Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some New Kit

Gaastra has uploaded details of the 2014 Matrix, Cosmic, Savage, and Phantom.  Nice line-up!

Avanti have also posted some new sails.  Notably the new Machine-2 race sail.  This model sees some interesting developments including a new "modal trim system" which supplies three boom outhaul grommets which are in a horizontal line rather than the traditional over/under arrangement.  Other nice touches include no sock centre seam, horizontal load bands and new lighter plastics throughout.  More evidence of Dan's extraordinary understanding of  things sailish.

All this results in a race sail which looks like something I would like to try (breaking my no-race-sail-ever again vow).  Although I do recall saying that I would like to give the Maui Sails TRX a spin.  OK so excluding these two models, I will never ride another race sail!

Here are some pics of the new Machine-2:
This shows the three grommets and also a new simple way of connecting the edges of the outside boom cut-out.  The guys recon that the inside grommet yields a soft sail while the outside one gives power.  What concerns me slightly is how the adjustable outhaul system is going to operate within this structure (if my outhaul is tied through the centre grommet, how do I let line off without the boom end snagging the nifty holding thread?).

Look at this beautiful shape under tension.  Very, very nice!

 This slightly blurry shot shows the grommets all in a row on the sail.

The Machine-2 is one light sail.  The 7.7m weighs 5.1kg.  Compare this to 6.1kg for a 2013 Gaastra Phantom 7.8m.

Nice work Avanti - please send a 7.7m Mach-2 for review.

Other news is that Point-7 and Challenger Sails are terminating their technology/design partnership.  I'm not sure who is going to fill the sail design gap at Point-7 but will keep you posted if I hear anything.  Challenger say that they want to spend their energies on groundbreaking developments such as the new soft sails.  We wait with interest.

Finally there is a new race sail from France - the Teiva race sail.  Look it up.  It seems like early days but some of the clips on YouTube show some impressive speeds with recent proto's.  The guy (despite looking like a 16 year old) seems to really know what he is doing.  I have a good feeling about this.

Talk to you soon


Monday, November 25, 2013

Plastic vs G10 Wave/Freestyle Fins


Jake Patrick of K4 Fins contacted me and asked me to post an article on the new plastic windsurfing fins which K4 have developed.   Of course I agreed and his article follows this comment.  Unfortunately for most of us, the new material is not suitable for slalom fins but who knows what the future may hold.  If you sail in waves or are into freestyle then you need to read this.

Anyway, here is Jake's article.  He includes two links which you can use if you are interested to learn more.

K4 Fins, the pro's and con's of plastic fins.

K4 Fins are the birth child of Steve Thorpe and Murray Saunders. Steve is a UK windsurfing legend. Currently he is the only man to have windsurfed the Cribbar, a famous big wave spot for surfers in the UK. Steve works for a plastic injection moulding company in the midlands and constantly travels to whatever coast line gets the best forecast. Tired of the fins on offer Steve started making windsurfing fins in his spare time in the warehouse.

On a trip to the west coast of Ireland with Murray Saunders, a BWA sailor and Industry Salesman, Steve used the fins to amazing effect. Once Murray had tried them the pair joined forces to offer K4 Fins to the windsurfing market. Now K4 Fins have an international distribution network with K4 sailors ripping waves in every corner of the globe.

K4 Fins founder Steve Thorpe.

K4 fins use a unique moulded resin, long fibre matrix, which they call 'Optoflex'. This plastic injection material has been optimised to provide the ideal flex patterns for wave riding and freestyle. Optoflex was in development for 2 years and offers a unique combination of strength, durability, flex and performance.

Compared to the industry standard G10 construction, K4 Fins offer a fin that flexes and works with you. This flex in the fins is what gives more grip, drive and then release when wave riding. The increased flex allows the rider to drive harder through the bottom turn. Then, as the rider comes out of the turn and approaches the lip, the fins give back some of the stored energy allowing for a much harder and more radical top turn.

This is obviously good news for advanced wave riders, but they also work well, if not better, for more everyday wave riders. By 'storing' energy in the bottom turn and releasing it into the top turn, K4 Fins help average riders to complete fluid turns that they perhaps weren't capable of with G10's. A Lyme Regis windsurfer, Malcolm Jones says "I can wave ride so much better with the K4's on my board. I haven't got the most precise technique, but with the extra grip and drive through my bottom turn, I come into my top turn with more speed than I could ever have managed through technique alone!"

K4 Fins flex compared to standard G10.

The fins are also pretty handy at getting your board up and planing. In fact when compared to the stiffer G10’s some riders think that K4 are earlier planing. Rich Potter (UK Wave Champion) remarked that when jumping the fins allow him to spring off the wave better, and then landing they work with him, gripping the water and straightening him up. 

The benefits of the Optoflex material on a practical level are evident too. The plastic injection fins are much lighter than any G10 alternative and the material is more forgiving to mistakes. Bumps or scrapes with rocks and reefs are easy to sand and smooth out. They also don’t split if rammed into underwater obstacles so you can sail in the confidence that one bad strike isn’t going to render them useless.

Due to demand K4 have expanded their range in the last couple of years. They now offer a variety of models in a wide range of different sizes. The new shapes include a more upright, stiffer 'stubby’ fin, and an exciting ‘Ezzy’ Asymmetric fin side fin.

K4 Team rider Graham Ezzy on his signature side fin

Perhaps the only drawback with K4 Fins is that currently their range is limited to multi fin wave boards and freestyle boards. The biggest fin in the range is 20cm, but there are rumours that work is being done to find a new material for single fin wave boards and free-ride boards. The current Optoflex plastic is too flexible for the longer fins.

One thing for sure is that K4 Fins offer a unique and alternative performance aspect compared to conventional G10 fins. Those looking to improve on basic techniques can benefit from the added grip and release the fins offer. When you consider the savings made in both cost and weight, it certainly seems irrational not to at least try the fins.

It will be interesting to see how K4 Fins continue to develop and whether their entrance into the free ride and single fin market is as successful as their triumph with multi fin wave and freestyle windsurfing fins. Find a setup that suits your style and see if K4 Fins are the ingredient you have been missing to improve your windsurfing.

Many thanks,

Jake Patrick

Friday, November 15, 2013

Some Thoughts About Booms

A few days ago Grant, a local sailor broke his Aeron VGrip boom a few hundred meters from the beach. He was on his way in. This incident raises two important issues:

  1. Grant was on his Severne Reflex 7.0, a sail which he has tuned to  perfection over the months and on which he smokes.  The problem with high performance sailing is that it generates huge forces on mast, boom and fin.  Each of these elements needs to be strong enough for this class of sailing.  In my opinion, no aluminium boom is man enough to withstand racing levels of stress.  The VGrip is a fantastic aluminium boom but should be confined to easier sailing.
  2. Grant was able to unclip the broken boom, swim it off the top of the sail, rotate it, swim it back down, re-attach it and limp back with a one sided boom.  It is crucial to be able to do this self rescue procedure if you sail long distances.  You ensure that it is possible by attaching the uphaul rope to the mast - not the boom.  The rope goes from the mast above the boom, inside the boom to be secured at the bottom of the sail.  When you do this you are able to get the boom off in the water as described above.  If you attach the rope to the boom you cannot do the self rescue Grant was able to do. Please give this some thought if you still secure your uphaul rope to your boom head.

Andy purchased an Aeron Carbon race boom some time ago and he recons that it has transformed his sailing.  It is a narrow grip boom which allows one to avoid hand/arm exhaustion when sailing for extended periods.  It's stiffness resists flexing which allows the sail to perform optimally, keeping you fast on all points of sail.  The narrow grip feels so much crisper than with thicker boom arms, that Andy has taken to avoiding his 6.5m sail which still has an old (thick) boom on it.  This is all real world feedback from a real world kick-ass sailor.  We all need to pay more respect to our booms.  We tend to give the limelight to sail and board but the backbone components of the rig (mast, fin and boom) we think we can skimp on.  Not true!  If you want to take your sailing and your enjoyment of the sport to new heights, please don't skimp on these components.

Speaking of Aeron, I note that they have introduced a great looking boom called the Aeron Carbon Slim 2014.  Very, very nice.

I include a few pictures which I'm sure indicate the quality of this thing.  The boom sizes cover all sail ranges, the tail changing from wave to race as boom length increases.  The grip width is 26mm.  Fantastic!  One always has the impression with the newer Aeron booms, that an actual windsurfer is deciding on the dimensions, where all the elements go and how they operate.  Everything is exactly where you want it and every element works perfectly.
Talk to you soon.    

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

VMax 2, Reader Feedback and Some Sail Thoughts


You will recall that we recently collected our new VMax fins and I wrote about my first experience with the 39cm one on my Falcon.  You may also recall that our fins are the old model and that Select has now introduced the VMax 2.  

Stephane Mocher from Select informs us that the flex diagram for the new model is completely different from that of the VMax 1.  Only the tip of this fin flexes which he claims, enables it to generate large amounts of lift. He adds that both speed and control have been improved making the latest model better in every way.  Well done guys.  Maintain a continuous improvement in these blades and you are likely to reach my (invented) A grade rating.

Back to the old VMax fin - I wrote that I seemed to be spinning out on this fin more than I would have expected.  Well, following that post, Caspar Verhaagen e-mailed me and mentioned the need to wash one's new fins properly to remove any release agent which may be on the fin surface.  Fins are shaped in a mould and so release agents are an integral part of the production process.  Anything oily or slippery on the surface of a fin will impede it's performance by causing a loss of grip.  This all makes perfect sense to me.  The most puzzling thing to me is why I have not thought of this before.  I know all about release agents, I know that they are used on moulded products and I also know that a slippery surface is the enemy of the windsurfing fin - Why could I not make the connection?  Anyway that is the value of communicating with a wide range of sailors from all over the planet - you will get a wise head from time to time guiding you back to the path and that is what Caspar has done for us in this matter.  Thanks Caspar!
Please wash your new fins guys, before you take them anywhere near the water.  I suppose that any detergent will do but I would recommend a trusted general purpose cleaner with a strong de-greasing component.  A good sponge and some clean, warm water and you are in business.  From now on I wash my fins!

Lars from Norway has been changing and refining his equipment for some time.  We explored some slalom board options and Lars settled on a Starboard iSonic 110 and an iSonic 127.  Two awesome boards for his conditions, which comprise mostly light to medium winds.  Lars completed this ideal board line-up with two stunning Boss fins. Nice!  He had been struggling with Gaastra Vapor sails which he found hard and difficult to rotate.  My strong recommendation would have been to change to the new Phantoms but Lars bought a quiver of second hand TR Race sails (Maui Sails) with correct 100% carbon masts.  My problem with any pure race sail, as you know, is that they are just too hard and punishing for the normal sailor.  My problem with the TR has always been that it is heavy and has 9 battens.  My further problem with Maui sails is that their masts are so unlike any other masts that they can only be used on their sails. If you are left with Maui masts, you are forced to replace your sails with other Maui sails.  Brands like North, Avanti, Ezzy, Gun, Hot Sails Maui, Simmer etc all have similar masts so you are not restricted to one brand when the time comes to replace sails.

Despite my negative thoughts, Lars tells me that he absolutely stoked with his new sails.  They are soft, easy and light in the hand. They accelerate rapidly to a fast top speed and rotate like a dream.  He is replacing one of his existing sizes with the new 2014 TRX and would consider nothing else.  I realized from his findings, that I may need to re-visit  my opinion of the TR.  Given his comments I am now quite keen to give the new TR a try.

 Here is the 2014 TR-X and I have to say that I am a fan of this sail structure.  You have the sleeve, a triangular power section in a non-stretch material and then a soft, light outer section to spill the wind.  Remember that Hansen sail I featured a few months ago - same concept.  Food for thought

Talk to you soon          

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Good Bye Tony D


We lost a dear friend and avid windsurfer on our beach yesterday.  Tony went out on his 6m sail in strong wind, had one or two runs, came in and was carrying his rig onto the beach when he collapsed.  Bret spotted the problem, rushed to him and commenced cpr.  It was to no avail and Tony passed away.  Very very sad.
Condolences to Meryl and the family.

Good bye old friend - thanks for the times.

The next post will be more cheerful - some interesting feedback on VMax fins (and fins in general) and some thoughts about Maui Sails.

Good winds