Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sign up now for the ABK clinic in Hyannis!

Are you are a windsurfer in New England who would like to learn how to:
  • jibe
  • plane through your jibes
  • tack a high wind board
  • beach start
  • water start
  • use the foot straps
  • go fast
  • duck jibe
  • loop
  • vulcan
  • do 360s
  • rig your sail right
  • prepare for the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod
  • have more fun windsurfing?
If so, or if you'd simply like to improve your windsurfing and make new friends, sign up now for the ABK camp from September 6-8 in Hyannis! It takes place at Kalmus Beach and has been a big success in the last years. In the past 2 or 3 years, the camp was completely sold out, and a number of windsurfers had to be turned away. It's less than six weeks until the camp starts, so sign up now!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Racing and freestyle competition at Kalmus 9-14 to 9-15-2013

We have received the "Special Event Permit" from the Town of Barnstable, so it is official now: the first East Coast Windsurfing Festival - Cape Cod will take place at Kalmus Beach on the weekend of September 14 and 15, 2013. We will have fun races and a freestyle competition that is modeled after the very successful ECWF Long Island, which had to be canceled this year due to damage from last years storms.

For more information about the ECWF Cape Cod, check

Note that the "Marine Event Permit" is still pending with the Coast Guard. According to our talks with the very helpful Barnstable Harbor Master and his assistant, there should be no problem in getting this permit (or a notification that we do not need it, after all). However, there is a (very) small chance that this permit will be denied, and that we have to cancel the event.

Friday, July 26, 2013

That's how Dean does is (maybe)

The fastest guy in our GPS Team Challenge team is Dean. Every time we sail together, he is 3-5 knots faster than I am. Initially, I blamed it on boards and fins, but now, our boards and fins are almost identical, and he is still that much faster. His technique is probably a bit better than mine, but I don't think that explains the big speed difference.

There are more puzzling things about Dean. When going for speed, I am typically using sails bigger than anyone else out there, but his sails are usually two sizes bigger than mine, even though we are the same weight. But he probably struggles less than I do, often sails 100 km or 100 miles on a day, and does not look beaten up at the end of the day. What is his secret?

One thing that is different are our sails. He always sails on full race sails, usually from Maui Sails. I often use non-cambered sails, including wave sails, especially when I'm on a freestyle or freestyle wave board. Recently, my friend Dani gave me a Maui Sails TR7 that he is not using anymore since he switched to KA Koncept and KA Race sails, and yesterday, I got a chance to sail it for the first time. What an eye opener!

I met Dani at Duxbury. Winds were predicted to be NE, dropping from low 20s to mid-teens over the day. This would have been perfect to do some serious distance sailing along the entire bay. Dani helped me rig the TR7 and rigged a Koncept 5.8 for himself (since I outweigh Dani by almost 50%, his sail was actually bigger than mine relative to body weights). Off we went, nicely powered.

I was impressed right away. I have sailed race sails a few times, and own a couple of HSM GPS sails. I typically found race sails difficult to sail unless fully powered. My GPS 6.6, in particular, was very hard to schlog, and the center of effort (COE) moved quite a lot when going from schlogging to planing. The TR7 was very different - the COE was at exactly the same spot, whether I was schlogging or fully powered in gusts. That made putting the harness lines at the right spot a whole lot easier!

The initial sailing was in 22 mph averages, with gusts to 26. On flat water like Duxbury Bay, my 7.0 non-cambered sail would be fully powered in those conditions. But the TR7 is built for top end stability, and I felt very little pressure in the sail. Clearly, the sail can easily take a lot more wind, even with my limited skills. Compared to other sails I am used to, it seems to have a lot more drive and less drag - the wind is converted into forward momentum instead of sideways pressure. No surprise here, that's one thing the sail is made for.

I did not feel fast, but the GPS showed that I reached some pretty good speeds for conditions. I am usually happy if I go a bit faster than the highest gusts - for example, if I get a top speed in knots that is the same as the wind speed in mph (that's about 15% faster). Yesterday, my top speed was 28 knots (32.5 mph) in 26 mph gusts - not bad! That's probably 2 knots faster than I would have been on my other sails.

We did not follow or original plan to go for distance, since the wind came in NNE instead of NE. This limited runs to about 1 mile, instead of the 3 miles possible in NE; and it meant that the chops was a bit worse for speed on the south side of the bridge, since the wind was going against the incoming tide. Furthermore, the wind dropped down to 17 mph after an hour, and I was planing only in the gusts. I switched to my NP V8 8.5, which I always had liked a lot; but compared to the TR7, it felt like a barely controllable, inefficient monster.

So, I finally get why most speed surfers are on full race sails, even in mediocre winds. Sails like the TR7 make it easy to hold a much bigger sail. Despite all the leech flutter, it has enough drive to get me planing at about the same wind speed as a non-cambered sail, but it is actually a lot easier to sail, especially in gusty conditions. What surprised me a bit was how different the sail felt compared to similar-sized GPS sail. In fairness, though, I have to say that I bought the recommended mast for the TR7 (a Maui Sails SDM, 75% carbon), while I tried to use a mast I had for the GPS (a Fiberspar SDM with similar carbon content). With race sails, having a mast with the correct bend curve is extremely important, and part of the difference is probably due to the different mast. You often hear that having a 100% carbon mast also makes a big difference, but one of the Maui Sails pros has tested the TR7s with 55%, 75%, and 100% masts, and found little difference. I choose a 75% mast because it is less costly than the 100% mast, but also because 75% masts are more durable. I really can't imagine that a 100% mast would be a lot better.

Yesterday's NNE wind was more typical for fall winds than for summer winds. The top speed strips on the Cape still have limited accessibility, and issues like congestion with moored boats. But Labor Day is only 5 weeks away, and I can't wait to see what difference the TR7 will make when I go head to head against Dean on perfectly flat water in 30 mph winds.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blessing in disguise

We got some unexpected wind today - enough to plane for a few hours on a 6.5 m sail and a 96 l board. I missed an hour or so of 5.5 wind, but I'm not complaining, since every day of sailing is a great day of sailing.

Today, my neck still hurt a bit from the fall I took 3 days ago. However, that was a great thing: it reminded me that I need to adjust my stance by pointing the feet, hips, and upper body more forward. In the correct stance, I don't have to turn my head as much, and the pain goes away.  

I don't even recall how often I have heard and read that I should turn the hips forward more. Andy Brandt and Matt Pritchard were definitely among those preaching to (almost) deaf ears. Ok, I'd do it briefly afterwards, but then go back to my bad old ways. What I needed was some long-lasting neck pain (and Kalmus chop) to remind me. One day was not enough, so the pain stuck around a few extra days to remind me again. Very nice! Thank you, pain!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Two windy days at Kalmus

Friday and Saturday - two windy days in Kalmus:
Quite a crowd on Friday, 20+ sails on the water at times. Those of us starting shortly after noon got fooled by the wind - probably a decoupling issue, solvable by switching to 7.0 m sails and pumping. By the time the evening winds came, I was tired. Dean, Martin and a couple of others kept going until the sun was down, and still looked fresh when we went out for dinner at Gringo's.

Saturday's computer forecast looked worse, but iWindsurf's meteorologist predicted 20-24 knots for the entire day. Actual winds were even higher at times. Martin and I had an early start; I had to wait for 20 minutes at the gate until they finally opened the Kalmus parking lot at 9:15. I am so looking forward to the end of summer season and parking madness!

My original plan had been to sail all day. That comes natural to Martin, so he was game and put on the GPS I gave hime. But on my first run out, I got hit by one of the 35 mph gusts, just as I was going into a jibe in voodoo chop. My 5.5 m sail was ripped out of my hands, and the board decelerated from 24 mph to 0 in less than a second. I kept going without the board and landed on my back. My head snapped back violently as I hit the water - one of these falls where you are thankful that the neck did not break. However, my neck muscles started hurting quite a bit. Every bump I went over pulled painfully on a couple of neck and shoulder muscles, and bumps we had plenty.

I took a break, stretched, rigged the 4.5, waited, tried again, stretched some more, and eventually, windsurfing became almost painless again. However, I was sailing rather carefully from then on to avoid a repeat, and loop tries definitely were out of the question. During one of the break, I took pictures - here are a few:
Quite a crowd
Keeping the boards on the water was hard
3.2, 3.4, 4.2, 2 unknowns
Freestyle practice in 40 mph gusts

Tail grabs are loop practice, too :-)
You might notice that many pictures feature the same sailor - that's simply because you can bet that he'll do something interesting on every run. Keep the camera on him and click away - there will be good pictures. Martin sailed more than 100 km yesterday, and kept going when I left, still jumping, practicing 360s, duck jibing, and more. All on a 4.7 in the afternoon, in averages that sometimes were above 30. Too lazy to switch to a 4.2 again, but not too lazy for serious old school freestyle. All that despite a forced break and swim when his universal decided he could not take all the abuse anymore and broke into two pieces. Fortunately, Drew was close by and caught the board that was heading downwind at a pretty good speed.

I stopped when my falls started to feel dangerous, and only sailed a bit more than 80 km yesterday. My friend Jonathen, who joined us in the afternoon, ended up a bit worse than I was, almost breaking a rib in a fall onto the boom. That may hurt for weeks, so I feel lucky just having a bit of a neck pain for a day or two.

I have not fully enjoyed my last three sessions, and I am starting to suspect it's because my lovely wife was not able to join me. She recently had some minor surgery that is heeling, and has to stay out of the water a bit longer. When she was still bleeding, I cut my foot and ended up bleeding, too. Yesterday morning, she woke up with a really bad neck ache, and I ended up with a stupid fall that gave me a neck ache, too. Perhaps I should stay off the water until she can sail again - hopefully just a few more days!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A bloody good reason to wear booties

"Real windsurfers don't wear booties". I have heard something along these lines many times. Less macho, more technical guys may explain that the board feel is a lot better without, but the bottom line is the same.

In the past, I have mostly ignored them. But a couple of times this season, I forgot to put the booties back into the van after drying them, including today. Today was just a bit of light wind freestyle at Kalmus - what can go wrong? I mostly stayed away from the dark green stuff and over the shallow, sandy section. When I fell, I mostly fell flat, a move much practiced in Bonaire. Except one time, when I stepped onto some shells on the ground in hip-deep water. Did not hurt, I kept sailing for another 20 minutes. But when I went back to my van to check the time, I noticed a lot of blood on the ground where I was standing:

The front half of my left foot was bloody, too, so perhaps the cut had pierced the skin, after all. I trudged to the life guard stand to get a couple of bandaids. On my way back across the parking lot, I could tell by the bloody toe prints where I had been. I added a second pair pointing the other way for symmetry. Then I walked back a couple more times to retrieve my gear, before calling my daughter to tell her that our planned late lunch in town would not happen, since I really needed to get home to wash the sand out of the cut. I washed it a bit at the van before putting a couple of bandaids on, but my socks were turning red within a few minutes. It took about 20 minutes to get home, and the cut was still bleeding nicely when I washed it out under the outside shower. But once I put the iodine solution on, the bleeding subsided. At least no need to drive to the emergency room for a stupid cut! But I will be off the water for a few days to let it heal a bit.

This is a pretty stupid story. I have a whole assortment of windsurfing boots, from 2 mm neoprene socks to 7 mm winter boots. They all have at least one deep cut in the sole from an encounter with shells. Shells are about everywhere I like to sail, and many of my favorite spots are at or close to shellfishing areas. Why did I think my feet would fare better than the booties? Was I thinking at all? Probably not. But next time you see me wearing booties at Kalmus, you know why.
Update 7/16: 
The cut kept bleeding for almost a day, so I had a doctor look at it yesterday evening. He found no problems, but showed me how to apply the hi-tech bandaids he gave me to keep the two flaps together, and told me to watch for any signs of infection. None to be seen so far, and it looks like it's starting to heal:
The wind forecast for Friday afternoon and Saturday looks very promising. I think it will be healed sufficiently by then that I won't have to worry about it splitting open again or getting infected. Of course, I'l cover it with multiple layers - bandaids, tape, socks, and booties

Saturday, July 13, 2013

ECWF Cape Cod 2013?

It looks like we might have an East Coast Windsurfing Festival on Cape Cod on the weekend of September 14-15 this year. It is not yet certain - there are still things to organize and permit signatures needed, but it seems likely that we will have a race and freestyle event similar to the ECWF in Long Island (which had to be canceled this year due to beach damage from hurricane Sandy). I'll give some background on what has happened so far below, and finish with a call for helpers.

In the last two years, my lovely wife, I, and a few friends made the trip to the East Coast Windsurfing Festival in Long Island, NY. The ECWF is a friendly race and freestyle competition organized since 2008 by Mike Burns. We loved the atmosphere, the people, and the experience, and wished that we had a similar festival on Cape Cod. We were quite disappointed when this year's ECWF had to be canceled because the event site had been heavily damaged by hurricane Sandy. The final straw came at the Buzzards Bay Crossing this year: after having tons of fun racing for two days, Nina, our friend Dani, and I decided to organize an event similar to the ECWF in Hyannis or West Dennis.

Nina started contacting the local windsurf shop in West Dennis soon thereafter, were Phil was very positive about the idea. Then, things slowed down a bit while we tried to sort out if we'd be able to get insurance for the event, which would likely be required for the town permit. We eventually got a verbal quote through Phil, and then proceeded to get a permit. We started out contacting town officials in West Dennis, primarily because that was were the earlier "King of the Cape" events had taken place. We got responses quite quickly, but they were only partly encouraging: we'd require approval by two different town groups which meet only every two weeks resp. once a month; we probably would need an EMT, and perhaps a few other things. This meant that it might take another month or so to get the permit, which would leave only about one month to promote the event, and for potential participants to make travel arrangements.

So we decided to explore if getting a permit to hold the event in Kalmus might be quicker. The permit process in Hyannis is very different - instead of a couple of committees, we would need approval signatures from a bunch of different department heads, starting with the Recreation Department that is responsible for the beaches. But all the offices are within a 10 minute drive from our house, and most are close to each other, so we started making our rounds. Everyone we talked to was very friendly and supportive. When they asked questions, it was very clear that it was because they cared about their town, and the questions were very reasonable. We were able to collect most signatures within a few hours, except for one town official who is on vacation for a few more days. We hope to have the last signatures before the end of next week.

The event will have races and a freestyle competition, very similar to how things are run at the ECWF in Long Island. For racing, we will have an open class and a limited class with a maximum sail size of 7.5 m. In freestyle, we may have one or two divisions ("pro" and "amateur"), depending on conditions and signup. We'll also have a separate women's division. Based on a suggestion by Mike Burns, we will call the event "East Coast Windsurfing Festival - Cape Cod". Mike will be here to compete, and plans to bring a number of fellow Long Island windsurfers.

At this time, we'd love to hear feedback from Cape Cod and Boston area windsurfers. We also would love to hear from volunteers for the event - here are a few things were we may need help:

  • Freestyle competition scoring: ideally, someone who knows the difference between complicated new school moves, and their relative difficulties
  • Buoys for the racing course
  • Jet ski / rescue boat: for buoy placement and to help sailors in trouble.
If you have any feedback or you'd like to help, please contact Peter or Nina on Facebook, or on the Cape Cod Windsurfers page on Facebook. We'll post a contact email address for non-Facebook users soon after the event is certain.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Martin rules

Every windy weekend day that I sail in Kalmus, Martin is there. My drive to the beach was 15 minutes, Martin's closer to 2 hours. I go mow the lawn, Martin does tricks all the time. Overpowered on 4.7 in 30 mph winds? That's not a reason to shy away from 360s, at least not for Martin.

Two days ago, the Kalmus wind machine kicked in nicely in the evening. The 6.5 got too big quickly, the 5.5 was perfect with the 96l 3S. Martin seemed to be lying the in water a lot. When I followed him on a run out, I saw why: he was going for speed loops, two or three times on every run out. Conditions were perfect - he was powered on 4.7 / 99l, ramps were steep and coming at us almost at a 90ยบ angle.

The speed loop is on my "wanted" list, too, so I finally decided to follow Martin's example and go for a few. My attempts were half-hearted, with tiny little jumps. Conditions would have allowed huge jumps and stalled forwards, but my fear kept me close to the water. Still, I went through the usual progression I see when working on loops in ABK camps - the first non-planing fall, then a few falls to the inside while I focus on turning the board, finally catapult-like falls to the outside, but without the board. Those last falls finally convinced me (again) that I should not chicken so much, since nothing bad happens. But then, the wind picked up, and I was overpowered, having to concentrate to get any resemblance of board control.

Somewhere during my tries, I see Martin getting around 180 degrees, with the board fully in the air and his feet still in the straps. So close! Chris Eldrigde sees him try, stops by to give some pointers, and then shows us how it's done on almost every run out. Nice!

After the session, we chat, as usual. Martin confesses that he shares my fears in really going for it, even though that really is not obvious on the water. Here's a picture of Martin during a regular jump a couple of days before:
He's got enough height, nice board control, the mast is to windward - a completed spin loop seems near. We just need a few more days with perfect 4.7 winds and ramps. I need to follow Martin more! Whenever he was not looping, he was doing upwind and downwind 360s, duck jibes, beautiful oversheeted carve jibes, and probably more things that I missed.

We had hoped for a repeat of the evening winds yesterday, but that did not happen. Just as we decided what to rig, the wind picked up for a few minutes, with gusts up to 23 mph. But as soon as we hit the water, it dropped, and kept dropping for hours. I switched to my 7.0 and got a few planing runs, but then ended up with really slow lawn moving practice (and just a few heli tacks and upwind 360 tries thrown in). Martin stayed on his 4.7 and did light wind freestyle for hours. Not surprisingly, he's wicked good at light wind freestyle on a 99 l board, too. And every time I sailed by him on both days, there was the trademark ear-to-ear grin - too much fun!

One of the great things in windsurfing is the people you meet, like Martin. Another regular ABK camper that we sometimes have the pleasure to sail with is Jonathen, who came down to the Cape with his wife Bianca for the long weekend. On Friday, Bianca wisely refused to sail, but Jon had a blast. On Saturday, Bianca hit the water again at Kalmus, where she had torn her ACL while windsurfing a few years back. She started a bit hesitantly, but looked good sailing back and forth in Kalmus chop a little while later. At the end of the day, she was rightfully proud to have sailed again at a spot where she had been injured the last time she had served.

So next time when we get a perfect day for spin loops, I'll have to copy Bianca's courage, and Martin's "go-for-it" attitude, and really work on the loop. But that will happen only if Dean is not around to drag me over to Egg Island for some speed fun :-)

Thanks to Jon D Petersen for the posting the pictures of Martin on the Cape Cod Windsurfers page on Facebook.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dani's Famous BBQ

What causes so many boards to lie around on the beach? What made us drive more than an hour to a spot that would get much less wind than our home spot Kalmus that's just 15 minutes away? It's Dani's famous 4th of July barbecue!
The wind took a break so that we all could eat the fantastic food Dani and his friends and family had prepared. It then gave us time to digest and for an afternoon nap...

Nina and I did a little bit of light wind freestyle first, while others tried to plane, with varying amounts of success. After 5 pm, the wind finally increased above 15 mph, enough for an hour of flat water fun on big gear. It was fun to be back at our old favorite spot. But predictably, the thermals kicked in at Kalmus, and averages there were between 20 and 28 mph for most of the time between noon and sunset (with the obligatory break in the middle). As lovely as it was to see old friends again, I think it will be a while before we get back to Fogland...

Since returning from a 10-day trip to the mountains, I have been too busy sailing to find time to blog. We came back last Saturday afternoon, and I was back on the water an hour after we finally got home. I missed the best wind of the day, but had some very nice planing conditions on 6.5 until sunset. The next three days were similar or lighter, so my 8.5 m "summer sail" saw some action again. My freestyling friends may regard it as impossibly big, but once you're planing, the size does not matter - and planing on a large sail is much more fun then trying to plane on a smaller sail. Even though Kalmus is well known for its "voodoo chop" on windy days, the water is flat enough for slalom board fun when the wind is light. Top speeds on a light wind day tend to be higher than top speeds on a really windy bump and jump day. Last Monday was a case in point - my top speed on the 8.5 was 47 km/h; typical B&J speeds are about 5 km/h lower.

During the light wind days, it was cloudy, with an occasional drizzle. But on Wednesdays, the sun cam back out, and brought the strong winds back. The forecasts did not predict much more wind, but with sun, WSW winds, and inland temperatures being about 10 degrees warmer than the water, the sea breeze at Kalmus kicked in and delivered. Here's the iWindsurf meter readings for the day:
We made it to the beach before noon, just as the wind took a little break. By the time Nina had rigged her 4.5 sail, and I my 5.5, the wind had started to come back up, though, and a long day of playing hard started. We first stayed in front of Kalmus beach to play in the chop; but when Dean arrived a bit later, we sailed over to Egg Island for some flat water speed (or, in Nina's case, some flat water freestyle). The last time we had sailed there, the second sand bar had stayed submerged, and we were a bit worried that the fall storms might have washed it away. But after crossing the shipping lane and carrying out gear over the dunes, we saw that it was still there, creating perfectly flat water right behind it.

I quickly discovered that my 5.5 was a bit small for deep downwind speed runs; however, it was perfect for long runs into Lewis Bay. After sailing so much in the chop in front of Kalmus Beach, I really enjoyed the small and orderly swell in the bay. Instead of taking the frequent brakes that are necessary when handling a big speed sail, I just kept sailing for an hour and a half straight, with most jibes being dry, and many jibes on the flat inside planed through. My top speed for the day just barely scratched 30 knots, but it was a ton of fun. Dean, who used a 6.6 m race sail and a board and fin very similar to the one I was one, reached 34 knots, which temporarily gave us a nice ranking on the GPS Team Challenge.

We made the return trip after a couple of hours, when the wind dropped and we were getting tired and hungry. Dean and Nina called it a day, but I wanted to play around a bit more, and took my freestyle wave board (Tabou 3S 96) out. By then, the wind had turned quite westerly, and with the tide still low, we had some nice jumping ramps coming in at almost right angles. I messed up my first jibes, because the chop and slower speeds did not let me get away with some things that had worked well on the slalom board in flat water; but after a few runs, I had made the necessary adjustments, and got around mostly dry. The perfect ramps and ideal wind resulted in some nice and high chop hops. The setup would have been perfect for speed loops, but I took my getting tired after sailing more than 100 km as an excuse to not try any. Just going high and sticking the landing was good enough to end this great day of sailing.