Sunday, September 16, 2007

WIND- or at least some dutch wind

After 2 weeks of being in Holland without much wind- I was beginning to wonder if I was cursed. Maybe just blessed form living in SF for the past 6 years but with no racing this w-end I finally found the "inner joy" of windsurfing again.
The wind was up- from 14-18k in Almere so I took out my 11.0 for a little bit of punishment-no not the self torture of trying to finesse a 11.0 in 8k but the grunt of holding down a 11.0 in gust up to 18k. This was the sailing I was used to. Ok the swell wasn't exactly there but I was enjoying the sunshine, the wind and the fun of exploring a new sailing venue!
With no other formula sailors around I had the lake- or 'gooimeer' to myself- well at least to share with the hordes of other dutch classic wooden sailboats making their way up channel on the lake.
Its hard to explain whats what as the dutch have actually surrounded their country with a dyke and are constantly filling in to create new land for the population to grow in. Almere is such a place of reclaimed land- so is the other side of the lake. If you look on the map- it does eventually connect to the North Seas- in a round about way. Click here for more info on the dutch wonders of the zuiderzee
Sailing a formula board is a great way to really explore an area. I was out earlier this week slalom sailing in marginal conditions when I found the bottom- real quick. Apparently the far side is a lot shallower than I thought. Better to have found that out on a production slalom fin vs a custom carbon fin.
Sailing alone can get a little dry after a hour or so so I had to keep my concentration up- working on tacks and gybes through the chop of passing boats. Practice makes perfect ...err perfect practice makes perfect. Anyways I was enjoying it all today and finally found my groove again. Cant wait to get back on the course again in some breeze.
I did remember some sailing drills from way back in the junior sailing days when the coach would blow his whistle every 15 seconds where you would need to tack or gybe.
Keep this up for a few minutes, break and then repeat for a good workout.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Day 3 and 4 Dutch Championship

More of the same conditions as we saw in day 1 and 2- this time with significant drops in the wind between 1-4pm. Winds were 7-9k with some gust up to 12-13k in the late morning and early evening with 10-20 degree shifts around the course. Timing the oscliating shifts was more important than getting the geographical shift off the shoreline, but as always in the light air- its always important to stay in the pressure!
There just wasn't enough breeze to get my set up to work efficiently so I felt out of the race in most of the last 2 days of racing. Without an 12.0 to keep up, my speed and angle was severely off and every small battle on the course was a loosing one. Just a few tactical cards I could play but I did learn some important lessons in the light air racing:
More and more the fleet was starting on port to get the first shift right shift of the land. In a fleet of 30 boards with 20 starting on port- just a few would get a good start. In the light air- it might have been better to start on starboard with better chances of getting clear air off the line. I tried this approach a few times- knowing I lacked any power w/ my 11.0.
Below are some shots from Alex @ the beach and race deck:

Finding out what went wrong: by process of elimination- its either the board, the fin, the rig, or the rider- or a combination of all of the above.
ML7- while the board is great when its lit up on a 9 and 10, it lacks some drive in the light stuff.
(might be lacking power due to 11.0 rig)
Fin- kashy xs 70 cm should be the wining ticket - but again without 12.0 there was no angle or speed.
Rig- 11.0 north warp- found out this sail does not have the low end of a 11.9. It worked better when I put more batten pressure on, tightened the tack strap to get a pocket in the foot of the sail, downhauled it a little less than I would have (2 cm),and finally moved the mast base back on he board to 70% back in the track. Also moving the booms up lighten up the board- but as a result needed to move my harness lines further back.
Rider- @ 175lbs I think it was necessary to have a 12.0 to be able to make most tactical decisions on the race course-. Not having any options, speed or angle left me back in the fleet.
Saturday- Alex came down and took some more photos:

A video from some of the day 4s racing from a big Dutch speeedsailor- Roger van Tongeren as well as days 3's racing.

Here are the top 10 results:

1-Dennis Little NED-13
2-Adriaan van Rijselberghe NED-2
3- Adri Keet NED 34
4-Dirk Doppenberg NED-51
5-Markus Bouman NED-6
6-Sean O’Brien AUS-120
7-Roy van Koolwijk NED-97
8-Klaas Jissink NED-315
9-Pieter Eliens NED-538
10/1e Jeugd-Teade de Jong NED-777

Some other race reports:
Markus Boumann - NED 6
Sean O'Brien- AUS 120

and additional photos from Tom Vos

Overall the dutch had an impressive racing scene with an up and coming junior fleet and several top world contenders. Im looking forward to my 11.9 arriving in a few weeks and actually racing with them!

Friday, September 7, 2007

getting schooled in dutch

The European conditions continued today with a 10-13 north westerly breeze. Racing started promply @ 11 and 5 races were run with plenty of time between races on the beach. Although the wind did puff occasionally into the low teens, no one was holding out for slalom. At most times the wind was shifting regularly and the shoreline provided a geographical lift for most playing the right side.
I tried changing gears today to get some more low end out of my 11.0 with additional batten tension,a tighter tack strap and a touch less downhaul. Although that did give me some extra juice, the board really loosened up when I bought the mast back to 60-70% back in the track.
Still I was unable to find decent angle and speed upwind. Might try standing the rig up more tomorrow or even trying the 520 mast to see whats up. At this point it's a bit frustrating not to be able to play the game upwind. I have been constantly loosing my lane up wind. Im not sure if its the 11.0, the board or some combination of rigging.
By the last race, the wind was in the mid teens and I finally got a decent start after a general recall and the black flag. I was powered upwind and holding angle until it lightened up and my angle suffered. A few times I was in the middle pack but just haven't found the groove yet.
2 more days and chances to improve...well at least figure out what the hell is going on!
Some photos of the event here from local Tom Vos

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Taking a beating in Holland

While some people pay for this type of service behind closed doors in the red light district in Amsterdam, I am taking my public flogging openly at the first day of the Dutch championship.
No excuses needed- I just couldn't put together a good race after 5 tries in marginal conditions. There is something fundamentally different about sailing overpowered compared to sailing underpowered!
While my set up was starting to feel alive when the puffs hit 12k, I was getting worked off the starting line and upwind with an 11.0. Most of the fleet was on 11.9's and some 150-lb-er's on a 11.0
Choosing the wrong side upwind 4 out 5 times doesn't help either. Nor does not being prepared.
Sometimes having all the comforts of home (like a toolbox, cell phone, supplies and a car) makes it easier to cope with the small breakdowns and trials of a regatta. But coping- nonetheless- is something everyone has to do and those that do it the best- come out on top!
Being out of my usual element really put on the pressure: How to understand whats going on at the skippers meeting. Getting the start count down in dutch!
With almost 15 years of racing experience you'd think having the fundamentals down would be something I would have gotten down in maybe say the first 5 or 10 years. Still learning after all these years- that's what makes the game so interesting and fun to play. A bit frustrating sometimes but at the end of the day- fun!
If it isn't- you've got to ask yourself why are you doing it.
Below is quick debriefing on my attempts to get around the course of day 1 of the Dutch formula and slalom championship:
After a 2-3 hour wait for the wind to build- the RC sent the fleet out around 2pm for a double windward leeward course in 8-10k. Most choose their big 12 m2 sails. I choose my biggest I had at the moment- my 11.0. Something wasn't quite right upwind- I wasn't getting any angle and getting killed off the line. By race 3 I had figured out my bottom batten was broken and preventing any chance of getting upwind efficiently. After a quick scramble to get a replacement- (thanks you Tom and Adri) I got back on the water for the lat 2 races after missing race 4.
Still no luck getting off the line with speed and power as I was being a bit conservative with the one minute flag up at most starts. As most of you know- the race is pretty much won or lost at the start. Going up wind in bad air on the first beat pretty much sucks and puts you in a bad mood for the rest of the race. Overcoming this was one of the main problems I faced today.
I wasnt too sure what was going on in the front of the fleet as I was having my own difficulties finding my way around the course. Needless the say, the dutch have a strong fleet. Looking forward to the next 3 days of racing in Almere.

This video puts the light wind sailing into perspective- at last weeks "The Mission 2007" event, 300+ participants with very light wind. But that didn't stop them from having fun on the tow in ramp! (wait for crashes at the end)
A few pros doing lightwind slalom with formula gear and 11.9's

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Its the little differences...

I Finally made to Almere windsurfing club - where I managed to keep my gear at- on Sunday afternoon after a 5 min. tram ride down Czar Peterstraat in centrum Amsterdam to Sarphaitistraat then catching the underground metro @ Weesperplein to Amstel-staation and finally a 35 min. bus ride to Almere-haaven and a 5 min walk to the club.
1/2 way there I realized I forgot my formula fin!
By the time we got there it was full slalom weather and it didn't matter anyways.
I rigged up my F2 sx medium slalom board and north 7.3 and was well lit. The local slalom fleet was have a training session for next weeks championship. With no slalom results yet for the season, next weeks 4 days Dutch Championship will be most likely slalom focused with formula under 15k.
Forecast looks promising already!

(Thanks to Alex for taking the photos from the beach!)
Wind was 18-20k when we started and the reaches were set tight. I didn't quite have the top end speed I was looking for but realized when I came I was a little under- downhauled.
Glad to have realized this now rather than in racing.
Magic spot is just past the high wind max mark on the north sail in most conditions.
The first few races I fell on my first gybes in the pack and realized if I just took it tight I could catch a lot of guys rounding wide and slopping. After that gybes were feeling better and finishing 3 or 4th.
A few mores races and my muscles I hadn't used in 10 days really began to get sore.
The windsurfing club is pretty family focused with racks to store your gear in 4 containers 20' from the water. Hot showers cost 50 cents. Warm coffee free! Plenty of local and regional racers as the coast is less than an hours drive away
The Almere beach cam (follow webcam link on lower left) is a little more low tech than the explo cam over SF Bay but it saved me a trip down on Saturday in 6-7 knots.
Life in Holland so far has been fun- adjusting to the little differences as Vincent Vega say so eloquently below.
" A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they're a little different"
- Pulp Fiction
600 sq. ft apartment and no van puts a squeeze on things but the again theres plenty of opportunities to trian on a bike!
With a few days before the Dutch championship, I hope to get out on the formula gear again to see what the 11.0 feels like. I have a feeling the 9.0 will be dormant till the Worlds in December.