Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Super Moon, Super Tides

 I hope you all got to see the lunar eclipse yesterday. I thought it was quite fantastic. I finally had a reason to learn about using my camera in "manual" mode. I like the pictures, so I take the liberty to post them, even though they have nothing to do with windsurfing.

Well, almost nothing. We do have a nice little storm coming through in a few days. The National Weather Service predicts gusts up to 35 knots. Fun! Might be a good time to wear a helmet with a visor, though - there will also be some rain.

 The wind will be out of the north and northeast, so the places to sail will be on the Cape Cod Bay site. Normally, we have about a 10 foot (3 meter) tide difference there; you have to watch tide levels before going out on many spots, or you may have a long walk back.
But the moon being very close to Earth right now, and it is still almost full. So the tides the next few days will be exceptionally high (and low). For Duxbury Bay and Barnstable Harbor, the predicted low tide levels are - 2 feet, and high tides exceed 12 feet several times - that's a 14 foot (4 m 20) tide!
If the wind indeed blows hard out of the northeast for a couple of days, it will push a lot of water into the bays, and the actual tide levels may be even higher. A couple of extra feet at some of the more exposed beaches would be no surprise. That could create a few problems.
 If you are planning to go windsurfing near Cape Cod the next few days, make sure to check the tide tables, and use caution. I am listing a few things that come to my mind for my favorite N-NE launches below.
 Duxbury Bay will probably be mostly unsailable near low tide. Last Monday, we sailed there at a +1.6 foot low tide, and had about 4 feet of water under our boards at many spots. With a -2 foot tide, there'll be less than 1 foot of water at many spots. Unless the wind pushes a lot of water into the bay, most of the north side will be dry, and a lot of the south side will be too shallow near low tide.
 Fortunately, low tide is early in the morning and again after dark. But at and after high tide, there may be a lot of reeds on the water, which can stop you dead. It's still early in the fall, so the problem may not be really bad, but bring your weed fin! Assuming, of course, the Duxbury Harbor Master does not close the bay because of a storm warning.
 Chapin should be sailable for much of the day, but keep in mind that there will be a lot of water flowing in the outgoing tide. The currents near the Barnstable Harbor entrance will be significantly stronger than during a normal tide. The rip currents may also be quite strong. So exercise caution if you go! And post some pictures :-)

Pleasant Bay may be a great spot once the wind turns NNE-NE. No worries about rip currents or harbor masters! But keep in mind that the Jackknife Cove can flood at high tide. The tide is delayed by about 2 1/2 hours relative to outside beaches - it will close to 5 pm for Thursday.
 The predicted high tide level for Pleasant Bay of 4.0 feet is 0.4 feet higher than last Saturday, when a small part of the road near the lot entrance got wet. I sailed there only the second time last Saturday, so I don't know how much the wind pushes the water into the cove, but I'd definitely watch the water levels closely in the afternoon!
This could be a reason to explore the other nearby landings, for example the one at the end of Strong Island Road. But there are shallow areas near Strong Island which might be too shallow to sail near low tide.
Back to the moon: the pictures on the left span quite a variety of exposure times, from 1/250 at ISO 100 to 2 seconds at ISO 800 (all at f/5.7). That's a difference of 2000-fold! Quite amazing how the eye adapts to such differences.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

GPS Racing at the ECWF Cape Cod

We tried a couple of new things at this year's ECWF Cape Cod. One was adding a "Shortboard/SUP" division for everyone who does not own a longboard, and does not want to use a sail larger than 6.5 square meters. That class was a big success, with 8 racers on a variety of SUPs (with a length limit of 11 ft) and shortboards.

The other new thing was GPS racing: strap on a GPS, and go as fast as you can in a pre-defined time frame. Unfortunately, we did not have enough wind for GPS racing on day 1. When the wind picked up in the afternoon of the second day, many racers were exhausted after 9 races, and/or wanted to see the pros demo their freestyle skills at the Lewis Bay side.
Kiri Thode freestyling in Lewis Bay
But 4 brave souls persisted, and we got the one 15-minute GPS race going. The gear they used was quite mixed: one longboard, one freestyle board, and two slalom boards. Due to the offshore wind and lack of spectators, we had canceled the original plan to give bonus points for freestyle tricks, but that did not keep Martin from throwing in at least one 360. Here are the competitor's GPS tracks:
Interestingly, the top speed was set by the only freestyler, Martin, with 25.8 knots; the slalom boards clocked in at 22.84 knots and 23.3 knots, while the longboard maxed out at 16.96 knots. From the tracks, it seems Martin was the only one to make a few downwind speed runs, while everyone else sailed back and force on a beam reach.

But top speed was not the goal - distance was the name of the game. Here are the results:

  1. John Brown, 5.958 km
  2. Jeff Spillane, 5.756 km
  3. Martin Schauer, 4.880 km
  4. Jerry Evans, 4.506 km
Those attending the winner announcement at the festival may notice a discrepancy: I had announced that Jerry took 3rd place, instead of Martin. I must have read a number wrong ... I admit to being somewhat exhausted after 2 days of organizing the races and freestyle heats. My apologies to Martin and Jerry! Jerry will have to demo a bunch of loops for Martin to make up for it :-).

For all my GPS geek friends, here is a GPS movie of the race at 10 x speed, created with GPS Action Replay Pro:

We had purchased 10 GPS loaner units for the races (made possible through a generous donation by Hyline Ferries). One of the racers purchased his unit after the race, but we still have 9 units left. Since we don't need any buoys or boats for GPS freeracing, we can just do some impromptu races at Kalmus or Duxbury next time it's windy! Just send me a message or talk to me on the beach if you are interested. Also, if someone else wants to organize GPS races as part of a windsurfing event, we can talk about sending the loaner GPS units to you. Just contact me on Facebook or by email.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ECWF Cape Cod Results and Kiri Video

We had a great East Coast Windsurfing Festival on Cape Cod the last weekend. 32 racers and 23 freestylers competed over two days - sunny and warm with light winds on day 1, and stronger offshore winds on day 2 with clouds and a few sprinkles of rain.
On Sunday afternoon, a new King and Queen of the Cape were crowned: Rich Simons and Pam Levy. Hail to the royal pair!
In racing, Mike Burns dominated the SUP/6.5 m division with 9 bullets (full results here). Jerry Evans won the 7.5 division with six 1st place finishes, two second places, and one third place - despite a broken outhaul in one heat. The open division saw several changes in leadership. John Brown started with 2 bullets, but when Myles Borash returned from the emergency room after minor toe surgery, he won 3 of the next four races. Gonzalo Giribet, the winner of the 1st ECWF Cape Cod racing in the open division, started slowly with a 7.5 m sail - he was testing his knees after knee surgery just 3 weeks ago. But when he discovered that the knee held up just fine, he returned with his 9.5 m race sail for day 2, and proceeded to leave Myles and everyone else on the race course far, far behind. In one race, he was so far ahead that we send him around the course again. He rounded most racers, coming on on 8th place for his second rounding of the course!

In freestyle, the level  in all three divisions (Men, Women, and Pros) was amazingly high. In the Pro division, Mike Burns was held back somewhat by recent injuries, but the Australian "Railride King" Pierre Coupal forced Kiri to show all his tricks to win the light wind heats.
Pierre on the original Windsurfer upside-down, fin first, clew first, next to Kiri 
On Sunday, the wind started light for a third heat in the Men's and Women's freestyle competition. In the subsequent Men's final, the heat was so close that it required a re-sail between Rich Simons and Niko Kley; Niko took the title with a flowing display of difficult tricks that included Duck Tacks, Back-2-Back, Ankle Biters, and Jawbreakers.

When the wind started to turn to the north, getting very light, we held the raffle for all event participants (who had to be present to win). Everyone when home with at least one item from our sponsors; top prices each worth $500 or more included an Ianovated winter wetsuit, a new Point-7 sail, and ABK camp voucher. Then it was off to three more races.

At this point, the offshore wind had increased to levels that allowed GPS Freeracing - but they also made our Pro level freestylers itch to get onto the water on the Lewis Bay side of Kalmus Beach, where the wind was more side-shore and thus more constant. Most windsurfers were too worn out to go back onto the water, but 4 windsurfers went out for a short 15 minute heat. Freestyler Martin Schauer posted the highest speed, but John Brown won the race by covering the highest distance.

Everyone left at the beach rushed over to the Lewis bay side to see the Pro level freestylers in action. The 2013 PWA Freestyle World Champion Kiri Thode was joined by Mike Burns, who was held back by an injury; local freestyler Nikita Piankov; and Chris Eldridge, who "officially" switched to wave sailing, but still has many cool moves up his sleeves. Nikita, Chris, and Mike put on a good show, but the only actual pro quickly demonstrated the difference between good amateur freestyle and top-level pro freestyle, showing many of the moves that allow him to win most of his PWA freestyle heats. A short video from this session is below; unfortunately, some of the biggest moves (e.g. a double Culo) are missing because Nina's camera batteries chose the worst possible moment to die. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Time to register for the ECWF Cape Cod!

If you are planning to play at the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod on September 19-20, please register now! Advance registrations really help us to make the event go smoothly. For example, we can setup the scoring for the racing beforehand, and start to plan the freestyle heats.

If you plan to join the freeracing, but don't have a GPS, you should register right away! We will have a limited number of rental GPS units available, which will be assigned on a "first registered, first served" basis. Note that the only GPS units allowed for this event are the Locosys GT-31 and Canmore GP-102; other GPS devices, including wrist watch style GPS units from Garmin, Suunto, and others are not supported.

Since this is the first time we will have freeracing at an ECWF event, let me explain it a bit more. In normal racing, the competitors race around a triangle course; for most, this means sailing very different than usually, going way higher angles upwind and downwind. Freeracing is different: you get to pick your own course, within a pre-defined area. For the ECWF Cape Cod, this is the yellow area on the map below:
This is pretty much the area where we typically sail at Kalmus. On the east (right) side, it is limited by the boat channel. Both the Harbor Master and common sense dictate that we stay out of the boat channel for the event! On the left side, it is delimited by the old stone pier before the Sea Street beach. Note that this pier extends much further into the bay than can be seen at most tide levels! The hidden stones under water have cause many sudden catapults, so we will stay away. We have to stay out of the Hyannis Port Harbor, anyway, so it's no big loss.

What's fun about the freeracing is that is is basically one long drag race against all the other windsurfers in the race. Everyone starts at the same time, and then tries to go as fast as possible for the time of the race (15 or 20 minutes at the ECWF Cape Cod). After the race, we examine the GPS tracks to see who covered the most distance. In regular freeracing, that's the winner of the race.

But at the ECWF, we will have a number of great freestylers participating, so we added a rule to make the races more fun to watch: if you do a freestyle trick close to the spectators (within the red area in the image above), you get bonus distance. You cannot just stay there and do tricks - we will count just one trick for every crossing of the freestyle area. As a rough guideline, the bonus distance in planing conditions will be between 1/10th and 1/20th of a mile. A fast freestyler who nails all his tricks has a good chance of winning .. unless the fastest slalom sailor is quite a bit faster.

This may sound a bit complicated, but it's really easy: strap on the GPS, and go as fast as you can for 15 or 20 minutes without missing your turns; if you are a freestyler, through in a trick for the spectators every time you sail by, and don't worry too much about the slalom guys being a bit faster. The tricks have to be appropriate for the skill level: if you're an intermediate, a sail 360 or sail-body 360 will do; but if you are competing in the pro freestyle division,  we'll want to see a new school move or a crowd pleaser like a loop or body drag.

We hope to have one or two freeraces on each day of the competition, if the wind is strong enough. We won't require planing conditions, but if the wind is so light that even longboards are moving slowly, we won't have freeraces. The freerace results will count towards the overall racing results, but we will also add a discard for each freerace, so that those who don't join the freeracing still can win the racing. But I think it will be fun - so register now and increase your chance of getting a loaner GPS! But even if you plan to come only for the freestyle or the regular races, it does help us if you pre-register. We have added the option to pay online for the registration, but that is completely optional - you can still register now, and pay the registration fee at the event.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Push Tack

The Push Tack is a pretty cool tack:

I can do Push Tacks in light wind. Nina and Marty can do them in high wind, too. So the planing Push Tack is on my ketchup to-do list. Andy Brandt says it's a great tack to do when sailing into a lull. With many marginal days recently, I had plenty of lulls to push tack into. Well, maybe I should say push fall into. Since I am so good at finding ways to mess up the push tack, I made a little step-by-step video. Enjoy!