Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Car

Our trip to Oz is almost over. Yesterday, we said goodbye to the Falcon:
We bought the Ford Falcon station wagon a few days after we arrived. On the inside, the lining under the roof had been removed, so it did not look pretty. But it drove well, and had only 220 thousand kilometers - about 100-200K less than similar 15-year old cars.

It has had a few little problems. The day after we bought it, we discovered that one of the doors in the back could not be locked. Back to the mechanic who sold the car. He "fixed" it - it was now permanently closed, and could not be opened anymore. Much better! The back seats were folded down to accommodate our windsurfing gear, anyway.

A day later, we discovered that the door on the back also did not close. Not feeling too smart now, but finally understanding why there were so many disconnected cables in the back, we almost drove back to the mechanic again. But before we had a chance, our windsurfing friend Mike fixed it for us.

The only other issue was a flat tire a few weeks later. A couple of tires were now close to the legal limit, and he were planning to drive through the Nullabor, where there are many hundred kilometers between towns. So we replaced all tires for AUD $360, hoping that the new tires would make it easier to sell the car.

The biggest bummer about buying a car was that we left Lake George a few days earlier than absolutely necessary, so that we'd have a few days in Melbourne to sell the car. Of course, conditions were perfect a couple of days later, and some guys got their magic 40 knots for the first time. At least one of them improved their previous best by about 4 knots. Who knows what we could have done? Maybe next time..

We ended up selling the car to a guy from Canada who is here for a year. It helped that the car was registered in Western Australia: transferring the registration can be done by mail; no safety inspection is required; and the registration (which includes insurance) can be extended easily over the internet, which he did right away. We got exactly the same amount we had paid for the car, so it cost us less than $600 for the registration and the new tires - a lot cheaper than any rental would have been! Perhaps we got lucky because nothing major broke, but the car was made to be used as a taxi, and it's supposedly good for a million kilometers. Seeing that there are lots of these Falcons around with more than 400K kilometers, that probably true.

How was Lake George, you wonder? We'll fantastic .. but that's a different post.

Monday, February 4, 2019

With A Little Help

Two days ago was our last day in Mandurah - and it was windy! Mike did not believe my prediction of wind between 25 and 30 knots, so we went to Fangyland instead of Liptons. Fine by me - I love Fangy's Weed Farm!

We arrived to plenty of white caps, and a big crew on the beach, getting ready to go out. It was still cloudy, but the end of the clouds was in sight, and several sailors predicted that the wind would pick up once the clouds were gone .. which it did. I got out just before that happened, so I had some time to get dialed in on the Falcon 89 with the Racing Blade 6.3. Nina went out on the RB 5.0 with Mikes 39 cm "wide" speed board. Yes, all of 39 centimeters. She had to suffer through plenty of comments on the board - one guy remarked that she should have a second board, one for each foot. He had a point - the board looked more like a water ski than a windsurf board! Since she does not waterski, it took her quite a while to get comfortable on the board. Once it became clear she'd keep using it, I switched down to our Isonic W54 speed board.

By then, the wind was quite strong. Meter readings on shore later showed 25 knots with gusts to 32, but it may have been a bit higher on the speed strip. Everyone was taking breaks at the end of the runs, which were a bit longer than a mile - almost 2 kilometers. That was rather nice - lots of tips on where the flattest water was, how to tune the gear, and so on were exchanged. One of the local legends, Stroppo, first showed Nina the run below the weed banks where the flattest water could be found, and then made sure I also knew about it. Very nice!

I was using GPSLogit with bluetooth headphones, and had heard "35" several times during runs. The GPS watch confirmed that I had set a new personal best, and finally (!!) broken the 35-knot barrier. That helped me relax a bit. Or perhaps the wind just picked up. Whatever it was, I saw a 37.6 on the dial after the next run. That was 2.8 knots faster than my old personal best - a huge jump! I had also tried to copy Stroppo's approach to a nautical mile run, and had improved my PB for the "nauti" (often spelled "naughty") my 2 knots. Sweet! I was getting a bit tired, and we had a big drive planned for the next day, so I decided to call it a day.

Nina said she wanted to stay out, since she was finally getting comfortable on the tiny speedboard. When she came in a while later, she was glowing - she had just improved her personal best by more than 3 knots, to 35.78 knots! At the end of the day, we each had improved our personal bests in three categories - top speed (2 seconds), 5 x 10 seconds, and nautical mile. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

It was time to say good bye to the local speedsurfers we had gotten to know during our stay, an extra-ordinarily nice bunch of people. Quite a few of them had also set new personal bests - the two teams I mentioned in my last post, the Mandurah Mob and the Pinnaroos, each set a total of 9 PBs that day. What a day!

The big question is: what made us (and others) go so much faster? Clearly, the conditions played a big role: strong winds and very flat water. But we had had quite similar conditions before at exactly the same spot, with no or just marginal improvements. But this time around, the wind direction was different, so the runs in smooth water were more than twice as long. Together with steady winds, this gave us plenty of time to get used to the conditions and to the higher speeds that were possible.

Just as important, though, was the company of better speedsurfers. Their friendly and freely given advice (both during the session and in and after previous sessions) was super-helpful. Mike's 39 cm speed board was essential - not only did it enable it Nina to go wicked fast, but it also freed our speedboard for my use (and the W54 was much more appropriate for the conditions than the slalom board!). So a BIG thanks to Mike, Stroppo, Ross, and all the others who have helped us!

Yesterday, we drove to Margaret River, and arrived just in time to witness a Severne team photoshoot, complete with helicopters and mast-high wave. The show was amazing, with super-high back loops, one-handed aerials, wave 360s, and more. I went to thank multiple world wave champion Philip Köster after the session, and got to shake his hand - cool!!!

Today, we drove on to Albany, another famous speed spot. After stops for a walk through giant tree tops and at the "Elephant Rocks", one of the most beautiful coasts I have ever seen, we arrived a bit late at our bay-front cottage, but I managed to squeeze a session on the big gear (112/7.0) in. This is another perfect spot, with weeds sticking out of the water that keep it really flat and create a "jibing heaven. Despite only about 16 knots of wind and a top speed below 29 knots, I managed to get an alpha 500 of 23 knots - just 1/3rd of a knot below my personal best! Sooo much fun! And there're more wind in the forecast for tomorrow :-).

Between all the fun, I somehow found the time to check our individual rankings on the GPS Team Challenge. Here's what the top 10 for the speedsurfers in USA teams currently looks like:
Somewhat magically, I already advanced to third place, within 2 points of the second place - and we still have a couple of weeks at super-flat, super-fast Lake George coming up! Nina is currently on the 8th place, ahead of 30 guys - the girl is fast!