Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Equipment

I have been injured and so have been watching the windsurfing action from the beach for the last few weeks.  Not good.  Alberto Menegatti joined some of the racing guys the other day on the long runs we do when the south-westerly blows (we sail all the way out to the submarine bouy (4kms there and back) and this allows the fast guys to open the gap with the others.  Very interesting.  The new Gaastra Vapors really perform and we are seeing more and more of them on the water.  Alberto certainly had his fully lit.  These sails must be some of the coolest things on the water right now.

The new Gaastra Savages have also arrived and Anthony and Karel, (a visiting sailor from up north) were smoking on them a few days ago.  They had the 6.6m Savages on Manta 110l boards.  Very, very fast and very impressive.

Anyway I got back on the water yesterday and was offered a ride on the new Falcon 99l by Johnny, a local who  does some testing for Fanatic.  He had a Deboichet SL4 34cm under it and I clipped my 6.6m Ka Koncept on top.  The 99l is one impressive machine.  It has a freeride type of comfort and eats through the chop but just keeps accelerating with no apparent upper limit.   You decide when you want to slow down.  Gybes are easy provided you enter at speed but this board is only about speed so leisurely sailors need not apply.  Despite this massive performance potential the board is really easy to sail.  The straps are easy to get into and out of and the low deck seems to steady everything over the bumps.  The deck profile gives good support and confidence when standing on the leeward rail in the gybe.  Some slalom boards give you the feeling that your foot could slip if you place it too close to the leeward edge but not this one.  All of these things give the impression that massive attention has been given to every aspect of the design.  Well done guys.  A classy piece of equipment.

I must give a mention to the Deboichet SL4 as well.  Under the 99l Falcon the fin is rock solid, fast and so good over the chop.  If you are in the market for a 62cm wide slalom board, you should have the Falcon on your short list and consider an SL4 if one is available.  A really good combination.

Speaking of fins, I noticed Craig from Fanatic using Sonntag fins.  I have been watching Sonntag for some time and based on the comments on the Internet and performance stats on the speed sites they have to be one of the best slalom fins available right now.  If you live in a country with a strong currency, have deepish pockets and are looking for a special fin you may want to give the new Ifju Reaction some consideration.  Peter Ifju is one of the great innovators in windsurfing and combines an awesome understanding of the physics involved with true passion for the sport.  Only good can come from this and his new fins are sure to be pure class. 

The wind looks set to blow again today so we are going to have to punish our bodies yet again.  Once more to the beach...

Talk to you soon                         

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

7.8m Slalom Sailing

Hi all
On Sunday we had great winds here and the water was reasonably flat.  I sailed my 7.8m Ram the whole afternoon but guys were on sails right down to 4.7m.  This session worked me hard and reminded me of a problem faced by many who buy and use pure slalom sails.  These high tech sails are the fastest things on the water for getting through a slalom race.  If you want to win at the highest levels you have to use them.  They are however, highly technical and are quite difficult to sail for most windsurfers.  You need the skill and strength to keep the board on the water at the high speeds the sails are designed for.  If you are not able to do this then a camless design is going to be so much better for you.  

The 7.5m to 7.8m slalom sail is a particularly problematic size for many windsurfers who perceive it as a light wind sail.  The problem is that this size is not a light wind sail at all and it only comes into its own when fully powered up.  Only when you are fully maxed out do all the engineering aspects of the sail come into play and enable you to access the performance the sail was designed for.  So often I see guys wobbling about in light winds on their 7.8m slalom sails getting worked over by the weight, the cams which do not always rotate and the sleeve which fills with 100l of water when they fall in and have to water start.  I rode Andre's 7.8m Reflex2 the other day in overpowered conditions and there too realized what a great design this sail is when fully lit. This high energy sailing really works you however and the pure fun factor is not really there.  Also, when the wind drops, all the weight and technology seem to punish you and sadly many windsurfers never get out of the punishment zone with these machines.  The message then is, if you can handle the power and want the ultimate then by all means buy a good slalom 7.8m sail, haul it down and sail it in strong winds.  If you are like most of us, buy a good camless design (NCX 7.5 or Savage 7.8) and go faster and easier than you would be able to manage on the slalom equivalent.  I'm firmly in the camless camp now and will not be replacing my Ram with another cammed sail.

On Sunday I noticed Andy smoking all comers on his 110l Manta with a 2 year old Vandal camless sail (6.5m).  The design of this sail is one which has always appealed to me.  It is simple (no cutouts, no big batten above the boom etc) and is light, easy to rig and easy to sail.  It is also blisteringly fast on a fast board with a proper fin.  An ideal setup for most of us who want to go fast and have fun.

Talk to you soon                      

Some Addenda to Previous Posts

Hi All
Anthony has suggested that I mention the make and model of formula board which Gareth and I used in the JP Super Light/Formula comparison mentioned in the post below.  I had planned to do this but at the time of writing could not remember the board's name so I omitted it.  Anyway Gareth's formula board is a Bic Techno Formula 170l.  His fin is a Select unit originally 70cm but cut down in length very slightly.  This is therefor not a first tier formula racer but is a solid all round performer and a worthy control against which to assess any board designed for light wind sailing.

Andy has responded to my comments about the 3S LTD.  He points out that he did not win any of the races.  My point is that he gave a good account of himself against some of the fastest guys on the water on a board that is designed for fun, comfort and versatility.  Unbelievable.  I am waiting to see how he performs when he has tuned the thing for speed!  He also mentions that he didn't plane out of every gybe.  Just getting round in those conditions requires something special and to plane out of some of them at speed is an achievement.  Once again major respect to Tabou for this awesome product.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tabou 3S LTD

The racing guys came up from Cape town on Sunday and raced in the strongest, wildest wind and water conditions we've seen for some time.  Most of the locals were content to watch, preferring not to break limbs and equipment.  Andy joined in but took a 96l 3S LTD.  He changed only the fin on the board but retained the single strap at the back and inward front strap positions.  All in all the most unlikely race board ever seen but despite this he managed to hang with the field.  Unbelievable!  He also nailed every gybe in the wild water planing easily out of each.  This has been a real eye opener to everyone and attests to what a phenomenal board the 3S is.  Here is a board designed for waves, tricks and easy blasting hanging with the big guys on a slalom strip!  Speed, comfort, fun and fantastic gybing.  What more could any sailor ask for.  Obviously you would not choose this board for normal racing but when the conditions get hectic or you want maximum fun this board has to be on your short list.  Well done Tabou.  Class all the way.

  2012 Tabou 3S   

JP Super Lightwind

The centre has a JP Super Lightwind (165l/250cm long/95cm wide) on test and I had the opportunity to test it against Gareth on his formula board.  We rigged identical sails (Gaastra Swift 9m) and pulled each down the same amount and did some varied sailing.  In the light wind we sailed round the island in our lagoon and when the wind picked up we blasted back and forth on a 1.5km run across the wind.

We chose the island route first because it provides a wide range of wind and water conditions and requires you to sail across a wide variety of wind angles.  In the light wind the formula board planed earlier and also stayed on the plane better through the lulls.  Its 70 cm fin would have had a lot to do with this.  The formula board was much better downwind but strangely, the JP proved slightly better upwind in these light conditions.  Gareth's board is not that good upwind so beating it in this angle is not all that difficult.  Regardless, Gareth easily won the race proving that in the light, varied conditions the dedicated racing machine had the overall advantage.

As soon as we had completed the island leg, the wind picked up and we were fully powered for our drag racing.  Here the JP smoked the formula board on every run - no contest!

Here are my impressions of the good and the bad of this JP model:

The Good -

  • The fin they supply with the board is a pleasant surprise.  It is a carbon fin, thin and soft which results in really good control at speed.  As mentioned above it allows the board to motor upwind with little effort.
  • The deck of the board incorporates domed sections under each foot which give good support, comfort and confidence.  A nice touch.
  • The ride over rough water is comfortable and the nose never digs in regardless of the chop.
  • The bottom shape is a very slight V along the entire length of the board and this makes for a comfortable ride and really easy gybes.  Stand on the leeward rail and the board shoots round providing you have the speed.   

The Bad -

  • The board in the construction tested is far too heavy.  I'm not sure whether they plan to make this model in the light construction but if they do then it would be a big improvement.
  • The fin, although good, is really not powerful enough.  If you are in the market for this board you should consider getting a second fin with more power for the really light conditions.  When the wind picks up the standard fin is perfect.
  • Ease to plane is not quite up to that of the formula board we were using.

This Super Lightwind is the bigger model in the range.  I have the feeling that it may be aimed at the intermediate sailor.  I think that the smaller one (154l/90cm wide and 237cm long) would be more suited to the advanced sailor and I would be interested to do exactly the same test with this model (in the light construction).
Talk to you soon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Severne Gators

I promised to upload Alice Arutkin's gybe video but this is proving impossible.  For some reason it just refuses to upload.  Pity.

Anyway I can report on Gareth's new Gators which have been sailed quite a few times now.  First we needed to do some juggling with his existing masts and we have ended up with a reasonable mast for each sail.  The best solution would have been to buy Severne Redline (or Wave) RDM's for each sail but you also need to be practical.  Anyway, we have Fiberspar RDMs in the 5.3m and the 6.0m Gators and they both perform beautifully.  The quality of these new Gators is fantastic.  They feel really solid and well constructed (hight tech scrim in every panel) but when you pick them up they are feather light.  They retain this lightness in the hand on the water and tick all the boxes (fast, easy, light, fun).  The sails are simple to tune and providing you get the downhaul right for the conditions, are really easy to sail in overpowered conditions.  They are at home on both slalom and freeride boards and the wave guys tell me that they are perfectly at home on the swells.  All of these qualities make the Gator an essential consideration for anyone looking for a sail that can do it all.  The Gaastra Cross may be slightly faster but is probably not as versatile.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2012 RRD Slalom Boards

The new RRD X-Fire has broken cover and here it is.  They have developed the TT tail which they claim is a breakthrough in windsurfing.  They claim that it reduces drag and improves early planing in the bigger sizes.  This may be a genuine breakthrough but I've seen so many of these over the years in our sport that I will reserve judgement until the test comments and racing results start coming through.  So often we see something heralded as a breakthrough one year only to be quietly dropped the following year (with no explanation from the board maker).  I assume that the TT tail is that area marked in red on the underside of the bigger boards.

What I do agree with is the way they use a different design regime for the bigger boards.  I have always believed that boards of  over 115l need to have a completely different bottom shape to the smaller models.  If you are using a big slalom board, the wind is going to be lighter and the water state is going to be flatter.  In these conditions early planing is the prime consideration (flatter underside, wide tail etc).  As the wind and water become more hectic, control at speed becomes the prime consideration and your shape needs to adjust accordingly (more aggressive concaves, narrow tails etc).  Some designers seem to simply upscale their successful small sizes believing that this will result in effective big sizes.  My belief is that big and small slalom boards are totally different animals.

Anyway RRD seems to know how to build good slalom boards so if you happen to live and sail close to an RRD retailer who allows "try before buy" you should give one of these machines a spin if you are looking for an exciting ride.

Next time I will re-post an earlier piece on gybing where I gave some critique on Alice Arutkin's gybe video.  Some of you have approached me to do this so I will try to get the video and commentary on the same page to make it easier to follow.

Talk to you soon

Select Fins

Hi all
You will have gathered from previous posts that we have been doing quite a bit of sailing on the 2011 Select S10 and S11 fins and I would like to give some feedback on the characteristics of each of these models.  These impressions have been gained from personal experience, observations on the water and on the comments of my sailing companions regarding their experiences.

The S11 in all sizes 39cm and down is an awesome fin.  It is really fast and easy to control.  It is totally happy on slalom boards for overpowered blasting and on fast freeride boards such as the Tabou Rocket.  If you are looking for a cost effective, straight fin in this size range I cannot imagine anything on the market right now which will be better.  Comparing the new S11 to the old SL7, the SL7 may be very slightly better for early planing and upwind performance but has nowhere near the controllability of the S11s which makes the S11 way better for overpowered sailing over any water state.

The S11 in sizes 41cm and above is not such an allround star.  These sizes are extremely controllable and have blinding speed downwind but if the current is against you (same direction as the wind) and you need to push upwind, they can lose out to harder fins like the old RS7.  This is no real problem for the recreational sailor but for the competitive guy who needs every advantage, this loss of angle over the course of a race can mean the difference between winning and losing.  You don't need to be losing speed climbing upwind if you can avoid it. The old RS7 in the bigger sizes was good at going upwind but tended to become unmanageable when overpowered.  The new S10s would be my choice for the bigger sizes (certainly up to 51cm).  They seem as controllable as the S11s, plane easily and almost match the S11s for downwind speed but their advantage comes from their upwind ability.  They are almost on a par with the old RS7s upwind.

Surprisingly, some of the bigger guys are getting good results from the SRX Freerace fins in big sizes on their big slalom boards.  These guys are quite brutal with the back foot and sometimes battle with spin-out but they say that the SRX,s hold beautifully and give great control when things get "interesting".  I've not sailed one of these fins so I can't comment.

We haven't had much experience with the S10 in the smaller sizes (basically because we have been so happy with the S11s).  If I get to sail one or two smaller S10s I'll give you some feedback.

I can't stress how good the smaller S11s are.  They can do everything and seem to work on every type of board.  Their controllability also means that you can fit a slightly bigger fin than you are used to.  If you want to turbo charge your board and are looking for a straight fin of 39cm or less then you must test one of these.
Talk to you soon      

Friday, October 28, 2011

Industry Stuff

Hi All
Sorry for the delay but I've been waiting for RRD's new slalom models to comment on but they seem to be taking forever so here is some random equipment news.  The testers from Surf Magazine are here testing new equipment, quite a highlight for us locals because we get the opportunity to see new models in the flesh and look at how they perform on the water against each other.  Unfortunately there is no slalom equipment this year, only wave/freestyle/freeride stuff.  Very disappointing.  The Fanatic guys are also here testing their own equipment and I spotted a 96l Hawk prototype.  It has the same width as the current 100l model so it will be thinner.  Very nice!  This board would be my idea of the ultimate freeride machine - light, fast, easy and fun.  Probably not as fast as the equivalent Rocket but so much more involving to sail.

I am a huge fan of the RRD brand and based on all the reviews and commentary out there, their slalom boards have to be among the best (specially for the advanced recreational guys).  What always disappoints me is when an admired brand gets it wrong (North's heavy sails for example) and RRD's Firemove is one such case.  Here is a fine example of a freemove design (probably one of the best) but the weights are way too high.  Their light construction 110l model weighs 7.6kg.  Totally unacceptable.  The equivalent Fanatic Skate weighs 6.3kg.  If Fanatic can get it right then the rest of the brands can too.

Gareth, my sailing partner unpacked his new Severne Gators (small sizes) this week and we rigged them.  They look really cool and it will be interesting to see how they perform.  I will report back once we have had a few runs. Let's see how they stack up against the Remedies.  He is also considering a Gaastra Savage 6.7m to replace his old GTX.  Good decision I think.  Gareth recently acquired a Rocket 105 (limited construction) and I recommended a 35cm Select S11 to complement the standard fin.  This may seem long for the board but the S11 is so manageable that you can go a little bigger than you could with the old SL7.  You may recall that we put an S11 39cm into Andre's Rocket 115 and it smokes.  The S11 is turning out to be a real star in the smaller sizes (39cm and down) and seems to work on every board in all conditions.  Perfect for the overpowered sailing done in this place.
Talk to you soon

Monday, October 10, 2011

Some Light Wind Boards

UltraSonic 147 Carbon
Starboard Ultrasonic148 
JP Super Lightwind

Manta FR 89.  

2011 Falcon 148 
                                                        Weight    Volume    Width      Length
TABOU MANTA F/R                          8.5          148          89            233
JP SUPERLIGHT                               7.         154          90            237
STARBOARD HYSONIC                    7.8           147          93           240
FALCON 148                                     7.9           148          85           230                                                                                                                       

I thought I would give you my selection of light wind boards on the market right now.  The Falcon is a 2011 model.  The 2012 Falcons only go up to 140 litres.  These boards are all great but my selection from this list would have to be the Starboard.  Not quite as light as the JP but pretty close.  This board has had stunning reviews for speed and the fact that it goes in almost no wind.  These boards aren't for everyone - the racing guys will opt for formula boards and the harder core people don't sail in light winds but for the rest of us they fill a really nice niche.  If you just want to cruise over flat water with the sun shining into the sea.  Sweet!  Find yourself a good Nitro4or5, 10m(ish) sail and experience something different.  

I favour a bit more length in this type of board so the Falcon may not be ideal.  The Tabou is a bit heavy and I think Tabou boards are so focused on handling rough conditions that they lose out on early planing (I may be wrong about this for this particular model but I don't think so).  The JP and Starboard models are, in my opinion exactly what you need for this type of board.  Well done guys - really intelligent.    

Monday, October 3, 2011

2012 Severne NCX Pro

We have just had a really good weekend's sailing with strong wind and rough but manageable water.  Andy and I were able to test a brand new 6.5m NCX Pro right out of the plastic packaging.  The sail sets nicely on the 430 Enigma and we used a Fiberspar carbon boom to keep weight down as much as possible.  The wind was a bit light when we started so I took it out on my Falcon 104/37cm fin.  The sail is light in the hand and powers up quickly accelerating to a good speed.  I would class it as a powerful 6.5m.  It was totally controllable for me but I finished my runs before the wind really picked up.  Andy went out after me and had to release some downhaul to keep speed through the gybes but the wind soon picked up and had him hanging on a bit.  The NCX is a powerful sail and when overpowered needs careful tuning to maintain control.  All in all a really smooth, fast ride.  One really classy piece of equipment!

Severne have incorporated some of the Reflex technology into this sail by putting a reflex tensioner on the 3rd batten from the bottom.  A nice touch and one which will find favor with the technical guys.  For my own quiver I would not choose a 6.5m in this model.  My new thinking is that (for me) everything under 7.0m should be a soft 6 batten sail.  I would have NCX's in 7.0m and 8.0m.  My smaller sails would be Severne Gators or Gaastra Crosses.  Other sails in this class would be Hot Sails Maui - Liquid, Maui Sails - Switch, North - XType etc.  All these sails are really quick (especially if you rig them on slalom boards) but are so light and easy to control compared to their slalom cousins.  If you have never tried rigging one of these sails on a slalom board, I urge you to try it.  You may never go back!
Talk to you soon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More on Sail Materials.

I have recently learned a bit about why some of the big sail producers stick to using monofilm in their sails in preference to the high tech scrims.  They state that a sail panel which contains a weave will stretch faster than a simple monofilm panel, giving the sail a wooly feel.  This is because the thin film which sandwiches the weave is the thing that stretches and it does this before the weave has a chance to impart stability.  This is interesting to me I must say and we need to listen to guys who work with the technology and these materials all the time.  As I've said before, some of my best sailing has been with sails from North and Gaastra and maybe this quality of ride comes from the very thing I always complain about - the dreaded monofilm.

I take this viewpoint on board and I really hope to have a chance to compare a scrim sail with an equivalent monofilm sail to assess the difference for myself.  If I get such a chance I will report back to you guys with my impressions.  My feeling is that you should be able to maximize the stability of a laminate by orienting the weave appropriately.  If the weave is 90degrees to the forces on the panel then it should hold.  I suppose the way the strands are bonded to each other also plays a role.  Some of the sailmakers I really admire (Severne, Naish, Sailworks and Ezzy) all use scrims in their sails and these makers all produce lighter sails than the likes of Gaastra, North and Hot Sails Maui.  These light sails seem to perform well.  We obviously have two schools of thought and I will not take sides until I have a chance to sail two examples back to back.  I have to admit that the two rides I had on the 2011 Gaastra Savage 6.7m were pretty impressive and Peter's new Savage looks even better.
This matter will remain unresolved for me for now.  Watch this space  

Monday, September 26, 2011

2012 Race Sails from Gaastra and Severne

This is the 2012 Reflex111.  A few differences over the current model, most noticeably the positioning of the batten tensioners.  You can now draw a straight line right through the tensioners from top to bottom.  This makes more sense to me.  This line is also closer to the edge of the sail as it moves down towards the boom.  Awesome looking sail!
The new Vapor is one pretty sail and its performance is going to be something special.  Ross Williams has just won the WaterZ 2011 Downwind Race in Denmark on it, blitzing 300 other windsurfers including some of the top guys.  I only see one zip on the sail but I suppose you can get to the other cambers via the boom cutout or the bottom of the mast tube (?) Slightly worrying    

Some 2012 Kit

Here are two of the hot camless sails on the market for 2012.  The Gaastra Savage looks awesome and has had some nice improvements over last year.  8 battens in the larger sizes have been replaced with 7.  Well done Gaastra.  The NCX Pro from Severne is also pretty cool.  Note the high modulus, high tech scrims employed.  Feather light turbo performance.  Tasty!    

This is a preview of the 2012 Falcons.   A good size spread and nice looking machines.  If Peter Volwater's performance over the last World Cup is anything to go by, these things are going to smoke!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rockets, Fins and NCX 7.0

Grant, one of the local sailors lent me his Rocket 105 a few days ago.  It is the blue and white model, between the blue and limited editions so is quite heavy for me but once up to speed it hauls.  The chop is simply not a problem and the standard fin is good over unsettled water.  This must be one of the best fast freeride boards of all time - fast and easy to control and nice to gybe.  For more speed and a bit more directional stability, a  Select S11, 35cm would cook on this board.  I note that the 2012 Rocket 105 is slightly wider than the current model.  Awesome!

Yesterday I rode Andre's 7.0m NCX and was impressed all over again.  I rode with two of the power sailors both on full slalom kit (7.8+7.6 m sails).  I was a bit under powered and found myself being pushed downwind and down current.  This always ends in having to battle upwind which slows you down so I was not able to keep up but had a great sail nevertheless.  I clipped the NCX onto Andre's Rocket 115 and had a few blasts.  Andre has bought an S11 for the beast and the combination hauls.  I could hang with the big guys for much of the way but lost out in transitions.  The freeride stuff battles to get you into a commanding upwind position after the gybe especially when you are fighting the current.  The slalom equipment with big race sails and fins has no such problem.  All in all an interesting day.  The camless sail was outpaced going upwind and downwind but conditions were marginal for a 7.0 so, with this in mind, it equipped itself well.

The new Select fins seem to have pushed quite a few of the guys into a different league as far as straight line speed goes.  The fins can be sailed in larger sizes than the old SL7's and do not punish you at all.  This allows you to concentrate on other things like the water state and tactics.  Much faster!
Talk to you soon.  (stay sheeted in)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Comfort and Balance are Essential for Speed


This is a series of shots of Andy and me sailing from the far side of our normal run  into shore to gybe.  We both have slalom boards and similar sized sails (Vapor 7.6 and Ram7.8).  You will note that I pull ahead over the course of the run.  The reason for this is the fact that I am comfortable with my equipment.  Andy, usually much faster than me, is not comfortable.  His fin is too powerful causing him to stand on the board which throws his balance out slowing him down.  If you compare the two boards on the water you will note that his Manta tilts to leeward (fin too hard) while my board is completely level allowing me to hang out with the lightest pressure on the board.

Andy has sorted his fins out since these photos were taken.  He also acquired a Reflex2, 7.8m and is now extremely hard to keep up with.  As the wind picks up he simply goes faster and has become a master of balance.  Bad news for the rest of us.

Hopefully this illustrates the need to balance your sail/board/fin combination and to set your sail properly.  COMFORT = SPEED.   
Talk to you soon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sail Construction/Weight

Those of you who read this blog will know that I am preoccupied with light sailing equipment and this post deals with some sail related weight issues.  The common sail material used in our industry has always been mono film.  This material is cheap, effective, easy to cut and fairly resistant to UV and wear and tear.  It is not light however and if you need the material to be stronger you simply increase the thickness of the film, adding to the weight of the sail.  Brands like Gaastra and North use this approach and I have a huge problem with them because of it.  I like their designs (some of my best sailing has been done on their sails) but not their materials.  Their products are simply too heavy.

One of the ways to reduce weight is to use laminates which sandwich a high tech fibre mesh between two thin films.  Modern aramids such as Technora, Twaron and Kevlar provide massive strength from minute weights of material.  Materials such as Dyneema and PBO (a liquid crystal polymer with even better stability and strength than the aramids) are also used in sailmaking.  Severne for instance, uses quite thick material on the hard wearing bottom part of the sail, Dyneema and Kevlar laminates in the mid section and pre-preg Technora film above the boom.  This makes the whole sail much lighter than a mono film equivalent and improves the swing weight in gybes and other transitions (as you can imagine with virtually no weight above the boom).  To give a comparison, the Gaastra Savage 6.7m weighs 5.1 Kg.  Severne's NCX pro 7.0m weighs 4.2Kg - almost 1kg lighter!  In addition to being lighter and stronger, what these scrim materials also allow you to do is to engineer some stretch into the weave.  Severne have done this with the NCX pro which can stretch at the limits of its wind range, allowing the sailor to maintain control and keep the board on the water - very cleaver!  Have a look at Naish's site and compare their sail weights with Gaastra and North.  Naish sails are substantially lighter.  If Naish and Severne can produce superior products with laminates, then other lofts can do it too.  

I am really excited by the new Gaastra sail shapes but I would implore them to go a step further and use some cool laminates to make a limited run of super light versions of their top performance sails.  I would then ask them to take a further step and  borrow the mast specs from Point 7, produce a bunch of these masts and launch them together with the light version sails.  Send Arnon, Ross and Alberto to a speed strip and log some impressive speeds to demonstrate capability and we'd  have some seriously exciting stuff on the market.  No harm in dreaming.

The performance and feel of a light sail can also be enhanced with carbon tube battens (instead of heavy GF ones) of course.  If your kit is light, easy, balanced and comfortable you are going to be faster and happier with your sailing sessions.  A light sail with low swing weight is one of the elements to achieve this condition.   I will expand on the theme of comfort and balance in the next post.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Some Random Musings

"I am playing windsurfing every day,slalom,RSX,formura etc..And i am teacin windsurfing shop of tears. i love windsurfing very much,and iwant to enjoy play windsurfing of every people."

The above text comes from the sailor profile page of Japanese racer, Fujiko Onishi.  The words don't mean much as they stand but they are quite cute and we can all understand the sentiment and enthusiasm behind them.  Look her up on  I can't place the Gaastra sail she is riding in her action shots.  Sara-Quita (behind her) is riding a recognizable Vapor but what is Fujiko's sail with that chevron at the top and red flashing on the foot? It looks like a Gaastra (I'm sure I see a Gaastra logo) but I suppose it could be a Gun sail- ??  

Chris Pressler took part in the Red Bull Prince of the Island race in Turkey and used his NCX Pro 8.0m with his iSonic 107 ( a perfect combination for light, early planing, high speed fun).  He came third, ahead of scores of guys with full race sails.  He recons he was smoking guys with 9.5m race sails.  He also comments on the fun he had and the ease of tacking and gybing with a camless sail.  This sort of result strengthens my belief that camless could be a really good option for many of us.  I just want light/fast/fun/easy and sails like the Severne NCX and Gaastra's Savage provide all of these things.

On the subject of the new Gaastra Savage, I note that they have limited the number of battens on the 2012 model to 7, regardless of size.  (The 2011 range increases the battens to 8 on all sizes above 7.2m).  Well done Peter Munzlinger!  You don't need more than 7 battens on a soft sail.  An 8 batten configuration just hardens everything up and detracts from the fun.  Leave 8 battens to the race guys.

I had a good sail today on my old BIC KP Replica Formula board with an equally old Nitro4, 9.8m.  An awesome combination which smoked over the flat water.

Talk to you soon                

Friday, September 2, 2011

Some Gybing Points

PWA Alacati Peter Volwater report

Here is a shot of Peter in mid gybe in a blisteringly fast heat in Alacati.  Note how he has stepped right forward to keep the board flat and under control and is now ready to flip the sail.  He has released his old back hand, is looking forward out of the gybe and his old front hand is right up against the mast preparing for the flip.  His knees are bent and bum down giving him stability and allowing him to maintain pressure on the inside rail with his heels to keep turning.
Micah on the extreme right and Antoine on the left are both flaring their sails and have stepped to keep control.  As you would expect, Peter smoked everyone in this heat.  Just look at the three sailors in the frame and identify the winner!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Batten Tuning and Mantas

Hi Guys
Here is the batten tuning piece I've been promising.

Batten tuning is, as we all know, an important aspect of getting one’s equipment dialled.  Here are some tips for tuning your battens.  This applies to slalom/freerace/ freeride sails.  I can’t comment on the wave and freestyle kit which may have different requirements.     

The NCX is a 7 batten sail so I will talk to this configuration.  Your first task is to tighten all the battens until any and all wrinkles in the panels are eliminated.  You could go on and sail now and the sail will perform quite well if you have downhauled and outhauled correctly.  

To refine the setup, put some more tension on the bottom 2 battens (call these numbers 1 and 2).  This will give more stability, better top speed and better power.  Once again you could go out having done all of the above and have good performance but here comes some secret knowledge.  

Move up to batten 4 and apply extra tension.  Now move up to batten 6 and release a bit of tension until one small wrinkle appears in the panel.  You are now ready to get really serious on the water. 

When adding extra tension to a batten, ensure that it does not develop an S bend.  This is a sign that you have over-tensioned and you need to back off a bit on the key until it straightens out.

I have been given a sneak pre-view of the 2012 Mantas and they look awesome.  Very sleek and black and they really look the part.  I hope that most of the black colouring comes from carbon however, and not from black paint.  That would be really disappointing.  My big problem with current Tabou boards is that they are all too heavy (I include the team and limited edition models in this) so I am really interested to see the new ones in the flesh.  If they feel and go as well as they look, then they are going to be something special.  I have not had permission to show you the pictures so you will need to wait for them to appear on the Internet.

Cheers for now and good sailing


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

PWA Slalom Costa Brava 2011 -- Winnersfinal 8

This is a vid of Alberto smoking everyone in lighter winds.  His home sailing is done on a lake so he knows how to manage shifty winds.  I think his Z Fins are also particularly good for low down power and lift.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NCX 7.0, Rocket 115, V-Grip Boom

On the day in question, the tide was running in the same direction as the wind so we needed power.  The kit I had up was slightly too small for the wind in these conditions so Andre kindly lent me the above combination.  I have always felt that a freeride 115 litre board is a bit irrelevant for me because if you need the extra flotation of 115 litres the wind will be light.  In light winds the water state is quite flat.  In such conditions I always use a slalom board.  Despite this I'm always up for something different so I re-rigged the 7.0 (way more downhaul and a bit of outhaul) and took the stuff onto the water. 
I have to say the performance of the board is excellent.  I could not get off the line as fast as the Mantas but once up to speed the board hauls ass – it just keeps on going faster.  The chop is not an issue and the gybes are easy and fast.  This is a great board for the heavy guy who wants to sail overpowered.  This particular board is the 2011, light blue model that slots between the heavy blue one and the light limited edition.  I found the board a little heavy and sticky to get going but once planning, a really fast ride.  Most impressive.  Andre had a 38cm Select SRX Freeslam under the board.  This is a great fin but not quite up to the job in the current on that day.  I would have preferred a slalom fin (an old Superfast 39cm maybe, or the new 39cm S11)

The boom performed fantastically.  I could feel no difference in the stiffness to a full carbon boom and the V profile is easy to live with - a great product at a really good price.  Compare its price to the carbon equivalent.

The NCX 7.0 once again impressed me.  If you have been reading this blog you will know that I’m not a great fan of the huge batten overhang above the boom.  That said, the shape of the sail does not seem to harm its performance in any way.  This sail smokes!  It has quite a full profile so I find that you need to downhaul it fully to get the control you want in overpowered conditions and a bit of outhaul also seems to help the stability.       
Riding this sail has got me wondering if I really need cams any more.  I don’t race so I don’t need equipment which can handle vastly overpowered conditions.   The benefits of light weight, easy gybes, easy rigging, fun and a surprising ease to get planing makes me think that camless could be the way to go for me.  With a good, easy planing slalom board I recon I can get up and planing faster with this sail than I could with a 7.0m, fully cammed slalom sail.  I know the camless sail would start coming second at the wind limit for a 7.0 but when it gets that strong I am on a 6.0 soft sail/bump'n jump board anyway.  Food for thought.
As mentioned in the previous post, when I finished sailing, I checked the batten tensions on the NCX and they were all over the place with wrinkles in most of the panels.  The next post (after a video of Alberto kicking ass) will have something about batten tuning.

Cheers - talk to you soon

Winter Almost Over

Hi Guys
Winter is on its way out and another sailing season draws near.  We seem to have had fewer strong north westerlies this year so the locals are all quite unfit.  We did get some south easterlies however and I got the chance to ride Andre's Severne NCX 7.0 with his Rocket 115 and new V-Grip boom so I will report back on the experience and on the performance of each of these things.

Some industry news first.  The 2012 Gaastra sails look really cool.  They have done away with the boring, sludgy colours of the past and brightened everything up.  The new Phantom looks 100% right for a top flight slalom sail - narrower luff sleeve, 3 cambers and nice simple plan form.  A huge improvement on the GTX Race.  Of course we will need to get one on the water to see if the performance matches the looks but I am convinced that this is going to be something special.  The Savage has been re-designed.  I'm not sure why because the 2011 model is a great sail but the new one looks spectacular.  I've never really rated the Matrix before.  We have found that the Remedy/Cross seems to beat it at everything but I have a good feeling about the 2012 Matrix.  It too has had an overhaul and now looks quite special (great colours).
All in all a really promising start to the new season for Gaastra.  Well done guys and we really look forward to getting some of these machines onto the water.

Tabou have added quite a few new sizes of Manta to their line up.  The aim is to do what JP does and offer a tailored quiver of 3 boards to the racer depending on his or her weight.  Nice

Bjorn Dunkerbeck won the PWA slalom racing and this is a real testament to the guy's skill and ability.  At 41+ years of age you shouldn't be the champion of anything (possible exception - darts).  It is also a testament to the new Reflexes.  These sails had a lot to do with Bjorn winning across the variety of wind and water conditions of the tour.  The young guys to watch on the slalom tour are Pierre Mortefon, Ben vd Steen, Benoit and Alberto (in lighter winds where he smokes everyone).

OK that's all for now.  I'll talk about Andre's stuff next time and the do a piece on batten tuning (Andre had a mish mash of tensions on his battens which killed the performance a bit)  

Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Select Fins

We have had a series of fin failures recently among the local sailors and all of these have been with Select fins.  I hope that this is just a co-incidence and not an indication of quality problems at Select.

Having said this I have to say that the new Select designs are really working on the water.  I tested a new S11 39cm some time ago and found it to be a great fin (see earlier post).  I found the new model to be better than the S07/SL7 fins it replaces.  We have been sceptical of the shape of the longer S11 fins (from 41cm up).  They have put a bulbous tip on the thing which just looks wrong so I have been wanting to test one of these bigger models for some time.
Hennie, one of the local power sailors has been quietly assembling a quiver of S10 fins for his JP Slalom boards. This puzzled us at first because Select bill this model as a light wind fin for wide boards - the last thing you would consider for overpowered blasting.  Hennie however, is one of the fastest sailors on the planet (45.3kn) so when he rates a piece of equipment the rest of us need to pay attention.

With all of this in mind, Andy and I were keen to test a new 43cm S10 against a new 43cm S11.  The wind played along perfectly yesterday and we rigged our 7.8's with Andy's 110l Manta and my 104l Falcon.  We took turns on each of the new fins matching each other on a tight upwind run followed by a flat out downwind blast.  Each leg is about 1.8km long.  Between these runs we did some 90 degree sailing as well.  We were pretty much overpowered on all points of sail but managed to keep everything under control and had a real blast.

What we found was interesting.  The S10 is dynamite upwind and fast downwind.  The new S11 with bulbous tip is not so good upwind but was faster downwind.  Both fins are extremely controllable.  My RS7 41cm fin would have tried to break my ankles in the same wind but the S10 and S11 were a breeze.  Very impressive.
I think the old RS7 is probably better upwind than both new models but you pay for this upwind ability when the wind picks up and your board tries to break your legs.  They seem to have softened the fins both longitudinally and in the twist and the results are very apparent - greater ease and control at speed.

Well done Select and thanks to Anthony for lending us the fins        

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

High Wind Gybing

Some weeks ago we had wild conditions with strong gusty wind and vicious chop.  I rarely fall off on my gybes but on this day, found my hair getting wet.  The problem with this type of sailing is that you are typically way overpowered and the size of the chop makes it impossible to reach a decent speed.  The wind is therefor trying to rip the rig out of your hands as you try to bank the bucking board through steep chop.  Not easy!

I spent another day in similar conditions really concentrating on the gybes, noting what works and what doesn't.  Here is my take on the essentials for this type of gybing:

One of the most important things is to get round quickly.  You don't have the luxury of high speed/smooth water of the usual slalom gybe.  You need to jam the board round and get going quickly.  Dillydallying results in things falling apart (apologies,WB Yeats) every time.

The other important thing is to edge the board aggressively and keep it banked through the chop.  This is counter intuitive in these conditions where your brain says "be happy that you haven't crashed, don't do anything to rock the boat (in any way)".  You need to override this however, because edging the board allows it to cut through the chop as you carve and actually creates some stability.

So to achieve these things you need to do the following:

Get as much speed as you can going into the gybe.  This gives you a better chance of planing out

Bend you knees more than you would in a wide slalom type gybe and allow them to react to the chop like shock absorbers.

Slam the board into the turn keeping your weight far forward.  This allows the front shape of the board to carve you round quickly through the water.  Remember mast foot pressure (previous posts) which is easily maintained when you are far forward, pulling down on the boom.  Consciously keep the board banked through the chop.

As soon as you have flipped/stepped/grabbed, drop your backside to the windward on the new tack, keeping your weight as low as possible.  The best way to do this is to ensure that you look forward to where you want to go, looking under your front arm.  This is important so I'll say it again.  LOOK FORWARD WITH YOUR HEAD UNDER THE LEVEL OF YOUR FRONT ARM.  This gives you stability and leverage on the boom.

Talk to you soon.
(The new Select fins are due this week and Andy and I will try to persuade Anthony to allow us to do some back to back testing of specific models.  I'll explain in the next post)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Performance Issues

We had great wind yesterday and the water was quite flat so all good for some overpowered slalom blasting.  I rode my 6.6 Ka Koncept with 104 falcon/36 fin.  The big guys were on 7.8 Reflex2's and a Vapor 7.6.  Anthony took out a Gaastra Savage 6.7 and smoked everyone.
Two problems arose amongst the guys which require some discussion.

The first problem is hand and arm exhaustion which caused Andre (a heavyish intermediate sailor) to have to take frequent rests.  Despite the fact that we are hooked in, there is always a tendency to pull on the boom with the hands as well.  This happens more when we are overpowered and in survival mode.  The result of this is that we become exhausted and our sailing suffers as the session progresses.  Another reason for this pulling can be that the harness lines are incorrectly sited causing us to have to pull on the back or front of the boom to compensate. I eliminate both of these things by periodically releasing one hand from the boom while blasting along.  This shows me that the lines are in the right place and also reminds me to use the harness hook/lines and not the arms to counter the rig.  I read once that you should have a feeling of playing a piano on the boom arm while blasting along to get yourself to release the deathlike grip.  Easier said than done when you are out of your comfort zone but something to try from time to time.

The second problem mentioned yesterday was the front foot wanting to slip out of the foot strap while blasting along.  At least two of the guys mentioned that this had been an issue.  The conventional wisdom is that you should release a bit of outhaul and lower your boom slightly to correct this problem.  I found that using a slightly less aggressive fin makes a difference as well but have never read anything to corroborate this.  When I was testing the new deck on a Falcon prototype I put my 41cm Select RS7 fin into the board and, with my 7.8 Ram found the thing almost impossible to sail. My front foot simply refused to stay in the strap.  As soon as I changed to an Evo Lightning (softer and more raked back) the problem disappeared.  The condition was also less noticeable when I screwed in a 37cm SL7 fin (a drop of 4cm in fin length).  So my own experience suggests that fin size and shape also has an effect on front foot lightness but you need to experiment for yourself if you have this problem.  It could be your board telling you that it is not as fin hungry as you think.

I will get round to discussing rough water gybing one of these days.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gybing 3 (A Few Of Alice's Gybes in Detail)

I will be away for a while so before I go here is the critique of Alice's gybing style taking specific frames one by one.

At second 48 Alice begins her carve.  Her knees are pointed into the turn and are in front of her heels.  Her hips are forward of her knees and shoulders in front of hips.  The board is nicely banked.

At second 50 she has swivelled her hips to turn the body and has stepped, keeping the weight bearing on the inside of the turn and forward on the board.  All good

At 51 she is looking out of the turn (good) and at 52 she flips the sail but allows the front hand to slide up to the mast as the sail is flipping.  This is not good as she cannot maintain mast foot pressure doing this.  Her hand should have been placed onto the boom by the mast earlier and downward pressure resumed simultaneously

At 53 she looks at her hands.  Not good.  She should continue looking out of the gybe.

At 1.01 (another gybe) she has banked the board nicely and at 1.02 she is looking through the window to where she is going.  At 1.03 she has flared the sail and is flipping, keeping her weight inside the turn but then the tail of the board sinks because she is leaning back a bit and not pulling down on the boom properly.  If she had been going a bit slower this could have stalled the move.

At 1.04 she recovers the situation by stepping forward pushing the board back onto the water. Good
She flips the sail and looks at her hands once again.  Not good

At 1.23 she is looking through the window at where she is going.  Good
Her front arm is reasonably straight and she is pulling the rig over for the flare.  Good

At 1.24 she flares but is not leaning forward enough.  She pulls the rig towards herself.
At 1.25 the nose of the board lifts but luckily she has the speed to keep planing.

At 1.27 she steps nicely and has now brought her weight forward and to the inside of the turn.  The board is level once again and she looks out of the gybe.  All good

At 1.32 she flips the sail but looks at the rig again as the sail comes round.  This causes her to lean back a bit sinking the tail of the board.

At 1.40 (another gybe) she has flared the sail and is stepping.  She pulls down nicely on the boom.
At 1.41 she is flipping having placed her front hand on the boom maintaining mast foot pressure.  She looks forward out of the gybe.  Well done

At 1.49 she is looking out of the gybe, has stepped and her backside is hanging out on the new side to maintain pressure on the inside rail.  All good

At 1.50 she flips but once again looks at her hands (this is just a habit I think).

At 1.57 she exits a gybe looking forward.  Her backside is well out over the edge on the new tack to counter the force of the rig as it powers up.  This also allows her to pump the sail if required

Thats all for now.  I hope you manage to download Alice's video and examine the above frames.  Quite interesting.

Talk to you soon.  Stay sheeted in

Gybing 2

I promised to discuss gybing in choppy water but before I do this it may be useful to discuss some basics.

A successful gybe requires 4 things:
                                                     1.  Speed
                                                     2.  Mast foot pressure
                                                     3.  Continuous pressure on the inside rail
                                                     4.  Correct timing
Specific actions are required through the gybe to attain each of these things.

Speed is the currency of the gybe.  Good entry speed makes a smooth exit possible and allows the gybe to succeed even if our technique is flawed.  Gybe into a patch of high wind accelerating, not into low wind slowing down.  Go faster than you think you should.

Mast foot pressure keeps the board level, the tail from sinking and maximizes planing distance through the gybe.  We create mast foot pressure by pulling down on the boom with the front hand.  To do this you need to bring your weight forward (you simply can't pull down on the boom if you are leaning backwards)  and this all helps with keeping the board level.

Inside rail pressure is what carves the board of course and we need to ensure that this is constantly maintained throughout the turn.  If the board rocks back and flattens at any stage, momentum is lost and the movement can stall.  To ensure good railing, sheet in with the back hand, bend the legs and point the knees at the middle of the turning circle.  Your weight needs to be thrown to the inside of the carve, your knees bent and pointing towards the middle of your turning circle, your pelvis forward of your heels and shoulders in front of your pelvis.

Proper timing is essential and failing in this aspect ruins so many gybes.  You have entered the gybe at high speed, you are railing the board nicely and you begin to carve smoothly round.  Your weight is properly distributed to the inside of the turn, your legs are bent and springy.  As soon as the board is downwind you need to flare the sail.  This keeps power in the sail and creates space for you to step.  You must now change your feet while retaining pressure on the inside rail.  This involves twisting your hips towards the new direction and hanging your backside down to keep weight on the inside of the turn.  This switch needs to be done very quickly.  Move the front hand to the front of the boom pulling down all the time (mast foot pressure) and flip the sail.  Your arms are straight throughout the gybe and you look at the point you are sailing towards on exit. Look out of the gybe, not at your equipment

The previous post mentioned Alice Arutkin's gybing vid and what I will do on the next post is to critique her style.  She is good but not perfect so we can look at some of her actions in detail   If you are interested you should download the vid to enable you to use it as a training aid.  If you aren't all that IT literate and struggle with downloads get someone technical to help (or call a 14 year old if you have one lying around)

Talk to you soon



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gybing 1

Gybing and water starting are probably the two most important fundamental skills in our sport. Only when both of these things have been mastered can you really start to enjoy windsurfing and begin to develop other skills.  Gybing must be one of the most difficult basic moves in any sport - so many actions need to be performed in exactly the right sequence and in the right place in relation to the conditions for the move to succeed.  We should therefor give the topic some attention.

There are many gybes out there but for the basic slalom sailor the two styles are:

           a) the strap-to-strap gybe
           b) the step gybe

The strap-to-strap gybe involves carving through the gybe, flipping the sail, grabbing the boom on the new side and then stepping.  There is nothing wrong with this method and it is used by some of the finest sailors in our sport (carve,flip,grab,step).
The style that I recommend for slalom is the step gybe in which the board is carved, the rig is flared, the feet are switched and lastly the sail is flipped.(carve,flare,step,flip)

The reason I have difficulty with the strap-to-strap gybe for our use, is that if you are gybing into a patch of low wind (common at the beach) you will sometimes stall in mid gybe.  You are then left standing with your feet on the wrong side, sinking the back of the board with no power to get you going. Your equipment simply tips you into the water in this situation.

The strength of the step gybe is that you step as soon as the board starts to point downwind and this gets your weight right forward with the feet on the new side perfectly placed to sail off in the new direction.  You also have the control to steer the board as you are flipping, allowing you to cut inside other sailors at the mark and also to weave past fallen comrades avoiding their equipment and body parts.  Every single pro windsurfer on the slalom circuit uses this method of gybing in races.  If it is good enough for those guys it is good enough for us.

I will talk about gybing in wild conditions in the next post.  For now I will leave you with two sites with good gybing content.  The first is Alice Arutkin's website (just google her).  She has a nice gybing vid which slows the action down at key points, rewinds and re-plays etc.  The vid is in French but the language is windsurfing!
The second site is  From the index across the top of the page, go to MOVES then Race and you will see a whole lot of clips of some of the big guys gybing.

Talk to you soon.  


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some Impressions of New Sails Seen Recently

Anthony, our supplier, received a new batch of Reflex2's recently and the locals have been snapping them up.  The 7.8m seems to be the Reflex of choice.  One of the lucky locals is Andre and I helped him rig his 7.8 yesterday.  He has a Gaastra Gold mast from his old Vapor which I advised him to try with the sail.  You will note from the Unifiber site (see my previous piece on masts) that Gaastra and Severne have similar mast bend characteristics so theoretically the Gaastra should work.  With high end race sails I would usually only recommend manufacturer's recommended masts because this level of equipment is so detail specific but we will see how the Gold does.  He certainly won't be able to use it on any other sail so if he can save some money and extend the use of the mast at the same time, all the better.  I'll report back when we have had more time on the water with the combination.  I rode the rig in light winds yesterday and it felt fantastic.  Andre had mixed feelings after today's sail so we may need to some more fine tuning.  Hopefully we have similar wind tomorrow.

One of the top racing guys from Cape Town was on the water with his new Gaastra Vapors.  A very pretty very fast sail which rigs beautifully.  I mentioned in an earlier post how much better Ross Williams seems on the tour this year and I'm sure the new Vapor has contributed to this.  Sarah-Quita smoked everyone in the ladies fleet in Vietnam on her Vapors - she seemed to get going so much quicker than the others at the gybes and her board speed is fantastic.  It is going to interesting to watch how things develop over the tour.  At this early stage all I can say is - Good Job Peter Munzlinger!

Betty, a friend from Cape Town arrived with her new Ezzy Panther wave sails and we spent some time rigging her 4.2 (in bright yellow - cool).  You really need to pull the Ezzy's down to the required indicator mark and then use the outhaul strings to get a good setting.  The outhaul tension always seems excessive to me but the sail really works when you haul it out.  The tack strap needs to be pulled until a crease appears in the sail foot so all in all a strange set-up but really stable and light in the hands when you get it right.

On a slightly different tack I have just watched the interview with Bjorn regarding his racing gear.  For those of you who have not seen the vid, his 3 boards are the new Isonic 127, 107 and the 90 for high winds.  The 127 goes with 9.7, 9.2 and 8.6 sails and 50, 48, and 46cm fins.  The 107 goes with 7.8 and 7.0 sails and 44 down to 38cm fins.  The 90 he uses with his 6.2 Reflex and 36 and 37 fins.  His footstraps are in the back holes at the rear and in the middle for the front straps.  He says that the wide stance gives better control over rough water.  Makes sense.

Talk to you soon


Monday, March 14, 2011

High Wind Sailing

Here are some tips for sailing fast in high wind and wild water.  I am aiming this at freeracers rather than serious slalom guys so if you are into simple blasting with your mates in strong winds - read on.

Your board should be a small fast freeride model such as a Rocket 95 - no more than 58cm wide unless you have the weight and strength to flatten chop (usually over 100kg)
Your fin can be a swept back model such as the Rocket's standard fin but for a bit more speed you need a straight, elliptical fin, raked slightly back (Select S09 for example.)
You need a soft fast sail (Gator, NCX, Cross, Koyote, Revo, Hellcat etc) and you need to downhaul it aggressively.  Depending on the sail, a bit of positive outhaul usually improves rig stability as well.
Your lines can be placed slightly further apart than for light wind sailing.  Instead of being one handwidth apart, measure from the tip of an outstretched thumb to the outside of the hand for the space between the lines.  Lower your boom slightly (not too much or you will be catapulted) and move the mast foot slightly forward.  You also need long lines to enable you to get distance from the rig.

You hit the water with your properly rigged equipment, jump aboard and, pulling on the boom with elbows down, hook in and blast off.  Your stance is different from the graceful 7 shape described in the piece on light wind sailing.  The backside now hangs down a bit and the shoulders are hunched forward to increase the distance of the body from the boom.  Your front hand is palm up on the boom.

You need to be extremely sensitive to where you are concentrating your weight.  Over easier water you hang more off the boom whereas over rougher patches you will need to stand on the board a little more.  This switching of your weight is extremely subtle and requires you to feel and alter the pressure through the harness constantly.  You will refine your technique with practice.

Lean and twist forward to power upwind.  This keeps the board flat on the water with mast foot pressure and gives control.  A useful exercise to develop this skill is to swing right forward while blasting along and try to look around the front of your mast.

Use your front hand to control boom angle.  Instead of sheeting in with the back hand, push the front of the boom away with the front hand.  Instead of sheeting out with the back hand, pull the front of the boom towards you.  This tip is really important when things get wild.  You still have both hands firmly on the boom of course but the front hand initiates and controls.

The most important thing if you want to become really fast is to practice, practice, practice.  Push the envelope every time you go out in strong wind and try to keep the hammer down for longer and longer stretches.  Andy, a local sailor has become one of the fastest sailors in the country in wild conditions and he has achieved this by pushing hard every time he goes out.  I remember a session where we were both completely overpowered and seeing him do 3 (maybe 4) frightening wipeouts in one session.  I am unfortunately not brave enough to give this level of commitment.  Parts of me which get damaged or broken don't heal as quickly as they once did.  Andy on the other hand, goes from strength to strength and has started using a very small slalom board in high winds to get even more speed.  Bad news for the rest of us.  


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

PWA Tour

The Vietnam leg of the tour is over with most of the top sailors ending up in top ten positions.  The top 5 men and women are as follows:
                    Men                                                                   Women
              1.  Dunkerbeck     Reflex2                                       Offringa    Vapor
              2.  Albeau             Pryde Evo                                   Jaggie       Reflex2
              3.  Diaz                 Warp                                          Arutkin     Warp
              4.  Jossin               Loft Blade                                  Demont     Reflex2
              5.  Allen                Reflex2                                       Erdil          Loft Blade

Note the strong showing of Reflex2's.

Loft Sails has definitely got its act together with the new Blades.  Last season Jossin was never in contention but with this sail he won two of the heats decisively.  I have always been interested in Loft's race sails because all sizes rig on RDM masts.  I'm sure that this gives an excellent feel on the water.  They don't publish weights but looking at the sail it appears to have quite a large area of light scrim above the boom.  Nice!

I mentioned in an earlier post about Taty Frans entering slalom racing for the first time and I have to say he did pretty well.  He won one heat and came in second to Peter Volwater in another.  He is really good at cutting inside at the bouy in rough water and his sails are so much smaller than the other sailors.  A man whose usual sail is 4.7m doesn't need huge area to get going.  In the heat with Volwater, Taty nailed a few long jumps on the final leg to the finish.  Great stuff.

Other points to note - Ross Williams did pretty well on his new Vapors.  Definitely better than last year.  Josh Angulo put in a good run on his Gun sails and Sylvain and Benoit showed that the new Simmers are working just fine.  Their new Tabou boards may also have something to do with this of course.  Ben vd Steen who is also with Loft now, cut his foot open on someone's fin in a crash so was at a huge disadvantage but still managed to win one of the heats.  A man to watch.

These are early days in the tour and it is going to be really interesting to watch how things develop as the season progresses.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Light Wind Sailing

Having had so many good light wind days recently I have been thinking about the art of sailing efficiently in light winds.  Here are a few tips to get you ahead of the pack.

Move your mast track back slightly.

Move your boom up as far as you can manage.

Less downhaul of course but with race and slalom sails don't let too much off.  I find that a badly downhauled cambered sail appears to have more power but this doesn't always translate into efficient forward motion.

Pumping is important in these conditions of course but remember to pump the fin as well as the sail.  When approaching a lull, increased pressure on the fin is really important - use the back foot to nudge the fin and you should make it through the lull.

Get your weight back on the board as soon as possible after the start.  This is especially important with wide short boards.

Look down (momentarily) at your feet when you are planing.  The spray from under the board should be shooting off behind your front feet.  If the spray is further forward, your mast foot or footstraps are too far forward.

When you have flipped the sail in your gybe, grab the new side of the boom as far back as you can.

The palm of your front hand must face down on the boom.  As soon as you are planing comfortably or in the gusts you can change to a palm up grip but when searching for power - palm down.

Look at your stance.  Your body should trace the number 7 as you fly over the water.  Your arms to the boom are the top of the 7 and your body forms a graceful curve from top to bottom.  Some of the body positions I see on the water are horrible.  You need to be Fred Astaire not Quasimodo.

Move you pelvis forward, arching your back slightly.  This moves the mast upright giving power.

Look ahead to where you are going.  The eyes control the head, the head controls the body.

That's all for now.  I will do something on high wind sailing soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

PWA Tour

The PWA tour has kicked off in Vietnam and the slalom racing starts this week.  Earlier I commented about Simmer not being ready with their race sail but I note that it is now on their site.  It looks like a nice piece of kit as well.  Have a look at the vid of Kurosh testing it - very cool.  I see that they have done away with the clew cut out for the boom and have also not done the long batten above the boom.  Thumbs up from me on both counts!  Watch Benoit and Sylvain to see how the sails perform.  

I note that 4 competitors are now using Ka sails.  Last year it was only Jesper Orth.  It will be interesting to see how the light, simple sails do against the heavyweights.
Another interesting development is the entry of Taty Frans into the slalom fleet.  You will know this guy as one of the really hot freestylers so I'm looking forward to watching how he does at slalom.  The awesome freestyle skills will surely stand him in good stead but he may fall down on race tactics.  Watch this space!

Looking at the equipment to be used on the tour I noticed that Chris Pressler is using Pfaffi fins.  This is a small manufacturer producing quite quirky designs.  Their site is nothing special but one get a sense of enthusiasm, drive and inventiveness from the guys which, as I've said before is so good for our sport.    


Board Length

We have had fantastic wind for the bigger sails recently and over the weekend I was able to hold off most of the guys with my Ram 7.8/Falcon104/Select37.  Yesterday the wind was slightly less so I screwed in a Select RS7-41 and was able to hang with Pit on his Isonic 111/Pryde Race 8.6.  I also took the 8.6 for a spin on my Falcon and have to say it is one fine sail.  Rotation is effortless, the sail is fast and handles gusts with absolute ease.  I was surprised at how well the Falcon carried such a big sail.

We were discussing board lengths over the weekend.  The move to shorter lengths in the bigger board sizes has been of some concern to a few of us.  The theory is that a bigger board uses its width to get planing and so doesn't need the length.  My feeling is that a bit of length gives stability, helps with early planing and is easier to pump.  I also feel that a slightly longer board is better at planing through the chop in the gybe.
In 2009 the Isonic 133 was 223cm in length.  I remember thinking that this was far too short.  What do we find in 2011? - The 2011 Isonic 137 is now 231cm long. Much better!  My feeling is that 235 to 240 is where the length should be - even for wider boards.
If I were in the market for a 130ish slalom board and was considering a few options, I would favor the longer lighter option every time.          

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feedback on Fins

We had good conditions yesterday so I was able to ride 3 of Pit's fins in different conditions as the wind increased.  The Lightning fins are carbon over foam designs, beautifully made and feather light.  They are made in the States by a company called Recreational Composites.  If you go to their site you will note that their prices are extremely competitive (you get a lot of fin for your money).
I started with the Lightning Square Tip 43.5cm.  This is an unusual shape in this day and age.  It looks like a miniature formula fin.  I put it into my Falcon 104 and took it out with the 7.8 Ram in light wind.  It got going immediately flying the board quickly and easily over the water.  Very impressive given the low wind strength.  Gybes required a bit more commitment as the fin seems to create a strong directional momentum.  Easy to adjust to however.  Speed was good on all points of sail.

The wind increased and Andy came out with his Manta 110/Reflex2 7.8.  We have Christian, a visiting German speed sailor with us and he joined us on a JP Slalom 112/Pryde Race 7.8.  The tide was opposite to the wind giving us some added power so I decided to switch to the Lightning Eliptical 40cm slalom fin.  This is a very delicate, narrow fin specified for use with sails up to 6.5m. I thought I would get away with the bigger sail because of the favorable tide and I must say the fin did really well.  I was able to keep comfortably ahead of the big guys and made the upwind bouy without too much trouble.  This fin really hauls going off the wind - great control (fine rounded tip) and a lot of fun.

Would I buy a Lightning fin in place of a Select S11?  Probably not.  The Select model is such a workmanlike piece of equipment.  It does everything you ask it to with no fuss or drama.
Would I recommend a Lightning fin to someone looking for a classy and effective piece of equipment? Absolutely.
Would I like to own one or two Lightnings alongside my Selects? You bet!

After an excellent session on the 7.8 the wind picked up and I changed down to my Koncept 6.6.  I kept the 104 Falcon and screwed in Pit's Deboichet SL4 38cm.  Andy kept going with the Reflex2 and started blowing everything else off the water as usual.  Awesome sail, scary sailor.

The Deb SL4 is a really good piece of equipment.  It lifts the board over chop so effectively that you get the impression of having suspension under the board.  This imparts confidence and enables you to concentrate on picking your line, maintaining trim, staying sheeted in etc where on a lesser fin all your energy is used trying to survive.  A very very impressive foil.  The SL4 is definitely something I would buy - possibly a 32cm or 34cm for my small slalom board for rough water.

So an interesting day's sailing.  What I learn over and over again is the importance of a good fin properly matched to the rest of the equipment being sailed.  The right fin has the power to completely change the performance of board, sail and sailor.  Something to bear in mind considering the cost of a fin compared to the cost of the other pieces.