Monday, January 30, 2012

Musings about Booms

Christiaan, an enthusiastic sailor from our nearby wine territory contacted me about tweaking his boom collection to make it more useable.  For his large slalom sizes he has an old Nautix Jumbo which is not stiff and for his very big formula sails he has a Gulftech Maximum boom which is.  One of his options was to cut the Gulftech boom down so that it can be used with his sails of around 7.5m.  This would do away with the floppy Nautix and still leave him with a boom long enough to carry very big sails.  The other option is to replace the Nautix with a modern stiff aluminium boom like Aeron's VGrip or Severn's Alu Race (2 good options if one is not prepared to go carbon).

The first option would save money but the extremely wide back of the boom would probably not go that well with a 7-8m freerace sail.  The big downside of this option for me however, is based more on sensitivities and aesthetics.  The Gulftech Maximum boom is, in my opinion, one of the beautiful objects of windsurfing and the thought of taking a hacksaw to it and then maybe grafting another pin mechanism onto the stumps fills me with dread.  This boom is an object which perfectly represents the "form follows function" philosophy of the Bauhaus movement.  For those of you not familiar with this stuff, the movement was established in the 1930's and their driving ethos was that if you build an object designed to perform a function you need to strip everything away which is not necessary for the object to function perfectly.  Every component needs to be well made and perfectly positioned to do its job.  If you get this right then the resulting object will have an integrity and beauty of its own.  If you get it right you create a space where art and technology merge.  Art becomes technology and technology art.  The Gulftech Maximum is a product which embodies all of this.

Anyway, Christiaan has decided to replace the Nautix rather than hack pieces off the Gulftech.  Good decision Christiaan.  Walter Gropius is looking down on us, has heaved a sigh of relief and is giving you a big thumbs up.

Good winds and I will talk to you soon.      

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Select Fins

Here is some feedback on my sailing today where I sailed my new S12 43cm Slam XL fin with my Falcon 104 and Ram 7.8m.  I ordered the S12 based on the good experiences I enjoyed with the S10 43cm I had been trying.  When the S12 arrived I was a bit alarmed by the increased weight and thickness of the S12.  I am a thin foil man and heavy/thick fins don't excite me.  The wind was light when I hit the water and I have to say I was expecting the worst.  I set off in light wind, outgoing tide so quite a challenge to get planing but I must say the fin performed well.  With some careful sailing and a few gentle nudges against the fin I was planing in no time and I blasted gently at first and much faster as the wind picked up.  Both upwind and downwind performance are good and in overpowered conditions the fin retains its composure.  First impression - a workmanlike fin certainly good enough for the likes of me.

Below are some images of the new Select fins including the new V.Max Range (red decals).  I was not aware of this fin until after I received my new S12 but I would really be interested in testing one of these nice looking things.  They are semi custom, carbon faced units with a thin profile (yes!) finished by hand.  No details available regarding sizing or stiffness and rake options.   The curved leading edge of these fins is an element used by some of the top fin designers such as Z Fins and Ifju and the shape seems to work for hard core slalom.  Nice move Select but try to keep us better informed of new models.  I had to employ some seriously sneaky investigation techniques to obtain the V.Max images.    
Cheers and good winds


Z-Slalom finsZ Fins slalom range.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fiberspar Warranty Problems

I need to bring to your attention a problem which I experienced recently with a Fiberspar product and the service I received from this organisation.  A while ago I purchased a Fiberspar 7000 (460) mast and used it very successfully on my North Ram 7.8 for a while.  One day I noticed that the bottom of the mast was breaking down.  It had started absorbing water and had become soggy.  A complete failure of the resin in that area.  I showed Anthony, our supplier, who took pictures of the damage and e-mailed these to Fiberspar.  They agreed to replace the mast.  So far so good.

What has now transpired is that the supply chain from Fiberspar has changed (in a way which I don't pretend to understand) and my claim is no longer being honoured.  I don't mind paying a high price for a premium product which performs better than others on the market.  What I expect in return however is some sort of back up service should I need it.  In every sport you get high end suppliers who charge high prices for excellent products.  What you get with every one of these companies is a superior back up service.  A friend was telling me of a company in the sport fishing industry which charges huge prices for its products but if you buy one of their rods they guarantee to replace any broken parts FOR LIFE irrespective of how the breakage occurred.  This is what one expects from a high end manufacturer.  I have always considered Fiberspar to be a high end supplier in our industry but this incident has caused me to re-think completely.  I will not be buying any more products from Fiberspar which is a pity because the lightness and performance of their top masts and booms has given me a lot of pleasure over the years.

If you are considering a Fiberspar product please ensure that you are absolutely certain that your warranty will be honoured should the product fail.  I'm not sure how you get this certainty but you do not want to find yourself in my position.

Talk to you soon    

Thursday, January 19, 2012

PWA Visitors

I promised to report back on how some of the big guys performed in our local racing on Sunday but none of them turned up.  I think they went wave sailing in stead.  What brought them to this part of the world was the Langebaan Downwind Dash which is held every year and took place on Saturday.  Alberto Menegatti won the race followed by Arnon Dagan and Andrea Rosati in third.  All on Gaastra Vapors (awesome sails as I have said before).  I was hoping to see these guys (and Ross Williams) at our racing so that I could report on things such as sail size selection, mast foot positions, fins being used etc (the most boring details if you are not a windsurfer but important for us).

Lancelin Ocean Classic

Peter Volwater won the Ledge to Lancelin race in Australia (also held over the weekend), showing what the new Avanti sails are capable of.  This race attracts some of the real heavy hitters (Bjorn came 9th) so to win it is a fantastic achievement.  What makes this win even more impressive is the fact that Peter had a really bad start but ended up winning by the biggest time margin in the history of the event.  Look how far ahead he is of the number 2 sailor in this picture.  Scary!


Alice's Gybe Video

Sacha from Starboard contacted me regarding getting hold of this video.  This made me realize that some of the rest of you may also be struggling to find it so here is the URL:

You should be able to click on it and go to the video.

I critique Alice's gybe but remember, she is an excellent sailor and each time she makes a small mistake she has the skill to correct immediately and still pull off a good gybe.  This is the commentary I wrote all those months ago:

At second 48 Alice begins her carve.  Her knees are pointed into the turn and are forward of her heels.  Her hips are forward of her heels and shoulders forward of her hips.  This all results in the board being perfectly banked, carving nicely.

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 applied immediately

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 front of 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.  Nicely done Alice!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

PWA News

Here is some news from the PWA guys. It is what I have picked up to date and I'm sure there will be other moves in due course.  Some of these moves came as a complete surprise to me but I suppose long term brand loyalty is not really part of our sport. 

  • Micah Buzianis has left Pryde to go to Maui Sails.
  • Cyril Moussilmani has left North Sails to join the Severne team.  Cyril and Bjorn are going to be quite a force on the new Reflex3 sails.
  • Antoine Albeau has left JP Boards to join Finian on RRD.  Just watch the master on these boards!
  • Peter Volwater has left Maui Sails and Finian has moved from Pryde both to join the new Avanti brand which I will discuss briefly.
The new Avanti brand is quite an exciting development.  The designer is Dan Kaseler and looking at what they have come up with one gets the impression that they have gone out of their way to create the best race sail available today.  The whole thing is made from Technora.  Most of the battens are carbon tubes.  The downhaul pulley is a special new lightweight/low friction unit created specially for the job.  They have developed a mast range for the sails using a new technology for enhanced performance and reduced weight.  The list of innovations goes on and I urge you to visit the Avanti site and do some browsing.  Very impressive.  

One needs to see the thing performing however and it is going to be really interesting to watch how Peter and Finian do on the course.
I like the emphasis on lightness (7.7m sail weighs just over 5kg - unheard of for a full race sail) and on the use of high tech scrims and carbon tubes.  I have come under some fire from manufacturers in the past when I suggested these things (they claim to have tried them and found no benefit) so lets see how they stack up now someone else has done it.  I have always believed that you can engineer the amount of stretch you need with these scrims by orientating the weave in each part of the sail and I bet Dan has been working with this approach on his ocean yacht sails and has incorporated the principles into this new line.

One thing I would hope for is that the Avanti team has given the area of sail rotation to someone other than Dan.  He is dynamite at building fast sails but not so good at making sails which actually rotate.  I remember the first Naish Stealth wide sleeve sails which were fast but simply refused to rotate.  You had to kick, head butt and punch after each gybe to get the thing to pop.  NOT GOOD.  Hopefully someone else has handled the rotation aspect (please !!).

Talk to you soon.  We have quite a few of the PWA big guys here for the weekend and I'll give some feedback on their equipment and how they performed against each other and against the local hot racers in the next post.  Click on the picture below to enlarge it and you'll notice that Finian's toes are almost as long as his fingers (probably his secret to going as fast as he does!).            

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Fanatic Falcon 113

I was given a ride on the new Fanatic Falcon 113 today.  I rigged my 7.8 Ram early, screwed a 43cm Select S10 under the board and went out.  The light wind performance is good given that the board feels really small for its size.  It carries the 7.8m sail with the greatest of ease and feels really balanced with this sail and fin combo.  The light wind test was quite harsh since there were no white caps to be seen but the board coped well and popped onto the plane as easily as my old 104 (no mean feat).

The wind picked up and suddenly the conditions went to steepish chop/overpowering wind speed.  Nice!
The board keeps its composure no matter how hard you hit areas of chop and if it flies off the fin it self corrects immediately.  This all gives a feeling of immense security and comfort.  You can concentrate on maximizing speed  without having to fight your equipment.  Directional stability is phenomenal and minute changes in direction are achieved almost by thought.  This allows you to pick the fast route through the peaks and troughs with no effort at all.  Fantastic!  Gybes are effortless whether in flat water or through chop as long as you enter with speed and commit fully.  Don't hold back - the board is in its element when pushed and will reward your courage with the nicest carving gybes ever.  I found that pressure on both front and back feet is perfectly balanced whether pinching upwind or screaming downwind.  There is nothing more annoying than getting your new slalom board onto the water and finding that your front foot keeps dropping out of the strap.  Not a problem with the Falcon.   

I came in for a breather and had some good luck.  Joos, who I mentioned in a previous post has found his new light wind board.  He picked up a 2011 Tabou Manta 110l team edition for a good price and offered me a ride for a comparison with the Falcon.  My lucky day!  The Manta had a Vector Canefire 40cm under it so a nice comparison for the Select S10.  The Tabou feels really small once under way just like the Falcon and handles chop at speed like a freeride board.  It also carries the 7.8m sail beautifully.  It feels a lot looser than the Falcon and I was not able to make the minute directional changes afforded by the Falcon but this probably boils down to a different style and getting used to the board.  You may prefer this type of ride over the Falcon or vice versa.  I could live very happily with either of these two awesome machines.  Nice job Fanatic and nice job Tabou.

Riding these two boards brought home to me just how good the modern slalom board has become.  The performance of these two boards is almost unbelievable when I compare them to my old Falcon 104.  We need to give the PWA tour its due because the continuous quest for victory drives slalom board design higher and higher to the benefit of every performance orientated sailor.



Monday, January 2, 2012

Light Windsurfing Equipment

I wanted to do a piece about the importance of weight as a factor in the performance of windsurfing equipment.   I have a fetish for light equipment so I know that I place way too much emphasis on lightness but weight really is important when optimising one’s enjoyment of the sport. 

Karel, a visiting sailor from up north tried to get his 2010 9.3m Vapor going the other day with poor results and asked me to have a go on it.  The sail is heavy but once powered up is really fast.  What made it almost impossible to manage through transitions was the fact that it was rigged on the heaviest boom I have ever seen.  This is a full carbon boom but is really heavy and the weight is badly distributed.  The back of the boom comprises a heavy nylon back end which develops huge momentum when you swing it around through the gybe and this seems to pull you off balance -   weird and extremely unpleasant.  Every boom should be designed to be as light as possible at the back to enhance the swing action.

Here are some weight guidelines which you could use as a yardstick:

Your 7.5m (ish) sail should not weigh more than 5kg

A board of 100l to 105l should not weigh much more than 6kg

An SDM 460 mast should not weigh much more than 1.6kg
An RDM 430 mast should not weigh much more than 1.6kg and an RDM 460 mast should be around 1.8kg. 

A boom of around 150 to 200 cm should not weigh much more than 2kg.  No boom should weigh more than 3kg.

Light booms on the market right now include those from Fiberspar, Chinook, Streamlined (Angulo) and the lightest – Powerex.  Unfortunately Powerex make only two sizes of boom but if they were available here I would not be buying anything else in the sizes offered.  Their 150 to 200 cm boom weighs 1.9kg – awesome!

If you have never considered weight as a factor in sailing I urge you to try the lightest stuff you can get your hands on for a test and feel the difference for yourself.  I bet you become a lightness convert.  As consumers I believe we should be pushing manufacturers to lighten their products.

Good winds     

Some Medium-to-Light Wind Board Options

Joos, our local doctor and avid windsurfer approached me for some options for medium to light wind sailing.  His current board for these conditions is a 115l Manta which he sails with a 7.8 Reflex 2. His problem is that the board (74cm wide) is uncomfortable over the chop.  What should be comfortable cruising turns out to be uncomfortable thrashing over bumpy water.

I use my old Falcon 104 in these conditions and have no problem with the chop as long as the speed is manageable.  The challenge then, is to find a modern equivalent for this old war horse - something which planes easily, accelerates effortlessly and which eats through the chop.  Ideally the board should not be wider than 70cm for those of us who weigh between 75 and 85kg.

Here is a workable short list:

Tabou Manta       110l/69  cm
Tabou Manta       113/71  cm
Fanatic Falcon     113/69  cm
Starboard Isonic  107/68.5cm
JP Slalom V111   118/68  cm
RRD X-Fire         114/70  cm

Each of these boards carries big sails easily, is light and is designed to handle choppy water.  Remember that the top racers use these boards in much stronger winds than we could manage so they are all designed to remain controllable over rough water.  With a Select S10 43cm fin, a good race (or camless) 7.5m ish sail you have a light wind combination which is going to kick ass in comfort.  

I have not seen one yet but I have a good feeling about the new Tabou Manta 71/113.  Their 110l board is an awesome performer but in my opinion not quite as easy to get planing as the others on the list.  I'm sure they have introduced this new model to give that early pop.

If my sail on the new Falcon 99l was anything to go by, the 113l model will be fantastic.

The JP has a nice amount of volume for the width.  I'm not sure what this extra volume does but I'm sure they have found an advantage (possibly to keep going through the gybes in light wind where static flotation becomes a factor ??)

The RRD is something I would really like to try.  Their new tail is reported to improve early planing AND enhance control.  Nice if true.

Before I sign off there is something else you can do to enhance comfort over chop and that is to learn to handle it.  You need to ensure that you are hanging off the boom and not standing with your weight full on the board.  Newton's laws are always with us!  Your legs need to actively bend and straighten as you traverse the bumps.  If you ride into chop passively with stiff straight legs you will get thrown about and you will lose control.

Talk to you soon