Monday, April 23, 2012

Hatteras Recap

Cruising along 3 miles from shore, fully powered on my favorite board  and 7.0 m sail, I finally spot glassy smooth water. Going downwind for a speed run, hitting 30 mph in 20-25 mph winds, broad smile on my face - and then my 29 cm weed fin hits a sand bar hard, I get catapulted into the sail, everything comes to a very sudden stop.

As I get up in ankle deep water, I start to wonder if speed runs this far out, with no other windsurfer in sight, were such a smart idea. I am still a few hundred meters away from the reef, and had done a few runs a bit further upwind, always in deep enough water. Alas, the downwind run had brought me close to a little hut on stilts in the water, which I now assume marks a very shallow spot. Looking at my gear, I notice a long rip in the largest panel of my sail, but everything else looks fine. The sail can be repaired at home, no big deal. I walk out of the shallows and sail back to the shore, still nicely powered despite the rip in the sail. Only a day later will I discover that my boom has suffered, too - one arm is bent, and Naish Hawaii "generously" offers to send a replacement boom for $419 + shipping.

Not noticing the boom damage at first, I switch to a larger board (my Skate 110) and a smaller (5.7) sail, and have fun for another hour or so. However, I now stay near shore, where about 50-80 other windsurfers and the deeper water create lots of chop that's mostly to irregular for chop hops. But being a bit underpowered on a freestyle board has a nice feeling to it.
The next day was only the second day that we did not get any decent winds, so we packed up and left a day early. For me, this was the first time in more than 20 years that I had taken a 3-week vacation. At the end of our typical 7-10 day vacations, leaving usually hurts; but this time, I actually got bored cruising around on my big gear, and was ready to head back home. We had sailed 14 days in a row, with just one day being a light wind day. I had used sails from 4.0 to 8.5, but mostly 5.7-5.8s, and had sailed a total of more than 1000 km (630 miles). With mostly SW and N winds, we never got a day with lots of wind and really flat water for speed runs, or a chance to try the speed strip next to Gull Island. However, conditions for distance sailing were decent, and we set new personal bests for total distance, nautical mile, and 1 hour averages. Not bad, but not quite as much fun as learning new stuff during an ABK Camp. But we did get to meet lots of old friends, and make new friends, always a great thing.

Here are a few pictures from the trip:
A typical Hatteras sunset

View from the balcony

Light wind practice

Relaxing outside

Nice to see many windsurfers out

Our home for the last week

Lots of dolphins in the ocean

Nina trying to catch a wave

SUP freestyle?

Dean showing how it's done

Sunset paddle with beer

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nina's World Record

Yesterday was long distance day here in Hatteras. I was hoping to sail 24 hours, but the wind did not play along. When I wanted to start at midnight, the wind was marginal - 14-17 mph. I went out with my 8.5 and 117 l slalom board, doing short runs since I was the only one on the water and had not marked the various staked and scaffolds in the water. After 90 minutes, the wind dropped below the planing threshold - time to get some sleep.

We got up early in the morning, but had to wait for the wind to pick up. I was back on the water shortly past 8 am on the same gear; Nina joined me soon on a 5.7 / 100 l Skate combo, and Dean showed up a bit later, too. Nina was aiming for the #1 spot in the individual distance ranking for women on the GPS Team Challenge, which stood at 172 km. She sailed straight through for 5 hours before taking a lunch break. I sailed about the same time, but with two small breaks to drink something.

In the afternoon, the wind picked up, and so did the chop. I downsized to my Hawk 95 with a KA Koncept 5.8, Nina switched to the Goya One 77 with a 5.0 Ice sail. She would have preferred something smaller (4.0 would have been enough), but did not feel like re-rigging, so she held on. I don't know how she did it - I have having my hands full with my cambered 5.8 m sail, and I outweigh her by 50%. The chop was a bit brutal, and even the flats were not very flat anymore. Nina sailed another 3 1/2 hours for a total of 202 km - here is the woman's individual ranking for distance on the GPS Team Challenge:
Yes, that is my lovely wife right on top of the rankings! At least by the Team Challenge sailors, this is considered a World Record:
My distance for the day was 270 km (168 miles), barely more than what Nina sailed. I had to take several breaks in the afternoon, and stopped early because (a) I did not feel in control in the chop anymore, and (b) we had an invitation to dinner at the neighbor house where Mike Burns, Chris Eldrige, Chachi, and the Feddersen's reside. That was enough to reclaim the US distance title from Dean:
This probably will be short lived, since Dean sailed well into the dark; however, he was pouting at me when he came in, and refused to tell us his total distance, or share his GPS files. Well, the 270 km are also good enough for the #3 spot in the distance rankings for 2012, where 595 sailors have posted so far:
I did not realize how close I was to the #2 spot - one more run out to the reef would have been possible.. but the #1 spot was out of my reach yesterday.

Nina's World Record distance and my distance were enough to get the Fogland Speedsurfers the #1 spot in the distance rankings for the month:
The month is only half over, so other teams may still push us down a bit - but for now, we are happy (and still have hope that the total will go up when Dean posts).

In the process, both Nina and I also improved out personal bests for the nautical mile and 1 hour - not bad for a day of sailing :-)

So, you may ask, how are we feeling today? Well, surprisingly good! No blisters (despite wearing no gloves), no problems walking, and my back that has given me problems recently is feeling better than it has for a week. The tendons in my lower arms are protesting a bit since I just could not keep all my weight in the harness at all times in the chop, but that will go away. Nina's feet hurt a bit, maybe because she sailed the whole afternoon on an 18 cm freestyle fin; and her back is a bit sore (she used a waist harness the entire day). But that won't keep us from sailing today! Something different today - probably freestyle, since we have some of the best amateur freestylers on the East Coast there on the water to inspire us.

That's that for now. Congratulations again to the gorgeous, world record holding Nina!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sunny & light

That's the view from my balcony right now - quite a crowd of windsurfers on the water on a warm and sunny day. I'd usually be out there with them, but the soft beds here have screwed up my back a bit, so I'm taking it easy. The wind is supposed to pick up all afternoon, and I'll be out there later. That will be an improvement over yesterday, when walking hurt, and I stayed off the water completely. Nina did go out on here "big" gear - a 100 l Skate and a 5.7 wave sail, and she was planing almost the whole time, when many others were going slow and getting frustrated. The freestylers tried to get going on their 5 m sails without much success - well, they do have a few pounds on Nina. After they gave up, Nina just had to show them a nice planed-though duck jibe right on front of their houses. It seemed most of them did not recognize her due to her bright red hair :-)

The day before yesterday was similar, with just a few guys on big slalom gear planing consistently. Nina did light wind the entire time and made her first light wind duck tack - nice! Before that, though, we had a couple of very windy days: 3.7 and 4.5 for Nina, 4.0 (fully powered!) and 5.7 for me. It was quite a bit colder, with north or northwest winds and a lot of chop. The windier of the two days was quite challenging for me - I guess I sailed too much in flat water recently. It took a couple of hours and some equipment adjustments to get comfortable in these conditions.

The wind forecast for the next few days looks mediocre, with 20+ mph winds only early in the morning or shortly before sunset. However, the weekend promises to bring strong SW winds and warm temperatures all day Sunday - so there's something to look forward to.

Friday, April 6, 2012


It's 1 pm, blowing 30 mph, and none of the 5 windsurfers in the house is out to sail - we must be in Hatteras! After one big-gear day two days ago, we had a great day with mid- to upper 20s, gusting into low 30s, yesterday, so most of us are still a bit sore. Yesterday's theme was distance, and we ended up with 5 new personal bests between Nina, Dean, and myself. After sailing 190 km in about 8 hours, Dean reclaimed the #1 spot for distance in the USA on the GPS Team Challenge - here are his tracks:

Since most of our recent sailing had been on flat water, it took me quite a few hours to adapt to the Hatteras chop, and I had no change getting anywhere close to Dean's speed or total distance. After sailing about 100 km, I had to stop because my legs muscles were burning too much, but that was enough to get us a #2 spot among 36 teams in the distance ranking on GPSTC for the month :) We are also ranked #3 in the 1 hour ranking, and #8 overall - the best we've even been. Of course, its early in the month, and many other teams will improve their numbers - but we have have a few more days down here, too. I'm dying to see what a downwinder would do to our 1 hour averages...

Even Nina got into the speed spirit yesterday. She set two new PBs, improving her distance by 25%. At a cost, of course - she limited her freestyle to just a few shove it and 360 tries. Maybe she'll try a bit more today, although the averages have just picked up to 30 mph.