Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kalmus: the perfect setup

Monday's forecast for Kalmus called for 12-13 mph SW winds. But what we got was wind above 20 mph all afternoon, with a couple of hours around 30, gusting to 35. With sun and reasonably warm temperatures, it was a perfect day.

Kalmus did get substantially more wind than other good SW spots. For example, both West Dennis and Fogland only had a few short periods with wind averages above 20 mph, and a lot more ups and downs. What made this setup so perfect for Kalmus?

  1. The wind direction - SW to WSW. 
  2. Sunny skies (and no rain since the early afternoon on Sunday).
  3. A perfect temperature difference of about 10ยบ F between the water (around 60 near shore) and the air (around 70 to low 70s a bit inland) that generates a strong sea breeze.
In this kind of setup, it is quite common to see winds that are 10-15 mph higher than forecast. A larger temperature difference can create decoupling problems - gusty, variable, and often weak winds. So when you check out the forecast for this weekend, keep these things in mind! One of the weekend day looks a lot more promising than the others. The forecast will most likely drop by about 5 mph on Thursday, when iWindsurf's "Quick Look" switches from one computer model to another one (GFS to NAM). Don't be fooled - if things do line up, chances are the wind will be stronger than predicted.

I played at Kalmus for a few hours last Monday, along with a small crowd that included Martin, Steve, Graham, Jeff, and a few others. My Tabou 3S 96 was still setup with freeride (outside) foot straps, so I decided to sail a mile upwind to the Kennedy Slicks. A few boats were already anchored in the Hyannis Port Harbor, but there was still plenty of space for speed runs. I tried to play around with the trimming of the board a bit, and eventually got a 30-knot reading on my GPS - not bad to a freeride/wave board with a 5.5 m non-cambered sail. The 26 cm weed speed fin from Maui Ultra Fins that I used helped a lot - it was bomb proof and provided lots of lift for a weed fin, without ever spinning out.

The wind picked up as I made my way back to Kalmus, and the fully overpowered ride through voodoo chop was an adventure in itself. Half of the time, I was not even hooked in, so that I could leave the rig partially open and far away from me on the deep downwind course. Yes, even the 32 inch lines I was using seemed to short for the conditions! Back at the beach, I changed the footstraps to the inboard positions (and the back strap to a single strap), rigged a 4.5 m wave sail, and had another hour of bump and jump fun before the wind eventually calmed down. Towards the end of the session, I got a chance to try another MUF fin that I had received for testing. My initial impression was very positive, but some further testing will be needed before I provide more details.

I am extremely impressed with the way the Tabou 3S 96 behaved on Monday. It is perhaps the most versatile board I have ever sailed - perfectly able to go slow in crazy voodoo chop and when playing in little onshore waves, but easily tunable to reach rather excellent speeds (this ended up being my 5-fastest session ever, judged by 5 x 10 second GPS speed averages), all the while remaining very comfortable and controllable. A big "thanks" to Jeff for letting me try the board last April in Hatteras!

Here's a video showing some of the things Graham did Monday at Kalmus:

Buzzards Bay Crossing, day 2

Sunday, the second day of the Buzzards Bay Crossing, started out with strong northerly winds and plenty of white caps. Skipper's meeting was set to be at 8:30 am, but with a high tide and heavy swell, it took a while to get the jet ski out and the buoys set. Most racers rigged small, with sails in the 4 and 5 m range common, and wave boards being chosen over bigger slalom boards. The exception, of course, was Josh Angulo, who rigged 7.1 and 7.8 m race sails, and went out on a decent-sized slalom board.
A few racers from day 1 did not show for day 2, mostly because of pre-existing conditions (or rather family plans). However, we gained a few new racers, including Sabah and Gary, so we again had about 11 or 12 sailors on the water.

Dan Weiss tried his best to get the event going, with a couple of helpers on a single jet ski. The first plan was to have the jet ski go in front of the sailors to mark the start, just like on day one. However, as most sailors were trying to line up, the jet ski was nowhere close. My guess is that is was busy helping one of the windsurfers who did not make it out through the swell and variable winds.

Josh took command, got everyone together, and got the race started with hand signs. Once everyone had made it half way to the first mark, I gave up on waiting for the jet ski, and followed the crowd. By now, Josh was flying ahead of the crowd, way out of reach of everyone. A couple of guys made it around the first mark, but many went down when trying to jibe - a theme we'd see again at the other marks, and during later races. The last leg ended up being straight downwind, which caused plenty more falls in the winds that made staying on a plane difficult.

For the next races, the course was simplified, with just one or two jibe marks. Starts were done from the beach or standing in the water. In one race, Nina made it to the beach just before the start of the race. Dan told her to start from the water; she did, and got a bit a head start over the pack. Only Josh was able to pass her, everyone else was trailing far behind.

The wind shifted a lot not only in strength, but also in direction, so for the races after the lunch break, Dan jumped on the jet ski and acted as the jibe mark for a few races. I played around with a few different strategies, mostly trying to round up the field from the back after starting last, or being the last one to get on a plane. I managed to pass a few races around jibe marks when my jibes were dry, but not all of them were. I sometimes had the company of Greg, who had driven all the way from Seattle for the race. He had dominated the light wind races on day 1, winning every single race, because "we always have this light wind in Seattle". In the stronger winds, he seemed to struggle more, and I sometimes saw him near the back of the pack were I spent most of my time.

Since the lovely Nina was racing, too, we did not have anyone to keep score, but that took nothing away from the fun. Josh dominated every race when he was still there, and a few others like Myles also seemed to do well most of the time. But I think for the majority of us, there was a significant element of chance involved. In one race, I managed to get up on the board right away, catch a gust and a pushy little wave, and pump up onto a plane. This race had ambiguous instructions - "try for the upwind mark, but it you can't make it, jibe around the jet ski". I was in front, and it was clear that I would not be able to reach the upwind buoy without loosing the plane, so I followed Dan on the jet ski. He was going towards a downwind mark, but stopped about half way. It thought he meant we should go around the downwind mark and kept going, but he waved to jibe around him. I eventually did, after passing him by at least 300 feet. I feared that most of the field now had jibed and passed me already, but to my surprise, I saw that everyone was still schlogging towards the jet ski. I must have been lucky again, because another gust and a few pumps got me planing again on my Skate 110/Matrix 7.0/MUF Slalom Weed 30 combo, and I ended up like I had started, on first place (Josh did not sail this race).

We did a few races after the lunch break, but stopped early. Gary, Martin, and I kept sailing for a while, and Dan eventually made it out, too. Martin and Gary kept sailing for hours, but Nina and I went for a beer at the hotel bar instead, joined by our friend Dani and later by Dan. Later, we went out for dinner with Martin at the BBC in Falmouth.

We don't have any official winner for day 2, but I think almost everyone who participated feels like a winner. It was a lot of fun, and definitely one of the most memorable days of sailing of the year. Having to sail a given course, and to jibe around a mark in a crowd, is vastly different from freeriding. It exposes clearly what you cannot do - for example, jibe dry in high swell with distractions, or adjust the jibe radius as needed to avoid downed sailors. It certainly gave me plenty of motivation to improve, and plenty of specific things to work on. And while the races were definitely competitive, a friendly and fun spirit prevailed throughout. I'm definitely looking forward to the next local fun race!

Here are a few more pictures from both days (thanks to Dani for day 2 pictures!):
Jerry & Jeff on a tandem

Josh & Martin on day 2
Day 2 action

The event beach at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth

Saturday, May 25, 2013

BB Crossing Day 1 Pictures

We had light wind at the first day of the Buzzards Bay Crossing today, so we only did three close-to-shore races on a figure 8 course. My lovely wife decided to wait for the better wind tomorrow, and spend today taking pictures and helping out with the scoring. Here are some pictures from today:
8 of the 11 racers with Dan Weiss, the race director

Jibing race boards is not that easy...

Dani and local PWA legend Josh Angulo in a heated race

Friendly & fun racing!
Dani is a winner (always!) 
Special thanks to Dan and Eddie for organizing this event!

The forecast for Sunday looks fantastic - NW wind around 20 mph, and no rain! It's not too late to join the fun - just be at old Silver Beach in Falmouth tomorrow morning before 8:30 am.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Josh Angulo at the Buzzards Bay Crossing!

Josh Angulo, our local PWA sailor and multiple world champion, has announced that he will be at the Buzzards Bay Crossing this weekend. Anyone who went to the East Coast Windsurfing Festival 2 years ago will certainly remember Josh. In the race event, Josh not just won - in one race, he was so fast that he was told to go around the course again, and ended up placing 1st and 4th in the same race!

Josh's participation in the freestyle event was just as memorable. While he did not do any of the complicated new school tricks, he performed crowd pleasers like flat water loops and body drags.

He did not win the event, but many who watched ranked his show on top.

Josh is also a really nice and approachable guy, so this is a great opportunity to get to know one of the windsurfing legends. He'll probably bring a van full of gear, some of which may be available for demo or purchase. So if you have not done so already, sign up for the Buzzards Bay Crossing and join us for some fun racing in Falmouth this weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hatteras Recap

A few days ago, we came back from a 2 week trip to Cape Hatteras. I have not blogged about because we simply had way too much fun sailing every day. Here's a brief summary:

  • Great ABK camp. Most days where light winds, which was just fine for me.
  • Tried SUP paddling in the waves twice. I'd rather go to the dentist than try it again in similar conditions (and I really don't like going to the dentist).
  • First downwinder I ever did, with Nina and Jonathen. Short, but lots of fun. Must do more of those.
  • Discovered Salvo Day Use Area, which was wonderfully flat in NNE winds. Great spot for speed surfing and freestyle. Plenty choppy in 30+ mph SW, though.
  • Sailed more than 100 nautical miles twice. Picked the wrong days for distance, though - day 1 included the house turnover, day 2 had too much wind & chop in the afternoon. 
  • Planed 8 of 14 days on 4.5 - 7.0 m sails. It could have been 9 days, but we had ABK camp video review one evening when the wind picked up.
  • I love Hatteras in the spring!
Tomorrow promised to be a fun day in Kalmus. The wind forecast for the Buzzards Bay Crossing also looks great, with averages around 20 on Saturday and mid-teens on Sunday. The forecast has been going up slightly over the last couple of days, so I would not be surprised if we get even more wind. So, Boston area and Rhode Island windsurfers, what are you waiting for? Sign up already!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Buzzards Bay Crossing

Our Hatteras trip is coming to an end, after a final great low-wind session. I saw an amazing number of stingrays, and finally got a new sail throw I had been working on. But now, it's time to focus on the next event: the Buzzards Bay Crossing on the May 25/26 weekend in Falmouth.

Fast Eddie deserves the credit for bringing the event back to life, with help from Dan Weiss. Some of the initial ideas did not fly well - a hefty $180 price tag for racing and "gourmet box lunches" and BBQ? But the organizers quickly responded to feedback, and reduced the registration fee for 2 days racing to $80 ($40 for one day), without the food (which will still be available at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel where the event takes place).

This will be a windsurf and SUP race event where FUN is the goal. Anyone who has been to the East Coast Windsurfing Festival (ECWF) in Long Island in recent years can attest to how much fun such an event can be! Unlike the ECWF, the Buzzards Bay Crossing will apparently not include a freestyle competition, but I'd say that's mostly because this is a first-time event (after a long break). I'd suggest to local freestylers to simply show up and do an "exhibition" - maybe we can then get freestyle added next year.

Anyone who registers online by Sunday 5/19 will be able to park at the Sea Crest Hotel for free. Let's get a windsurfing event back to the Cape - sign up and come down to Falmouth for some fun races!