Monday, May 27, 2013

Equipment Feedback


I apologize for the lack of recent posts but our sailing season is all but over until October so windsurfing is not uppermost in my mind.  Anyway, here is some feedback and commentary on equipment which may be interesting.

Firstly, Gregor fins from Spain.  You will recall that Juan Alonso sent me his personal Vector Canefire fin to test and he included in the package, a prototype Gregor fin.  I was stoked by the performance of the Canefire but struggled a bit with the Gregor.  Well Fran (Francisco??), the Gregor designer, was informed of my findings and asked Juan to send me two of his regular fins.  These arrived some time ago and our retreating wind allowed me one afternoon of around 14 knots to ride the fins.  I was a bit under powered on my 7.8m/113l combo but got a good feeling for the potential of these fins.  Both were a huge improvement on the prototype I tested earlier.  I could easily live with either of them but my favorite would be the general slalom design over the downwind speed model.  I am hoping to get the fins out fully powered on my 7.0/113 to assess performance in more extreme conditions.  

The top fin is his general slalom model whereas the bottom one is for downwind speed

On the subject of fins, I have had some promising discussions with the guys at F4 Fins who may be sending us some of their excellent fins to try.  I suggested that we wait until October to do this so watch this space.  I am really keen to sail these fins and report back to you.  As I have said before, getting equipment out on the water is the only way to properly assess any board, sail or fin.  If we can make this happen with F4, Andy will be helping with the testing.  He will represent the more extreme racing side of things with me representing the normal advanced blaster who likes to go fast.  Hopefully we can come up with assessments and commentary which will be useful.

Other bits of equipment news:

  • RRD has announced a super light wind X-Fire board.  I'm not sure of the volume but assume the          dimensions will be similar to Starboard's UltraSonic.  The new RRD looks great and has a carrying slot for the fingers in the middle of the deck like the old Bic Formula boards.  Excellent feature!
  • The 2014 Starboard Isonic 107 dimensions are going to be 231cm long and 70cm wide.  A decrease in length and an increase in width from the current model.  I'm not sure whether they have gone far enough with the width increase.  My feeling is that for this size of board, with all the recent improvements in bottom shapes, the optimal width is 73 or 74 cm.  Starboard have the 110/75 of course so I suppose they need to keep some distance from this model.
  • Challenger sails have entered into an agreement with Heru Sails to develop a "Soft Wing Variable Profile" windsurfing sail.  The principles are quite complex but have a look on YouTube at clips of these sails on the water.  The future of windsurfing sails?  I'm not so sure but interesting stuff. 

That's all for now
Good winds


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Slalom Gybing

As promised, here is some commentary and thoughts about gybing.  In a previous post I mentioned Pascal Toselli and how he was dominating in his gybes with the new Tabou Mantas.  This brings me to the question of whether it is necessary to lay ones sail down in order to execute a decent slalom gybe.  First let us look at Pascal gybing -  

Here is Pascal screaming into the gybe.  Note his bent knees and total commitment.  The spray behind him shows how fast he is going.

He controls the board round and begins to throw the sail up into the flare.  

Here he has flared and can now step.

He steps forward but puts too much weight on the inside rail - a mistake which would cause him to turn into the wind were he not going so fast.  

Despite his error, his speed and commitment allow him to flip the board back onto the planing surface and scream out of the gybe almost as fast as he entered. Very impressive!

This is your standard lay-down gybe by one of the best.  Pascal's ferocious entry into the gybe with his spring loaded intensity throughout the move make one wonder if there is something wrong with ones own gybes.  The reality is that for most of us, sailing as we normally do, it is not necessary to lay the sail down in a gybe.  You can do a perfectly controlled and acceptable gybe while keeping the sail relatively upright. 

Here is Alice planing all the way through her gybe.  She makes one small mistake but has the skill and finess to nail it regardless -
She enters the gybe,  banking the board nicely.  The sail is pushed towards the center of the arc but nowhere near as forcefully as Pascal  did on his entry. 

Alice flares the sail and starts to step

She steadies the board while completing the step.  Note how she looks through the sail window in the direction she wishes to go.  STRAIGHT ARM!  

Her feet are nicely positioned on the inside of the board maintaining pressure on the inside rail.  This keeps the board turning.  She can now flip the sail.  Note how she keeps looking ahead.  Her slight mistake here is that her right hand should have been shifted up to the mast.  If you read my early critique of this gybe you will remember that Alice allows her hand to slip up to the mast as the sail rotates.  OK but it means that she loses mast foot pressure for a second.  Her skill is such that she still nails the gybe.  Note her STRAIGHT ARM!

She flips the sail.  Note how her body leans in towards the center of the turn.  This keeps the board turning and also provides a counter-balance to the rig which is held away on a STRAIGHT ARM!

Alice catches the boom, lowers her backside to counter the force in the sail and her straight arms allow her to pump the sail with a few decisive tugs while nudging the fin with her back foot.  See ya!

Here are some more sequences if you are interested.  The first set is by one of the RRD guys and the second set is Chris Pressler (I think) on slalom gear.  Every one of these gybes was at quite a high speed and was done on the plane right through - 

The bottom line is that laying the sail down in the gybe is not necessary for an acceptable gybe.  I hope these sequences are useful.

Talk to you soon

Defi Wind 2013

I'm sure that most of you are aware of this slalom race which takes place in Gruisan, France each year in early May.  The race went well this year, finishing on the 12th.  For those of you not familiar with Defi, it is an all comers slalom race comprising a 20km run parallel to the beach to a marker boat and 20km back along the same track.  The Tramontana wind pumps off-shore providing the power and ensuring flat water.  Anywhere between 800 and 1000 slalom blasters from all over the world register each year for the event.

The format of the race is 100% my kind of thing.  No finicky starts, congested bouy roundings and short legs - just two glorious long blasts at top speed.  Awesome!

As you can imagine, most of the contestants are seriously fast racers who are super keen to test themselves against some of the best in windsurfing.  

Sebastien Bonhomme won the first race with an RRD Firewing sail (6.5m) and a 90l X-Fire board.  The board does not surprise me - it is a rocket ship but the sail??  Firstly, the Firewing is an in-house piece of kit, not from a dedicated loft and secondly it looks wrong to me.  The head of the sail is badly resolved and the area below the boom is a bit weedy but you can't argue with results on the water.  I probably need to re-evaluate my opinion.  Winning in this company demands huge skill and top drawer equipment.

The winner after all the races was Patrice Belbeoch, second was Andrea Cucchi and Sebastien came third. Patrice is a super strong French sailor, best known for his speed runs, Andrea is a PWA sailor and Point 7 boss.  I don't know anything about Sebastien.  Steven van Broeckhoven came in 16th on his freestyle kit proving that real class always shines through.  It also shows how fast freestyle kit can go in the right hands.  

In the next post I will do something on slalom gybing.  I have written about gybing before but it is such an important aspect of our sport that it warrants looking at again and again.  

Talk to you soon  

Monday, May 6, 2013

PWA Season - First Race

The PWA Slalom season kicked off yesterday and Alberto Menegatti won the day!  Awesome performance with his black sails, Z Fins and Starboard kit all working perfectly.  There were some crashes and bits of bad luck for some of the big guns but you don't get through all the heats and end up winning the winners final by accident.  Alberto spent most of his winter training hard and this has paid off.  The guy who came in third is Matteo Iachino, Alberto's training partner.  This shows the value of doing the right type of concentrated, focussed training.  Second was Antoine Questel (one of the stars from 2012 on Starboard and Loft Sails) and fourth was Pierre Mortefon on Fanatic and North.


Some points of interest for us:

Ross Williams has broken his ankle and so will not be participating in Korea.  I really hope he mends before the next venue.

Peter Bijl has left Fanatic and is now on Angulo boards.  Gonzalo Costa Hoevel has left Fanatic/North and is back with Starboard, sailing Loft sails.  Josh Angulo is back with Gun sails.  Patrik Diethelm is now with Loft Sails.  I spoke previously about Ben vd Steen going to Gaastra.  My wish would be that he go the whole hog and leave Starboard for Tabou but probably too much to hope for.  Maybe 2014?

Looking at the equipment lists, of the 57 competitors registered for the event, 24 of them are on Starboard, 7 on RRD, 7 on Fanatic, 6 on JP, 5 on Tabou, 5 on Patrik, 2 on Angulo, 1 on F2.

Starboard's 110l iSonic is making its appearance in various quivers.  This board interests me because it is 110l and 75cm wide.  Super slim and super fast with bigger sails.  Four of the men have chosen this board, one as the middle board (Cyril Mousilmanni) and three as their biggest board.  Every Starboard lady entered has this as her big board and this makes sense to me.  I think the men using it as their big board are taking a bit of a risk but it is very interesting.  If the conditions play their part over the course of the tour, this board could cause problems for those on comparatively sluggish 85's in lighter winds.  As long as the lulls are (on average) not too light I suppose.

Finally a note about one Pascal Toselli.  He has stayed with Point 7 Sails but changed his boards to Tabou.  He has become a gybing demon and has been smoking all comers in local races and various recent events.  I will be watching Pascal with interest as the tour progresses.
Talk to you soon