Monday, August 23, 2010

Fall storm toy

Supposedly, it's still summer, but windsurfing today sure felt like fall, with temperatures in the 60s, rain - and Nor'easter winds in the low 30s, gusting up to 40. Great day to try out the new toy I bought yesterday for fall storms: a Mistral Edge slalom board, ca. 1997, 92 l and 53.5 cm "wide".

For buying this board, I'll have to put the blame on Cesar, who has convinced almost everyone who surfs in Fogland that they should own a speed board, or better a whole bunch of speed boards. Ok, I love going fast, and my old Bic Nova 120 really does not want to go faster than 50 kmh. I'd love to get an iSonic, Tabou Manta, or Fanatic Falcon, but I'm about $2K short. So when Nina saw the Mistral Edge for $125 on Craigslist, I checked the top speed it has logged on 65 kmh, fast enough for the next step up. Picked it up yesterday, and surfed it today. We picked Duxbury, since E-NE winds tend to be stronger and more consistent there than at most other places, and since the bay has a few protected spots for speed runs.

The board is almost ancient and pretty heavy (the in-flight adjustable mast track alone can probably hold 2 pounds of water). But for really windy days, heavy is not necessary bad. We left when the wind averages were about 26 mph; but when we arrived, the wind had dropped to 22, so I started out with my 7.0 Matrix. Sure enough, the wind picked up again, and the 7.0 was definitely too big. I switched down to a 5.5 Matrix, which had me fully powered; later, when the wind picked up even more, I was overpowered on it.

Sailing the Edge was surprisingly easy. It feels quite different than newer boards, but required little adjustments. My biggest problem was the super-smooth surface, which made me slip a few times, until I discovered that only 2 front foot positions were safe: against the mast base, and in the straps. That cramped my style when getting going a bit, but fortunately, Duxbury makes it easy to do mile-long runs before turning around. When I did turn around, the board amazed me again by being easy to turn, and keeping a lot of speed. I'll need a few more days before my jibes on it are pretty, but at least I got a few dry ones in.

Here are the GPS tracks from today:

The picture shows the setup for speed runs quite nicely. Since I was not 100% comfortable, I did not get as close to shore as possible. This limited my speed a bit, and it also limited how deep downwind I went. Nevertheless, I set new personal bests for 1, 2, and 10 seconds, average speed, and 100, 250, 500, and 1852 m runs. The improvements were just 2-3 kmh, but still - rather nice for the first day on a new (albeit rather old) board. I should have gone out for a few runs on Nina's 4.2 sail at the end, though, when the 5.5 was way too big - I missed my average speed ( 5 x 10 sec) goal of 50 kmh by 0.37 kmh! Just one more nice run over 50 kmh would have done the trick... Still, lots of fun - so today's thanks go to Cesar!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

15 days in Cabarete

We just came back from 15 days of windsurfing in Cabarete. This was my 9th trip to Cabarete, but the first time I went in August. Overall, this was a very nice trip, even though the wind was not quite as good as expected. Here's a breakdown:
  • 3 very nice days (5.7 - 6.1 m sails)
  • 8 good days (6.9-7.4 m)
  • 3 light wind days
  • 1 no-wind, rainy day
Here's a short boom cam video from two of the very nice days:

(You can see the HD version on Facebook, but you need to be logged in).

On previous summer trips, which always were earlier in the summer (June - July), I remember a lot more days on smaller sails and boards - 5.x m sails being common, and 4.x sails for some days. And the difference is indeed the wind, not my weight (which has not changed, while my skills have improved a bit).

We rented our equipment at Vela, as usual. They had a selection of Starboard Futuras and Kodes, as well as the full range of JP Wave boards, from small quads to 112 l FSW. They also had JP Xcite rides and beginner boards, and 3 Tabou boards. The boards were a mix of 2009 and 2010 models, although generally in good shape. Missing in comparison to previous years were slalom-oriented boards like the JP SuperSports or Starboard iSonics. Considering the many days of marginal conditions, that was a bit of a bummer. I ended up using the Tabou Rocket 64 (115 l) a lot, since it was the closest to a fast, early planing board. I tried the JP Futuras a few times, too, but I still don't like them. When the Futuras plane (which they did early enough, thanks to huge fins), they are ok - but they are a pain to schlog, and are missing the intermediate gears that boards like the JP Excite Rides and the Tabou have.

Sails were all Neil Pryde, from 8.2 and 7.7 m Hellcats (one each) to 7.4 and 6.9 m Excess (several each) to Fireflys and other smaller sails. Except for the largest sails on marginal days, getting a sail of the wanted size was usually not a problem. I noticed that the booms on the new sails were all X3 booms, which looked a bit flimsy.

A definitive highlight of the trip where the Vela instructors. Nina's sister, who windsurfed for the first time again after a 10-year break, was in good hands with Alex, and improved a lot. Nina and I took a few lessons with Neil, and were also very happy. I did not manage to complete a carving 360 (the topic of my lesson), largely because the conditions were not quite right. I did get a few tips that I could use right away, though - for example, moving the front foot to the outside of the board when trying to get planing. I have no clue why, but it works rather well, and got me going earlier. Neil has a great way of explaining things, and often pointed out little things that he had observed. Both Nina and I improved our heli tacks based on hints that he gave, and learned the push tack in light winds from one of the lessons.

Overall, we loved the trip, even though the wind could have been better. One thing that's great in Cabarete are the waves. During the summer, they tend to be small, so they are great to get started with playing in waves. While I did not get the opportunity to take a small wave board out, even playing with a 115 l board was fun. Chances of breaking equipment in Cabarete's summer waves are slim - the water over the reef is deep enough (I could barely tough the reef when I got washed), and the waves break gently, making it easy to hold on to the gear. The chop on the inside is there, but it's relatively easy to deal with - definitely not "voodoo chop". Close to shore, the water gets pretty flat, making it easy to work on jibes or new school freestyle. I did not try much, partially because I had only 3 days on small sails, but I played around a bit with chop hops and board pops. Nina caught one pop close to shore where I managed to land nose-first on camera:

On the picture, I'm still a bit too much in chop hop (outside) rather than pop (over the board) position - but at least, I got the nose down, which I have not done to often yet. Well, the windy season here is about to start, and the ABK camp in Cape Cod is coming up, so new stuff should be coming soon.