Sunday, April 10, 2011

Charging full spring ahead

Its been a while since I've posted on this blog as Ive taken the winter off from racing to focus on a few other things but fortunately the San Francisco racing season has begun again with ourvfirstvTwilight series at the St. Francis YC.
Things kicked off after an amazing week of wind on the San Francisco Bay. We saw 2 days of 30-35k breeze where I found myself completely wound on slalom gear that was way too big for the occasion. However, anytime on the water is good for your racing as I found a few settings on 5.8 and ML slalom that gave me great control in the 6' square voodoo chop and rolling swell under the golden gate bridge. This years increased snow pack in the sierras has left rivers of ebb flowing out the golden gate. It seems, even in the flood tide, its ebbing and causing some great upswelling and turbulent waters along the city front. Combined with a late spring swell, it has been a unprecedented spring for windsurfing in the San Francisco Bay. Its mid April and I've already gotten 30 days on the water + 10 days in the Sierras in some of the biggest powder days Ive ever boarded.
So yes- a great year so far!
My back has been improving greatly with the help of PT, yoga and some winter and spring paddling on a SUP board. Im getting the confidence back to fully charge again.
Ive switched to a waist harness this year in attempts to gain some additional lower back support after almost 20 years of using a seat harness for racing with little or no lower back support.
It took a few weeks to finally get things dialed in- especially on the formula gear but I reduced the length of my harness lines and learn to wear the waist harness a little bit looser so that I could rotate and hike out to windward. The technique works pretty good so far and leaves your legs much freer to work the board and fin.
For slalom gear, Ive added the north shox downhaul and base to my kit and wow- what a difference it makes. The Shox just eats up the chop and lets you keep the rig stable even in the gnarliest of tidal lines on the San Francisco Bay.
This season, Im going to be trying a different strategy for racing. For the first time in almost 15 years, I wont be buying any new sails and taking half the year to tune them up but rather- relying upon my settings from the previous year to build upon future successes. Im sticking with the NeilPryde RS Evo-2 9.5 and 10.7 for my formula quiver. I use the severne redline 530 mast on the 10.7 to get some additional low end vs the NP 530. For fins- Im sticking to what I know works: 70 Z soft for flat water and light wind; 70 kashy for my go to 14-20k fin and a kashy 67 for when the wind and water come up to where I need additional control. Ill be using the same ML10 formula board this season. The only thing different Ive done is to add lighter foot straps that don't absorb any water. Its a stock hull and practically a one design fleet on the SF Bay.
The first race of the season went well with 5 quick sprint races around the buoys on the San Francisco city front this past Friday in 14-18k. As with most races, getting a good start is critical. I always like to get the inside position right next to the B buoy so you can climb and get the inside lift along the shore. Its rare that more than one person will win the buoy so you really need to fight for it. This means being comfortable in the the pre race - stalling your board and putting yourself in a position where you've got some room to accelerate and punch out on the starting line.
The friday night series is also about knowing the tides. Understanding or overstanding the marks can put you in front or leave you behind in just a few seconds. This was quite evident on the first layline as Al and Chris tacked early to catch the ebb up while I overstood and came in with speed. There went any gains I had made on the first leg. I managed to stay in the breeze and maintain a lead all the way to the finish. Great way to start the season with a bullet!

Race 2 saw Al get the jump off the line as Marrion struggled to get going at the B buoy and left me waiting and waiting. Sometimes racing is just keeping clear of the other boats and having an escape strategy if things dont go according to plan.
David made big gains off the breeze as he came powered into A buoy passing Al and myself - who both understood the mark and came pumping in against the tide dead downwind. I stayed buried in 3rd on the last beat to windward with little or no options left to play.

Race 3 saw me getting a good start again and popping out in front to maintain the lead around the course. Sailing in the front of the fleet is easy as you've got clear air and all the options. It's when your behind that things get tough as you are more than likely sailing in bad air and your decisions are being determined by the fleet in front of you.

Race 4 saw some additional traffic on the course as I got pinned down below a sailboat rounding the last mark in the lead while David and Al snuck into windward of the boat and made some gains on the last beat to take the top 2 positions. The lesson here is to keep your eyes on the big picture and dont get trapped. I should have rounded up hard at the leeward mark and tried to squeeze around the sailboat. Sometimes its just bad timing and there's not a lot you can do.
Going into the last race, I knew it would be tight with David and I for points. The first beat to windward saw David, Al and I all get off the starting line well. David tacked first calling an aggressive layline while Al and I continued sailing. I split the difference between them and was right on the money. A good rounding and a quick gybe got me back to the breeze and down to the leeward mark in front. From there, its just making sure you don't make any mistakes.
Thanks to Soheil and Eric on the race deck for doing RC.
Full results here.
Next race is less than a week away with the Elevstrom-Zellerbach regatta at the StFYC this coming weekend.


Philip said...

Who in the US sells the North Shox?

USA 4 Steve Bodner said...

Phill- Contact me directly at bodnersp at gmail com

Nitheesh said...

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