Monday, February 4, 2019

With A Little Help

Two days ago was our last day in Mandurah - and it was windy! Mike did not believe my prediction of wind between 25 and 30 knots, so we went to Fangyland instead of Liptons. Fine by me - I love Fangy's Weed Farm!

We arrived to plenty of white caps, and a big crew on the beach, getting ready to go out. It was still cloudy, but the end of the clouds was in sight, and several sailors predicted that the wind would pick up once the clouds were gone .. which it did. I got out just before that happened, so I had some time to get dialed in on the Falcon 89 with the Racing Blade 6.3. Nina went out on the RB 5.0 with Mikes 39 cm "wide" speed board. Yes, all of 39 centimeters. She had to suffer through plenty of comments on the board - one guy remarked that she should have a second board, one for each foot. He had a point - the board looked more like a water ski than a windsurf board! Since she does not waterski, it took her quite a while to get comfortable on the board. Once it became clear she'd keep using it, I switched down to our Isonic W54 speed board.

By then, the wind was quite strong. Meter readings on shore later showed 25 knots with gusts to 32, but it may have been a bit higher on the speed strip. Everyone was taking breaks at the end of the runs, which were a bit longer than a mile - almost 2 kilometers. That was rather nice - lots of tips on where the flattest water was, how to tune the gear, and so on were exchanged. One of the local legends, Stroppo, first showed Nina the run below the weed banks where the flattest water could be found, and then made sure I also knew about it. Very nice!

I was using GPSLogit with bluetooth headphones, and had heard "35" several times during runs. The GPS watch confirmed that I had set a new personal best, and finally (!!) broken the 35-knot barrier. That helped me relax a bit. Or perhaps the wind just picked up. Whatever it was, I saw a 37.6 on the dial after the next run. That was 2.8 knots faster than my old personal best - a huge jump! I had also tried to copy Stroppo's approach to a nautical mile run, and had improved my PB for the "nauti" (often spelled "naughty") my 2 knots. Sweet! I was getting a bit tired, and we had a big drive planned for the next day, so I decided to call it a day.

Nina said she wanted to stay out, since she was finally getting comfortable on the tiny speedboard. When she came in a while later, she was glowing - she had just improved her personal best by more than 3 knots, to 35.78 knots! At the end of the day, we each had improved our personal bests in three categories - top speed (2 seconds), 5 x 10 seconds, and nautical mile. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

It was time to say good bye to the local speedsurfers we had gotten to know during our stay, an extra-ordinarily nice bunch of people. Quite a few of them had also set new personal bests - the two teams I mentioned in my last post, the Mandurah Mob and the Pinnaroos, each set a total of 9 PBs that day. What a day!

The big question is: what made us (and others) go so much faster? Clearly, the conditions played a big role: strong winds and very flat water. But we had had quite similar conditions before at exactly the same spot, with no or just marginal improvements. But this time around, the wind direction was different, so the runs in smooth water were more than twice as long. Together with steady winds, this gave us plenty of time to get used to the conditions and to the higher speeds that were possible.

Just as important, though, was the company of better speedsurfers. Their friendly and freely given advice (both during the session and in and after previous sessions) was super-helpful. Mike's 39 cm speed board was essential - not only did it enable it Nina to go wicked fast, but it also freed our speedboard for my use (and the W54 was much more appropriate for the conditions than the slalom board!). So a BIG thanks to Mike, Stroppo, Ross, and all the others who have helped us!

Yesterday, we drove to Margaret River, and arrived just in time to witness a Severne team photoshoot, complete with helicopters and mast-high wave. The show was amazing, with super-high back loops, one-handed aerials, wave 360s, and more. I went to thank multiple world wave champion Philip Köster after the session, and got to shake his hand - cool!!!

Today, we drove on to Albany, another famous speed spot. After stops for a walk through giant tree tops and at the "Elephant Rocks", one of the most beautiful coasts I have ever seen, we arrived a bit late at our bay-front cottage, but I managed to squeeze a session on the big gear (112/7.0) in. This is another perfect spot, with weeds sticking out of the water that keep it really flat and create a "jibing heaven. Despite only about 16 knots of wind and a top speed below 29 knots, I managed to get an alpha 500 of 23 knots - just 1/3rd of a knot below my personal best! Sooo much fun! And there're more wind in the forecast for tomorrow :-).

Between all the fun, I somehow found the time to check our individual rankings on the GPS Team Challenge. Here's what the top 10 for the speedsurfers in USA teams currently looks like:
Somewhat magically, I already advanced to third place, within 2 points of the second place - and we still have a couple of weeks at super-flat, super-fast Lake George coming up! Nina is currently on the 8th place, ahead of 30 guys - the girl is fast!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Battle For First Place

Fangy's Weed Farm looked peaceful today:
Yesterday? A very different story! In the monthly rankings on the GPS Team Challenge, two local teams were tied for first place: the Mandurah Mob and the Pinnaroos. It was time for a showdown!

Our host Mike, team captain of the Mobsters, barely waited for the first white caps to show up on the ocean to head out to Coodanup, where Fangy's Weed Farm creates some of the flattest water I have ever seen. In 2017, this was perhaps the secret weapon that brought the Mobsters the victory in the battle for first place in Australia - but since then, large groups of "pesky Pinnas" have invade the weed farm on a regular basis. Yesterday was another invasion day - 6 Pinnas showed up hoping the good forecast would come true, matching the number of Mobsters.

But the Mobsters had a good plan: go for distance, and perhaps improve the 1-hours speeds at the same time. I tried to help with the only thing I could think off: distract the Pinnaroos' team captain by offering her jibe advice, and even showing her a bit of sail chi on shore. This kept her too busy to advice her team mates on strategy - although in all fairness, it might have been too late by then, since Mike and his team mate Slugger already had been on the water for a couple of hours.

My little sail chi distraction did serve a second purpose: it made me hit the water just as the wind picked up, so I was very nicely powered on my 7.0/112 combo right away. I had planned on giving some more jibe advice on the water, but had way too much fun on the flat water to stop. The wind direction (SSW) was perfect in that it created really nice long runs, so I changed my plans and went for 1-hour speed instead. Whoever invented this category for the GPS Team Challenge must love going back and forth as much as I. The "short" runs were about 1.5 km long, mostly right at the edge of the weed, but sometimes just below weed beds in "chitter-chatter" water, and a few times straight through the middle of the weed (made possible by the incredible Fangy Fins).

All the time, I saw Mike and Slugger go back and forth like the real speed machines they are. A few times, I followed Mike around, but I had to really concentrate on speed, or he would have left me behind very quickly. Impressive!

At the end of the day, the deed was done: the Mobsters had jumped to second place in the distance ranking for the month, and also improved their ranking in the 1 hour category, jumping way ahead of the pesky Pinna invaders:
I had a blast watching the action from the water, and got inspired to try harder. This time around, I sailed in my favorite conditions: lighter wind (perhaps 22 knots) and big gear (7.0/112/22). Jibing was just too much fun, and the wind direction also had the alpha markers in a perfect position, so it was no big surprise that Nina and I both improved our personal bests in the alpha 500 category a bit. When I looked at the postings from the Pinnas and the Mobsters, however, I was in for another surprise: of the 14 windsurfers from the two teams and the "USA" team, I ended up with the fastest 1-hour and 2-second numbers! The hour was perhaps not surprising, since that's perhaps my best category; but the 2-second "top speed" category was a big surprise. I'll blame it on the new "Stroppo's Curves" approach, which I tried many times in the middle of the runs. Big thanks, Stroppo!
Here's a table with the results from the 14 sailors from the 3 teams at Coodanup yesterday, with rankings in each category and an overall ranking (the sum of all categories):
Mark ended up in first place - well deserved, he set three personal bests that day! I ended up in second place overall, which makes me very happy. In conditions I'm familiar with, I'm not half bad after all! It's good that I did not get first place overall - that would have inflated my ego way too much, probably enough to have my head explode. Chances are I would not mind much since I'd die in a state of happiness, but I'd be really sorry for Mike and Dot having to clean up the mess!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

40 Knots Or Not

It was wicked windy a few days ago when a big storm system pulled through. We followed the local experts who drove an hour south to Australind, looking for the strongest wind and the best spot for westerlies. Once we got there, the rain and chop made it quite uninviting. After driving up and down the bay looking in vain for a spot that was both flat deep enough, the final straw came when Hardie sent a screen shot from his top speed at Mandurah: he had gotten a 40-knot reading on his GT-31!

Back we drove, and sailed in Mandurah Bay at Coodanup. For once, it did not deserve the name "Fangy's Weed Farm", since a high storm surge covered the weed completely. The there actually was some chop - although it should more correctly be labeled "mini-chop", since it was just maybe 5 or 10 centimeters high. To keep things interesting, the weed had ganged up at some spots, building "weedbergs" (the weedy equivalent of icebergs) which were big enough for birds to stand on. Sailing into these at speed created interesting "sudden drag" situations, but the high-rake fins we used parted the weedbergs without catapults.

I ended up with a top 2-second speed of 33.6 knots and 32.6 knots for 5x10 seconds, which is the 3rd-best I ever did. Nina got two new personal bests for 2 seconds (32.6 knots) and 5x10 (31.5 knots). However, we both ended up disappointed, since our top speeds were about 5 knots slower than the speeds many others got, and almost 10 knots slower that the 42.3 knots that Stroppo, speed king of the day, posted!

Here's a summary of the local speed surfers' top speeds (2 seconds):
  • Fastest speed: 42.288 knots (Stroppo)
  • Above 40 knots: 5 sailors
  • 37-39.9 knots: 8 sailors
  • 31-34 knots: 9 sailors
  • Spots with 40+ knot results: Coodanup (3), Australind (1), Melville (1)
The numbers may change a bit since not everyone has posted yet; I think we'll see at least one 40+ knot posting.

Seeing these numbers made me feel a bit better, because we're at least in the largest group. The spread of 10 knots is quite amazing - what causes it? There is probably a small contribution that the gear makes. For example, whenever a heavy gust hit, Nina was very overpowered on her 5.0 meter sail and 54 cm speed board. Stroppo, who is close to twice her weight, used a 6.0 and a 47 speed board - no surprise he was able to stay in control! Sail sizes should (in first approximation) increase of decrease in proportion to weight, so Nina's sail should have been somewhere in the 3.x meter range, or at least much closer to 4 square meters. I was on a 5.6 m sail, which is close to what most guys my weight used. My board was an 89 l slalom board, and about 10 cm wider than the speed boards used by most others, which might have slowed me down by a couple of knots. Indeed, when I got hold of Nina's speed board for a run, I did immediately got my best speed of the day. But looking at the faster windsurfers, there's still a 3 to 5 knot difference between the fastest guys and the next group.

Our host Mike, who did 37.7 knots on a 4.7/43 combo, gave me his GPS tracks to compare to ours. Here is a polar diagram which shows the maximum speed relative to the wind direction for Nina (in red) and Mike (in blue):
The left half of the diagram shows the starboard tack runs, the right half the port tack runs. On starboard, Nina's and Mike's speed were about the same for most angles; but Mike went deeper downwind, and reached a slightly higher top speed at about 137 degrees. On the port tack (right side), Mike's speeds were about 2-3 knots faster than Nina's over a wide range. Again, he went deeper downwind, and got his top speed at about 145 degrees. Going about 15 degrees deeper increased his speed by about 3 knots.
After the session, Nina said that she simple could not go deeper because she was so overpowered. She was on a 5.0 m sail and a 54 cm wide board; Mike was on a 4.7 and a 43 cm wide board. Seeing how deep Mike's top speed angles were, he was certainly fully powered even on the deepest angles, where the apparent wind is significantly lower than when sailing on a beam reach (90 degrees to the wind).
The difference between the starboard and port tracks points to another very important factor: being familiar with the conditions. There was enough chop to make both Nina and me "put on the handbrakes" - we were definitely not going all-out. We both felt more comfortable doing speed runs on starboard, even though port was the better (inbound) direction. I think that is because at our typical sailing spot, Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, we generally go out against the chop, and come in more parallel and over the back of the chop. So we are much more used to dealing with chop on the starboard track.

It is also interesting to compare Mike's track to Stroppo's tracks, since Stroppo was significantly faster than anyone else. Here is the polar diagram (Mike in blue, Stroppo in green):

Stroppo did not do any speed runs on starboard, so we can ignore the left half of the diagram. On the port side, Stroppo was going a few knots faster than Mike, with a bigger difference at deeper angles - up to about 127 degrees. Beyond that, Stroppo's speeds actually dropped, while Mike's speed still increased for another 20 degrees or so.
The reason for this can be found in the sail sizes: 4.7 for Mike, 6.0 for Stroppo. But Stroppo is about 60% heavier than Mike, and sail sizes scale (roughly) proportional with body weight. For comparable power, Stroppo should have been on a 7.5! That seems way too big for the wind, so let's do it the other way around: for comparable power to Stroppo's 6.0, Mike should have been on a 3.7!
Arguably, the linear sail size relation does not fully hold for race sails; however, a sail closer to 4 square meters would have been more similar in power to Stroppo's 6.0.
Watching the two of them on the water, it was quite apparent that Stroppo was on the (relative) smaller gear: Mike had a much easier time to get going, while Stroppo often had to wait for gusts. The (relative) bigger sail enable Mike to go deeper downwind; but the smaller sail gave Stroppo more control in the big gusts, which he skillfully converted to more speed. Looking at the fastest runs for both of them, the top-speed angles varied a bit, but in general, Mike's top speeds were reached at a roughly 15 degrees deeper angle.

Another observation from Stroppo's tracks was that he did not do "slingshots", where the angle suddenly changes. Instead, Stroppo's angle changed very gradually to deeper and deeper angles - here is an example (from his second-fastest 2-second run, 41.18 knots):
The near-constant acceleration over the entire run is quite impressive. His fastest run look very similar, but he apparently caught a good gust near the end of it, which gave him the extra boost to reach a 1-second top speed of 42.4 knots. Very impressive! Since the technique is quite different from the slingshot, it deserves its own name - how about "Stroppo Curves"?

I must admit that I find Mike's speeds, and the speeds in the high 30s to low 40s many others had, almost as impressive. Mike is more than a decade older than I am, and must have been quite overpowered in the gusts, but had way more control to convert the gusts to speed than I did. Perhaps the more appropriate board (43 cm speed vs. 59 cm slalom) helped, but there's definitely a skill difference, too. But whatever the causes were, it was very fascinating to be able to share a great day on a fantastic spot with so many good speedsurfers!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Wave Sailing at Avalon

On Sunday, we left Geraldton and drove back to Mandurah, where Mike and Dorothy kindly offered us to stay in their home right at the beach at one of the wave spots, named Avalon. Yesterday, we got a bit of swell and just enough wind to plane, so Nina and Mike went out from the launch across the street (Nina on 4.7, Mike on 5.3). The wind was light enough to allow my little drone to fly. Since the break was close enough to the beach, I managed to get a bit of video footage. The breaks between the sets were large, and with my limited drone skills, I did not catch them on any decent wave rides, but I think the scenery and colors are quite beautiful:
I did not have wave gear to join them, but I later had a lovely flat water session at Liptons. I love the spot - perfectly flat water for jibing fun at both ends, with a mile-long run in between. The wind varies a bit, often being light in the middle and stronger towards shore, which is clearly visible in the GPS tracks:
The wind was a bit on the light side for my 7.0/112 combo, so no great speeds - but finally getting a relaxing session in flat water was fantastic!