Sunday, August 30, 2020

Fun in 4 to 30 mph winds

 We used to think that Kalmus in west wind is pretty much unsailable. A few times when we got caught when the wind turned from WSW (which is great) to W while windsurfing, we did not like it, not one little bit.

But it was a beautiful sunny day today; the wind was from the west; and BaHa did not look great because the wind was a tad strong for foiling, but predicted to drop - and the launch tends to have tons of greenheads this time of the year. Ever since Nina got her wings, she does not really mind gusty wind anymore - so to Kalmus we went.

To make a long story short, I'll just show you a picture with the GPS tracks and the wind readings for the time we were on the water:

The meter showed lulls of 4 mph and gusts to 30. The lulls were not quite that low on the water, but close enough, and the gusts felt like at least 30 mph. But we still had plenty of fun. When the wind averages dropped to 12 mph at 12 noon, Nina switched from her 4.2 m wing to the 5.4. I stayed with my 5.6 Freek, which I like more and more for foiling. I had to wait for wind to get going every now and then, and even came off the foil in lulls once or twice, but I was foiling most of the time - at times barely, at other times barely holding on, but always having fun. Here's a short video:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

I Wish

 Eddie recently posted a picture of me foiling at Kalmus:

He said in the comments that I was shredding. I wish!  This picture was taken when I came into shore and stopped in water too shallow for the mast. So I killed speed by going upwind, and tried to tilt the board sideways so the foil would not hit the ground, before I fell off backwards. But the picture looks cool.

The board in the picture is my new Progressive Riser 6.10 foil SUP that I bought for winging. This session was my 3rd on the board, and the first were I actually had fun. The board supposedly has 130 l, which should be plenty, but most of it is in the back, and the nose is 1 1/2 feet shorter than on my zombie foil board. Slogging the board is physical exercise, and not the fun kind. But when nicely powered as in this session, it's an awful lot of fun - less sensitive to the wind pushing it around, and very turny. That was a great session.

Yesterday, I took it out for a wing session -  my first ever. Most of the session was spent walking back upwind, after going downwind while trying to stand up. It took more than an hour to figure out how to sail upwind (not on the foil), and about as long to get two very short foil rides. The second time, I had my feet placed a bit wrong, which resulted in very rapid curves as soon as the foil came out, followed by the crash. But this was about what I had expected for the first session. Winging is not easy! It will take a few more sessions before I get an idea if I like it. I would not have even tried it if I had not seen my lovely wife having fun on the same wing in 14 to 30+ mph winds. She makes it look so easy - I wonder if it will ever be that easy for me. Here's a short video of her foiling through a jibe:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

GoPro GPS and Race Render for Jibe Analysis

A few days ago, Nina pointed out that GoPro cameras are not that expensive anymore. Since I always was curious how much speed she kept in foiled jibes when winging, and GoPros that are newer than our ancient 3+ have a built-in GPS, we just had to order one.

After a couple of snafus with non-fitting accessories and rotated videos, I finally got some useable footage from the camera yesterday. Here's a short video:

I can't say that I am a great fan of the GoPro Hero 7 Black. It's much heavy and slightly larger than the old GoPro 3+, and gets less than half of the battery life, even at low resolution and with image stabilization turned off. The desktop software that GoPro provides to get the GPS speeds showing in the video is poor (if you ask me about it on the beach, you may hear less "friendly" words).  But fortunately, there's very nice third-party software available that even runs on Macs: Race Render.  Race Render makes is very easy to add different gauges and graphs to the video that show the data from the GoPro GPS. You could also use an external GPS, but that would require synchronizing, which could be a bit difficult. 

Here's a screen shot:

The movie from the GoPro 7, which I had mounted on top of my helmet, is shown as a small inset at the bottom right. The main picture is from the old GoPro 3+, mounted at the end of the boom with a ClewView. Race Render makes it really easy to synchronize the videos.

On the top right is a heading indicator; the display is adjusted to that the top is dead downwind (we'll get back to that in a minute). Below is a speedometer, and below that a speed graph. The picture above is from the jibe entry, shortly after unhooking and starting to carve downwind. The next picture is a second or two later,  after oversheeting a bit:

At this point, my speed has already dropped from 30 to 24 mph. The next picture is dead downwind:

I've started to open up the sail for the sail flip; speed is down to 18 mph.

In the picture above, I'm just letting go with my back hand. The picture below is in the middle of the sail flip:

By now, my speed is down to 15 mph - I've already lost half of my entry speed. The speed will drop a bit more before I grab the boom on the other side:

13 mph is the lowest speed in this jibe, according to the GoPro GPS. I was also wearing a Locosys GW-60 GPS watch, which reported a very similar minimum speed of 14 mph for this jibe.

I was doing sail-first jibe as a practice for foil jibes. The image above is just as I am switching my feet. I'm approaching the new beam reach and have power in the sail again, so I'm not loosing any more speed.

A few seconds later, hooked in again and getting into the front strap. My speed is already picking up again.

There are a few things that I could have done better in the jibe, but that's not what the post is about. I mostly wanted to share how useful the built-in GPS from the GoPro could be together with the video when working on improving jibes, and that Race Render is a pretty cool tool for this. There's a free version that has most of the functionality, as well as several paid versions that allow customizations and removing the Race Render logo that the free version puts in the movie. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

No More Rail Rides!

 I wanted to do rail rides ever since I learned windsurfing a few decades ago. Eventually, I learned to do them on longboards thanks to ABK Boardsports clinics. 

Foiling has replaced longboarding on lighter wind days now. But it seems my body still wants to do rail rides:

Unfortunately, my body forgot to tell my brain in advance, so it was completely unprepared and panicked:

I can highly recommend to not try this kind of crash. I hit the water in front of the foil, and the board and foil were still moving forward. Fortunately, I foil slowly, so the foil hitting my leg did not really hurt.

Apparently,  this only encouraged my body to try again (of course, also without advance notice to the brain, which would have vetoed the idea). This time, it was in the middle of a sail-first jibe try:

This clearly was over-ambitious: not only did my body try a leeside rail ride this time, which is harder than the regular rail ride - but it also went for the one-footed, one-handed version. As soon as my brain noticed what was going on, it ordered my body to bail, and the board continued on it's own:

At least this time, I fell away from the foil, so the crash was harmless. But seeing that my body apparently was up to no good, I decided to not try any more jibes that session. So the foil jibe remains elusive. But on the upside, I discovered a new way of messing the foil jibe up. Perhaps if I remember to not do rail rides on the foil, I can get a step closer to making one! It would also help to place the backfoot more to the rail, and to not let the mast escape to the outside of the turn. The mast on the outside probably caused the leeside rail to come up, and the foot placed too close to the center meant I had no leverage to push it back down. Maybe next time...

After the session, I watched Spencer and Coon foiling a bit. Both of them had foiled just a few times before, and while the both got some decent runs, at other times, their attempts looked more like attempts to tame a wild bronco. That looked awfully familiar, and made me feel a tad better (or perhaps the after-foil beach beverage was to blame for that part). 

Here's a short video from after the rail ride attempts:

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Foil Jibe Tips

 After a year of foiling, I still struggle with the jibes. The goal of foiling through jibes on a regular basis remains elusive. Of course, I have all kinds of great excuses. My foil board is narrow - only 22 inches (56 cm) wide. Just about every article about foil gear in the German "Surf" magazine states that wider boards are easier to jibe when foiling. But this excuse seems a bit lame when I look at my lovely wife, who foiled through jibes on a regular basis .. on her skinny 90 l freestyle board. So I won't even bore you with my other excuses, which are even lamer.

Instead, I'll share a few insights I had after watching a couple of jibe tutorial videos from Sam Ross. Here's the step jibe tutorial:

The jibe is quite similar to a jibe on slalom gear. One of the differences is that he sails clew first briefly after stepping to stabilize; that's quite common for foil jibes even among racers, but unusual on slalom gear.

Overall, Sam's technique is very similar to what Nico Prien shows in his jibe tutorial video. One thing that looked very familiar in Nico's video was the "oversteering" mistake he shows at 5:44 in the video:

This has happened in many of my jibe tries: the board just keeps carving, and the foil seems to be pushing the board into an even harder carve when the windward rail catches the water. Nico points out that "you need to actively balance the bank" - in other words, flatten out the board to stop the turn.

I started trying step jibes on the foil, but moving the feet and the rig at the same time while the board is in the air always seemed a bit too much for me. Largely based on Andy Brandt's suggestion at the ABK camp in Hyannis last year, I switched to sail-first jibes instead, where you sail out in switch stance and move the feet later. I have no problems with sail-first jibes on windsurfing gear, but on the foil, they seemed just as difficult as step jibes. So maybe the tutorial video from Sam Ross, who calls it the "strap to strap gybe", would help:

Comparing the two Sam Ross jibe videos, there's one big difference I noticed: the position of the mast during the sail flip. In the step jibe, the mast is moved to the outside of the turn:

That's the same when windsurfing. But in the sail-first foil jibe, the mast does not move to the outside - it stays perpendicular to the board:

Since the board is banking into the turn, the mast is also leaning into the turn a bit. When teaching the jibe at the ABK camp last year, Andy Brandt said we should keep the mast to the inside of the turn. I guess this is what he meant! I over-interpreted his instructions, and thought that the mast should point even further to the water - something that's hard to do if you are not oversheeting.

Interestingly, during the sail-first jibe when windsurfing, moving the mast to the outside of the turn is not a problem at all. But the foil is much more sensitive, and moving the mast to the outside when letting go with the back hand immediately changes the carve, and makes it nearly impossible to complete the jibe dry.

When thinking about the instruction videos, I was wondering why foil racers always seem to step jibe, while many early foil jibe instruction videos used the sail-first jibe instead. Both Sam's and Nico's tutorials provide a clue when they talk about slicing the mast forward: on race foils, foilers are often going faster than the wind. That makes opening up the sail impossible, since you'd just get backwinded. On the foil, that means that the foil would probably shoot up and out of the water for a spectacular crash.

The sail-first jibe requires that you are going slower than the wind, since the wind pressure from behind flips the sail. In contrast, a step jibe also works when the apparent wind is coming from the front because you are faster than the wind; you just have to make the sail flip similar to the sail flip in a helicopter tack.

Both Nico Prien and Sam Ross are on race or freerace-type foils and boards. In Sam's "How to go Faster on the Windfoil" tutorial, he reaches speeds of 26 knots. But typical speeds on freeride foils like the Slingshot Infinity 76 or 84 are much slower. My typical cruising speeds on the i84 are around 10-12 knots, so I'm going slower than the wind speed most of the time. That makes the sail-first jibe possible, and it has one big advantage for "marginally coordinated" foilers like me: I can concentrate on one thing at a time, and don't have to move the sail at the same time as I move my feet. Time to go foiling!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Fun On The Slapper

Nina winging in 30 mph. Picture by Eddie Deveraux.

It was windy in Kalmus yesterday, with averages in the low 30s and gusts to 40 mph:
iWindsurf meter readings for Kalmus 8/3/2020

We went in the afternoon, when the wind was nice and steady. Nina wing foiled for almost 3 hours, and reported that she may have gotten closer to the upper end of the wind range for her 4.2 m wing. It was fluttering at times, and upwind angles were a bit compromised since she could not move the wing to the side as usual - too much power!

I decided to go for a session on the "slapper", as Australian wind foilers like to call windsurf boards. But since I'm not the biggest fan of high tide slapping in Kalmus WSW voodoo chop, I went over to Egg Island for some really flat water. I tried to get a few guys to come along, but without success - Gonzalo, who had indicated interest, decided to rig down from 4.7 to 4.2 after a few trial runs, and I did not have the patience to wait for him. High tide is the best time for speed runs along the sand bar, and the tide had been dropping for a while already! Besides, he had sailed Lewis Bay on a longboard many times, so he knew the way.

I ended up having the "kiddie pool" at Egg Island entirely for myself. I'd rigged my old 5.5 m Matrix sail since it has a ton of high end, and that was a perfect choice. The wind behind the sand bar tends to be a bit lower, and the flat water also allows for larger sail sizes. How flat, you ask? Have a look:

I was working on my sail-first jibes for foiling, which are a ton of fun in flat water. I learned on reason not to let the mast get way to the outside of the turn: the sail is a lot heavier than the freestyle sail I normally use, and when whipped around by the strong wind, was too heavy to be pulled back in. That resulted in a few fun high speed crashes before I got my act halfway together. Still needs a bit of work, since my speed dropped from a 30 knot entry speed to 12 knots after the sail flip. But it was fun, anyway!

I ended up getting a 32 knot top speed on my GPS watch, which is the fastest I've ever gone on a freestyle board. The little 22 cm weedie from Maui Ultra Fins held astonishingly well, even though it's the freeride version, not the speed or slalom version.

After about 2 hours, the tide dropped low enough to expose parts of the outer sand bar that is submerged during high tide. It's oriented at a right angle to the WSW wind, so it creates a nice setup to work on alphas (500 m runs with a jibe in the middle, and the ends of the run have to be within 50 meters). For that, I reverted back to the step jibe:

I just did a few tries before heading back to Kalmus through the chop. Since the wind was still up, going back upwind was super easy. Here are the GPS tracks:

By chance, the session ended up counting for the GPS Team Challenge, since Kipps set a couple of nice PBs sailing on the other coast.  Together with a few decent numbers from the day before,  that put our team on the #2 spot in the monthly rankings:
Unfortunately, that won't last, since other teams will post better sessions over the rest of the month. But I'll enjoy it while it lasts!