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 continentseven.com. 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.