Friday, July 31, 2020

Pushing Foil Limits

It's been a hot and windy July. I've been on the water for 19 windfoil sessions, and windsurfed four times, often when the wind picked up so I could plane on a 5.0 or 5.6 m sail.

Yesterday was a day with a mediocre forecast, which tends to make for great foil days. I started foiling when averages were around 13-14 mph, which made it quite nice with a 5.6 on the i84 foil. Here are the GPS tracks for the day:
The flat water was nice for tacks, and encouraged me to try a few sail-first jibes. I ended up with a few reminders why you should not let the sail get to the outside of the turn. I also discovered a disadvantage of the sail-first jibe on the foil: if the board gets all wobbly after letting go of the back hand, crashing safely gets much harder since only one hand remains on the boom. It took me a couple of tries to understand that.  The first one was a warning which I ignored; the second one was harder to ignore, since the board tilted sideways. That put the foil exactly where I was falling. Fortunately, I have a hard head even without a hard hat, so I did not even bleed after hitting the back of my head on the foil. It killed my appetite for additional jibe tries in the same session, though.

Instead, I headed into the flat water behind the Hyannis Port pier, and pushed the foil a bit faster than I had ever foiled before. By then, the wind had picked up into the mid-20s, and it was time to head back in. The strong wind made for a very interesting ride in steep chop. And then, it got even stronger, hitting 29 mph averages and gusts in the low 30s. Waterstarts, which were difficult, one-footed, and only in gusts at the beginning had long changed to the two-footed, "keep the thing controlled at all cost!" variety, were not placing enough weight on the front foot meant I was foiling before I was even over the board. But now, I was either getting catapulted right away, or the wind just grabbed under the board and flipped it over, completely ignoring the heavy aluminum foil. Not even body-dragging with one foot on the board, my usual fail-safe when things get crazy, worked - board and foil were blown out of the water  and flipped over within a couple of seconds. Eventually, I discovered that body-dragging clew first from the leeward side worked, with the added benefit of being an excellent workout. After dragging a quarter mile downwind, the wind finally let up enough so that I could waterstart again, and foil in the last bit, with a fully flagged out sail. Meanwhile, Nina, who had been wing foiling on her 4.2 the entire time, stuck around and enjoyed that the strong wind let her foil through her jibes with ease. Maybe I need to get one of these things ... but I have the suspicion it just would not work quite as well for me.

Well, an interesting session it was, and certainly a memorable one - but also a lot of fun.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Different Toys

It's raining today, and I'm glad to get a day off the water. We've been playing for 4 days in a row now, so I need a little break! Part of the reason is that I finally dragged the slalom gear onto the water again yesterday. After mostly foiling in the last few weeks, the 7 m race sail felt sooooo heavy! The rig probably is about twice as heavy as the 5.0 m freestyle sail I use most of the time .. until the huge luff sleeve fill with water, and it gains an extra 50+ pounds. The wind was mostly around 17 knots, and my 99 l board felt a bit small in the lulls, but the gusts were fun. Eddie took a few pictures:
Nina was on the wing - her sixth session in high winds:


I was foiling the three days before that day. The wind was light when we came to the beach on Thursday, so I wanted to use my bigger Infinity 84 front wing. However, that wing does not work well in my old slalom board anymore: the fuselage with the extra hole for a "D" position broke into two pieces recently while foiling. So I used my old Fanatic Skate 110, to which I had added tracks. It was quite surprising how much more concentration the foiling on the Skate needed - 5 cm less widths and ~10 liters less volume make a surprising difference. On the Skate, I had to move my feet as far to the outside rails as possible to keep things under control, something I never have to do on the Warp. Upwind angles also were a bit worse than on the slalom board with the Infinity 76 front wing. But since the wind increased and I was well powered to slightly overpowered, tracking upwind towards the Hyannis Port Harbor entrance was not big deal. 

The day that I was on the i84, Nina also started windfoiling on the large foil, with a 5.2 m sail. When the wind picked up, she was overpowered, and did not like it one little bit. But on the bright side, that meant she had enough wind to go winging, which she did. I stayed on shore to take some pictures and videos of her (unfortunately with a rather small zoom lens) - here is one:

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Wing Thing

Nina read about the wing thing, so she had to get one. A short trip to Phil at Inland Sea, and a couple of hours, she was on the water with my big old SUP:
There were a few upwind walks involved in this session.

A few days later, the fuselage on my foil snapped mid-session. I had added an extra hole so that I could move the wing more forward on my old slalom board. That gave me a much more balanced setup, and worked fine for about 50 sessions. But it left one extra hole between the front wing and the mast, and that's were the fuse broke. A trip to Inland Sea in West Dennis later, I had a new fuselage - and a JP SUP that's well suited for wing foiling.

Since then, Nina has been winging three times. The first session was in 25 mph averages on my old Skate 110, and she managed to get up on the foil a few times. That was a success.

Nina's second wing foiling session was at in lighter wind at Pleasant Bay. This one was bit more frustrating, with only short runs on the foil and not much progress. But we saw Jerry Evans on his setup, which was pretty impressive. I was barely able to get up on the foil on my 5.0 m sail, but Jerry was foiling the entire time on his 4.2 m wing. He was also having a total blast. One of the things I had read about winging was that wing foiling needed more wind that wind foiling - but that clearly was not the case here. 

The next few days saw lighter wind, which Nina used to foil on the new JP SUP with a rig. That was a worth-while exercise, since the board behaves quite differently from our windsurf boards. The foil is further forward under the board, the mast base is further back, and the board is shorter, has round rails, and a lot of rocker. That means the technique to get going is surprisingly different. Any sideways pressure while pumping quickly results in a direction change, so I had a hard time to get the board accelerate to take-off speed in light wind. But Nina figured it out, and managed to foil in 11-12 mph wind with her 5.2 sail. 

Her third day of wing foiling was in 16-22 mph averages at Kalmus. The progress was quite astonishing - she was always foiling, apparently 100% in control, when going out against the waves, and often also when coming back to shore. That's a bit more difficult even when foiling with a windsurf rig, since the waves coming from behind affect the large 84 cm foil a lot, pushing it up and down. But at the end of the session, even her inbound runs look about as good as my windfoiling runs (after ~80 sessions so far). She even got a few dry jibes, although not yet foiled through. 

What amazed me most about her three sessions was the range of the wing. The same 4.2 m wing worked perfectly fine in 16 mph averages and in 30 mph gusts. With windsurfing sails, the same range would typically require 3 different sizes - at least. Windfoiling, I could probably get away with just one sail (a 5.0), but the 16 mph are close to the low end, and in 30 mph gusts, things would start to get quite "interesting", and crashes would become more frequent. But on the wing, Nina felt perfectly comfortable over the entire range. Power can be controlled very easily with the wing, it seems - and since the power is not transmitted over the rig towards the front of the board, adjusting power does not lead to the board going up or down, which tends to happen when sheeting out or in while windfoiling.

So at some point in the future, I'll probably have to try this wing thing myself. I don't think it will happen with the 4.2 wing - I'd need a lot of wind, which would also mean a lot of chop at Kalmus, so I'd just be falling off the board all the time. But besides that, Nina would want to use the wing herself, and preferably with the JP SUP (at least until she gets better and may want a much smaller board). So we'll probably have to wait until we get a second wing - a bigger one for Nina's light wind fun, and for me in somewhat stronger winds. 



Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Sleeves Come Off

This spring on Cape Cod has been a bit chilly, but that's finally over. The water in the middle of Nantucket Sound now shows temps of 60F, and it feels warmer near shore. Time for 2 mm short sleeve suits! That's what I used yesterday for a 2 hour foil session, and it was warm enough - despite plenty of crashes and a few times where I had to wait for wind when waterstarting. Here are the tracks:

The wind would not have been great for windsurfing, dropping from 22 to 14 and then going back up for 20 for a little while. But the foil has a larger range, so I was fine on the 5.0 the entire time, with just a couple of minutes of shlogging when the wind was lowest. Nina eventually joined me in Hyannisport Harbor, and really liked the flat water. She did a few nice foil jibes, including a duck jibe that she planed through, and almost foiled through. I worked on my tacks, after seeing how foil racers can actually plane through tacks. I did not get anywhere close to planing through, but it still felt cool to carry a couple of knots through the entire turn.

With the wind playing the typical early-summer up-and-down games, we've been foiling a lot, and it has been a blast. One time when I was just getting going on the foil, a kite surfer was coming my way. When he saw me, he pretty much came to a dead stop to let me get going, even though we where at least 300 feet away from each other. Probably not necessary, but a very nice gestures, and much appreciated. Thanks!