Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Equipment News - Fin Comments

On the topic of slightly off center equipment, the first fin to discuss is from Smart Fins.  These guys have developed a foil which is capable of changing shape to optimize performance on both tacks.  They claim that the improvement in efficiency from this allows for a smaller fin to be used.
fin assembling
Interesting stuff and the concept makes sense to me.  The fixed shape of conventional fins must result in quite significant loss of efficiency when the blade is moving through the water which is why the very fastest fins on the speed strip are asymmetrical and work (properly) in one direction only.

The second fin is the Delta Wing model from Maui Ultra Fins.    

I mentioned in a previous post about Rick Hanke's background in the aerospace industry and this fin speaks to that grounding.  I don't think that it is faster than conventional fins but it will certainly offer benefits for sailors who sail in weedy or shallow waters.  The normal fin is in G10 but I understand that you can have a Delta Wing in carbon if you are prepared to spend more money.

F4 has enhanced their fin range and freshened their website.  All good stuff - check them out.

Now some commentary regarding the purchase of high end fins -

Anyone who is really serious about fins will know that when buying a high end fin, one needs to consider and specify some key variables.  The first of these is rake - more rake for an easier ride and more upright for more power.  The second variable is stiffness - softer for more control and stiffer for power.  The third variable revolves around cutting the fin down.  Significant improvements are achieved from making a fin longer than the size you need and cutting it down to your length.  Once again you have a choice.  You can  have it cut down from the top or from the bottom.  I assume that a fin cut from the bottom will be stiffer while one cut from the top will be softer.

The question I have as a recreational sailor (who still wants the best) is how am I ever going to know what combination of the above variables is going to be right for me?  Do I need a fin with a 6 degree rake or will a 4 degree rake be better.  Will an Xsoft be better than an XXsoft?  Would I even be able to tell the difference?  Is company A's Xsoft the same as company B's Xsoft.  When I change my board next year, will the new hull shape still work with the fins I have chosen for my current board?  A nightmare of confusion and uncertainty.

The question then, is whether it is feasible for anyone who is not a serious racer to enter this maze.  When would a run of the mill windsurfer ever have the opportunity to test a sufficient number of fins to be able to make the right choice?  Predictably my answer is that for most of us, these choices are best left to the experts.  What we need is a supplier who will supply an optimized fin.  When you buy a Vector Canefire Carbon fin or a Deboichet SL4, you get what you get and hope that the fin works.  In my experience this level of fin works perfectly for the normal fast sailor.  If you are a serious racer on the other hand, you need to spend the time testing and comparing until you find the perfect fins for your sailing in all wind strengths and water conditions.  You have to engage with all these variables because even a small advantage from the fin can make the difference between winning and losing races.

If we are able to get some F4 fins to test, I will hopefully be able to get some experience with the above variables and give you some feedback from actual sailing sessions.  Andy and I will also pick the brains of the F4 guys to get some meaningful commentary onto the blog.

OK that's all for now.  Ellie and I are going away for a break so the blog will be still for a while but I will talk to you when we get back.  Gemma Wise, a British journalist is part of as group who are creating an extreme sports/travel website, has asked me to write some windsurfing articles for them.  I'm not sure whether to write about windsurfing for the non-windsurfer or to write for the seasoned windsurfer.  I will give this some thought while we are away and will keep you all posted once their site is up.

Good winds          

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Equipment News Continued

Here is the rest of the material that started in the previous post.

Eric Kamminga e-mailed me a few days ago to discuss his slalom board quiver.  Eric went the whole hog with the new Tabou Mantas and acquired the 85/135, the 71/113 and the 61/98.  In my view this is one of the best  slalom quivers available today.  Eric, who is a hard core GPS sailor, recons that he is happy with the 61 and the 85 regarding the speeds he is able to extract from them.  He says that he is battling to achieve similar excellence from the 71.  This surprises me because I have witnessed Hennie, one of our local power sailors, reaching phenomenal speeds on his Manta 71 so I have no doubt that the board goes fast.  Eric is quite adamant, however, that his middle board needs to be going faster.  My first suggestion was that he experiment with fins.  If this yields no marked improvement then he should think of looking at Starboard or RRD.  I also mentioned to him that he may consider another board which has been in my thoughts lately.  This is the Monster 120l from mXr.
The boards in this picture are their Godzilla, 85/150, a Monster and two Rockstar speed boards.  The white Monster comes in 66/100 and 72/120 sizes.  These boards all have stepped hulls which have the effect of making them really easy to sail.  They are the brainchild of Martin van Meurs (well known speed sailor) and Ron van den Berg (famous Dutch board builder).  These guys are totally speed orientated and Martin is obsessed with the importance of control to optimize speed.  If you refer to the top GPS sites you will note that mXr speed fins (I am not talking about their slalom fins) are among the best on the planet.  All these factors make the Monster boards really interesting to me.  They arise out of a design ethos which does everything from a speed and comfort point of view.  Eric tells me that he has knowledge of mXr boards and says that they are not really as fast as some of the top dedicated slalom boards available today.  I would very much like to test a Monster to form my own opinion.

This is a picture of Ron with Tomas Persson from Simmer.  Simmer have taken the Monster and Godzilla models into their board range.  I understand that the Simmer boards are made in China whereas the mXr models are made by Ron and his brother from carbon.  Nice!
The mXr guys have always made good fins but nothing in carbon on their site.  Here is their Katana slalom fin in carbon however, so expect this tasty blade to reach dealers soon.

Some of you will have seen pictures of the new Fanatic Formula board.  I understand that Dan Aeberli is involved with its development.  I wondered how Dan's creativity would manifest itself at Fanatic and this seems to be the start.  I suppose that it will not be easy for him to contend with the overpowering presence of Sebastian Wentzel but hopefully they can make things work between them.  Two awesome designers.  It is good to see Fanatic getting back into formula boards

The width of the board makes Dan look like the world's smallest windsurfer and his cap with pom-pom somehow contributes to the illusion.  The source of this picture is ABC News.

On the subject of Fanatic boards, the 2014 Falcon 120l has been narrowed from the 2013 model's 76cm to 74cm next year.  This is, in my opinion, a really good move and one which will enhance the performance potential of the Falcon range.  I have come to believe that a slightly wider board in the 110-120 liter size is needed and width should be increased from the common 71cm to 73 or 74 cm.  Modern hulls are so good now that the advantages of a slightly wider board should exceed any drawbacks.  Starboard's 75/110 iSonic started me thinking along these lines.  The 75/110 is another board I would really love to  ride.

OK, that's it for now.  I will discuss the fin material in an upcoming post.      

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Some Equipment News

I have some varied equipment related stuff which may be of interest.  Let me see if I can include everything in one go.  If not, I will spread the material over two posts.

Sails first:
You will recall me mentioning the variable profile soft sail being developed by Heru and Challenger Sails.  Here is one of the latest proto's:
They have kept the mast sleeve off which allows us to see more of the structure of the sail.  They seem to use spacers between the two panels to create shape.  I suppose that this is symmetrical as opposed to most current sails which are asymmetrical.  All in all a nice, clean design and if you look at the clips on YouTube, capable of exceptional performance.  I watched one clip showing the tester on a 6m example of this sail sailing with another sailor on a 9m race sail and doing really well in shifty lake conditions.  Interesting stuff.

Avanti have finally added some model pictures on the gallery sections of their site.  Here is the Condor - my idea of a proper 3 cam slalom sail for slalom racing:

 Look at all the high tech laminated material and the balance of the sail in flight.  Awesome!

Here is the Poweride which would be my personal choice in sizes 7.4m and 8.2m.  Not for racing but for fast cruising:

A sailmaker who may be unfamiliar to some of you is Hansen Sails.  This is the company of one Bill Hansen, a design guru who I have admired for a long time.  Many years ago he was with Windwing Sails and was responsible for some fine designs there.  Now he operates as Hansen Sails and continues to produce at the cutting edge.  Here is what I think is his latest formula race sail.  Unfortunately these guys are horrible at updating and maintaining their website so images and specs are really difficult to find.
Note the balance and elegance of this sail on the water - the use of the strong black reinforcing to tie everything together, the clear power section and the beautifully shaped outer wing.  The design incorporates a patented system which constantly alters the profile of the sail under load to optimize performance.  Those black spokes are elasticated, allowing the leech respond to gusts as a living wing might.  Cool stuff.  
I am interested in seeing the other models - slalom and fast freerace, but I haven't found any details out there.

Here are two pics of the 2014 Gaastra Vapor.  They don't show much but I get the impression that they are moving towards a lighter, simpler, flatter construction.
As you can see, these photos come from ABC News and LAWIIN06, two sites with heaps of interesting windsurfing material.

OK, I will close this post now.  I will discuss fins and boards in the next post.  Christiaan from Stellenbosch is coming to sail here today with a bunch of Kona sailors.  There is rain and cold outside but I think they may actually get some wind as well.  Christiaan wants to discuss some of his equipment choices with me so I will go down and have some coffee with him and may even sail with the guys.

Talk to you soon