Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lack of confidence

The forecast called for 22 mph SW winds at 2 pm, rising to 25 mph at 5 pm.  I was at Kalmus shortly past noon, when wind meter readings were around 25. Mathematically gifted as I am, I calculated that the wind would increase to the upper 20s. Experience told me that this was a day where the wind would go way above forecast. I told anyone who'd listen that I expected to see 35 averages with gusts in the 40s later. But I did not believe my own forecast. Even simple math seemed much more scientific than gut feeling.

It seemed like a perfect setup for a speed session at Egg Island. Nina wanted to do some freestyle there, and Dean was coming to post some serious speeds for the Fogland Speedsurfers. So I rigged my 5.8 speed sail and took it out for a test run. On the water, it occurred to me that (a) I had not sailed small slalom gear in months, (b) I had gotten really used to center foot straps, (c) that the water was not nearly as flat as I had thought, and (d) that the wind had picked up some more. I was sailing with the sail wide open, constantly fighting for control. I tried to keep my 90 l slalom board on the water, but had only limited success. Here is a video from an early run:

I almost went back in to switch to the wave board and a small wave sail - but Egg Island would be a lot flatter! I switched to using my thick 5 mm boots a couple of weeks ago when my feet started getting cold. They tend to stick to the straps a lot more than thin boots, so I did not really feel like working on freestyle anymore. When I watched Dean go out, apparently in perfect control on a 6.6 m race sail, I figured that the conditions had to be easier than it seemed, and followed him.

I made the downwind run to Egg Island through the shipping channel without a crash. But once I crossed the dune, I saw that we were too late: the second sandbar was already fully submerged. The water was not flat anymore -  the little wind waves were just big enough to slow you down, but not big enough to allow for picking of lanes between them. The water close to the submerged sand bar looked flatter, but Dean warned me right away to stay away from it - he had already run aground in shallow water.

The wind was picking up while we were there, and now averaging 35. I was getting concerned if I would be able to make it safely back through the chop in front. It had been high already on the way over, and I figured that the increasing winds and incoming tides would only make things more difficult. After trying a few runs on the inside sandbar, and discovering that wind angles and water depth were wrong, I added some downhaul and outhaul to my sail (mostly with closed eyes since the sand was blowing now), and started the long way back. Just then, Nina finally arrived! She was overpowered on her 4.0, but thought the water still looked perfect for freestyle practice. She was a bit disappointed when both Dean and I said we'd go back, but followed us anyway, not wanting to sail alone.

The way back was not nearly as bad as I had imagined. The waves had gotten bigger, and carrying our slalom gear back over the sandbar was quite hard, but the sailing across the channel and back to shore was almost easy. The wind also stopped increasing, and stayed around 35 mph for the rest of the afternoon - I clearly had worried too much.

Back on shore, Nina and Dean called it a day. I switched to my wave board, the 3S 96, and a 4.5 m wave sail. I should have listened to Nina and taken the 4.0 - the 4.5 was sailable, but I sheeting it in for jibes was almost impossible. After many recent sessions where my dry jibe rate was probably around 90%, falling in almost every jibe was frustrating. But the little wave rides coming back in definitely were fun! The "little" refers to what I did, not to the waves - they were as big as I had ever seen them at Kalmus. Quite a few times, I decided not to go down a wave because it seemed to big, steep, and fast.

I quit at about the same time as most of the other windsurfers on the water. The exception was, as usual, Martin, who had sailed the entire afternoon without taking breaks. I took a few pictures before I left:

He was getting some nice air several times on every run out. I, and several other windsurfers I talked to, spent most of our efforts keeping the board on the water... he's simply in a different class.

As I am writing this a day later, I am very frustrated about yesterday. I probably would have had more fun staying on wave gear in front, and rigging down as needed. Even the Mighty Marty said he was a bit rusty at first, and had most fun at the end of his session. Perhaps the decision to go for a speed session at Egg Island was wrong - I knew the tide was too high, and that the wind would turn to southerly. But I'm mostly frustrated about being a big chicken once again. I felt a bit out of control, but I did not have a single catapult or serious crash. I was too worried about the way back to remember that sailing in 35 mph winds for the first time in months will take a bit of getting used to. To me, sessions like this were I chickened out are a lot more frustrating then sessions where I got beat up, but at least tried.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear seals, please leave now

I should be happy. I got to play on the water today, and I was planing most of the time without having to use a huge sail. So what if I wore long sleeves, a hood, gloves, and a second layer for the first time this fall?

But I am greedy. Maybe I should blame iWindsurf for putting up wind meters everywhere. Here's what the Kalmus meter showed this afternoon:
Averages in the high teens, gusts up to 25 mph, lulls around and sometimes below 10. That's about what it felt like on the water - almost overpowered in some gusts, not enough power to plane at other times.

The forecast was for west winds. Every Cape Cod windsurfer knows that the place to go to in west winds is Harding's Beach in Chatham. Here's what the Chatham wind meter showed:
Stronger wind. More wind. I like that. The forecast predicted more wind for Chatham, so it's no surprise. And one more thing - Harding's Beach has great waves in west wind, instead of disorderly chop like Kalmus.

So why did we not go there? It's because of all those seals that are still around there. We saw a bunch of them swimming near shore a few miles up the road, in Wellfleet, just a few days ago. We don't really mind the seals, but they attract Great White Sharks. These big, seal-loving fish have not evolved in millions of year because they are such efficient killing machines. But that has kept their brains pretty small, and every now and then, they take a bite out of a human by mistake. It's an honest mistake - they don't really like to eat humans. Seals are a lot tastier, with all the blubber they put on for the winter. It's not even revenge - although shark revenge certainly would be justified, with millions of sharks killed by humans each year for every human killed by sharks. But sharks don't do internet, so they don't know about this.

Some humans who have some sympathy for sharks have started tagging them, so that we now can look on the internet where our favorite sharks are. Methinks that was a bad idea. The problem is that if we get a "ping" from a shark in our area, we know for sure that one of these meat eaters is in the water. But if we do not get pings, that does not mean the waters are free of sharks. A tagged shark may still be around, but not have been near the surface long enough for the GPS trackers to get a good signal; and for every tagged shark, there are probably a number of untagged ones around.

The last ping in the area was by Genie, a 2,300 lb female White Shark, on October 8. Unfortunately, that was also Genie's last ping - she may still be around, or she may be in North Carolina or Canada by now. Since we don't know, we can be afraid of her, and all her friends. Fear is irrational, and it does not matter that the chance of being run over by a truck or of being hit by lightning is much higher than the chance of being attacked by a shark. If there are a lot of seals around, we'll be afraid of sharks.

So, dear seals, please realize that it's getting cold around Cape Cod, and depart to warmer areas!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Drive where? Really?

I am spoiled. Live 10 minutes from 2 great speed spots, 15 minutes two others. These four spots cover wind directions from N, NW, NE, E, SW, WSW. Within a 40 minute drive, I have two more speed spots, and several great wave and bump & jump spots. There are so many spots that I have not sailed some of them for many months, if at all.

So why would I possibly consider driving much further - one hour and 15 minutes, according to Google? I'll have to blame the real speedsurfers in Australia. They often drive 10 or 14 hours to go speedsailing on a regular weekend, going back to work Monday morning (perhaps a bit red-eyed and tired). The Dutch speedsurfers would be just as crazy, except that the Netherlands are not big enough to allow for such long drives. So they take long boat trips to spots miles from shore that are sailable only for a couple of hours when the tide is right; or they drive to speed spots like West Kirby in England or La Franqui in France it that's where it is windy. And those are just the semi-serious guys - the real fast guys fly a day to the tip of Africa, drive 1,000 miles through the desert, and then wait in line for an hour to get a shot at the magical 50-knot mark in Lüderitz.

So maybe driving 75 minutes to a good spot is not that crazy. Especially if the spot holds promise for straight W winds, which tend to be common in the fall around here. Here's what I'm thinking about:
This is Provincetown Harbor. The first thing that caught my interest is the long sandbar. It is about 500 meters long and seems perfect for deep-downwind speed runs. But what looks good on Google Earth sometimes does not work in real life, and the tides in this area are about 10 ft (3 m) - which means the sand bar would be more than 3 meters high at low tide, or be submerged for part of the tide cycle. So we went and checked it out on a nice, windless weekend day.

We never saw the sandbar that prompted the trip, but we ended up walking along the Provincetown Breakwater:

That turned out to be quite promising for speed runs, since it's long, has a couple of bends for sling shots, and is 4 ft or less above the water level at high tide. I created this web page with additional details. Will we sail there? Who knows... Skaket is half-way on the route to Ptown, and lots of fun. But maybe next time we arrive at Skaket and the waves look to crazy in 35 mph wind.

A few more pictures from the walk:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fun at Skaket Beach

We scored a session yesterday at Skaket Beach in Orleans. My friend Martin asked how Skaket is, so here's a short movie to answer his question:

We had west wind with averages in the upper teens, just enough to be powered most of the time on my 6.5. Nina was planing a bit less on he 5.0, but still had a blast. The waves at Skaket are nice beginner waves - they come in nice and orderly, and break a little, but never get threatening or too challenging (at least not in wind below 30 mph). Here are a few facts about Skaket Beach:
  • Work well in SW, W, and NW.
  • Westerlies are less gusty than at most other places because the wind comes over 25 miles of water.
  • Good spot for SW (sideshore to side-off) when onshore places like Kalmus decouple (warm winds, cold water).
  • In NW (onshore) wind, you can sail along the beach and stay in waist-deep water.
  • Best time to sail is 2 hours after low tide until 2 hours before low tide. Low tide is doable, but may require a 1/2 mile walk to reach the water.
  • From the Boston area, driving time is about 15 minutes longer than to Kalmus (about the same as Chapin).
  • Plenty of parking, nice wide beach.
  • Uncrowded - kiters prefer First Encounter about 1 mile north.
  • The closest iWindsurf wind meter is "Hatch Beach". The meter is located at First Encounter, and reads about 3 mph high when the wind is around 20 mph. In stronger winds, the readings seem to be a bit closer to the real wind strength.
  • Mostly an off-season spot - the parking lot fills up quickly in the summer.
It's usually a good idea to sail early, since westerly winds tend to be strongest in the morning, and often drop more than predicted in the afternoon. But we have had great afternoon sessions at Skaket, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is this really fall?

Temperatures in the mid 60s (18-20ºC); lots of sun; little wind - is this really fall? In Germany, this would count as a slightly cooler summer... so I'm definitely not complaining. Yes, I often need to use my 8.5 m sail and my big slalom board if I want to plane, but I'm nice and warm in a 3 mm short-sleeved wetsuit.
On one of the beautiful windless days, we went for a little after-work SUP session on a Middle Pond in Marston Mills, 5 minutes from our house. The leaves are starting to turn red, and the sun was going down, so it was quite beautiful. A GoPro movie with some scenes from the trip is below. Sorry for not cleaning the lens before filming - I'm so used to have it get wet while windsurfing that I did not even think about cleaning it before the SUP session.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GPS speed in jibes: the movie

After seeing my last blog entry with movies from practicing jibes on flat water, a fellow GPS addict asked me: "How fast was your minimum speed in these jibes?" Answering this question took me a while, since I wore two different GPS units that day: the Locosys GT-31 and the FlySight. Let's start with a movie that shows two jibes, overlayed with the GPS speeds:

The first jibe was planed through. The FlySight gives a minimum speed of 10.19 mph, which seems about right. But the GT-31 shows a minimum speed of just 5.19 mph, which is clearly too low.

The second jibe was into a lull, and therefore not planed through. The two GPS units show a minimum speed of 6.2 mph (FlySight) and 7.07 mph (GT-31). The positional data and the doppler speeds for the two devices are a lot closer than for the first jibe.

Unfortunately, I used only the GT-31 at the start of the session, when the wind was strongest. I added the FlySight after about 20 minutes, after seeing that conditions were perfect to lay down nice jibes. For the time where I wore both units, the minimum speed in my best jibe was 11.4 knots; the GT-31 had a much lower minimum speed of 9.3 knots. The discrepancies between the two units were larger if the jibe radius was small (35-40 m instead of 60-70 m for wide jibes), and if the positional GT-31 data seemed less accurate (as in the first jibe in the movie above). I looked at a number of jibes on the videos, and whenever the units disagreed, the FlySight seemed to be more accurate. No surprise here, this is what I saw the first time when I compared the units.

I have sailed East Bay only a few times in planing conditions, but my search for a better GPS for jibe analysis started after another East Bay session. Just like back then, the GT-31 results differ dramatically between the positional data and the doppler data, with the doppler-based results seeming too low. In contrast, the FlySight data give almost identical results with or without doppler. The more accurate FlySight data form a much better basis for further jibe improvements, especially when synchronized with GoPro footage. In my best jibes last Saturday, I kept about 50-56% of my entry speed through the entire jibe. That's decent, but I think there is definitely room for improvement. I have a few things that I want to try out - can't wait for the next flat water session!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Missing Link

We had some nice ENE winds last Saturday, perfect for practicing jibes on the very flat water in East Bay. I focused on what Guy Cribb calls the "Missing Link" - dropping down after the sail flip to re-accelerate. That worked quite nicely - here's a short video:

On Sunday, I taught my first windsurf lesson since getting my US Sailing Windsurf Instructor certification - the light wind tack. We met our friends Bianca and Jonathen at the same spot, East Bay in Osterville, which is also a great light wind spot. The goal was to get Bianca to switch from the shuffle-shuffle-drag beginner tack to the 2-step tack. We practiced a lot on land - first the footwork, then the entire sequence. It paid off - once we hit the water, Bianca's tacks looked great right away. Success!

I am definitely looking forward to giving more windsurfing lessons. It's the perfect time of the year for working on planing jibes - when it's windy, we can usually find a perfect spot (like East Bay) somewhere on Cape Cod.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nina Catches Waves

The weather today was just too nice to not go outside and play. With NE winds around 15, we decided to go SUP sailing at Chapin. By the time we had rigged, all the kites were coming off the water because the wind was dropping. Nina's 5.0 m sail and my 5.7 were small for the conditions, but it got us out to the (also small) waves. Too spoiled from perfectly flat water, the main use I found for the waves was as an excuse to fall off - but Nina had fun, catching one little wave after the other. Here's an example (make sure to turn the sound on):

More fun expected tomorrow - hopefully enough wind to plane on reasonably-sized gear. See you on the water!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Windsurfing lessons on Cape Cod

My friends have been telling me this for a while, but now it's official: I am certified. Certified by US Sailing as a Windsurfing Instructor, that is. To get the certification, I had to complete a 4-day instructor class, and a 5-hour First Aid/CPR/AED class. Both were interesting classes, I definitely learned a lot. Now I'm eager to practice what I learned, so I am offering free windsurfing lessons on Cape Cod for the first 10 takers. Details about topics I 'd teach can be found here. If you are interested, it would be great if you could let me know a couple of days in advance.

Otherwise, October has been uneventful so far. We had decent wind last Monday, although I needed my 6.5 m sail most of the time to plane. On the upside, it was warm and mostly sunny, and the SSE wind created unusual conditions at Kalmus. I also did sail a bit the next two days, but it was more like typical summer sailing, barely planing on relatively big sails. Still fun, but no Rocktober yet.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Busy weeks

After a number of very busy weeks, we're finally relaxing a bit at home. Busy time started with the ABK camp Cape Cod, which was fantastic, as usual. Then we got a few days with fantastic wind that let up just in time to give us a couple of days to prepare the ECWF Cape Cod. This first-time event was a big success and lots of fun, but afterwards, we were exhausted. But 5 days later, we were driving down to Hatteras, where I took a windsurf instructor course organized by US Sailing. During the 4 class days, we had some great light wind and planing sessions, and on the 4 non-class days, I was fully powered on 5.5 most of the time. Here's a picture with Nina on the last day, when we sailed the Canadian Hole for the first time:
A lovely spot, perhaps even a bit flatter than the Island Creek location where we had stayed before. My legs were a bit tired from sailing 200 km the day before, so I ended up with the same old mistakes in my jibes - can you spot the problems in the next picture, and predict what will happen?
For teaching windsurfing, I really need to practice the "sandwich" approach, so let me start with the good things: the sail is oversheeted nicely, with the clew pulled behind me; and I am standing in a balanced stance, looking into the turn. But my front arm should be more extended, and the knees should be bent more - especially since I am sailing the boom relatively low (since I was fully powered). The next picture shows what happened next:
With the rig too close to me, and the knees to straight, I hooked in just as I started switching the feet, which made this jibe end wet. But at least I had the boom cam footage to see exactly what I need to change! Funny thing is that my jibes on the first planing day were great - after sailing in Kalmus chop before, I still remembered to bend the knees enough. But after a few days in the relatively flat Avon waters, and with tired legs, things left room for improvement on the last day.

Funny how what I did the few days before influences my style. I tried to go for a few chop hops, but they ended up disappointing. Looking at the camera footage, once again the reason becomes clear:
The sail is wide open, the nose of the board is way up and pointing downwind - yes, I had been working on the takeoff for the flatwater loop, Andy Brandt/Remko style. Now if I only had pulled up the back leg and pushed down on the boom with the front hand ... maybe next time.