Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fighting Chicken

Our first five days in Hatteras were windy - we planed every day, usually in wind that was higher than the forecast. Friday took the crown - the forecast predicted 20 mph at 8 going down to 15 during the day, but we got 23 mph going up to 30 and staying there.

I took the opportunity to fight my inner chicken. It's quite a loud-mouthed beast, and I often listen to it. Not this time! Out came the 72 l speed board, even though the wind had turned from NNE to NNW by noon, meaning higher water levels and more chop. I had been overpowered towards the end of the morning freestyle session on my 5.6 m sail in 25 mph wind. With meter readings of 29 mph after lunch, switching to a 6.3 m race sail sounded about right. You need to go big for speed, right?

Well, the 6.3 turned out to be encouraging the chicken just a bit too much. In theory, a 6.3 should be easy to hold in this wind and "moderate" chop. Indeed, the sail never felt overpowering; instead, it combined the best characteristics of a freestyle sail with amazing stability. But with the inner chicken constantly screaming "Not so fast!", I never quite got the feeling of being in control.

On the verge of once again loosing the chicken fight, I rigged down to a 5.6 Loft racing sail. That made a lot of difference, and I was finally able to get a few runs near 30 knots. That may be nothing to good speedsurfers, but for me, it's a lot in chop. With the chicken finally under control, I even found a patch of flat-ish water near shore, and get a 32 knot run - 2 knots faster than my previous best in Hatteras, and my 5th-fastest session ever. Take that, chicken!

We'll be at the ABK camp for the next five days, so we'll focus on freestyle instead of speed. Maybe I can beat the chicken once again and try a few loops...

Monday, October 9, 2017

WET Fall Regatta

The WET Fall regatta took place the last two days at David Kashy's place in Seaford, VA. We took that as a reason to drive down to Hatteras a week before the ABK camp, and had a blast.

The weather was nice, the wind great for longboard racing, the organization once again excellent - thanks to all who made it happen!
Racing is always a good way to learn where you need to improve. I had plenty to learn! Some of these things are:

  • Practice the hard stuff, not just the fun stuff! I fell a couple of times in long downwind legs, which I never practice.
  • Check your gear before the trip! When I took out Nina's Ultra Cat at the end of day one, I discovered that the mast foot tendon had about 10 deep cracks; it was just pure luck that it had not broken during the races. Nina ended up using slalom gear for several races on day two, which was fun in the gusts, but had her drop to the rear of the field in lulls.
  • If you're racing with your MSO, she might expect exceptions from the right-of-way rules, even if she knows them perfectly well. Or perhaps she never practiced stopping with a cambered sail on a race board, and absolutely will not drop a 3-cam 7.8 m sail. Well, at least not before the inevitable collision. 
  • Listen carefully at the skippers meeting, and then look at the flags! More about that below.
The races also illustrated nicely how much gear matters. Steve was in a league of his own on the Starboard Phantom 377:
Although looking at the picture, maybe he just discovered how to sail downhill all the time?

John was in second place in most races on a Mega Cat with a 9.5 m raceboard sail. When Nina was on her Ultra Cat with a 7.8 m 3-cam freerace sail, she managed to pass him a few times; taking the weight difference into account, she was on comparable gear. I'm much closer to John's weight, and was on my Lightning that does not have a race daggerboard, so I was far behind John in the light wind races. In the second race on Sunday when the wind picked up, I managed to get close, and might have had a chance to beat him ... if I had looked at the flags and seen that we were going around the course twice this time, instead of just once as in the first race of the day. By the time I understood what all the "2" signs that the boat crew was making meant, the entire field had long passed me. But at least there was nobody else in the picture when I finally crossed the finish line:
The pictures are from Marcia and David - big thanks! Here's a final one of Nina having fun: