the "gold standard" Locosys GW-60 watch. Most of the recent tests were with prototypes that had bluetooth transmitters and/or Openlog data recorders.

Generally, the data from the ublox 8 chips were excellent, but in several tests, I noticed some glitches that seemed to be linked to bluetooth. So I made a new prototype that only records to an Openlog recorder, without any bluetooth connection, and compared it to an older prototype with Openlog where I can connect and disconnect the bluetooth chip. Here's a picture that shows the results:
The top graph shows speed, the lower graph shows the speed accuracy estimate. In about the first half of this test (the left side of the graph), the bluetooth transmitter was disconnected. In the second half, the bluetooth transmitter was connected. This was a stationary test, so the speed should always be zero. For the first half, it was close - usually about 0.02 knots, with a maximum around 0.2 knots. But with the bluetooth receiver turned on, there were frequent spikes of 0.5-1 knot. Usually, the spikes were short, and separated by one or more seconds; but the maximum 2-second speed was above 0.5 knots, which is too high.
In this example, I had not bothered to turn on the GPSLogger program, which means that the bluetooth transmitter was frequency hopping, and using about 2 to 4 times more power than when connected to a phone. In previous tests, I had seen some indications that this increases noise even more; but in a separate test today, I could not reproduce this, the noise level was quite high even when the transmitter was connected.

For anyone who likes to see numbers, here are some statistics for the data above - first for the region with bluetooth off:
All speed numbers are in knots. Both GPS units had very similar results. That changed when Bluetooth was turned on:
The first GPS was the Openlog-only, the second GPS had the bluetooth transmitter and was about a foot away. Turning bluetooth on lead to artifacts from RF interference in both units, but the effects where a bit larger in the unit that had the transceiver. One average, this unit also tracked one less satellite; the RF interference must have reduced the signal-to-noise ratio for the weakest satellite so that it was discarded.

In this test, the effect from bluetooth interference may have unusually large, and it may also be possible to reduce the effect with additional RF shielding or different component layouts. However, I find the Openlog setup more convenient, anyway, and it seems to avoid the interference issue completely, so I'll focus on these prototypes for the time being.

Some readers may have noticed the lines in the accuracy graph that drop to the bottom. These are caused by missing data points, which deserved a bit of investigation. The Openlog recorder has only a 512 byte communication buffer, and records to a micro SD card. This can lead to data loss if the writing of the data cannot keep up with the amount of incoming data. In the tests above, the ublox GPS was sending out data about the basic solution (NAV-PVT) and about the satellites it tracked (NAV-SVINFO) five times per second. The satellite information is not used when calculating speed numbers (except for the number of satellites used, which is available in NAV-PVT). But with about 20 satellites being tracked, logging SVINFO can increase the data amount by a factor of 4. Indeed, changing the configuration to not log SVINFO fixed the problem; so did recording SVINFO just once a second instead of 5 times per second. Theoretically, it is also possible to change the firmware in the Openlog recorder to a version that is better suited to high-rate data logging, but that does not seem to be necessary.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Summer, Speed, and GPS Results

Friday was the first day where it felt like summer. I was perfectly warm in a short-sleeved 3 mm wetsuit, and the Kalmus parking lot saw crowds of windsurfers. The wind was not quite up to summer standards - it was steady at around 18-20 mph until 1 pm, and then went up and down like crazy. At times, the thermals kicked in, and we had 30 mph averages with higher gusts; a few minutes later, it decoupled and dropped to low teens. That happened several times, until it finally cooled of around 5 pm, and the wind was relatively steady .. and in the mid-30s. The Kalmus wind machine is back on!

The forecast for yesterday also held some promise, but the weaker wind did not hold to the surface once it warmed up around noon. Time for some longboard sailing - I explored the little bays close to Egg Island with Gonzalo, who gave me some pointers about longboard racing. Nice!

The summer then ended again today. Temperatures dropped into the 50s overnight, with no sun to warm things up. But we got a rare treat - strong easterly winds! I went to East Bay, and was fully powered on a 6.3 m race sail and the 99 l slalom board. For comparison: on freeride gear, I would have picked a 4.7 and still would have been fully powered! The Kalmus windmeter showed averages around 28 mph, and gusts in the mid-30s. I ended up with a top speed of 32.77 knots, which is a personal best for the spot and the board, and my 5th-fastest session ever. Cool!

I took the opportunity to test my bluetooth GPS prototype again. I had tested it on the water a few times during the last two days, and the results looked great - very close to the results from the "gold standard" GW-60 watch. Here's a graph that compares the 10 second speeds of the bluetooth prototype, my Raspberry Pi Zero prototype, and the GW-60:
Today's results also looked good, but there were a few "red flags" with larger deviations:
I wore two GW-60 watches, one on each arm. However, the differences between the two watches were larger than usual - what was going on? Let's look at the speed graphs in GPSResults:
The two GW-60 watches are on top, the bluetooth GPS is at the bottom. A bit tough to see anything here, but if you look closely at the middle image, you see some missing data points.

I find GPS Action Replay quite useful to have a really close look at data. Here's a movie that shows the aligned speed graphs (after editing out low-speed sections):

I stopped the movie several times when one of the GPS units deviated a lot from the others; usually, it was the red line, the second GW-60 GPS. This GPS simply stopped recording any data points for 50 seconds, and then kept dropping points for several minutes afterwards. Here's a graph from my own analysis software where this is immediately obvious:
The red region means trouble - let's zoom in:
Every time the red line goes from the top to the bottom, one or more data points are missing. The section with 50 seconds of missing data is near the left side of the curve. Because of the missing data, the numbers in the table above were "misaligned" - one top-10 result was missing for the second GW-60. If we take that into account, the numbers look a bit better:
One thing that also differs in this table is the last column. This time, I calculated the difference between the bluetooth GPS and the GW-60 GPS by using the average of the two GW-60 watches (except for the one missing point in each category, of course). I also added a row that shows the average deviation between the two GW-60s and between the bluetooth GPS and the GW-60 averages.
The bottom line is quite clear: the speed results for the bluetooth GPS are very close to the results from the two GW-60 watches. On average, the difference is less than 0.1 knots for 2 seconds; less than 0.05 knots for 10 seconds; and about 0.02 knots for 500 m. It is also well within the "+/-" ranges given by GPSResults (which range from ~0.06 knots for 500 m for the bluetooth GPS to  ~0.35 knots for 2 second data for the GW-60). Looking at the 500 m results in the first table, it is clear that the differences between the two GW-60 watches is larger than the difference between the bluetooth GPS and the first GW-60 watch (which appeared to give more accurate data in this test than the second watch, if judged by the problem areas seen in the movie above).

It's no surprise that the bluetooth GPS is at least as accurate as the GW-60 watch. It uses a GPS chip (the u-blox 8) which is known to be more accurate; this is at least partly due to its ability to use data from various satellite systems at the same time (GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo), while the GW-60 is limited to only satellites from the American GPS satellites. In the tests, the ublox chip was typically able to use 15-19 satellites, while the watch was able to use only 8-10 satellites. More is better!
However, it was still necessary to prove that the prototype does indeed give accurate data, since many things can go wrong, including bad GPS chips and degraded signals from RF interference. The windsurfing tests have consistently shown that the prototype works very well, and actually better than the GW-60 watch when it encounters problems like the one described above.

For those amongst you who love numbers, I'll end with the numbers for the first graph in this post, which includes the accuracy estimates:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

GPS Prototypes

Here's a short video that shows two GPS prototypes ready to be tested on the water:

The one on the left uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W, an e-paper display (similar to what a Kindle uses), and a Stratux GPYes USB GPS module. The one on the right is inside the GoPro case. It's a ublox-8 based GPS connected to a battery and a bluetooth module; the Android phone below it grabs the data over Bluetooth and logs them. Now the wind just has to play along for on-the-water tests tomorrow!

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Nina almost got a Flaka yesterday. She said that for the very first time, the board kept turning while she was sliding backwards. She probably finished the 360 degree rotation, and maybe even a bit more. But she did not realize she was done until afterwards, so she fell onto the sail. But still, that's big progress.

We sailed Lewis Bay in NE wind yesterday for the first time. In NE, we usually go to Duxbury, Chapin, or other spots, but the tide was too low yesterday morning for most of those, and the wind was predicted to drop early. Lewis Bay was a bit gusty, but otherwise quite nice. But there was a surprising amount of ferry and boat traffic.

I almost got to test my Raspberrry Pi Zero "plug and play" GPS while windsurfing for the first time yesterday. Here's what the setup looks like:
It's a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Stratux GPYes USB GPS dongle, a 2500 mAh USB battery pack, a USB cable, some vecro, a zip lock bag, and a waterproof back. The cost for the entire setup is about $50 - about 1/4th or 1/5th of a GW-60 GPS watch. I did wear this while windsurfing, but encountered one little problem: the battery had switched itself off! No test data this time, bummer.

I had noticed a few times before that the battery turned itself off, but was never quite able to figure out when that happens. When it happened before, I thought that I had forgotten to charge the battery, or that the battery was dying - but I was wrong. A little internet search yesterday showed that the "sleep" function is standard for USB battery packs. They are meant to charge phones, which usually happens at 0.5 amps or more. If the current drops below 0.1 A, they decide that the phone is sufficiently charged, and go to sleep. Lazy bastards!

I did a bit more testing with a USB tester today at home, and discovered why the sleep issue was so confusing. Using a variety of USB dongles and hub, I saw that the battery goes to sleep after about 30 seconds if the current is continuously below 0.1 A. It turns out that the Pi Zero uses just about 0.1 A when it's doing nothing. A USB GPS dongle needs about 20-40 mA, so when the dongle is plugged in, the current increases to about 0.13 A. Therefore, the battery always stays on when I test at home.

One of the things that needs current is WiFi. It's usually on when I'm at home, although the script that starts the logging turns if off when a GPS dongle is connected to extend the battery life; that drops the current by about 20-30 mA. When the dongle is pulled and the logging stops, the WiFi is automatically turned back on.

But what happens when WiFi is on, but no network is available (which is usually the case when windsurfing)? It turns out that not being connected to a network has about the same effect as turning WiFi off - the current drops to about 70 mA (with no GPS dongle connected). So that's what happened yesterday! I turned the Pi on before rigging, and connected the dongle about 15 minutes later ... without checking if the battery still was on. But the lazy thing had gone to sleep.

The little test failure just underscores that you can't see much when you're flying blind - the Pi GPS logger needs some kind of display. I've got a little 2.13 in e-paper hat that has exactly the same form factor as the Pi Zero, and got the demo programs to run. Getting it to work with the logger will require a bit of trickery, since there don't see to be any Java drivers for the display. For now, I'll probably go with some primitive form of inter-process communication between the logger and a Python or C program for the display, maybe through a file on a RAM disk. That's the easiest solution that comes to mind, and would make it quite easy to support other kinds of displays, too.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Great Fun at the Nationals

We're at the US Nationals in Seaford, Virginia, and we're having a blast. How could you not at an event venue like this?
The venue .. before the crowds arrived
It's Dave Kashy's place, where we have raced several times before - the perfect place for a regatta. Even better is the organization, with race results posted online shortly after the races, and group dinners at great local restaurants. It's almost too easy to make new friends, and much more fun to race with friends than with strangers.

I'm in the Kona fleet, so I don't have the usual "bad gear" excuses for placing near the bottom of the fleet - it's all me. But I don't really care, it's lots of fun. It's great to see all these fantastic windsurfers on the water. 
Kona racing

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hatteras Report

Sorry about the long gap between posts - it's been way too windy the last two weeks. We spent that time in Hatteras, and it was windy every single day. Both Nina and I had to take a day off in the middle because we were to exhausted. But we also wanted to be (somewhat) fit for OBX Wind week, where we both participated in the long distance race. Nina also did the freestyle clinic with Phil Soltysiak; I was signed up for the slalom races, which turned out to be very interesting.. more about that later.

Seeing more than 200 windsurfers compete in the long distance race was amazing - check the picture below:
OBX Wind long distance race. Photo by Donald Ferguson
We did a total of three long distance races, one on Wednesday in wind around 15-20 mph, and two on Thursday in 25-35 mph wind. Each race was out to the reef and back twice, which was about 13 km (8 miles). Even though the wind dropped during or right before two of the races, leaving many competitors slogging, there were lots of happy faces and high-fives after the races. Almost everyone played nicely, but a few racers regarded their placing in the race as much more important than adhering to basic safety or right-of-way rules. Both women in our house who competed had incidents where a racer either forced them to get of the board to avoid a crash, or passed dangerously close (in the middle of the course, with plenty of space to spread out). It is quite unlikely that they will compete in future OBX Wind long distance races. 

Nina did quite well in the long distance race, placing second in the Women's Open division (which had 8 women competing), and leaving all 18 women in the freeride division, as well as more than 100 male windsurfers, behind. I accomplished my goal of finishing all races without breaking anything. On day two, that required switching to freeride gear (Tabou 3S 96 and North Ice 4.7), since there was no way I would have made it through the course with any semblance of control on a race sail and/or slalom board. Since I can actually go faster on this gear than I would have been on slalom gear in the conditions, I managed to squeeze into the top-25 overall, which I am quite happy with.

The slalom racing was quite interesting. From the very first day on, I had realized that the "chop" at the Corpus Christi and SPI spots had seriously spoiled me. The chop in Avon in 20 mph wind (according to the highest nearby wind meters) was much higher and more chaotic than the chop at Grassy Point in 30 mph wind. I (re-)discovered that I really don't like to sail slalom gear in these conditions. After a week of trying and adjusting things, I got somewhat more comfortable, managed to keep most of my jibes dry, and even plane through one occasionally ... but then, the slalom races started. In the second race, I managed to come in in the top third of the ~20 racers, but it quickly went downhill from there. With all the chop around the marks and the distractions from other sailors, I blew most of my jibes. Since I did not wand to be run over (and since my starts sucked, anyway), I decided to let most of the field go ahead before getting to speed. That turned out to not be a smart decision - I had the pleasure of sailing through everyones chop, and then had to avoid all the others who had fallen in their jibes. More dropped jibes, even less confidence ... not a good feedback loop! The final straw was the guy who absolutely had to improve his rank from third-last to second-last by first passing me upwind, with about a foot distance between our boards, and then again passed me fully planing about 2 inches from my head when I was down at the mark. Really? You're at the tail end of the field, but you're such a great sailor that passing someone this closely is safe? So that you can come in 13th instead of 14th? At that point, I decided that slalom racing was definitely not for me, and went in. I could have come to that conclusion earlier, considering that I usually sail way upwind, downwind, outside, or otherwise away from the crowds; but I had previously participated in one slalom series (and several longboard races) where the testosterone-level seemed a lot lower, and everyone sailed more considerate. It just gave me the wrong idea that that's typical.

Nina's choice of doing the freestyle camp was a much smarter one. She learned a lot, and made progress on several moves she worked on. Compared to many racers who displayed the attitude "get out of my way or else", the freestylers were a much friendlier crowd - several high-level freestylers stopped by and gave her tips when they saw the moves she was working on, or demonstrated the moves for her. The freestyle competition was also absolutely awesome, with great moves by top PWA pros Youp Smit and Phil Soltysiak, East Coast freestylers like Mike Burns, Chachi, Max Robinson, and others.
Youp Smit freestyling
We left Hatteras to go to Seaford, VA, where the US Nationals will take place in a few days. I'll be in the Kona category, where I have sailed in before and loved it. We got lucky and scored a really nice AirBnB close to the event - here's a picture from today's sunrise, taken from our apartment: