Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring sessions

I have received thinly veiled complains that I don't blog about our sailing enough recently, so this is a catch-up post. It's long and boring, so let me start with how interesting things could have been:
That's Jerry jumping at Coast Guard yesterday. The waves were small, but that did not keep him from having fun:
Coast Guard is an ocean beach. Our home beach, Kalmus, is not - it's in Nantucket Sound. Two islands 30 km to the south, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, keep ocean swell away. The Hyannis Port breakwater about 1 mile to the southwest keeps the chop down. But in SSW winds like we had yesterday, the big difference is that the wind in Kalmus is straight onshore, but at Coast Guard, it's side-offshore. With water temperatures just above freezing, that matters to me. I think it should - Nina and I both managed to kill sails in our recent sessions. Offshore winds, equipment problems, and cold water don't go well together. Side-off wind is a little better, but just a little.

When spring comes, many windsurfers around here start feeling slightly schizophrenic. On one hand, we love it when we get warm southerly winds. On the other hand, cold water and warm wind means that we may sit on the beach and stare at windless water: the dreaded decoupling happens! If the temperature difference is too big, the wind "decouples": as it approaches the shoreline, it lifts up, leaving us windsurfers windless. This happens when the wind is onshore or side-one; on offshore and side-off beaches, it does not happen.

Yesterday's air temperature was near 50ºF (10ºC), but the water temperature was closer to 36ºF (2ºC).  Decoupling was a definite possibility. But around noon, the wind picked up to 25 mph. I was on the water 90 minutes later, and had some fun on a 5.3 m sail. For me, that counts as a small sail. Things were fine for half an hour. They even seemed to be getting better as the wind increased - until I forgot what I had posted here 2 weeks ago, and practiced my karate skills on a sail again. Well, it was really more a slow tai chi elbow during a really slow fall, but the sail did not like it, not one little bit.

Back to shore to re-rigg. I picked the 5.0 this time, only to see the wind go down. Tried the bigger board, but the wind was watching me, and went down even more. Just about then, Nina was ready to go out on here brand-new four point two. Nope! She took my 5.0 and her big Skate instead, and I rigged a third sail - 7.0 this time.

When we hit the water, the wind was just about perfect for our sail sizes. With a negative low tide, water depth was rather similar to Bonaire, so Nina went and did her thing - duck jibes, push tacks, a few duck tack tries, and donkey jibe tries. Her duck jibes looked great (as usual), and her donkeys were getting really close. I just worked on jibing (yes, again/still!). During a recent session at the Kennedy Slicks, I had a hard time planing out of my jibes, despite being nicely powered (albeit on 7.5). To figure out what was going on, I took some clew view GoPro footage. This is what I saw:
This is mid-jibe, shortly before the foot switch. Both arms are bent - it looks like I'm trying to pull the boom straight through me. This is not how your are supposed to do this! The front arm is supposed to be extended! My knees are bent just enough so that I did not hook in again (despite long harness lines), but this stance kills speed. Here's what the GPS showed:
All my jibes were dry; I often picked up speed as I entered the jibe; but I lost way too much speed mid-jibe. This picture shows why:
With both arms bent, I am pulling the sail back onto me. This makes the tail sink and the nose rear up, slowing the board down. Funny thing is - I did not realize I was doing this! But it's an old and recurring habit - here's proof from our Tobago trip:

Of course, this is absolutely, positively not my fault! I can find many others to blame for this. Maybe I am just mixing up a few different bits of advice here: "pull down on the boom during the jibe", and "to pull down on the boom, the elbows need to point down". Taken separately, these two pieces of advice make sense; put together in the middle of the jibe like I did, they are bloody nonsense!

I am doing this same stupid thing just about every single time I jibe, even though I know it's wrong. This is completely automatic - chances are I have done this for years without noticing. So in yesterday's session, my only focus in jibes was to keep the front arm extended. I tried to go for Dasher's advice: "the hips roll in, the mast moves to the outside", concentrating on keeping the arm long. That worked ok - but I'd still catch myself starting with extended arms, then quickly bending both arms, and then extending them again just before moving to the inside. Muscle memory from years of doing it wrong are hard to replace!

Towards the end of the session, I found myself getting ready for another beach start with the rig in hand, but no board attached. Seems the board had had enough of me and decided to go back to shore. Since the water was just knee deep, I caught it quickly and made sure to use a bit more force on the mast foot this time. I was, however, rather glad that I had not gone to sail in side-off wind! The board would probably be on its way to Europe now...

Now back to the question what the wind did yesterday- did it decouple? Well, the wind was up and down, peaking at averages near 30 mph, and then dropping down to less than 20 mph. However, it did exactly the same thing at Chapin on the other side of the Cape, where winds were offshore. That indicates it was not decoupling this time - on a decoupling day, the Chapin meter would show stronger and more consistent wind. Looking at the other wind meters confirms this: both the Chatham (onshore) and the Hatch Beach (side-offshore) meter showed consistent winds; the West Island meter, which juts out into Buzzards Bay and is not prone to decoupling, showed wind patterns very similar to Kalmus, but a bit weaker. On many SW days, the West Island meter reads higher than Kalmus due to its exposed location. So it seems that what we had yesterday was something that is often seen in the wind forecasts: the wind simply was much stronger further out (eastward) on the Cape. The huge high that was driving these winds was a few hundred miles to out east, so this makes sense (kind of).

Well, I warned you that this would be a long post, so I'll just keep going. Edda needs to know all the details about our windsurfing, after all! Our last windsurfing session before yesterday was exactly a week ago. It was also a south wind session, and the wind was just as temperamental. It stayed around 30 mph for a bit more than one hour, and I got to enjoy some of that on a 4.7m sail, fully powered. Last week's forecast actually had predicted a quick raise and drop in the wind, and that's what we got. Martin arrived just as the wind was ramping up, and ended up rigging three sails, only to end up with just a couple of runs on his 4.2 before the wind dropped. After a short deep drop, the wind stayed around 25 mph for almost two hours, but by then, everyone had given up. Nina had a lousy day on her 5.3 - underpowered at first, and overpowered 20 minutes later. Her confidence was still a bit shaken from breaking a sail in the previous session, so that was not her day.

Two days before that, I had a short and sweet session at the Kennedy Slicks. I was on big slalom gear (117 l + 7.5 m) to practice for the ECWF Long Island in June, which was just perfect for the conditions. Once again, the wind was fluky, but I was lucky with my timing and got a nice one-hour session in. March started slow with no session in the first 11 days, but with 6 sessions since then, I can't complain. And there's still hope for one more session on Monday :-).


Pete commented that many problems in jibes being from bad entries, in particular not oversheeting enough. I agree that is is often true, but it is not what slows me down these days. Below is an image from one of the jibes from the Kennedy Slicks session. 

So far, so good - the sail is oversheeted and pushed out of the way, the front arm is still long. But two seconds later in this jibe, as I open up the sail, my front arm did indeed bend again, and I lost speed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

More fun!

Here are some of my favorite ways to have more fun windsurfing:
  1. Sail at a great spot
  2. Take a windsurfing vacation
  3. Learn something new
  4. Participate at a windsurfing festival
This spring, we are lucky - we get to all these things! We'll combine a few good things with out annual spring trip to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.

On the way to Hatteras, we'll stop by the Kashy/WET Windsurfing Festival for some racing. This year, they'll have some Kona boards for rent, which should be lots of fun, regardless how much wind we get. Nothing better than a windsurfing race to show you the limits of your skills!

We'll pick up Nina's sister Edda on the way, and then arrive just in time for the ABK clinic in Waves. We have done ABK camps at a bunch of different spots, but Hatteras is my absolute favorite. Why?

  • Miles and miles of flat, shallow water, perfect for learning
  • Great wind - usually a mix of planing and light wind days, with more planing days
  • Our own windsurfing gear right next to the water
  • A two minute walk to the clinic site, and evening video reviews in the house where we are staying
We have done ABK camps in Hatteras every year for a few years now, and always had a blast. The fun continues after the camp - there is always a pronounced uptick in our skills afterwards, which makes windsurfing even more fun. We also really like that staying in Hatteras is dirt cheap - generally less than $200 per person and week for a room in a great house close to the water. That's about the cost of one night in one of the nicer places on Bonaire! Food is also cheap - with a fully equipped kitchen and plenty of cooks, there's no need to go out. So most nights, we just stay in, talk windsurfing all evening, and drink beer.

There's still plenty of space left in the ABK camp from May 5 - May 9. If you've never been there, you should definitely sign up if you can get the week off! The house we are staying in is full, but there are usually several ABK campers who get together and rent another house close by that they share.

If you can't make it to the ABK camp in Hatteras, how about joining the ABK camp in Corpus Christi, Texas, from April 24-27? That's another fantastic location for an ABK camp. The one year we did this camp, we had planing conditions every single day, and that's not unusual for Corpus in the spring. The rental gear at the clinic site is great, and there's plenty of shallow water perfect for teaching and learning. The Corpus Christi camp usually fills up, so reserve your spot soon! Or check the ABK camp schedule for other camp locations.

Sunset on Cape Hatteras

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hugo is sick!

I am confused. It's Hugo's fault. Hugo de Sousa, that is. I watched his videos too much. My head is spinning. Why? Here's why:

This is just one small sequence from a great movie (check it out on Youtube). There's way too much action in this movie - I had to take little pieces at a time and slow them down. There are a few great windsurfers in the "iae cara" movie, but the outstanding one is a Hugo de Sousa, a 17-year old windsurfer from Brazil.

The short section above is perhaps the most outstanding freestyle combination I have ever seen. Hugo start with an Air Kabikuchi. You recognize that one, right? It when you duck the sail to the wrong side (behind your back), twist your upper body 180 degrees, and jump high from this backwinded, twisted stance. What comes next looks like a Kono, which is mighty cool in itself: throw yourself backwards so that your feet are above your head, and turn the nose of the board through the wind so that the wind catches the other side of the sail and pulls you upright again. Then it's time to add something - how about switching directions? So the nose of the board is pointed down to the water and pushed back towards the wind; the sail is backwinded (again), with Hugo being horizontal to the water (again); this pushed his upright for the landing.

There are a few world-class freestylers out there who can do Air Kabikuchis and Air Skopus (more or less the same thing, but started from switch stance). What really amazed me is what happened next, though: Hugo lands in a backwinded stance. That would be back-to-back, except that his upper body is twisted towards the sail. Then, he pushes the clew through the wind and planes out of the move clew-first. After planing clew-first for all of two seconds, he launches into a clew-first spock. Sick! Sick!

The entire thing happened on perfectly flat water. So what happens if you give Hugo a few waves to play with? See for yourself:

He just jumps higher! Ok, this is from his home spot, but his style is just crazy. That one-handed, arched-back throw-down thing he does? That is style! Hugo Style!

What - you are still not convinced that Hugo is destined for greatness? Let us look closer at something more basic - his pops. Double and triple combos are a must in PWA freestyle competition. Often, the board just makes it out of the water for the second jump (or, more accurately, pop), and the third trick is often done with the board mostly in the water. Not for Hugo! His second pops are often higher than the first ones, the tricks more radical:

I just love how he pulls out the board completely for the third jump in the last segment.

I love Kiri Thode, the current PWA freestyle world champion from Bonaire. Kiri's Konos that I often saw life on Bonaire will forever be burned into my head. But Kiri has his work cut out for him if we wants to stay ahead of Hugo. Of course, being successful in freestyle competition requires more than just excellent tricks. Conditions at the freestyle events are often crazy, especially in Fuerteventura and on Sylt; at other events, the wind is extremely light, much lighter than in Brazil. Add to that nerves, complicated event rules, and mind games others might play, and it may well take Hugo a few years to make it to the top. But I just can't wait to see what he does on his journeys! Already, there are a few nice articles about him on Continent Seven:
You may have noted that Hugo was next to Gollito Estredo in two of the articles above. Gollito has collected no fewer than five PWA World Champion titles in freestyle, and finished on second place in 2013. He recently released a video from his training that was rather impressive:

Well, if you are still reading this, chances are you have not clicked on the link to the "iae cara" movie above. Here it is:

The only thing we need now is good wind at the PWA freestyle events this year, and a decent life feed from each event!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sails hate martial arts

I love martial arts. UFC is my favorite thing to watch on TV. I spend more than a decade trying to learn some martial arts myself - first a few years of judo, then many more years of karate. Did that long enough to wear the master of the dojo down - he eventually realized that giving me a black belt would be the only way to get rid of me. Nina joined me for a few years doing the karate-thing.

Since returning from Tobago, I had not sailed for a couple of weeks. Maybe my aging mind got confused. When I hit the water again two days ago, I must have been thinking karate. How else would you explain that I practiced knee strokes to the sail? Ok, just one stroke, but one too many for my favorite sail. Perhaps I was angry at the wind meter that showed 22 mph winds. I think the West Dennis wind meter is a kiter wind meter - it measures the wind 20 meter above ground, where kites fly. I barely got planing at all - only with help from waves pushing me, and desperate attempts to pump. And then the wind dropped.

Today was Nina's turn to practice karate on sails. We had much better wind in Kalmus. The meter said 25 mph, just 3 mph more than the West Dennis meter had said. But the Kalmus meter understates. It tries to keep the water empty, instead of luring tons of kiters like the West Dennis meter. That worked - Nina and I were the only ones on the water at Kalmus today. Hard to understand - it was a beautiful, sunny day. Air temperatures even made it above the freezing point in the afternoon, after starting the day at 20ºF (-7ºC). The water was ice-free - what more can you want when it is still technically winter?

We had a great day. I took the lower-than-normal temperatures as an excuse to mow the lawn. Nina remembered ABK Brendon's instruction: a lawn must be mowed and watered. So she practiced duck tacks, hoping to finally nail her second planing one. She even got really close on one that I saw, until the sail reminded her of her watering duties and pushed her of her board.

I found it quite amazing she even went for duck tacks. I was very nicely powered on a 5.5 m sail and a 96 l board. She was on her 100 l Skate with a 4.5 m board, and quite overpowered. But it was low tide, and the water was reasonably flat (or so she said).

We will never know what happened then. Maybe Nina got angry at the sail for throwing her off so much. Maybe not consciously, but sub-consciously. Or maybe it was just one of those catapults that happen even to advanced windsurfers from time to time to keep our egos in check. Whatever it was, Nina ended up practicing her elbow strikes on her favorite sail. It was an HD sail, but one strike was all it took! The sail tore, and when the rest of Nina followed her elbow, it tried to open up wide enough to let her through.

So we learned something this week: sails are not good objects for practicing karate. Sure, you are smart and would have guessed that much, but we now have solid experimental evidence. My sail can probably be repaired, but Nina may just have to get one of these Idol sails that make freestylers do crazy tricks. Anyone wants to bet against her learning a Shaka-Flaka in a few years?

For my lawn mowing, GPS loving friends, here are my GPS tracks for the day:
There was lots of fun to be had today. So come out of your winter hiding holes already and join the fun!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tobago video

Here's a short video from our recent trip to Tobago. Not much action, but it shows the conditions we had reasonably well.