Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shock to the system

We just got back from a week in Bonaire a few days ago. It was just wonderful, as usual, except that the wind was even better than before - we were planing every single day without needing big sails, and had only half a day of light winds (too little for Nina, who would have liked to practice light wind tricks for a couple of days). We met old friends and made new friends at the ABK camp, and learned a few new tricks. Here's a short video:

I finally "got" the carve 360. I had completed one a few times before, but I finally reached the point where I can do a bunch of them in a row, with a success rate above 50% - well, at least on one tack and in the flat Bonaire waters. But the most fun day was day 4 of the 5-day camp, when we finally worked on the loop. Once again, Andy's lecture (this time on the water and short) was successful in:
  1. getting everyone in the group to try the loop exercises, even at least 2 windsurfers who said they did not want to; and
  2. avoiding injuries and board damage.
On the downside, nobody in our group actually completed a loop. Conditions were not ideal - I needed a 6.1 m sail to plane, and the chop where Andy was standing was small and (for starboard jumpers like me) coming from the wrong direction. However, I did make some progress, and had several nice crashes where I was hanging under the sail, with the sail catapulting me around while being almost horizontal. In one of the crashes, the tail even broke free and the board turned around, but the nose was buried deep into the water - that was more a Gecko loop than a loop. Still, the "catapult rides" under the sail were fun, the crashes onto the back soft and painless, and I got a bit of the impression what a spin loop might feel like. More motivation to keep working at it!

One thing I noticed in both my own crashes and when watching others was that the timing was wrong. We usually get the nose out of the water nicely, and sometimes the fin, too; but rotation / catapult / nose down part almost always starts way to late, when the tail of the board (or even the entire board) is already back down in the water. I think the initial jumps are high enough, compared to completed flatwater loops I have seen live and on video; but something is missing. Nina, who was a bit frustrated with her crashes, even developed the theory that she should learn the vulcan first, since that requires learning the tail - nose exchange. I think a decent sized chop or waves would also solve the problem, since that would give more time to pull the back leg up; maybe the flatwater loop will become easier after learning the loop in higher chop first.

Coming back from the ABK camp, Nina was all fired up to keep working on tricks. So when the wind forecast for Monday looked good, with SW winds in the mid 20s and plenty of sun, we just had to get out. Yes, there was the small issues that both air and water temperatures were about 40º F (20º C) lower than a few days before in Bonaire ... but it was sunny, above freezing, and windy! We were also dying for some really flat water - Bonaire is lovely, but compared to the slicks near Kalmus, it's still choppy. Our friend Martin decided to join us, and Jeff, who will be in Bonaire soon, predicted that this would be a shock to the system.  Well, Jeff was right - but not as we expected it to be.

Since Martin did not want to join us at the Kennedy Slicks, we decided to launch at the back beach in Kalmus and sail over to Egg Island (the winds where a bit too westerly, and the chop looked to gnarly, for a front launch). Rigging and getting into dry suits and thick boots took forever, but we eventually hit the water. At the launch site, the winds are offshore and very gusty. Foolishly, we sailed in the shallow waters near the launch for a while, and soon discovered what part of our system was getting shocked: the forearms! After just sailing 5-6 hours a day for 7 days in a row, you'd think that the hands and arms are in good shape - but having to sail on gloves or mittens again was almost too much. Nina got arm cramps within a few minutes, and got out of the water. Martin and I decided to sail over to Egg Island to search for steadier winds. The crossing was easy enough, with a couple of downwind legs and a bit of walking in the shallows in front of Egg Island. We were rewarded with very flat water and steady winds - except when we sailed all the way to the far side shore, where trees and houses made the wind gusty again.

I absolutely hated sailing with 3 mm gloves, even though I had cut out parts on the insides of the fingers to reduce the resistance to bending the fingers. The feeling is just so different that I was probably gripping way to hard most of the time. But just as I was about to sail it back, Nina finally joined us, after having changed from closed mittens to open palm mitts. That inspired me to do some decent sailing, staying in the area with steady winds and keeping the jibes dry about 10 times in a row. The sail back as the sun started to go down was a bit tedious for Martin and especially for Nina. I was lucky because I was nicely overpowered on my 5.8 m race sail in 30-35 mph winds, but Nina got too close to shore and was stuck for a little while in shifting and gusty winds. Just when I had walked out to her to bring here my larger board, she finally caught a decent gust that let her sail the rest of the way in.

So - was sailing here two days after returning from Bonaire a shock to the system? Only for the forearms, I'd say. Otherwise, we were perfectly warm the entire time, and sailing the Egg Island Slicks was tons of fun. None of us really got fully into the groove, but by giving Martin a GPS and putting him on my gear for a few runs, we still managed to pick up a few spots in the GPS Team Challenge. Can't wait to sail here again when the next "warm" southwest winds come!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a lot for upsetting my Saturday morning scan of the world with jealousy.

    2 things that got under my skin

    - his and her duck jibe capability
    - sailing without a wetsuit

    plus Nina's short board tack just adds salt to the wound!