Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cold feet or: Freud lives!

It was just too windy to stay home today. Looking at the wind readings, Fogland seemed the best place to go to: low twenties at first, then jumping to high twenties, but a lot less variation than other spots except Chapin. Since my wife did not want to go, I just put a board and a few sails in the car, instead of taking the trailer.

When I arrived, there were three windsurfers and two kiters in the bay. The guy I talked to was on a 4.7, Igor was on a 5.3, so I rigged the 5.0. When I was done rigging, I discovered that I had forgotten my boots! I don't mind windsurfing when air and water are both around 50 Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celcius), but I like to have warm feet. I had brought my neoprene socks that I usually wear inside my booties, so I decided to go for it, anyway.

The wind had picked up by now, and I started with a nice catapult when the first gust hit (later learned that it was gusting up to 39 mph). The chop in the NNW wind was rather high for a flatwater surfer like me - quite different from the flat water I usually see in Fogland during SW winds. I did not really get comfortable, and slipped on the board a few times when turning and starting. With the added time in the water, I was not quite sure if my feet were painfully cold, or if I had lost feeling in my toes - maybe both.

After surfing back in and slipping some more on the next run, I decided to call it a day. Had I had my boots, I would have rigged the 4.2, and tried some more - the wind was still picking up, with gusts to 44 mph. Real bummer - I was hoping to set some personal speed records. Would have worked, too, despite the chop and a board that was too large for the conditions (Screamer 116): in the first run, my top speed was 45 km, even though I never really got dialed in! Barely hanging on is more a more accurate description. But after getting used to the conditions switching to a smaller sail, 55 or 60 kmh should have been possible .. oh well.

So I got home early, and decided to stow the gear away for the winter. This had been the second not-so-great windsurf day in a row - and we'll be in the Caribbean in a few weeks. Forgetting the shoes today was a Freudian slip that should not be ignored..

Here's a few things to-do things I put on my list for the next season:
  1. Bring your boots!
  2. If it's really windy, bring the trailer (or at least the small board).
  3. Surf more in chop! Bonaire, Fogland, and Duxbury are all very nice, but heavy chop is rather different, and requires some practice. We need to sail more in Kalmus, Ned's, Fogland during NW, and Duxbury during SW - or maybe go back to Cabarete for summer vacations.
A great fall season it was, though, with 18 sessions since September 22.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Da Da Da (Downhaul Right!)

I have been windsurfing for 30 year now, and I just discovered the right way to thread the downhaul line, after doing it wrong for many years... To my defense, I learned rigging at the time of the original windsurfer, before we had all these fancy pulleys - but I had pulleys in the sail and the mast extension for more than 10 year, and always threaded the line wrong, until I stumbled on this great instruction video on the "Lost in Hatteras" blog.

Funny how much easier downhauling is if the lines are not twisted. Maybe now I have a chance to downhaul my NP V8 8.5 m sail somewhere close to the specs; so far, I've never been able to get closer than 3 inches without snapping lines.

Thanks for the video, Andy (McKinney, not Brandt, for a change), and for teaching me a little humility :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three Great Days at Duxbury

I windsurfed each of the last 3 days in Duxbury - great days with wind averages from 20 to 25 knots. I ended with improved jibes and tacks, three new personal bests for speed, and a broken boom tail end.

Wednesday, 11/11/09: Jibes, tacks, gloves
We had the day off because of Veteran's Day. The forecast called for N to NE winds, so we decided to go to Duxbury in the morning. Only problem were the tides - low tide at 12:30, so we had to get up at 7:30. It was rather chilly at the beach - about 7 degrees Celsius, with wind in the upper twenties (mph). It was almost 11 before we actually started surfing. We chose the north side of Powder Point bridge, and water was getting pretty low. We ended up running aground a few times, and having to wade through muck - juck! However, the wind was just perfect: averages around 27, lulls of 23, gusts of 32. Rarely, if ever, did I surf more constant wind.

I started working on flipping my sail earlier in my jibes. I had thought a bit why I slowed down so much during my jibes (even when planing through), and the late sail flip seemed the most likely culprit. I remembered a clinic in Margarita, where the Tom Mastbaum stated that an earlier sail flip made the biggest different. I tried it, and it worked - I was quite amazed how much more speed I was able to carry through the turn. GPS analysis showed that I got the best jibe score ever on the 120l Nova (52%), and in my best jibe, the minimum speed was 23 kmh - a nice improvement. The strong wind certainly helped. Looking at the GPS tracks, you can see that the jibe entry was nice and smooth, but that there is room for improvement after the sail flip. Still, I had a lots of fun. I also improved my alpha racing personal best by10% in the run with the best jibe - without even focusing on speed.

As the water was getting lower, I found that I had to tack on the bridge side to avoid the shallows. My planing tacks on big boards like my Techno 293 are good, but I often had problems on the 120l board. But I remembered by ABK lessons from last year, and switched sides while still fully planing. So much easier - no more problems with nose or tail dives! I ended up with a close to 100% success rate on the tacks.

We had to stop after one hour, because the water levels where getting to low; we could actually see the ground for about half of the bay. As I was sailing back towards the bridge, at a distance from the shore that I thought was safe. Going about 40 kmh and just getting ready to slow down, the board suddenly ran aground and stopped, while I kept going. My wife was watching and said it looked pretty dramatic - I thought it was a lot of fun. The landing was soft, and for once, I was glad abou the muck. Water depth was just 4 inches where I had landed. Time to go home.

My wife had run aground a bunch more times, so she did not have as much fun, and said maybe that would be the last time surfing for her this year. She had tried out her modifications to the Neil Pryde gloves: she had cut out the Neoprene on the inner side of the fingers on one hand, and on the fingers and the palm on the other hand. This was based on a recent visit at Inland Sea, where we had seen palmless gloves, and chatted about them with Phil. I had also seen a post on the iWindsurf forum, describing the same idea. Worked beautifully; while she had barely been able to hold the boom and mast before in these gloves, she had no problem at all now.

Thursday, 11/12/09: Long distance speed
Another day that looked great in the forecast. Winds were blowing above 20 when I got up at 6, so when I dropped my daughter off at the commuter rail, I had the trailer hooked up, and was at Duxbury at 7:30 am. The wind came from a more easterly direction, so I sailed on the south side of the bridge, close to the far shore, where the water is nice and calm. I was fully powered on my 7.0 Matrix, but the wind was clearly below 30. Since the south side of Duxbury bay allows for long runs, I decided to go for long-distance personal speed records - nautical mile and 1 hour. My first 10 or so jibes were dry and ok, but then I started getting too many spinouts. I figured I had caught some grass and decided to tack to get rid of it. I got rid of the grass, but lost the rhythm, and fell during the next jibe. Still, I improved both my nautical mile and 1-hour personal bests. The one hour average went up from 27 to 33 kmh, which improved my ranking on GPS speedsurfing from about 800 to about 400 (of ~1700 sailors) - nice. Only drawback was that I was sailing alone - my wife had a belt test the next day, and did not want to be sore.

Friday, 11/13/09: Boom!
Winds were in the upper 20s again, and northeasterly. I started later, staying on the south side again. This time, I rigged a North Natural 6.2. Had not sailed this sail much, and needed a while to adjust the harness lines. Tried to go for short distance speed records, the wind was certainly good enough. My best average is about 46 kmh (average of five 10-second runs). I had a hard time getting faster than 47 kmh, though, and ended up with a 1 sec max of 49.68. The wind certainly would have permitted more, the water was flat - this seems to be close to the max for the 120l Nova (the best 1 sec speed I got on this board was just above 50). I had been thinking about using my wife's Mistral Screamer 116, which can go quite a bit faster. But the first time I used this board, I dinged it, which made here rather unhappy; and since it was Friday the 13th, I decided to stick to my old Nova.
For the first time in these 3 days, I saw other windsurfers on the water, coming from the far end of the bay. I decided to check it out, and sailed all the way over there - a nice 5 km run.

After about an hour, I decided to go to the North side of the bridge. After just a few runs, I ran aground in a region I though was much deeper. The board first slowed down for a few meters, then stopped completely. Getting up from the resulting fall, I discovered that the tail end of the Chinook triple clamp aluminum boom was completely bent. I had used it at close to the maximum length, but the fall had not really been that hard. Oh well - at least I broke the least expensive part of the equipment.

Looking at the GPS record, I discovered that I had improved my best for the nautical mile to 43.48 kmh - not bad for a board that seems to max out at 50. I improved a couple of hundred spots on GPS speedsurfing, but I'm still a lot further back than for 1-hour averages.
Three great days at Duxbury. Hard to understand why so few other windsurfers were out, especially on Veterans day. Learned to love my Gaastra Matrix 7.0 even more - had more fun with it on Wednesday then on the North Natural 6.2 on Friday, with very similar wind.

I started thinking about new boards. Andy Brandt said it's time for a freestyle board to start new style tricks. I'd also be interested in something faster than my trusty old Nova 120. Looked a bit for dedicated speed boards, but they seem to be hard to come by in the US. After paying for a gold membership on GPS speedsurfing and doing some searches by board brand, I discovered that I should be able to go faster on three of the boards we have. Both the AHD and the Mistral Screamer have been clocked at 60 kmh top speeds, and JP Freestyle Wave boards in the 90l range have been clocked at around 65 kmh. Looks like I picked the wrong board on Friday!

Last year, I stopped windsurfing in October, and still remember being cold the last couple of times I went. This year, after a modest investment in a better wetsuit and a few other things, I was comfortably warm while windsurfing in October and November. I think this really helps getting better. This time of the year, I only go when the wind is likely to be great, which happens often enough. That means smaller sails and smaller boards - I don't even consider using my largest sail or board, which I usually have to sail in the summer to get going. With all the practice, I have become quite comfortable on the smaller board. I may end a day thinking that my jibes stunk - but they usually were dry > 90% of the time, and the jibe scores on a "bad" day are still better than the scores I got on the same board during the summer. Can't wait to play around in Tobago and Bonaire again, where the warm shallow waters encourage risk taking. We just signed up for an ABK camp in Bonaire early next year - hope to see you there!