Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Speed Spots

Jose left us and took the wind with him. While waiting for the wind to come back, I think of past sessions, and wonder - where did I go really fast in the past? Thanks to my sessions database with 1,113 entries since 2009, that's easy to answer. Here's a list of the spots where I have reached top speeds above 30 knots:

No big surprises here. Three of the top 4 spots are Slicks, and the remaining spot (Corpus) is shallow everywhere, and also has excellent speed strips. Perhaps the more surprising thing is that my home spot, Kalmus, is at the very bottom of the list - I sailed faster than 30 knots in only one session out of 251! Compare that to Sandy Point in Connecticut, where I sailed only twice - and broke 30 knots both times.

But as the avid reader of this blog knows, my Kalmus sessions are usually freestyle or bump & jump sessions. It's rare that the wind is strong enough to make speed sailing interesting, and when that happens, I often sail upwind or downwind half a mile to the nearby slicks - Egg Island downwind, and the Kennedy Slicks upwind. If we look at only sessions where I used slalom gear, and then sort by the percentage of sessions where I did 30+ knots, a different image emerges:

Now, Sandy Point is on top, followed by Egg Island and two other slicks on Cape Cod. Of the spots on the list, I would indeed rank Sandy Point as the spot with the highest speed potential when wind, tide, and wind direction all come together. But that does not happen often; furthermore, Sandy Point requires a 3-hour drive, while all the other spots are a lots closer (with Salvo being a vacation spot, and Corpus Christi a winter spot). So we sail at Sandy Point only when we can be darn sure that it will be really windy!

The table above includes sessions with large slalom gear like my 117 l slalom board. When I use the large gear, the wind is typically around or below 15 knots, which makes is darn near impossible for me to reach 30 knots. To get a better idea of the "real quality" of the speed spots, let's look at only sessions on slalom boards below 100 liters:
Now, Egg Island and Barnstable Harbor jump to the top - two of my local favorites. Kennedy Slicks also looks better, with 5 out of 8 sessions above 30 knots. Overall, there are now five spots where sailed faster than 30 knots more than half of the time - cool! The four spots within a 45 minute drive work in a variety of different wind directions: SW-WSW, NW-NNW, and NNE-NE-ENE. You just have to know where to go...

Of the other spots, some indeed make it hard to go faster than 30 knots, at least at my skill level. But some spots are not quite as bad as they seem, for a variety of reasons. Of the 40 sessions that I hit 30 knots, I had wind gusts above 23 knots 38 times. But in Corpus Christi, only 10 of the 26 speed sessions had wind gusts above 23 knots; counting just these 10 sessions would give a much better ">30 knot percentage".

Fogland is another example of a spot that looks worse in the tables above than it really is. The first time I broke 30 knots was in November 2011; the next two 30-knot session were in early 2012 in... Fogland. But after we moved to Cape Cod in the summer of 2012, we stayed on Cape Cod, and went to Fogland only on rare occasions - usually for Dani's BBQ.

Have you ever played a multi-level video game where it took a while to get to the highest level, but once you got there, the lower levels seemed much easier? I think speedsurfing is similar: once you reached a certain speed, reaching what used to be your top speed before becomes much easier. This applies to many different speedsurfing categories: top speed, alpha 500, even the nautical mile. I have often seen speedsurfer "unlock" new speed levels, and afterwards post sessions where there numbers where much higher than they would have been before the "unlock" event. Sometimes, there's an obvious reason for the new "top level", like new gear; at other times, it's a trip to a much faster speed spot like the L├╝deritz speed channel or La Franqui, or the opportunity to sail with better speedsurfers; and sometimes, there is no obvious reason. But whatever the cause was, reaching a new top speed level can definitely have an "unlock" effect. So go pick a spot and play a lot!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Wheelie Stop

The one thing that surprised me most in yesterday's speed session was that Nina had problems getting dialed in, and stopped early when her forearms started hurting too much. Nina has become a better windsurfer than I am. She mostly does freestyle, but we have had several speedsurfing sessions where she has beaten my top speed. So what happened?

One thing I noticed yesterday was that she was staying relatively far away from the shore than I was - check the GPS tracks:
Nina's tracks are red, mine are light blue. With wind around 30 mph and stronger gusts, every mast length away from shore meant a lot more chop. Nina's average distance in the middle of the tracks was about 100 meters (350 ft); mine was closer to 30 meters (100 ft). Being closer to the shore meant not only more speed, but also a lot easier sailing.

I was puzzled why she stayed so far away from shore. Perhaps fear? No, that makes no sense - she is rather fearless when she goes through endless crashes while working on new freestyle moves, and keeps trying them when it's so windy that many windsurfers find jibing scary.

When we looked at our GPS tracks today, things became clear. The easiest way to make it back to the start is by stopping right at the edge of the reed islands, where the water was about hip-deep. But nobody ever taught Nina the Wheelie Stop on a slalom board! Her only way of stopping was to go upwind until she ran out of speed. But on a fast speed board with a cambered sail, that takes a long time - so she stayed far away from shore.

So, let's review the Wheelie Stop. If you're ever on a slalom or speed board, you absolutely should have this way of stopping dialed in; it can also be very useful on freeride (and other) boards. Let's start with a picture:
That's me stopping (probably 2 seconds before my fin hit the only big stone far and wide). I have sheeted out - my front arm is bent, the back arm long. But the cambered sail still keeps a bit of power, and the speedboard would happily coast for a long time, so I also put all my weight on the back foot to sink the tail and raise the nose up - putting the brakes on with a wheelie. The picture is from when I am just starting to brake - usually, the nose goes even higher, and there's more spray flying. But it should be good enough to get the idea.

Here's a short section of the GPS track where I slow down this way:
I want to stop at shore at the end of a 34 knot speed run (the wind is from the top-right). Just opening up the sail a bit got me down to 30 knots, but that's still pretty fast. But 10 seconds later, I have come to a full stop, exactly where I wanted to be. The track shows the third element of the wheelie stop: going upwind as you put on the brakes. With the nose of the board high in the air, the apparent wind from the front helps slowing you down .. a lot. You just may want to be careful using this technique when it's choppy and crazy windy, or you might find yourself jumping onto shore!
If you are a want-to-be-looper, there's and additional reason to practice the Wheelie Stop: Andy Brandt and the Tricktionary teach it as one of the pre-exercises for the front loop. But even if you're not interested in looping, it's a useful stopping technique that should be in every windsurfer's arsenal. Have fun trying it!

Friday, September 22, 2017


Rain, fog, temperatures in the high 50s - it must be speed time! So out we went to our favorite slicks:
That's Bart on the left, me in the middle, and Dean on the right. Here's a picture of our playground, taken from the hill where we parked:
Bart ready to go out:
That's Nina's 5.0 Loft Racing Blade he is using. Nina sailed for about an hour before Bart came, but could not get dialed in quite right in the gusty conditions, and decided to take pictures instead. Bart was happy to use her sail, and never finished rigging his own.

Dean had some fun, too:
Once he remembered that this was supposed to be a speed session, he stuck to the water a bit better:
Dean's 2 second top speed was 36.25 knots - that's darn fast! But Bart was flying fast, too:
This is what Bart looked like when he checked his GPS after the best run of the day:
He had 38 knots on his GPS - plenty of reason to be happy! That's a full three knots faster than his previous best, and the fastest GPS speed in New England that I have ever seen. He was quite willing to share the excitement, and tell us where he had hit his top speed:
Later analysis showed that the 38 knots were an artifact; Bart's actual 2 second top speed was 35.77 knots. But that was still 0.7 knots faster than he had ever sailed before. Bart also improved his personal best for 5 x 10 seconds by a knot - congratulations!

He set his top speed just as the incoming tide had started to cover the islands in the bay - the wind had gotten a lot steadier then, and felt stronger than before. My GPS tracks show that the slicks got faster as the tide came in:
I barely broke 30 knots in the first few runs, but later had five runs with a 2-second top speed above 34 knots. The max speed the GPS showed was 35.66 knots, which is cool.. except that recording at 5 Hz is likely to add some little speed artifacts, and my 1 second top speed was just below 35. Still, I set two new personal records for 2 seconds and 5 x 10 second speeds - great! I also was just about 1.4 knots slower than Dean, which is a big improvement over the usual 3 to 5 knots that I'm slower. The Loft Racing Blade 5.6 I used today for the first time certainly is one reason I was able to narrow the gap - great sail! But maybe Nina had the 5.0 that Bart used rigged a bit better :-).

This was our third day of small-sail sailing in a row, after overpowered sessions on 4.7/5.0 at Pleasant Bay 2 days ago, and 3.7/4.0 at Chapin yesterday morning. Those were fun, but I certainly liked today's session the most!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ECWF Cape Cod 2017

The 5th Annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod took place at Kalmus Beach last weekend, and we had a blast. For the first time in 4 years, we had no "special guest". We had invited three well-known windsurfers, but none of them could come, and it took some them so long to tell us that is was too late to invite anyone else. We also had a very low wind forecast - mostly less than 10 mph. That kept some windsurfers from coming, but the most enthusiastic folks still showed up:
Over two days, we were able to have 8 races:

Six windsurfers battled it out in freestyle:
 The level was amazingly high - most competitors threw beautiful Duck Tacks, some added Ankle Biters, Back-2-Back, Matrix,Rail Rides, and Upside-Down tricks:

Even the organizers got to play on both days - Nina competed in all races on day 1, and did showed Sophie from Canada some light wind freestyle on day 2:

Once again, one man was in a class of his own:

Gonzalo won all races, usually far ahead of all other competitors. His "longboard" was less than 3 meters long, but certainly long enough to keep a few 25 to 30 year-old 12-footers from Mistral and F2 in check. Full results are here.

We crowned a new pair to be King and Queen of the Cape - Liz and Michael:

I was very impressed with Michael's progress since last year. He beat several other guys who have also improved a lot in the past 12 months - but not as fast as he did. Liz won the women's racing; every time she had a chance to race on a longboard instead of her Starboard Go, she left about half of the men's fleet behind. Impressive!

This year, we had a new shop sponsor: 2 Rad from Canada. We had contacted the two local shops in the past about demo gear for the event without success. But Vincent and Bruno from 2 Rad managed to convince Fanatic and North to send a whole bunch of demo gear to them, and then drove 6 hours from Quebec to show the gear at the event:
 During a no-wind phase on day one, they and local Fanatic/North team sailor Chris Eldridge have us a great introduction to the gear they had brought:
Unfortunately, the wind never picked up enough to plane, to only very limited testing of the demo gear took place. Vincent managed to get the demo foil out of the water for a few short runs, though:
Without any doubt, though, 2Rad, Fanatic, and North certainly earned an enormous amount of goodwill! For next year's event, we plan to set a "rain date", so that we can delay the event by one week if we have a bad wind forecast.

I'll leave you with a few more pictures from the event:

Michael, the new King of the Cape, ducking the sail

Queen of the Cape Liz ahead of Jay

Myles, Jeff (who dominated the 7.5 class), and Jay

Marty smiling

Michael and Martin

The Flying Spaniard way ahead of everyone else

Friday, September 1, 2017

BaHa Session

No, I did not turn into a wave sailor.  It's BaHa, not Baja. The great spot 12 minutes from our house that I usually have for myself. The GPS tracks:
94 km before noon - that's fun! The wind dropped at the end of the session, as northwest wind likes to do. The wind dropped just as I started, but 16 mph averages on the Chapin meter were enough to get going on the 7.0 Racing Blade with the 117 l slalom board. I got lucky about 2 hours into the session, when the wind turned more northerly and picked up to 21 mph average / 29 mph gusts, just as the tide level was perfect for speed runs in the slicks. The wind is weaker and quite gusty there, but I got lucky and caught a good gust, which gave me a new 2 second top speed on the big board (30.85 knots, 57 km/h). That's not much for most speedsurfers, but enough to make me happy: in the 1100 windsurf session since I started using a GPS, I was faster only 20 times. The 3rd-fastest nautical mile I ever sailed (26.58 knots) was just icing on the cake. 
Once again, the Loft Racing Blade behaved beautifully, letting me plane in 16 mph and just getting into it in the 29 mph gusts. I also was very happy with the Tectonics WeedDemon 33 today. Near high tide, plenty of dead reed stalks were in the water, so that a pointer fin would not have been fun. But when powered up today, it held beautifully in downwind speed runs, and going back upwind was absolutely no issue. Of course, having 2 km long runs helped :-).
That was a great start into September. I don't want to jinx anything so I'll be quiet - but have you looked at the wind forecast for Kalmus recently?