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.


  1. I can't really tell from the video but your lines look close together. Have you tried separating them further in harsh conditions? I find doing that makes sailing in rough conditions a bit easier when I'm doing speed runs w/ an overpowered sail.


  2. Love your blog Peter! I'm glad you calculate the risks...I sometimes worry about you, Nina and Martin in that cold wild wind and water.

  3. Kevin, my lines are almost 2 hand widths apart. The center of effort is constant in the KA Koncept 5.8 that I used, even in strong gusts, so lines too narrow was not the problem. The timing was wrong for perfect speed conditions, but what bugged me was being a big chicken once again.

    Pam, I wish I could agree with you about calculating risks - but there was really no risk. There were a number of fishing boats around, so I could have gotten a ride back even if sailing back would have proved too difficult. The water still feels nice and warm. Yesterday, I was hot the entire time while sailing, with air temps in the low 50s. Only my hands needed a while to get used to colder weather again.

  4. Only 2?!?! lol just kidding. Mine are about 3.5 apart. I tend to really use my Koncepts and Koyotes into the top of their wind range. (63kilos/6.6 up to 22kts). Nothing wrong with being a "chicken" as sometimes braving it can result in some pretty bad gear damage and injuries!