Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jibing Insights

Why can't I jibe well on slalom gear? That question has puzzled me for a long time. On my freestyle and freeride gear, my jibes are almost always dry, and I have a decent chance to plane out of jibes (well, at least on a good day). But when I switch to slalom boards and cambered sails ... let's just say it's not pretty.
I learned how to plane through jibes from Andy Brandt at my first ABK camp in Bonaire. Andy still is one of the best and most consistent jibers I have ever seen, so of course I try to emulate him. Here is the image I have in my mind:
Andy Brandt jibing
I found that the closer I copy Andy, the better my jibes are - on my freeride gear. When my lovely wife took pictures a few days ago, I went for the same pose:
Trying to copy Andy on slalom gear
However, that did not work - the board got bouncy, and I had no chance of planing through the jibe, even though I had plenty of entry speed and wind. So I posted the picture on the ABK Boardsports group on Facebook, and got a few helpful hints:

  1. "Mast needs to be more forward to keep mast base pressure and keep the nose down"
  2. "Bend the front arm and drive weight into the front hand"
The first advice pretty much means "don't go for that pose!". But why would it work on freestyle / freeride gear, but not on slalom gear? Well, there are a few significant differences:
  • Foot straps are further back on slalom boards, so the body weight is further back on the board
  • On my freestyle/freeride gear, the front footstrap is close to the center, so that my toes are on the center line - which lets me put weight on the front foot. But on the slalom gear, the front footstraps are all the way on the outside, so that I actually pull with the front foot, instead of putting weight on it
If you examine the two images above closely, you'll notice that Andy's body position is actually different from mine: Andy's head is over the mast base, indicating most of his body weight is on the front foot and the mast base. That keeps the water line long for a nice carve. My weight is much more over the back foot, making the board bounce and killing speed.

So yes, it definitely looks like the mast needs to stay more to the front when jibing slalom gear. You can see that most good slalom sailors do this - check out Antoine Albeau jibing in 30 knots on Maui, or some of the best french PWA slalom sailors training:

During yesterday's session in 20-25 mph winds, I played around a bit with this. I was fully powered on my Falcon 99 and 3-cam Loft Switchblade 7.8 - a sail that's big and heavy enough to give me problems in jibing. Here are the GPS tracks for the session:
My jibes slowly improved, and I planed though many jibes later in the session. Great! Well, maybe that's overstating it - I still lost too much speed, but it's definitely progress. Here's what I found:

  • Keeping the mast forward in the jibe entry reduces the bounce
  • Putting additional downward pressure onto the boom with the front hand really smoothes out the carve
  • But trying to keep the mast forward during the flip, too, kills speed - the mast must come back briefly during the flip, as the jibe videos above show
Nothing really new, here - I have heard most or all of this stuff before. But maybe I'll remember it better after feeling the effects instead of just hearing the advice...

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