Saturday, March 10, 2012

The perfect training ground

Fogland Beach in Tiverton, Rhode Island, is one of our favorite places to windsurf in the spring and summer. So when we got two warm, sunny, and windy days last week, Fogland was were we went. With the rising temperatures, we were joined by other windsurfers both days: Tom on Wednesday, out for his first session of the year and looking good; and Jeff, Graham, and Chris on Thursday.

The northern bay in Fogland is only knee to hip deep and about 500 m wide - perfect for working on jibes and freestyle. There was plenty of ducking, popping, and sliding to be seen on Thursday - here are a few pictures (thanks to Corey for taken them!):
Nina and Chris


My lovely wife did not want me to show any pictures of her, because she felt that compared to Chris and Graham, she only did "boring" stuff. Well, she did use the two days to work on her jibes and duck jibes, and made a lot of progress in gusty conditions. GPS tracks are great to get an objective assessment of how good jibes were - and she did her best jibe ever that day. Here's the GPS track:
Her minimum speed of 10.6 knots in the jibe is very good; but even better is that she kept at least 67% of her entry speed during the entire jibe (usually, keeping 50% is pretty darn good). I filmed her a bit from the shore while I was taking a break:

Here's some GoPro HD footage, filmed with a Clew-View mount:

I just love the way she drops down and re-accelerates with a straight front leg. Her jibes are definitely better than mine now. On Wednesday, I still managed a couple of jibes with a faster minimum speed than Nina had, but only because I was going into the jibes with a lot more speed (being on a speed-oriented board with a cambered race sail, instead of a freestyle board with a waves sail as she was). But on Thursday, she easily beat my minimum speed several times. To add insult to injury, one of her fastest jibes was a cleanly planed-through duck jibe - her first. I can duck jibe, but I have yet to plane cleanly out of one...

It is pretty amazing to see the quite dramatic improvements in Nina's jibing in two days at Fogland. But one reason for these improvements is that Fogland Bay is simply a perfect training ground for jibing and freestyle. The water stayed flat, even when the wind gusted into the high 30 and low 40 mph ranges; runs are short, forcing you to jibe or try something else every minute or so; and the shallow water means you don't have to waste energy on waterstarts, or worry much about getting cold from falling often. It's also easier to come in and take breaks than at many other placing, since the distance from the shore to your car is about 20 feet.

So much for the interesting part of these two days. I was much more boring than anyone else, mostly going back and forth and trying to go fast. The one bright thing was that I got to try out my new Delta Freeride fin from Maui Ultra Fins. This fin has a radically different shape from most other fins:
It is only 18.9 cm long, and replaces a 29 cm regular weed fin, or a 32-34 cm standard fin. Here are my first impressions after 2 days of sailing it:

  • Easy to sail. Given the radically different shape, I had expected that some things would be quite different, but I did not have any noticable problems.
  • Fast. I got my second-best ever speed (30.38 knots) on this fin on the first day, and similar speeds the second day. That was despite less-than-perfect conditions: the water was so shallow that I had to sail in considerable chop, and the usual downwind speed strip on the tip of the island did not get enough wind to be fast.
  • Great to jibe. I planed through my second jibe, and might have planed through the first one if I had not jibed in a lull. On the 95 l board that I used, I'm pretty happy about every jibe I plane through, and I had a bunch of those on Wednesday, and a few on Thursday.
  • Gentle spinouts. Whenever I sail a fin first, I try to spin it out in different conditions (starting, full speed, jibing) to get a feel how much pressure the fin can take. Once planing, the Delta took about as much pressure as a 29-32 cm weed fin to spin out, which is quite good for the short depth. Spin outs were gentle, similar to weed fins, and recovery was pretty easy - much easier than with a 32 cm slalom fin.
  • No problems in chop. I have sailed a few fins that worked perfectly in flat water, but were uncontrollable in chop. The short length of the fin had me worried, so I did not venture out onto the river until the second day - but there was no need to worry. Spinouts were no problem whatsoever - the fin showed the forgiving characteristics of a much longer weed fin. But please read the update at the end of this post!
So the first impression of the fin is simply very good. With just minor adjustments to the board trim and my sailing style, it was easy to sail and fast. It seemed to be going upwind better than a large normal weed fin, but that's a guess, since I was fully powered most of the time, and did not do a head-to-head comparison. I do have a second MUF Delta fin to try, a Delta Slalom 212 (21 cm deep) for my 105 and 118 l slalom boards; I'll post here what I think about that one when I get to try it (maybe tomorrow :). But without any doubt, the Deltas from Maui Ultra Fins would be perfect for a shallow water place like Bonaire, since they can be about 30-50% shorter than other fins.
Update October 1, 2012: A few people have contacted me about the MUF Delta fin, so I need to add some more information. I did take both fins with me to a 3-week long trip to Hatteras (Avon) in the spring. I did have a lot of spinout problems with the fins in Hatteras chop, with both the 19 cm fin on my 95 l Hawk and with the 21 cm fin on my 105 l slalom board. I ended up not using the fins again after a couple of hours, since I had a lot more fun with regular weed fins. Perhaps the difference to my first test is that the chop on the river in Fogland tends to be much more orderly - it's really more swell than chop on most days. At least for me, the fin does seem to become problematic when the chop gets to big or chaotic.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review of the delta fin. I am considering getting one for my futura 101L. I gather it outperforms the weed fin. When you test the 21cm delta would it be possible to do a head to head test with a pointer or freeride fin?