Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Happy to be fooled

The wind fooled me today. But I'm happy. See, usually the wind drops as soon as I start sailing (or perhaps 30 minutes later, or after sailing upwind a mile to the slicks, or...). But today, it increased steadily. Here's what it did:
We left home when wind averages were around 20 mph. The forecast predicted a slight increase to 23. We arrived at the beach when readings were 21. So we rigged for freestyle - Nina her 5.3, I my magical 6.5. But when we hit the water, averages had already gone up to 24, and kept increasing. Nina quickly decided to rig down to a 4.7 North Ice, but I was stubborn. Or maybe just lazy. Or I had too much fine sailing in the light rain and chilly (48ºF, 9ºC) air.

Nina soon was happily working on Duck Tacks on her 4.7. I worked on adding outhaul and moving the boom down. Then I switched the 110 l freestyle board against a 90 l slalom board. Much better! Except that I still was using my freestyle / "entry level" sail. That's a wonderful sail in 17 mph. We had gusts twice that high. Should I be surprised the sail backwinded a bit in the gusts? You tell me.

I said "overpowered is much better than underpowered", and stuck to the flat water near the windward sand bar. Flat like in 3 inch chop - chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter. I love this sound! The wind angle allowed for runs at a 110 degree angle to the wind. Going deeper meant quickly increasing chop, so I went for long runs instead. I ended up with my 3rd-fastest nautical mile ever - not bad for a freestyle sail! even better, my average for the mile was less than 2 knots below my top speed for the day. Nice! Maybe I should have rigged a speed sail, but I was having too much fun.

For all my GPS-addicted speed friends, here are my GPS tracks for the day:

Monday, May 26, 2014

Racing Cats and Phantoms

We just had two great days of windsurfing, on days where the wind averages never exceeded 16 mph. On Saturday, we went to Chapin for some SUP sailing in knee- to hip-high little waves. Tons of fun for both of us - Nina caught "SOO many waves". She played around with upwind wave 360s, which mostly ended up as heli tacks, but still made her smile big time. While we sailed, water levels dropped more than expected, but it was definitely worth carrying the gear half a mile back to the car.

Yesterday was just as much fun in similar wind, but on flat water with different gear:
That's Nina in the foreground on her (formally my) Fanatic Ultra Cat. She's on a full plane, with the first 9 of the 12 feet of the board out of the water, despite being "not fully powered" on a 6.5 freeride sail. The picture is from Dani's quadcopter movie (check it our on the Fogland Windsurfers Facebook page).

We practiced some longboard racing for the upcoming East Coast Windsurfing Festival in Long Island. Nina used the Fanatic Ultra Cat, I used my Kona Mahalo, Sabah a Mistral Equipe, and Dani his new Starboard Phantom 320. In the first few races, the Kona was able to keep up with the other boards, but I think that was mostly because the wind level was just right, and everyone else was not yet dialed in. In later races, when the wind had picked up, Nina left everyone far behind, with Dani coming in second.

I got a chance to try all four boards. The Equipe badly needed Redeck, and was too slippery to rail. It had all 9 or 10 footstraps mounted, which left almost no space for my big feet. It picked up speed nicely when gusts hit, but had the narrowest tail of all 4 boards, which made downwind sailing a bit harder.

The Fanatic Cat was my favorite of the four boards. With fresh Monster Paint Traction, just 3 straps, a huge carbon dagger board, and it's slightly wider tail, it was pure fun to sail. Being almost 50% heavier than Nina, I did not get it to plane fully, but it's just amazing how the board converts every little bit of wind into speed; how easily it rails up on upwind courses (which is FUN); and how nicely it glides through the water in light breezes.

The Starboard Phantom 320 surprised me. I tried it during the windiest half hour of the day, and had now problems to get it planing. One on a plane, if felt as quiet and stable as a true longboard, but faster. My top speed from just a few runs was close to 20 knots, in wind that never gusted above 16 knots. Dani, who took out his Carbon Art Slalom gear and KA speed sails for a while, got up to 22 knots, not a whole lot faster. We both were on 7.5 m sails, but I outweigh him by 50%, so the Phantom's top speed is rather decent. I have no doubts that the board could have gone a lot faster in more wind.

The Phantom 320 has very thick, boxy rails, similar to the F2 Lightning from the early 1990s. The adjustable mast track was very easy to use, and the huge daggerboard was the easiest to adjust of all 4 boards. With the dagger board down, the Phantom railed up very nicely, seeming faster than I would have though possible for such a short longboard. But when I tried to tack the Phantom with the mast track forward, but the daggerboard up, I was in for a surprise: it was impossible to turn the board through the wind. Even backwinded with the sail raked all the way back onto the board, the board tracked perfectly straight, rather than going into the wind. This is not really an issue, though - with the mast track back or the dagger board down, tacking is no problem at all. Even with the track all the way forward, the board had plenty of volume in the nose to make tacking easy for my 200 pounds. While being reasonably easy to sail, realizing the Phantom's full speed is not trivial - I think the board is a bit more technical to sail than the others. For example, Nina had a hard time to get the Phantom to plane, even when she had no problems to plane on the Cat. But for a light sailor who has the Phantom fully dialed in, the board should be rather competitive to old school longboards.

The Mahalo was the easiest of the four boards to sail. It can be sailed as a tandem, and all the extra volume makes tacking, jibing, and sailing downwind very easy. Like the Phantom, it has a fat nose, so the glide at low speed does not feel as nice as on the Cat or the Equipe. With more rounded rails and a smaller daggerboard than the Cat and the Phantom, the Mahalo's upwind angle is a bit more limited, though. It also does not pick up speed quite as well when the wind picks up to 15 mph or more, and requires more power to get planing. Here, it is probably limited by both its weight (roughly the same as the weight of the Cat and the Phantom combined) and the lack of an adjustable mast track. On the plus side, the soft top provided plenty of grip, making it easy to rail the board at exactly the desired angle. Considering that the Mahalo was not designed as a race board, I think it did extremely well.

Two days of windsurfing - different water conditions, different gear, but lots of fun both times. Add another day of light wind fun from earlier last week, when we practiced light wind freestyle in East Bay - and hopefully some short board planing later today, and we are talking about a lot of different ways to have fun windsurfing!
Fogland from above

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A great ABK camp

The ABK camp in Hatteras finished two days ago, and we had a blast. 25 campers and 5 instructors had fun on the water for 5 days, with an about even mix of light wind and planing conditions. Experience levels ranged from total beginners to windsurfers working on Willy Skippers, Vulcans, Conca Tacks, Speed Loops, and Donkey Jibes.

Andy Brandt taught the camp with a broken foot, which did not affect his teaching abilities at all. On the first day, he diagnosed and fixed problems I had with exiting from Back To Back - I let the sail come up when stepping, and/or did not slice it forward neutrally. On the water, he was sitting on a SUP, which made him easier to spot, so things worked out just fine. When the wind picked up, I started playing around with loop drills, and made definitive progress. But rather than sticking to only loops, I started working on other tricks, too, to maximize the amount of information I could get from Andy. That gave me enough to keep working on Upwind 360s, Clew-first Carve 360s, and planing out switch from a sail-first jibe in both straps on my own. Planing switch was a very new and different feeling, and I am eager to try it again when the conditions are right. Planing Duck Tacks and Switch Konos seem feasible now...

We have had a typical SW wind pattern the last three days, with a steady ramp up in the afternoons. Yesterday afternoon, meter readings showed low 30s, with gusts up to 40 mph. A bit much for my taste to try new things, but just sailing and playing with the chop provided plenty of fun. The next three days look like light winds, before the stronger winds return in the middle of the week. A welcome break to rest sore muscles and to practice light wind freestyle!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

I love Kona racing

We went to the Kashy/WET regatta last weekend and had an enormous amount of fun. Nina raced our Fanatic Ultra Cat, I joined 15 others in the Kona class. Conditions were perfect for long board racing - mostly sunny, wind mostly between 10 and 20 mph, enough for several long board and formula races each day. There were just too many things to like, and I have to run to the ABK camp soon, so I'll just list a few things:

  • Great location at Dave Kashy's house - flat water with a good catch from 3 sides
  • A very friendly crowd - competitive, but relaxed enough so fun came first
I loved racing the Kona One. We arrived friday morning after driving through the night. With 3 hours of sleep, sailing on Friday was a tad challenging, but it helped me to get dialed in a bit. Steve Gottlieb, who brought 15 Kona's for racing from Florida, was very helpful to everyone who needed tips for tuning and sailing, which made things a lot easier. Here's are a few things I loved about the Kona racing:
  • The board has a nice glide in light wind, making sailing in 5 mph fun
  • When the wind picks up, so does board speed. It gradually increases until the board comes up to a full plane. 
  • Planing on the Kona feels different from short board planing, but it's fun! The GPS showed that my top speed was close to 20 knots, which is pretty close to what I would have reached on a freeride board in these conditions.
  • Sail sizes are based on body weight - I sailed a 9.0, lighter sailors used smaller sizes down to 6.6. That made the racing fair across all body weights. Board speed was indeed the same for different sail colors (= sizes) on the water.
  • No pumping allowed, so races were decided by skill, not by stamina.
  • Almost everyone who raced had his moments of glory, be in front or close for at least a part of a race.
I have to run to yoga class before camp, so I'll leave you with just a few pictures:
Waiting for the next race

Run, Nina, run!

Formula race start

Formula action

Pro formula winners

Happy sisters