Sunday, March 29, 2015

Baja take 3: rediscovered, reinvented and redefined


This was our 3rd trip to Baja peninsula over the past 4 years but this years packing list included a few new things. It was all or nothing so the whole family came along for the trip + the new foil board & quiver of kites.

The entourage included 1 oversized stroller & toddler car seat (which apparently airlines have no problem taking both for free!), 48 diapers, an energetic toddler, assorted beach and swim toys, wife & 4 kites and foil & board (which airlines have no problem still charging for.)
Still it was easier than traveling with windsurfing gear.

I came to La Ventana for the 1st time in 2012 competing on my slalom windsurfer.
In 2013- I took the slalom gear for the races but stayed and learned to kite.
Finally in 2015 after 2 years of kiting under my belt, I went down with only the kite foil board-determined to get out of my comfort zone and into a new stage of discovery.

We were lucky for wind as it's almost the end of the season in baja. Out 9 days, I got 6 days on the water- uping my total to 15 days on the foil board so far.  The 1 day without wind was a blessing in disguise as without it, any recovery would have been impossible. Getting to La Ventana from SFO couldnt be easier. A 2-1/2 hour direct flight with Virgin Atlantic and a set $50 fee for the 'surfboard.' 
Our days with a 20 month old began early. 6am to be precise. Wide awake and ready to go. I tried to take the morning duty with SUP, kayak,yoga and sand castle building excursions on the beach with a very enthusiastic water baby. I can't say enough about La Ventana Windsports resort right on the beach. It's a family and kite friendly venue that had everything we could ask for- 3 meals a day of great food, a beautiful setting of 12 different units perched right on the beach and in a vegetated interior yard, sup and kayaks, perfectly maintained mountain bikes and beach cruisers, and a hot tub at the end if the day to soak them sore bones and muscles.
Needless to say, the late morning nap was a must for baby and me.

By 11-12 the wind was nearly always in.
The 1st 2 days here were basically an extension of the steep learning curve with many falls, tumbles launches and crashes. I had sore ribs, bruises on my thighs, butt and waist, cuts on my feet, swollen ankles, nicked brow and brim and a stiff neck from the whiplash of hitting the water at full speed with a helmet on. I'm still considering the impact vest. The kook helmet is mandatory. Even in warm water a wetsuit softens the blow.

Something began to happen by the 3rd day- I got more comfortable and began to know what to expect.  Bar pressure plays a big part. I rode both the 11m & 7m kites in 14-22k.
My rides were getting longer and I could easily lift off and begin to foil at will and touchdown when needed. By the last 2 days I began to get into the rhythm of keeping the foil up and steadily riding without getting launched every 10 seconds but sometimes I still got randomly launched over the front of the board.
By the end if the week I was able to get going upwind on both tacks more efficiently. The foil really wants to track and is almost effortless once you find the sweet spot.
Downwind. It's a different story.
Somehow the mental block or muscle memory has not triggered yet on starboard tack. Perhaps it's the side shore conditions or the steep northerly chop but for the life of me- I can't go deep at all on starboard tack just yet.
In all good time, I remind myself as I didn't get to this point by making it easy for myself.

Foiling is attune to an epic powder day in the mountains.  Oh my, that floating feeling of riding 2-3' above the water is like flying. There's no sound except for the occasional touchdown and splash of the hull against the water- reminding oneself of that other reality. Then with a slight pull if the bar, the board jumps up again. It's absolutely the most efficient and fun kind if sailing I've ever done.  I'm having a blast putting myself through the paces and paying my dues.

The best day I had was Thursday in flat water and 12-14k with the ASV 13.5m2 race kite. The foil is in its prime in flat water and light to medium wind. I found it was all about keeping the proper line tension as I glided up and downwind with relative ease.
Granted, I'm still a kook when it comes to making any type of transitions from tacks or gybes but I tried a few - all ending in disaster.  Things can go wrong quickly if you're not careful. My last gybe of the trip ended up with the foil upside down between my lines and finally becoming separated from the board while I got dragged downwind to relaunch the kite. A kite-mare narrowly averted with only the board washing up on the rocks and a few scratches on the front foil.
What I can say after 6 more days of riding here is that I've rediscovered the joy, surprises and excitement that captured me for the past 25 years on the windsurfer.


Kiting and windsurfing are unique in the sense that they never stop evolving and reinventing themselves. Now even more so with kiting than windsurfing but compared to any static one design class- there's always something that come along new each season with the latest developments that makes last years setup almost obsolete. It's the reason we aren't racing the original windsurfer with teak booms and a dagger board any longer. There's no stopping progress. Besides the development of the foils, there been a huge push to foil kites. The high aspect ratio platform is just more efficient than a standard tube kite- almost like the how the camber inducer changed how we raced windsurfing sails. As with life,constant development and reinvention are necessary to stay relevant.

Sometimes you can throw money at a problem to find a solution but this was not one of those times. All that matters now is time on the water for me.  The temptation to get the latest gear will have to wait as last years foil and kites will have to hold out till I can outgrow their performance and even get around the racecourse.


As a foreshadow to what's coming next in my kite foiling progression - the 1st stop of the Kite Foil Gold Cup was going on just down the beach at Playa Central- the 2nd best little secret in La Ventana behind La Ventana Windsports. The Withington family had built a kite pro shop with lessons, restaurant and bar and is place to be in La Ventana- especially if you are a racer. They imported the best kite race director- Robbie Dean and Jessica Barhydt  from San Francisco along with 45 of the best kite foilers in the world. I took part as part of the jury as there's no way I was ready to even get around a course just yet.

The kite rules are a work in progress- something that still needs to be redefined - especially with the foil class as a boards are now moving 12m a second and that makes keeping clear a rather challenging proposition- especially in close quarters like the start or mark roundings. There were several request for redress as kites got tangled but for the most part, the jury found racers failed to keep clear even if they had the right if way. Note to self- always look for an exit strategy.  As they are written, the rules want you to avoid collisions and tangles at all cost and protest later. Not the opposite- as usually happens in most racing classes.
Like windsurfers, the kiting race community struggles with how seriously to take the rules. It's a beach culture after all and we've come here for the most part to avoid the restrains that society already puts on us. With that said, the racing rules are a necessary part of the game and without them,the game could not be played fairly at the level it's evolved to be.

Anyway you look at it, tangling is slow and will most likely end up with 1 or 2 lost races.
Giving way may only take a few extra seconds but goes a long way at the end if the day.
Many thanks to Kaenon and patagonia for their continued support.
Huge thanks to Michael Petrikov for the photos

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Kite foiling- the first 5 days: the ups and downs

The first 5 days of learning to ride a foiling kite board have been an overwhelming experience. I've gone from wanting to give kiting up completely, to having realized that this might possible be the coolest sport ever.

Below is a video of one of my buddies learning to foil. It pretty much sums up everything I experienced the 1st 2 days.

Day 1, February 16th:I felt like a total newb. I could hardly water start the foil board, nonetheless try to ride it in a straight line.  I wiped out dozens of times just going out a few hundred feet past Anita Rock and back- which took me almost 30 minutes.  It felt like trying to ice skate with roller skates.

How is this even possible, I thought to myself.

For the most part, I tried to ride bow down so as not to foil and learn some control but the foil is super sketchy in displacement mode. The early season gusty winds didn't help much either was I was either left op'ed or left floundering with a 9.0  kite.

I face planted into the board, catapulted over the side, tumbled off the back, and crashed to both leeward and windward- all in epic fashion. The most terrifying- when the board came foiling towards me after having jumped off. At least one of us got to foil.
I made it back in without killing myself, anyone else or getting rescued!
Foil board 1: Steve 0

Day 2, February 20th: Waterlogged, exhausted but not yet defeated. I got a serious beat down today getting chucked off the board multiple times at full foiling height. I wasn't trying to foil but the board just jumps out of the water once you reach a certain speed and tends to leave the unprepared behind. I spent most of my time in the water- trying to waterstart the board flat. Little did I know, if you turn it on its side, you pop right up. By trial and mostly error, I'll eventually get it but this is really going to hurt.
Foil board 2: Steve 0

Day 2.5, February 22:  I get a little bit too ahead of myself and try to go out when there's not enough wind. My kite doesn't even stay in the sky and I never make it off the beach. My kite still ends up a sandy and wet mess washing up in the shorebreak and I spend the rest of the afternoon untangling my lines as the wind finally comes up.

Day 3, February 24:  Everything got very quiet and before I knew it, I was foiling. There was no sound as the board lifted off from the water. In all my years of sailing and windsurfing, Id never felt anything like it.  I leaned forward to control the pitch and rode what seemed liked minutes but was actually seconds before coming crashing down.  The multiple beat downs I was experiencing were taking their toll but it all seemed worth it for that brief 5 second introductory ride I managed to get.
Foil board 2: Steve 1

Day 4, February 25th: I managed multiple lift offs and foiling rides today. I'm not extually sure how it all went down but if you go fast enough, and keep the board flat, the magic happens. I close my eyes and squeeze my butt expecting for the the worst, but for a moment-its like floating on your own personal cloud. The steady 15k westerly gave me a great base to work with on my 11.0 kite.
I felt much better riding the board bow down going both upwind and downwind- giving me some added confidence.
Gybing or tacking aren't even in the picture yet. To transition, I put the kite at 12.0 and jump off and turn the board manually through the wind.
Foil board 2: Steve 2

Day 4.5, February 26th: First self rescue on the foil. To be fair, I'm not counting this one as I spend more time trying to swim the board and kite in after I realized I was not going to make it back to Crissy where I launched from in the flood tide. I barely make it to last chance beach and make the walk of shame home. The backsides of my knees are blistered from the awkard 30 minutes of swimming.

Day 5, March 1st: That moment I knew I was hooked on windsurfing some 25 years ago. Yea, it's happening again with foiling. It was a perfect day- A steady 15k breeze and a flood tide. I got multiple controlled lift offs after having learned to 'ollie' the board up and out of the water. It's something I wasn't doing in previous sessions and made the lift off much easier and predicable. The feeling of foiling is unlike anything else I've ever done before and I manage to ride the board controlled at full height for several 10-20 second rides at a time. I get going scary fast and know it wont end well as I explode into a god-awful mess.
I get up and try it again with a grin on my face.
This just might be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Total score after 5 days of foiling-
Foil board 2: Steve 3.
I think Im going to stick with this.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 racing photos from Crissy Field

Many thanks to the numerous photographers who contributed to photos for the end of the season party.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 by the numbers

I try to keep track of my sessions every season with the help of twitter and daytum.  Looking back I can see how many times I used a particular sail or board or even performance in races over the course of the season. Like all data its how you use it. 

By all means, 2014 will be remember as another stellar year of windsurfing and kite boarding on the San Francisco bay with 150 windsurfing and kite boarding sessions over the past 12 months.
It was the 1st of 2-3 rebuilding years as I learned how to ride and try to get the kite race board around the course as well as have as much fun as I can on the windsurfing boards. After 25 years of windsurfing, I don't tire of it but am always exited to learn something new.

I did not meet my goal of getting around the course in time to be officially scored for the St.FYC Thursday night series with the front of the fleet on foils and sailing almost 30% faster around the course this season, it was a hard nut to crack. Part of racing is just showing up and paying your dues. 
There were plenty of crashes, burns & rescues- all very character building. There were small successes like finally making the windward mark, then the leeward mark- and finally the finish line as well as sore muscles in places I never knew had. 

Notwithstanding, I did get 100+ sessions under the golden gate windsurfing in one of my favorite places to make up for any potential loss of fun that kite boarding might kept me from having :/  88% of my sessions were on the windsurfer with the other 22% on a kite board with all but 1 session on the San Francisco Bay sailing off Crissy Field.

I'm still not hooked on kiting like I am windsurfing but old habits die hard. Sometimes it was just easier to go out a get a good session on the slalom gear than it was to get beat up on the kite course board on a windy, ebb tide raging day. 

The 89cm custom mikes lab board proved to be the most versatile in the quiver- proving itself on the formula windsurfing course in the medium to high wind as well as providing a great platform for swell riding in light to medium conditions just outside the golden gate bridge.

2014 will be remembered as the year the wind kicked in early in the season. By the end of May I already had scored 65 sessions with the majority on slalom/7.7 and 6.3 in the early spring.
The city front course was the majority of my racing this season with 6 Friday night races and 8 Thursday night races hosted by the St.FYC + 2 long distances races to Berkeley and back.

Although I missed too many Friday night races for the overall season championship, I never managed to finish outside the top 2 but the winner is always the one who shows up most and sails the most consistent. More often than none, it's not about your best races but your worst races when competing in championship or season series. Too many DNS's will always trump a few bullets for the season.

I used the Avanti 10.0 more than any other rig this season with 49 sessions under my belt.  It's got the most range of any sail in my quiver with the benefit of having 3 crew grommet positions to choose from for light, medium and high wind settings. The avanti 7.7 was the next most used sail with 36 sessions over the course of the year. The same clew design give it a tremendous range and was my go to sail to sail for most of the season. 

The majority of my kite sessions were on the ML course board and 9.0 kite (19 sessions)in mid to upper teens. The SF bay often requires a smaller kite in the summer months when it's windier and the chop becomes more difficult to deal with. In the spring and fall, my biggest 11.0 got used more (11 sessions) as the wind can be more flukier and less reliable.

In all my years of sailing, seeing a foiling gybe performed well is the most beautiful sailing maneuver I've ever witnessed. I'm in awe and can't wait till I get comfortable enough to pull that off. In all good time!

Mid September and early October saw the beginning of the fall swell arrive and for a period of just of 1 week, I scored 5 of the best days under the gate riding huge swells pumping through the golden gate, quite possibly reaffirming my love for one of the most beautiful places in the world doing one of my favorite things. I can not be more grateful to live in such a wonderful setting.

The wind left abruptly in October and November and almost all together in December where I realized the foils had the advantage once again scoring sessions while I missed out.
Nonetheless the best accomplishment of the year came in December. Despite not being water related, passing my final architectural licensing exam was better than any session of the year. I've been working on it for the past 5 years with 11 exams since 2009.

With a new foil and board forthcoming in, the next months, 2015's goals are to become proficient at foiling and get comfortable with a new discipline- and of course- not forget about windsurfing! More slalom racing is planned for the SF city front.

Onward and upward to another great season.

Below are some of the best moments from the 2004 season via twitter:







Sunday, December 14, 2014

The next chapter

Change is inevitable.
No matter how hard you try to keep things the same, there comes a time when you must move on.
The harder you resist, the more difficult the change.

Sailing classes come and go- especially windsurfers where the sport has evolved for the past 45 years.
I got my first windsurfer back in 1987, as a 12 year old, after having sailed dinghies around the mid-west and seeing a lighting fast windsurfer blaze past me.

At that point. I knew stand up sailing was for me.
Little did I know where it would lead me.

From 1992 to 2004 I campaigned the mistral one design sailing 3 Olympic trials, 4 world championships and countless local, regional and national events. I got a taste for international competition while living a nomadic lifestyle- chasing the wind at every opportunity I could get.
Good friends were made as we shared the same challenges, victories and setbacks on and off the water.

In 2000, after graduating college, I moved to San Francisco where the local fleet was transitioning to the formula board and I began the next chapter of my sailing career.  It wasn't an Olympic class but that didn't matter as we had one of the strongest race scenes in the country right in my own backyard and the gear was the fastest, most high tech thing around.
For the next 12 years, the class and our fleet grew as we hosted championship regattas on the San Francisco Bay and the fleet traveled to Florida, Texas and Hood river like a band of gypsies. I made even more friends racing across the world from remote islands off the coast of Brazil, to European lakes to magnificent Canadian rivers. The formula windsurfer fit the bill perfectly.

I reveled in the constant evolution of the sails and boards and fins but it grew too fast. Soon the gear was almost foreign to most sailors as we were sailing $1500 carbon fins, 100cm wide boards and 11m rigs and updating our kit every year. Luckily there was always a new sailor coming along to buy your gear and grow the class until it slowed.   I tried going back to one design with the advent of the RSX board but quickly realized the gear was outdated a year after it was produced.  I stated this sport as I wanted to be the fastest on the water, not just on the water!

Around 2006-7, something else began to happen. Kite boarding was becoming of age and the San Francisco local kiters were leading the charge, introducing course racing to the scene.  I was a bit skeptical at first, seeing the dangers of kiting but in constant awe of how the sport was evolving- much like windsurfing did the previous 45 years.

Soon the formula fleet and kiters began sharing the course in our long distance races and it wasn't long before the kiters got the advantage and began beating us at our own game.

The nerve!

More recently, the kite fleet began to grow while our local formula fleet began to decline. I couldn't deny it as the writing was already on the wall.

I finally took the plunge a few years ago learning how to kite in Baja with an experienced group of local kiters helping me along the way. I wasn't hooked like windsurfing but it sure was fun having other people to share the stoke.

With windsurfing, I had the best gear you could buy and could win local and national races and finish respectable at major championships. With kiting, I was still a kook, barely able to make it around the course.  The transition was harder than I imagined; more so in the sense of unlearning all those years of windsurfing.

All the meantime, the kite fleet was evolving with the introduction of foils.
I knew this time, I wouldn't be left behind.
photo credit- prerssure drop

Last month, I got the opportunity to sell a whole lot of my formula gear, which doesn't happen all too often.
So it begins, The next chapter of my sailing career- kite foiling and foil racing.

Im scared as hell but more excited than I've ever been in a long time.
The goal in 2015 is to become proficient at foiling so I can begin to be competitive on the course again. With an abundance of local racing and a strong group at Crissy field to help along the way, I'm looking forward to the next challenge.

Mind you, Im not giving up on windsurfing, just the light & medium wind formula racing which seems to be better suited for foiling anyway. Im keeping a slalom kit as well as my ml 89 & 10.0 so as not to miss anything at all.

Onward and upward!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Swelltember at the Gate

Sometimes it all comes together and for 4 out of 5 days last week- it did.
A big ebb tide, the first big swell of the season + great wind. 
Its lucky to line up 2 of these things- but 3...A real treat!

It started Tuesday- Sept 23 with the swell starting to arrive early in the day.
I got a great session in at the south tower the late afternoon in 18-24k on a rare butter smooth ebb.
I had the mikes lab 70cm slalom board, 42cm Z fin & avanti m-2 7.7 rig with the clew in the outside grommet and clew tied shut for best control in overpowered conditions. 
Sailing under the golden gate bridge at the South tower on a big ebb is a real hoot.
The swell can move backwards as if standing on a rug being pulled out from beneath you. 
Big troughs form on the south side of the south tower- craving out a sweet spot to gybe down the face of the incoming swell. 
On the far side, near Ft. Point is really where you can move into the wave before it makes a big right turn into the no wind zone- aka the surfers line up.
The circuit- as its known is a short run between the south tower and fort point with gybes every 30-45 seconds to stay on the treadmill of moving ebb. 

Do this for a few minutes and you really get into the groove.
10-15 min and then you begin to recognize the sets coming in and their timing.
After about an hour of sailing, you're in the zone. Nothing even phases you.

Wednesday Sept. 24th
The swell was huge- coming in at close to 20' at times. Big sets all the way from the run nun buoy across the bar. All I could see were huge rollers coming in from the Pacific but hardly a breeze at all.

@waves_sf said it best:
"Big ass whitecaps, like a-frames, but made of awful"

With the wind only at 10-12k, it was an obvious choice for the big board & rig.
The ML 89cm board was built for these exact conditions- huge sleigh rides under the gate.
The smaller 59cm kashy fin really settles the board down for good control.
I had the avanti m-2 10.0 rigged with the clew in the middle position.

Just outside the gate was a minefield of huge rollers and mini mountains of pure delight, depending on your point of view. 
The ebb sucks you well out past the red nun and that's when you sheet in, aim the board downwind and hold on tight! 

I had some the biggest rides of the season thrusted down the face of massive swell before gybing out at fort point and doing it all over again and again and again. 
Tons of people enjoying Wednesday peak with David Wells getting some huge sets on his SUP on the outside set,  the usual array of foilers- making it work in any condition and the surfers on the inside.

Thursday- Sept 25th- skunked! Not only not enough wind for me on the last Thursday night race night of the season but not enough wind to even get up to the gate on the big windsurfing gear.

Friday- Sept 26th. Score- another huge day of big bombs under the gate!

This time- fully lit again on the ml slalom/7.7 in  epic 25-30k of breeze, big ebb and big swell.
It might as well been a party wave because everybody and his brother were there.
A bit more crowded in the line up but stoked to see so many people having fun from wave sailors, slalom sailors, kiters on surf boards,  kiters on foilers and surfers.
By the 3rd day- I was starting to get it dialed.
Id make a huge run in on starboard tack- riding downwind across the incoming swell and making a huge bottom turn on the first trough at the south tower, stalling mid way- but keeping going down the wave. Big sets were still coming through but it was more the huge mountains of butter ball A frames just outside the south tower that made it great riding. It was comparable to the best powder day I ever had in the mountains.

After 3 hours of hard sailing- I couldn't even feel my arms or legs but the smile across my face was ear to ear. I went to been crusty and happy.

Saturday- Sept 27th- Firing again!
For the 4th out of 5 days, I scored big, hedging my bets and getting another huge day of swell riding.
I rigged the 10.0 as it was starting to die when I arrived but of course, rig a big sail and the wind comes up. 
 I reriged and was completely wound on the ml slalom/7.7 in 15-25k working my way up to the gate in midfields of voodoo chop in n the outgoing river of ebb. As it settled back down to 15-20k, I let the outhaul loose on the 7.7 and gained huge amounts of power driving down some big left over swell.  There were still some heady nuggets of fun out there to catch!

The big sets, today, were under the center span running towards the north tower with the most south we've seen all week.
Unlike the Ft Point circuit, you can ride these giants for longer as they have time to open up and gain momentum under the gate. I carried a few all the way down to Yellow Bluff past Horseshoe Bay and Ft. Baker on the Marin side.
I pretty much melted into my bed that night, knowing for the past 4 out of 5 days, I scored some of the best sessions of the year in my own backyard.

Monday, September 22, 2014

1 week and the tale of 2 beer can races

My Thursday and Friday night beer can races on the SF city front could not be more different.
This is my 14th year of doing the Friday night windsurfing series and only the 1st one of the Thursday night kite board series.

In one, I'm able to finish in the top 2 consistently in every bi-weekly race;
In the other- I'm still not able to get around the course within the time limit!

Its a tough year to join the kite racing fleet racing as most have switched to the foil class, who now set the time limit about 30% faster than what it was just a year ago. While it might have been better just to have jumped to the foil, I wanted to build some foundations by learning to tack and gybe the race board this season. By no means has it been easy but it surely has been fun.

To be fair- things have been getting progressively better in the kite racing on Thursdays.
This past week I made it across the finish line before the start of the 2nd race- just a minute shy of the 15 min. time limit. A few weeks ago- I was just barely able to make it to the leeward mark when the fleet passed me for their 2nd race.

For those that say, kiting is easy- obviously haven't tried racing!

We had complete white out conditions last week where for most of the race, I didn't see any other kites or marks- except at the start. I was stoked to have made it in own my own with out getting rescued.
So far this season, I've broken a line and been picked up twice in a dying breeze and flood tide. I've been racing on a Cabrina 9 and 11m with the ML production board- none of which seem to make any difference at all at this point.

I've begun to attempt to roll tack the board and OMFG loop the kite through a gybe.
These 2 maneuvers are unlike anything in windsurfing.
Needless to say I haven't made any yet!

So far after 5 or 6 races, Im still all DNF's for the season and with 1 race left- I'm hoping to get at least a number on my season score.

On the other side of the fence is the familiar Friday night series.  Just like the kite fleet- we've got 5 or 6 guys who can win races if you're not on your game. But unlike the kite fleet who has another 40+ sailors in their fleet, the local formula windsurfing fleet is 10 racers deep.

I love racing formula windsurfing boards on the city front course. Our local race course is on permanent buoys so you can run it any day of the week. 5 quick races are run each weekly series with 1 through out for the night. The races are quick with an emphasis on board handling and calling lay lines. The RC on the St. FYC race deck can call any of 5 courses which last 6-8 min depending on the tide.

This past week saw Soheil's run come to an end. He's been dominant on the new Gaastra Vapor in light air. I made some changes to my rig and tried another mast and finally things came alive with the avanti 10.0. In the first race, I started low and got ahead and stayed ahead. In the flood tide you've got to be a bit conservative making sure not to have to double tack Anita rock. Off the breeze, in course A, I had the starboard 167 running very deep with the Z F 70 fin got the 1st bullet of the night.

In the 2nd race, it lightened up considerably so I relaced my outhaul to the outer grommet to get more low end from the rig. I started low at A, getting out in front early but this time however, Eric and Al were right in there as we rounded Anita Rock together and in 1 puff, they walked away. Luckily, I got the next puff from behind, this time right into B and able to jump into the lead again!

Never, ever count your self out of any race. 

With a flood tide and dying breeze, its best to tack away after rounding X to get back to the pressure- this way, you can over stand the finish line and come in hot on starboard in the flood. I just managed to squeeze Eric out, jumping up onto a plane a few seconds sooner as we crossed the finish line overlapped.

2 bullets were enough to take the night as the breeze fizzled uncharacteristically for our last race of the season. Unfortunately, you've got to show to all the races to win and this year, I missed quite a few but never finishing outside the top 2.
Eric edged out Tom for the top spot overall in the season score with Al and Soehil just behind.

No matter the night, nor the fleet, there's no place I enjoy racing more than on the San Francisco city front course. Big thanks to the St.FYC for putting on both series!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

changing gears

Im spoiled, I'll be the 1st to admit it.
I live and sail in one of the most consistently windy spots on the west coast.
San Francisco is blessed with a sea breeze almost every afternoon from march through October from 15-25 knots funneling though the golden gate.
But when it gets light, I sometimes forget even how to sail.

I had one of those weekends where nothing went my way.
For Saturday's long distance SF Classic- I simply choose the wrong gear.
I was set up for the light breeze with a formula board and 10.0 + 70cm fin
I should have known.

10 minutes into the hour+ race I was stupidly overpowered and pulled out knowing how painful those reaches can be when your overpowered. I packed it up and watched the rest of the race from  the beach as Johnny Heineken dominated on a foil board and foil kite breaking both course records with 48 min downwind and 28 min coming back up beating the windsurfers by almost 35 min around the course!
It was a close race between Xavier and Tom for the Classic with Xavier getting the top spot for the formula boards and Eric clinching the upwind Ultra Nectar Challenge for the boards

Sunday-somehow I couldn't get it into gear when the wind was 10-15k.
My up wind angle just wasnt there.
I moved the track forward, tried a waist harness, but finally realized it was too much downhaul.
Once I eased just a few mm, the top and bottom of the sail became connected again.

Once you get the right settings dialed for the conditions, things are golden.
Searching for those settings is the challenge.

You've got to ease up 1-2mm on the downhaul, pull the tack strap tight and even go to the outside clew grommet to get more power into the rig. A few other tricks to gaining more power on the formula rig are to move the booms up higher- which brings the harness lines back. Moving the mast  track back in the box will also free up the board.

Its a fine line between being overpowered and trying to get more power.

Normally, by this time of year, Ive got the small 89cm board and 7.7 dialed in for super overpowered conditions. This year, however, we've been stuck in a SW pattern for the past few weeks as the strong sea breeze has failed to materialize like it did for the spring and early summer.

Meanwhile Ive been trying to master the kite course board which is a lot more work than I thought it would be- but the adventure is 1/2 the fun. Im going upwind and downwind, gybing but not quite tacking just yet. Making it around the Thursday night course is my goal for the season.
One leg at a time, I keep reminding myself.
The biggest challenge has been unlearning all the skills Ive developed as a windsurfer for the past 25 years and relearning them as a kiteboarder.
Im no longer 1 unit with kiteboarding but rather have to keep the board and kite going independent from one another.
Oh yes and the youngest has started walking.
I look at those tiny feet, which just began to crawl a few months ago and think if a baby can do this, I certainly can.


Friday, June 20, 2014

25 years on the SF Bay Challenge

It all started back in the mid 80's with Berkeley Windsurfing organizing a race from the rocks in from His Lordships restaurant- at the base of the Berkeley marina up to Anita Rock, on the San Francisco city front AND BACK! 

To remind you, windsurfing had just exploded internationally and California was the birthplace and one of the epicenters, hosting events like the windsurfers world championships in 1983, The O'Neill Classic and the Stroh's Pro-Am slalom tour- all drawing hundreds of competitors in what was the biggest largest one design sailing class of its time! 

At the time, windsurf racers routinely sailed upwind with the dagger boards firmly in place beneath their boards. Once around the windward mark, they pulled the dagger out and carried it around their shoulder with a strap- regularly bouncing off the waves and knocking them overboard.

The SF Bay challenge became so successful that it quickly outgrew the capacity of a the one person RC sitting on the rocks raising the start flag and recording the finishes 2-4 hours later.  

Enter- The St. Francis Yacht Club. With additional resources like safety boats, starting boats, race management and and international jury, The St.FYC stepped in to host the regatta. Only now- it would be sailed from the city front down to the Berkeley Pier and back. 

In the late 90's Ronstan became the official sponsor with an official name change to the Ronstan Bay Challenge. 

Sometime in the mid 2000's the kite boards were invited to race with the windsurfing fleet as the new sport was becoming of age. The windsurfers held onto the record for as long as they could- coming close to breaking the 1 hour mark for a 25 mile + tour of the Bay.

This year on a foiling kite board, Joey Pasquali obliterated the record  by 17 minutes with a new pace time of 54 minutes flying 3' above the water the entire race. To say- that foiling kite boarding has changed the sport- would be an understatement. They are absolutely killing it- almost 25 minutes in front of the first formula windsurfer.

A huge thanks to the St.FYC and their crew of volunteers, 35 competitors and Ronstan for their continued support of high performance sailing.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ronstan challenge.

Omfg what a race!
13-16k at the start & 25-30k at the finish just over an hour later and 20+ miles in the GPS. 
It was indeed a challenge to hang onto the same gear the entire race. My 10.0 was a bit too much as I was doing everything to depower most of the race

I sailed the top of the course and had a good idea of my plan for the race. Immediately gybe after the top mark and get into the flood for the long haul downwind. 

The mixed fleet of foiling kites, kite course boards & formula boards started on starboard & immediately out of the gates the foiling boards were off like a blur.

I had a good start just by crad and we battled the rest if the windward beat with him slowly getting the better of me with the bigger 68cm fin as the wind as at it lowest point of the day.  

I was set up for the breeze to arrive with my 64 Kashy but this was only the opening moves... Crad tacked 1st with Tom following quickly. I waited another 20 seconds as I knew the flood tide was still raging. We all understood and had to double tack and finally when I made the mark I immediately gybed away going for the stronger flood tide in the middle if the bay as Tom and Crad played the city front. This paid off for me as I crossed Crad 2/3 of the way down to Alcatraz. 

Once past Alcatraz things got heavy and I moved into the double chicken every few minutes as to maintain enough energy for the entire race. 
The foil boards were well off in front as Crad & I continued to cross each other while I maintained the slightest of leads blazing downwind through the Berkeley circle.  Going deep downwind past the end of the pier things continued to get rough but the avanti 10.0 was pulling like a truck with great power. I had the outhaul eased with the outhaul in the middle grommet.  
At the leeward mark I rounded just behind Headington on the 1st kite course board and we began the long haul back upwind. Crad was on my hip grinding hard to weather while Heady was just to leeward as we got into some pretty heavy conditions. 
Point Blunt was reading 28-32k as we passed through. 

All I could do to maintain was to pinch and try to keep the board moving as we headed upwind against the flood tide. Crad was able to do it just a bit better than me and slowly ground down my lead. 
The beat was long and painful as I was struggling if find a comfortable position to hike out. As I approached the leeward side if angel island things stated to lighten up so tacked and headed back to the pressure. 

Once there it was an effort just to keep the board moving through the gusts and chop. 
I had the 10.0 as flat as it would go and pinching just to stay upright in the gusts off point blunt. Crad had kept the pressure on the whole time and never let up a bit. I made a huge effort to grind upwind and give it everything I had but knew my back was the weak link. I tacked back to go to the north side if Alcatraz and thought I called the  layline to the finish but as I made the long beat across the bay I got flooded down and Crad made his final move getting me on the last tack to the finish just in front if the club. I knew I had given it my all and sometime that's all you've got. 

Win or lose it's how you play the game that matters.  I managed 10th overall with the top 8 being foiling kiters. Tom was in hot pursuit just behind us bringing up the top 3 windsurfers while Headington in the course board has a significant set back. 

There's still some pleasure beating the kites- even if it is the course boards.

In the front of the fleet, Joey kept the lead the entire race as Heinekin broke a bridle on his chronno foil kite while Chip took 2nd. Joe set a new course record of 54'- a whopping 17 minuted faster than the previous record.