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.