Saturday, February 16, 2013

New distance record, winter freestyle, and a new school simulator

The picture above shows the Australian speedsurfer Kato on his way to setting a new world record for distance: 552.66 km (343 miles) in 24 hours. He actually sailed "only" about 14 hours, but beat the previous record by almost 32 km. Amazing! When I was in college, that was about the distance to my parents home, and it always seemed like a long distance to me when driving it on the Autobahn!
For all those number-lovers out there, here are a few more numbers from Kato's session:
  • Top speed: 40.8 knots (47 mph, 75 km/h) (2 second average)
  • Fastest hour: 27.2 knots (50 km/h)
  • Run length: 2 - 2.5 km (a bit more than a nautical mile)
  • # of jibes: about 300
  • "Dropped" jibes: 5
  • Distance for team mate Matthew Robertson: 440 km (now 4th on the GPSTC ranking)
Kato accomplished his feat on Lake George, SA, a top speedsurfing location in Australia. In the ongoing "Lake George GPS Event 2013", no fewer than 13 windsurfers have posted top speeds of 40 knots in 2013. This spot seems to have amazingly flat water - check out this video:

Around here, things are a lot slower than down under. We had a nice sunny day yesterday, and when the Hatch Beach wind meter showed averages around 20, we decided to go sailing. Fortunately, Hardie suggested to bring the SUPs along. Indeed, as soon as we got to the beach, the wind dropped. Hardie got a couple of planing runs, but was schlogging most of the time, so SUP sailing we went. There were some small, non-breaking waves to play with, but mostly, Nina and I did some light wind freestyle. Nina looked good, working up from heli tacks to upwind 360s, push tacks, and duck tacks. She used her Ianovated suit without the tubes, and was plenty warm with open palm mittens in air temperatures around 44º F (7º C), and water temperatures around 35º F (2º C). I was a bit lazier, but did my first light-wind heli tacks, upwind 360s, and duck tacks of the year, along with plenty of falling and uphauling. I used the tubes on my Ianovated suit every time after falling to warm up my palmless mittens, and this way remained nicely warm. We played around until it started to get dark. Back at the van, we looked at each other, asking: Did we really just do light wind freestyle in February on Cape Cod? Yes, we did, and we had fun! Sitting here a day later and writing about it, this still amazes me. I'll definitely blame it on the Ianovated wetsuit - it is changing our winter windsurfing quite drastically.

Yesterday was the first time I sailed my BIC Wind SUP. It was fun to sail, eager to catch the little waves, and it seemed the board wanted to plane in the gusts. The wind was not quite strong enough to fully plane, so I can't say if the board will indeed release nicely - but it sure gave me the impression that it would (although it might want a larger fin that the 10' stock plastic fin). The GPS showed top speeds of 17 mph several times. That's an interesting speed that I almost never see with with my shortboards: they either schlog slowly at speeds below 10 mph, or jump onto a plane and accelerate to around 20 mph or more. The Wind SUP behaves more like an old-fashioned longboard, with intermediate gears and speeds for those "pesky" winds that can be frustrating on a shortboard.

One peculiar thing that I noticed on the BIC Wind SUP was that the steering was very sensitive to which edge of the board was in the water. On most boards, including the Exocet WindSUP 10, pushing the nose under water will get the board to turn downwind. On the BIC, this is only the case when the windward egde is tilted down; but when the leeward edge is tilted down, the board will want to go upwind, even when the nose if fully under water. Similarly, side-to-side foot pressure makes a big difference in how well the board turns in a non-planing jibe, much more so than on other sailable SUPs. or longer boards like the Kona Mahalo or the Fanatic Ultra Cat. With the correct edge pressure, the board turns very well for its 10' 6 length. I'm definitely looking forward to taking it out in better waves and/or more wind.
When I look outside my office window, I see lots of snow on the ground, and more coming down. But it's only a few more weeks until spring starts, and our annual Bonaire trip is coming up, too. So it's time to think about planing freestyle, and 2013 may just be the year where I get serious about new school freestyle. I doubt that I'll learn the Vulcan anytime soon - flipping the rig throws me off often enough during regular jibes and tacks, and doing it while turning the board in the air seems a bit much to me. But the  Flaka definitely peaks my interest, and the Grubby (more or less the same thing, but turning the nose of the board downwind instead of upwind in the jump) also seems like something that I might be able to get into my head. I have been discussing this via email with fellow speedsurfer and expert freestyler Nikita, and he suggested to build a simulator similar to his:

I had seen an article about it  in the Windsurfing Magazine a while back, but thought of it only as a tool for learning the Vulcan. But as Nikita pointed out, leaning very far forward is very important in all new-school tricks that include a backward slide; it's also essential for old-school tricks like upwind 360s and carve 360s in the straps. Best of all, you can practice the leaning forward without a sail, inside the living room! So I finally made use of an old wobble board I had lying around to build a new school simulator. It's not as fancy as Nikita's in the picture above, but I think it will do the trick and help me to develop the feeling how far forward I have to lean. Playing around with it a little bit, I think I got a feeling for how the dynamic forward movement of the rig in a Flaka helps to get the tail out of the water. Maybe I'll learn a few more things from using it, but I think it will definitely do one thing: make me eager to translate what I did on the simulator to a real board on the water.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Scary Nemo

Winterstorm Nemo is visiting us today and tomorrow, and the cute little guy is a bit scary (thanks to Rick Cronk for the image!). It is forecast to bring up to 30 inches (75 cm) of snow to the Boston area, together with hurricane-strength winds, coastal flooding, and power outages. Just like with Hurricane Sandy last fall, we again have two storms that are coming together to form a "superstorm". Here's the current radar image:
Well, Nor'Easters tend to bring some wind before the rain, and indeed, the forecast for this morning looked lovely:

The light red in the left image means wind in the mid-20s, the darker reds in the right image high 20s to low 30s (in mph). So - perfect wind for some flat water fun in the morning! Temperatures were forecast to be above freezing, tides were lined up right, and the snow was predicted to not start until after noon. Why would you not go windsurfing?

I admit that some windsurfers would not think of winter storm windsurfing as their idea of fun, and my lovely wife falls into this category. But my friend Hardie was in the area, and happy to join me when I proposed to sail a spot 10 minutes from his house. 

When we got to the water this morning, it looked harmless enough. Hardie had measured 24-28 mph winds on shore, and since that matched the forecast, I happily rigged my 5.8 m race sail for my 90 l slalom board. I probably should have known better, because a few things were off a bit: I was running a bit later than originally planned; the spot usually has a wind shadow near shore, so the wind on the water probably already was in the low 30s, going up; and the wind was a bit more southerly than forecast, which was the wrong direction for the speed strip I wanted to use. But windsurfers have to be optimists...

Hardie made it out onto the water before I did, and came back to report that he was "totally overpowered" on a 5.2 and his 90 l FSW board. But he had a big grin on his face, and went right back out. My 5.8 was a bit bigger, but race sails are made for lots of wind, right? That we had lots of wind became clear when I tried to get going, and the wind picked up the board a couple of times to turn it around in the air. Perhaps that was a sign, too, that I ignored. Well, I finally made it out, but before I could get settled in, I had a spinout, followed by a two minute swim to my gear. The water was just above freezing, and swimming with open palm mittens in water that cold is really no fun. After getting back to my gear, a break to warm up the hands some more was in order.

I gave the slalom gear one more try and sailed over to where the flat water was supposed to be. It did indeed get a bit flatter, but I had been hoping for "chitter-chatter" water; with the bit of south in the wind, the angles were wrong, and there were wind-driven small waves everywhere. The water level was getting pretty high, to, and there were lots of bundled of reeds in the water, promising sudden catapult stops. Time to rig down and switch to an easier board!

Hardie was rigging down to a 4.2, so I rigged my trusted Manic 4.5 and took exchanged the slalom board against my Tabou 3S 96. This combo was certainly a lot easier to sail! But while we had rigged down, the wind had picked up, and the gusts were going into "scary" territory. When Hardie called it a day after a couple of runs, so did I.

When I checked the wind meter readings later at home, they only showed averages around 35, and gusts in the low 40s. I have sailed this kind of wind quite a few times without major problems, although not too much recently. My GPS showed that I had sailed very slow today, and that Hardie had beaten me by a couple of knows on his FSW gear. I did not do a single dry jibe, nor did I try anything interesting. Even though I rigged two sails and sailed two boards, the session was very short. Without a doubt, I was a bit intimidated by the strong winds and low temperatures. But still, the session was a lot of fun, and I felt great afterwards. Except for my fingers during and shortly after the little swim, I was perfectly comfortable and warm the entire time. Now if only the Nor'Easters would come in a little less intense...

A little GoPro movie from today's sailing is below. As I am writing this, the movie is still uploading, and at a very slow pace. I guess everyone is on the internet or watching cable TV after the governor had issued a driving ban for Massachusetts (and before we all loose power).