Ive decided to try a few things different this year in my formula program and limit the amount of new gear I rotate into the quiver this season. Blame it partly on sagging economy but also on the idea that you do not need the latest and greatest sails, boards and fins to go fast- but rather time on the water to tune them in. Once you have a board that is tuned into the conditions you are sailing in, you can focus on other things happening around the race course.
Knowing the potential, and limitations of your equipment is far more advantageous that having the latest stuff and having no idea how to use it.
Having a board and rig that you can hop on and ride good from the beginning is priceless.
We are on our 2nd year of using the same boards (since the formula class decided to limit the ISAF certification to every 2 years vs 1) and people are beginning to find out what fins work well with what boards. The trend has been wider tailed boards (F2 Z, starboard 162) that demand more powerful fins. Sean O'Brien has posted a good article on his blog about tuning..definitely worth the read @ carbonsugar.com.
Formula windsurfing has evolved into a light wind racing program geared towards typical European light wind conditions. Major development has subsided in the board design over the last few years but the more powerful softer fins have allowed the wider tailed boards to get going in as little as 6-7 knots. Their limitations, however are control as it gets windier.
While watching the Brazilians finish their season this past winter and spring, I became to notice something- a lot of them were choosing the starboard 160 as their board of choice, for its ability to adapt well in most conditions. Could a 3 year old design still be competitive? I dug deeper and realized that last years world 2008 championship was won on older gear(161 and 2007 rig) that was dialed in- not necessarily the latest gear.Beginning to see a trend, I thought Id put the older, more well proven starboard 160 into my quiver this year instead of fighting with the technical F2 formula board. The 160's narrower tail made it ideal for racing in the SF Bay and Gorge as this summer schedule will dictate. After some searching, I found an almost new 160 and got it race ready with the help of Mike Zaijicek.
The double chicken strap and re gripped deck are a big improvement as the my first few sessions through the SF voodoo chop had me wishing for something more. Paired with the tuned and fast 2008 North warp 10.0, the set up has began to show some real potential.
The board, from beginning has been easy to sail well. I found a good mast track setting just back from the center of the track. My booms eventually moved up eye level to keep the nose of the board from sticking off the breeze.
Yesterday as I lined up with the Berkeley crew and had some great completely wound runs matched against Sylvester, Zaijicek, Percy and Christenson on their 9.0's through some hairy Berkley conditions. A bit overpowered with a 70 xs kashy and 10.0, I was able to hold my own upwind by grinding and climbing in the puffs with my height.
Off the breeze, the fin was manageable in the leeward chicken strap (as I later found out, we were all in, most of the time!) but the other guys proved a smaller fin may be faster in downwind choppy conditions.
The 2008 North 10.0 has a lot of range and I never felt it was too much sail- even in voodoo chop and solid SF gust in the mid 20's while the rest of the crew were on their 9.0's and 61 and 63 cm fins.
My next step is to try a smaller fin with less lift to give me more control in the breeze!
In last Friday's twilight race, I used the F4 E series fin with good success but as the breeze died it lost its upwind drive. Off the breeze, it was still slippery as ever.
Earlier in the week, while training on the city front with Wells and Soheil, the 72 xs kashy felt a bit much upwind in the chop but great off the breeze as it lightened up
So, whats the best board?
Still hard to tell as much is left up to the driver and the specific conditions you are sailing in.
I am seeing very specific set ups that work well in the light breeze and flat water (F2 Z and cut down kashy fins) as well as sets ups that work well when completely lit (L8 and 63 kashy.)
So far, the 160 looks like a contender, maybe not for the lightest conditions, but for an overall easiest board to sail well in most conditions.