Friday, May 25, 2012

ABK Camp Long Island

We spent the last weekend on Long Island for 3 days of great windsurfing.

Short version:
Lots of fun at a 3-day ABK camp. Great weather, light wind freestyle for  half the time, planing tricks the other half. I finally understood the importance of waterline steering for upwind 360s, and got comfortable with duck jibes, even planing out a few times. Nina picked up a 90 l Skate, did most of here light wind tricks on it, and worked on a couple of new things. Great spot, well worth the trip from Boston!

Long version:
Our initial reason for going had been to pick up a used 90 l Skate freestyle board that Nina was buying, but we decided to join the ABK Camp while we were there. That turned out to be a great decision, because the camp was wonderful. The weather played along wonderfully, with three days of sunshine and temperatures around 70 degrees (20 C). Nina had hoped to get some light wind freestyle practice during the camp, and she got it on the first day and for most of the second day. For part of day 2 and most of day 3, we got enough wind to plane - just barely on day 2, except for about 2 hours around lunch break, but nicely powered for several hours on day 3.

At the introductions at the beginning of the first day, we learned that this camp was a bit unusual for Long Island. Instead of mostly consisting of very advanced windsurfers, we had a colorful mix, ranging from several beginners who had never sailed, to intermediates who had never taken an ABK camp before, to a couple of expert freestylers working on Vulcans and Spocks. Seeing the mix made me quite happy - it is always great to see new windsurfers discover ABK camps, and to watch their rapid progress during camp; but I was just as happy to have several windsurfers in the camp who where clearly better than me.

The short morning session on day one was just to warm up, and get used to light wind freestyle again. I clearly needed that - my heli tacks and upwind 360s were quite poor, and at one point, I managed to hit myself hard on the nose when my hand slipped from the outhaul. I needed a few minutes to recover from that, and one of the teachers (Christopher) who had never seen me sail before volunteered tips for uphauling, adding insult to injury. I know he was meaning well, and my wobbly acrobatics before probably looked quite beginner-like... but I decided to sail away and warm up on my own afterwards.

After the lunch break, the wind had picked up, and I was ready to sail closer to Andy Brandt for some feedback. My first attempts at heli tacks and upwind 360s were quite terrible: with the stronger winds, my attempts to steer the boards with the sail resulted in lots of crashes. That ended to be out perfect - with a few tips from Andy, I ended up understanding the advantages of water line steering quite well. By simply shifting the weight to the back foot and sinking the tail instead of moving the sail forward, the board turns much quicker and on a much smaller radius. When pushing the clew through the wind at the end causes the sail to power up, that power is immediately translated in a rapid 90-degree turn of the board - nice! I think I finally started to understand what Andy has been trying to hammer into my head for during several camps...

During the rest of the afternoon and the morning of the second day, I re-learned the clew-first upwind 360. I really like this move, I think it teaches a lot about sail and water line control. Only the duck version of it is a bit disappointing. But we also played with the no-handed clew first heli tack, another cool move. I had some success with it pretty quickly, although I'll need to work on the sail throw.

After attending more than 10 ABK camps, I have heard most of the advanced lessons, many of them more than once. So I was pleasantly surprised when Andy gave a lesson on back-to-back sailing that I had never heard before. I remember working on this move ages ago on the original windsurfer, but recent attempts had been not so great, even on big boards. The lesson quickly illustrated why - my entry was wrong, and I also had the wrong ideas about how to steer. When we hit the water after the lecture, however, the wind had gotten stronger, so that my attempts at back-to-back sailing failed. No problem, plenty of other things to work on.

After doing plenty of light wind ducking the day before, the natural thing to do was to work on planing duck jibes (after switching to a larger sail and fin). I had done a few dry ones before, but never really got comfortable with high-wind duck jibes. After jibing around Andy and Tom a few times, I got the necessary pointers on what to change. The first thing was the entry/initiation. I can do a nice entry into regular jibes, but as soon as I do anything else (like duck jibes or 360s), I tend to mess the entry up, without noticing it myself. That was easy to fix - on to the next problem. I had heard the duck jibe lecture many times from Andy, Derek, and Tom, so I knew that I should not lean back or duck ... but I did it anyway. Once Tom pointed out that I was using my body weight to pull the sail back, rather than my arms, that was easily fixed, and I planed through the first time! A couple of later jibes were even nicer, although most jibes still ended up with a hook at the end - but they were mostly dry, and I started having fun doing duck jibes :-)

Another great ABK Camp where we learned a few things that make windsurfing more fun - I can't wait for the Cape Cod camp in September!