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.