Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Barn Good Island

Here a few things that I had heard and read recently:
  • "We need a good speed spot for south winds!"
  • "Sandy Point is one of the best speed spots in the world!"
  • "... sailed just downwind of Sandy Point. Man that was flat and fast"
  • "I always wanted to sail Sandy Point"
  • "South winds 35 mph, gusting to 60 mph"
No, these were not voices in my head - they were conversations with windsurfer friends, and things I picked up on The astute reader will realize that we are talking about two different Sandy Points here - the famous one in Australia, where Australian speedsurfers regularly break 45 knots; and the other one at the Connecticut-Rhode Island border, a 2 hour drive from Boston and Cape Cod. Here is a picture of our Sandy Point that I found on Google:
One big sandbar, perfect for speed! We just had to go check it out. I got so excited several days before that I could hardly sleep...

When the big wind day came, we were in the van at 9 am. The last forecast I had looked at predicted wind the whole day, with just a minor drop in the afternoon. The drive in our high roof van was quite interesting - the 40+ mph gusts were constantly trying to move the van off the lane. Nina slept for most of the trip, but I sure was wide awake!

When we arrived at the Barn Island boat ramp at 11, a number of local windsurfers were on the water, or already coming off from an early session. Some said they were other overpowered on 3.7, so we went small - 3.7 for Nina, and a 5.0 KA Koncept for me. I had only rigged this sail once before, and since forgotten a couple of things to watch out for, so it was 12 by the time I hit the water. No problem, the wind was still going strong! First order of business was sailing about 1200 meters upwind to the sandbar. The beginning was easy and flat, with only small and very orderly wind swell. But once I reached the deeper parts in the middle, the wind suddenly picked up, and I had to fight to keep my 90 l slalom board on the water. Even the 5.0 m speed sail felt a bit big at times!

As memorable as the upwind trip in 40 mph gusts was, it was no big deal in hindsight - I reached the sandbar in less than 20 minutes. After a short break to check it out a bit, I sailed across to where Dean was standing in the water. Just about then, the wind suddenly dropped - from 35 averages to less than 20:
That gave us a bit of time to chat. Dean loved the spot, and had already reached 36 knots in his first speed run, just before the wind started to drop. For a while, the only one of us who had a chance to plane was Nina on Dean's 6.2 m sail - and even she had to pump! But after a while, the wind returned a bit, just enough for me to get planing. I got one decent speed run in, where Dean served as the slingshot marker, and I caught a lucky gust just at the right time. That gave me a 2 second top speed of 31 knots - for me, that counts as very fast, even more so since I was just-so powered. But a few runs later, the wind dropped again, and we ended up schlogging back downwind to the start.

We all liked the spot a lot - it definitely has the potential for 40-knot runs when the conditions are right. Dean reached a new 2 second top speed, at least on one of his two GPS units. Here are his tracks for the day (check his blog for his report):
He got to the sandbar in time for some powered speed runs right next to the sandbar. I later compared our GPS tracks, and his speeds after 12:30, when I arrived, were very similar to my speeds. That really made me regret not getting there an hour earlier! But it was still a great day, with air temperatures in the high sixties - warm enough to sail in a short-sleeved 3 mm suit. We'll definitely be back!

Here is a short video:

1 comment:

  1. Damn that is a serious drop in wind! Spot looks great though from the footage!