Monday, March 8, 2010

ABK Camp Bonaire 2010

We back from 8 days of windsurfing in Bonaire, with a 5-day ABK camp. Still trying to get the energy level back to normal after the typical post-vacation cold & sadness, this time worsened by coming back to a flooded basement...

The camp was, as usual, great. We knew about half of the 15 campers from previous camps, and it was nice to meet old friends and make new ones. The two days before the camp and the first 2 days of camp were low wind - barely planeable on large gear on Tuesday. The wind finally picked up on Wednesday, which was a missed blessing - instead of taking the afternoon off to recover, we went sailing all afternoon. I paid for it on Thursday and Friday, when my legs refused to do what I wanted.

For my wife, the camp was a great success. In addition to a few light wind tricks, she learned the Power Jibe. Her non-planing pivot jibe had been ok before the clinic, but she had tried starting a jibe planing only a few times. She got her first jibes the first day we could plane, and at the end of the week, she had a success rate near 100% on one side, and close to 50% on the other side. She did not quite plane through, but she usually kept at least some speed. All that on a 98 l or 107 l freestyle board (at home, she has sailed 116 l and 135 l boards). Very nice progress, thanks to the great teaching of Andy, Derek, and Brendon. Here's a video of one of her earlier jibes:

My own progress was less impressive. In light wind, I learned to do an upwind 360 with board steering (I had done some with sail steering in really light wind before, but sail steering did not work anymore when the wind picked up to almost planeable). When the wind picked up, we first worked on the flip jibe, which is well suited for the big sails we had to use. I almost got it, but just almost. In the next session, the wind had picked up a bit, so we tried carving 360s. Again, I almost got it, but always fell in the last part. To my defense, I was on a 105 l freestyle board for the first time - at home, I usually use a 120 l board with a big fat fin. Getting used to the freestyle board took a couple of hours, since my usual approach of pushing the fin to get going does not work with 22-26 cm freestyle fins. Once I got used to the freestyle boards, though, I loved them, and did not want to sail anything else (except for a 135 l SSX a couple of times when I needed a big board & sail to plane).

I sailed two freestyle board, a HiFly 105 l Twinstyle with 22 cm fins and a JP 2010 107 l with one 26 cm fin. The HiFly was my favorite, hands down. The shorter fins were great at low tide, where the JP sometimes scratched the ground. The twin-fin spinouts were also a lot softer and easier to correct than the single-fin spinouts. Why do they still make single-fin small boards? Seems like almost everything for waves now has 2 or more fins. But I preferred either board to all other boards there, as long as the wind was strong enough (18 knots) to let me plane on a 6.5 m sail. The freestyle boards are just ridiculously easy to sail, and jibe very nicely. Took me a few tries to tack them, but that eventually worked ok, too.

The last couple of days, I worked on chop hops and loop pre-exercises. According to Andy, I got the board about 2 feet up into the air on my not-so-good side, but that did not really feel like much at all. The other side felt quite a bit better. The loop pre-exercises were basically pivot jibes in the straps, first non-planing and then almost or barely planing. We discussed the various approaches to the loop at camp. Two or three windsurfers at camp had gotten injured trying to do the loop by crashing onto their equipment - injuries that took several months to heal. Andy pointed out that the pre-loop exercise from the Tricktionary promotes 2 bad habits that can actually increase the chances that you end up on your board: 1. moving the sail forward instead of towards the water on the windward side, and 2. jumping towards the front/leeward side.

With three booked windsurf trips in the next few months, hurting myself in a bad loop attempt would be extremely stupid, so I decided to stick with the safe, but slower, approaches that Andy and Remko have outlined. I did not get further than step 2 of the 4 steps, and did not yet connect the flat water hop with the pre-exercise. Part of it was lack of energy after too many borderline days. I'll have to pick it up again in better conditions in Cape Cod, Maui, Hood River, or Cabarete later this spring and summer.

Needless to say, I did not make any progress on trying Grubbies or Flakas vs. Vulcans. One thing that impressed me a lot was a slow-motion Flaka by one of the Danish blondes near the beach, though. She barely jumped the board, turning it perhaps 30 degrees, and pushed it around the rest of the way, at minimal speed. Not impressive for its fanciness, but very impressive as a move where you can't get hurt.

The one thing that I did try a couple of times was taking the front foot out of the footstrap at the beginning of the jibe. On the 79 cm wide JP SSX 135, which has the straps all the way to the outside, putting the foot into the middle seemed natural. However, it felt bad during the jibe, much less comfortable than in the strap. Perhaps because I've done hundreds or thousands of jibes with the front foot in the strap, and just a few with it out. I'll try a few more Spennie's way, but I think I'll probably stick to jibing with the front foot in the straps.