Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Notes About Safety

As mentioned previously, here are some pointers for safety on the water following Andy's bad experience a while ago.

Our sailing area is quite vast but most of us stick to an across-the-wind tack from the beach to a gybe area close to a headland about 2km away and back.  To the right of this zone is a huge expanse of water which we pay little attention to during normal sailing. In the distance is a steel terminal, a harbour and a huge sweeping coastline unfamiliar to most of us.  The Atlantic ocean enters our vast lagoon via this massive area.

Andy sailed to the normal gybe area on the far side and as he turned, his mast foot broke.  He was sailing close to Grant who may or may not have noticed him go down but who simply continued to sail back and forth.  An hour or so later the people on the beach and at the windsurfing centre started to notice that Andy was not around. The wind was almost gale force at this stage, with the sun dropping towards the horizon. To cut a long story short Andy was eventually rescued by the National Sea Rescue Institute quite close to the above-mentioned sweeping coastline.  He had spent several hours in the water.

We can all learn something from this event.  Firstly the things Andy should have done but did not do:

  • When he went down with broken UJ, he did not shout loudly to Grant to draw attention to his situation.  I believe that we should each carry a whistle.  This is such a small, easy thing and a whistle can be heard from a long way off.  It does not get hoarse either. 
  • Andy had recently modified his mast foot and assumed that it was strong.  He should have done a few short runs checking it after each run.  He did not do this and consequently did not notice that it was failing.
  • Apart from a short piece of rope, Andy had no safety equipment on him that day (cell phone in a pouch, flare, spare UJ etc)
  • His sail, helmet and wetsuit are all the usual drab colours - not easily seen against the backdrop of a wild ocean.  We should try for brighter colours.  Black, white, brown and silver are all invisible in a distant seascape.
  • Andy says that he should have been carrying a torch.  This would have been a huge asset if the search had gone into the night.  Torchlight is easily picked up by rescuers in the dark     

Here are the things that Andy did correctly:

  • When his UJ broke, separating his rig from the board, he swam furiously for the board and then back for the rig.  This is paramount since your equipment offers a means of flotation.  It allows you something to sit on, providing height and visibility.
  • Andy used his rope to tie rig to board.  He sat on the board facing the back, into the wind and positioned the rig over the footstraps (balanced with equal sail area to left and right I understand). This provided stability and also allowed him to steer a bit.  Remember, the wind was howling and the tide was running in the same direction so he was moving quickly.
  • Andy did not panic.  He assessed his situation, kept a constant check on his position using landmarks and developed a plan of action.
  • He did not fight against the tide, opting rather to save his energy for when he needed to swim for land.
  • His helmet, and the fact that he was sitting on the board, kept him relatively warm (not toasty but surviving at least)  

 There you have it.  Some lessons learned and a wake-up call for those of us who sail in wild conditions.  I generally sail with Gareth and we keep an eye on each other but once in a while we will do our own thing and go off alone.  Not good in wild conditions!

Talk to you soon  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

New Equipment - 2


In no particular order, here are some interesting new bits of equipment.

Simmer's new SCR race sail has broken cover.  Never underestimate Simmer stuff - it is unique and excellent:

The new SCR in trademark green

Severne has had the new Reflex up for a while.  Once again an awesome looking machine and incorporating some fairly substantial upgrades this year (9 battens for instance)

The new Reflex

Gaastra has the new Vapor up.  This has to be one of the most striking race sails around right now.
2014 Vapor

The Tabou Mantas are now on the site.  From what I gather, no substantial shape changes accompany the new yellow livery, but knowing Fabien's work, each change no matter how small, will result in performance improvements.
The 71/116 looks much the same but has had volume taken from the nose and added under the feet to give better float, faster starts and nippier gybe exits. Nice!

2014 Manta 66/106

Speaking of Tabou boards, local Andy took a Thunder 130l for a spin a while ago.  My feeling about this board was always that it is a bit too "intermediate" for us.  I didn't like the short length and I was not too keen on the power box fin.  I have had to re-think my position however, because Andy blitzed on this board. He popped onto the plane easily and was able to give Harry (on his Manta) a run.  Bear in mind that this was a rental board which had the issue G10 fin under it.  I am wondering what this shape could do in the light construction with a carbon fin.  
Light Thunder (yellow paint)

If the Thunder type board is going to be accepted as a high performance alternative to pure slalom shapes, my preference would be for Tuttle fin boxes.  I wouldn't want to be powering along on the 130l model with a 46cm fin being held by a power box.

Fabien - here is another suggestion which I am sure, like my other suggestions,  you will also ignore:
Please put Tuttle boxes in light versions of the Thunder.

Lorch has brought out two boards of this type.  They name them "Mirage" and both sizes have Tuttle boxes.  Nice work guys - if we are going to get serious about this concept, we need serious fittings.

Lorch Mirage

Select has introduced the new VMax slalom fin as discussed in an earlier post.  Andy has ridden one and says that his downwind speed was astounding - lightning fast and supremely comfortable.  Locals who have ridden these fins think that they may not be quite as good upwind as the VMax 1 but Select tell us that this is simply not true.  I will get a ride on one and give you my own feedback.

Two other new fins from Select which could be of interest to us are the Power Edge and the FX Free Carve. Have a look at them on the site if you have not already done so.

That is all for now.

All the best to you and yours for the festive season.  Have a blast and be safe.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Equipment - 1

A lot of new stuff is breaking cover in our industry and I will mention a few pieces in the next post but here is some feedback from our lagoon:

Every one who has bought a 2013 116/71 Manta is absolutely stoked.  Local Andy was the first I think and he has been smoking but Inland Andy (visiting speed demon) is proving almost impossible to catch on his just-out-of-the-box 116.  Karel (another hot visiting sailor) was unsuccessful in getting the 116 he ordered but borrowed local Andy's and after one of the most epic sessions ever, I think he is considering stealing the board!  Very nice Tabou - please don't change this too much - it is pretty near perfect.

Joos and local Andy have both purchased 2014 Rocket 115's.  I have ridden Joos's board and it is simply fantastic.  I thought that last year's Rocket would be difficult to improve on but this board does it.  It has to be one of the top blasting boards in existence right now.  Add decent fin, sail and mast and you will fall in love.  Look out for the Tabous with the yellow paint.

Ellie purchased a 2014 (yellow paint) Tabou 3S 116 Ltd for us and we have been having a ball.  What a fantastic thing it is. Like the 3S 96, it dances over the chop imparting huge confidence.  This makes it possible to keep pushing the speed in wild conditions.  In completely overpowered conditions I screw a Select Eagle 31 fin in and use a fully downhauled Gaastra Remedy 6.0m.  This combination allows me to blast in ridiculously overpowered conditions and to hang with all comers.  I' m not saying that I beat the power sailors but I'm not far behind.  Awesome!
The two negative points of the board for me involve weight and strap position options.  Even the Ltd model is too heavy for me.  Having said this, it is so stiff and crisp that you don't feel the weight on the water.  The other minus is the fact that even the outside strap position is too far inboard for real high speed blasting with a slalom fin.  Tabou will tell me that for blasting, I should simply buy a Rocket.  Good point and I get it but what if I am someone who sails predominately in swells, jumps and likes doing the odd trick but once in a while, when conditions warrant it, wants to plug his fast 7.0 blasting sail in and blow others off the water?  I promise that the 3S can do this with a vengeance but not with the straps in the middle of the deck.  Please Fabien - just a few additional fin bolt holes (please!)

Dan Aeberli is here working on the 2015 Fanatic Hawk and Falcon designs.  A few of us got to sail some of these boards yesterday and all I can say is watch out for them next year- seriously!  Joos rode a Hawk proto and was blown away by how the board seems to shrink once you get going.  Huge speeds and fantastic control.
I rode a Falcon 102 proto.  The board feels tiny but gets up and going so easily.  Just move your weight back a bit and you are planing.  Johnny (local racer with Fanatic connections) let me ride the 102 with his 2014 North Warp 7.0.  A great sail of course but unfortunately the wind was a bit light for me on the combination so I had less planing than I would have liked.  The problem was compounded because I recently put my back out and my spine is shaped like a coat-hanger. When I got going, the experience was mind blowing and worth the pain.  I would really like to have a go on this board with my Cross 6.4 in strong wind - light, direct and pretty close to sailing nirvana I would think.  Dan seems capable of incorporating some form of witchcraft into his designs.  Very, very impressive.

Andy broke some equipment a while ago and was swept away.  The guys noticed his disappearance to late and he spent hours in the sea before being rescued.  I need to give you a list of what he did right and what he did wrong so that we can all learn but this post will only be after the next new equipment post.

Talk to you soon          

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hand Protection

Our sailing season is well under way here with hosts of visiting sailors passing through the centre.  We get to know these visitors of course since we share the amenities and the water.  What I notice is that some sailors rip their hands to pieces in the first few days.  Blisters form, burst and become raw wounds.  The sailor finds himself with ten days of fantastic wind before him but with hands so painful that touching anything is torture.

If you are lucky enough to be able to get away for a windsurfing holiday, please protect your hands if they are not hard (ours are like old boots!).  You will have spent a lot of money getting to the holiday spot and you need to make the very most of every bit of sailing time.

Co-incidentally, I recently received some gloves for review from Becky, a lady from a company called MacWet in the UK.  I tried them on the water and they are excellent.  The palms feel like very thin moleskin and grip the boom nicely (wet or dry).  Water drains out of them immediately, they are light and hold their shape perfectly.  The model I tried (Climatec short-cuff) would be suitable for any water sport - a high tech product which will save your palms and keep the sun off your hands.  Quality kit worthy of our consideration:

Talk to you soon

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 7m Sail Choice - Some Thoughts

Most windsurfers have a pretty good idea about what it is they want to do in, and what they expect from the sport.  Their equipment choices will reflect these expectations and aspirations.  If you are a general blaster you may have one or two big slalom boards and sails for lighter winds, and freeride kit covering the smaller sizes.  If you are purely a racer, then you typically own only pure slalom or formula stuff.  Wave and freestyle guys have their own specialist equipment.

In this post I want to make to make the case for a specific sail in the 7.0m size.  A few manufacturers are producing high spec freerace models with only 6 battens.  These are interesting sails because they are generally based on the top of the range race models.  What you get is a sail with the architecture of a pure race sail but with a far simpler, lighter structure and no camber inducers.  In short, a light, fun sail which can be used by any windsurfer, regardless of discipline, who owns a slalom or fast freeride board.


This is the Scream from Maui Sails.

Vandal's Stitch

Gaastra's Matrix
Each of these sails has an up-to-the-minute shape, each is light, simple and easy to rig and each is really easy to sail fast.  If you are a decent sailor on one of these sails and your mate is slightly less of a sailor but has purchased a pure race sail because Antoine Albeau uses one, I promise you will smoke your mate assuming similar boards, fins, weights etc.  These sails make speed so easy and so much fun.

It must be said that you are not going to win races against hot sailors on race kit, but if you want to put a big smile on your face - this is the machine.  I choose the 7m size because this is the size beyond which you need to consider incorporating cams.  A 7m sail has some quite serious grunt but somehow lacks that heavy, big feeling you get with anything larger.  These particular models in 7m can be sailed happily on slalom boards with widths covering 80cm all the way down to 62cm.  They are also really happy on fast freeride boards of 65cm (eg Rocket or Futura).  Every one of these boards will shine under any of the above sails in 7m.

Having said all of this I must say that this particular sail type only makes sense for me in the 7m size.  I advise B&J type sails for sizes between 7m and 5.5m (Cross, Hucker, Gator etc) and pure wave sails for 5.0 and smaller (I have to be able to sheet out to slow down and sheet in to accelerate in wild conditions and wave sails do this properly).

Please give the 6 batten speed machine some consideration when you next look at replacing your 7m sail.  If you are a wave guy or a freestyler with an old slalom board, think about one of these for those light wind days.