Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mechanical mast base for speed?

One thing leads to another, and sometimes, the outcome is quite unexpected. The story starts with this years East Coast Windsurfing Festival. With light winds on both days, I used my Kona Mahalo for both racing and freestyle. The Mahalo is long and big enough to work as a tandem, but it served me well enough to get a trophy for both events. Still, I got the impression that the more old-style longboards were a bit faster on the small chop we had. So two days later, I picked up a Fanatic Ultra Cat, driving 6 hours to get the board. Since the Cat has a different mast track, I had to cannibalize one of my mast feet, so I needed a new one to replace it.

Two days ago, we stopped by Sailworld Cape Cod, on our way to a SUP demo they had with Starboard on Monument Beach. I looked for a mast base, but the only single-screw base they had was mechanical. I read somewhere that mechanical bases have dead spots, so I did not want to buy it, but Jim Ballantyne quickly pointed out two advantages that the mechanical mast bases have:
  1. They make it easy to attach the rig without having to put the board on its side (and allow you to leave the board lying on it's back with the rig attached, without pushing the rig upwards).
  2. Unlike tendons and rubber joints, they have no give, which makes them great for speed: every gust is directly transferred into the board, similar to the way body tension will.
So I was sold, and the very next day, we finally got enough wind to get planing without having to use the biggest sails. Nina sailed a 5.3 the whole afternoon, and I took out my Pilot 6.5 (there still is a gap in my quiver where my beloved Matrix 7.0 used to be). It was rather gusty and up and down in Fogland, but we were planing most of the time. After about 2 months without decent wind, I stuck to speed, even though the Pilot is definitely not a speed sail - it's more of an entry-level / freestyle sail, light, powerful, and easy to rig.

I was pretty happy with the speeds around 25 knots that I got right away - it has been a while that I was this fast. Around 5 pm, though, the wind picked up, and we had gusts of 32 mph. I tightened the downhaul and outhaul a bit, and went out again. Despite being close to high tide, the water in the bay was nice and flat, making it easy to hold down the sail that would have been a bit big in chop. In one gust, I had the feeling that I was almost blown off the water - I think that is when I hit my top speed of  the day, 29.2 knots (54 km/h). I was quite amazed when I saw this top speed. It's not much to serious speedsurfers, but pretty fast for my standards. I have only 10 sessions where I have sailed faster, and that usually was under much better conditions and on more speed-oriented gear. That the 6.5 Pilot handled this much wind, and delivered this speed, still amazes me. The GPS tracks show that I hit the top speed at almost 90 degrees to the wind, not at a deep downwind run. The downwind speed runs I made were not nearly as fast, since I did not catch a good gust once while going downwind. 

Looking at the results, I have to conclude that the mechanical mast base is a great thing for speedsurfing. I have not done any side-by-side tests where I switched back and forth between mast bases, but such a test would require steadier winds, anyway. On the other hand, they can't be too steady, since one of the advantages of the mechanical base is the direct translation of gusts into speed. But doing this test is high on my to-do list.

A second part of my equipment yesterday that also performed really well yesterday was the fin - a 39 cm Tangent Dynamics Reaper weed fin. I always loved the smaller (26-32 cm) Reaper fins for my other boards, but for the slalom boards, I tried several other weed fins first, including a ~ 43 cm Curtis Race fin, a Select weed fin, and a MUF delta. On all these fins, I had problems going upwind or spinouts, and sometimes both. In contrast, the 39 cm Reaper has performed beautifully on my 71 cm wide Warp 117. I had no problems going upwind even when barely powered on an 8.5, and no problems whatsoever when powered on the 6.5. Spinouts where very rare, even in chop, almost requiring concentrated efforts to produce. Spinout recovery was surprisingly easy for a relatively large fin. One or two smaller sizes for windier days are definitely on my wish list.

I have to thank Jim from Sailworld Cape Cod for both the mechanical mast base and the TD Reaper fin (Tangent Dynamics is his own brand). I hope he can join us to sail in Fogland sometime soon on a windy day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Maybe it's my fault

Windsurfers up here in the northeast US are getting pretty frustrated - it has been a long time since we have had really good winds. There have been a few weekends where some lighter guys like Dani were able to plane on big slalom gear, but it seems it has been ages since we had a day with wind in the 20s.

Superstitious as any old windsurfer, I am starting to suspect that it may be my fault. The lack of wind has not bothered me, since I did not really have much opportunity to make it to the water in the last two months. The few times we sailed, like at the ECWF, I was perfectly happy with light winds. My theory is that the wind gods are rewarding and helping me - rewarding for sailing in light wind, and helping by keeping the better winds much further down south (OBX and Texas seemed to have a lot of good days) so that I was able to concentrate on moving closer to the water.

We have spent most of our weekend time in the past few months with getting our house ready for sale and related tasks. The work has paid off - we got a nice offer for the house within 5 days after putting it on the market, and it looks like the sale will actually happen. We have looked at houses near Hyannis on Cape Cod a bit, and will be driving down again in the next couple of days. The windsurf gear will stay at home again!

From what we have seen on our first visit and on the web, we'll be able to find a nice house within a 10 minute drive from Kalmus. Getting much closer makes little sense - the houses right at the ocean cost at least 10-fold more, and anything a bit further back would require a drive, anyway. And while we will probably sail a lot at Kalmus, Lewis Bay, and the Kennedy Slicks, we will also be driving to other places in northerly winds. Being closer to Kalmus would only make these drives longer.

Our hope is to find a place that we really like by the end of this week. Banks need a bit longer these days to approve the mortgage, but if everything goes ok, we should be able to move to Cape Cod in September. The last couple of years, we had plenty of wind from September through December, and this year should be at least as good - all the wind that's not showing up now has to blow sometime! Fall is the best time, anyway: the water is still warm until the beginning of December, the beaches are empty, and the boats are off the water, so that Hyannis Port Harbor transforms back into the Kennedy Slicks. Who knows, maybe we'll even find a house with a jacuzzi to warm up after winter windsurf sessions - or perhaps we'll install a sauna. One thing that's certain, though, is that the house will have a guest room for visiting family and windsurfer friends. Hope to see you all on the Cape soon!