Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Putting it all together...

It all came together this past weekend with 2 days of slalom racing at the top of my game.
I managed to win 3 bullets in the Friday Night Series, win the night, tie the series and win the tiebreaker for 1st. Saturday's light wind slalom had more of the same as I was able to get 2 bullets, secure 2nd for the day and lock in 2nd place for the series. 

Part of any racing is being prepared- from picking the right equipment, to just getting to the starting line in time. Secondly- if you've got any advantage- you've got to use it. Another big part of racing is know your competition. I did an scoring analysis last week with different scenarios going into the last race and knew before hand where I had to finish in order to move up. 

Friday- big boards and sails were the call so I had my ML89cm wide board with a kashy 59cm fin and avanti m-2 10.0 membrane sail.  The set up is perfect as it allows a huge range in the lighter spots- staying up on a plane through the lulls and coming out of the gybes with a platform you can quickly pump up onto a plane. if needed. It's smaller than a normal formula board with better control but bigger than most slalom boards with more low end. I always have the ml 70cm board and avanti 7.7 ready to go when the wind comes up but alas. not today.

Al and I were on the biggest gear and had a huge advantage over the rest of the fleet who were trying to get around the course with medium sized slalom gear in marginal winds. The bigger gear may be a bit slower in the reaches once you've got some wind  but you've always got to have power coming out of the turns in a slalom races to get any advantage.  I finished with a 1,1,1,2,2 to take the night, tie the series and win the tiebreaker while Xavier did his mandatory RC for the series.
(Huge thanks to Yves Rathle for the artistic trophies)

Saturdays sketchy conditions continued with a variable 12-18k and mid afternoon flood tide. That may sound enough for a 100 l board and 7.7 but the course was set near shore with patchy holes,   
The 10.0 and 89cm board were still the right call as Al, CRAD and myself, all on big gear, walked away from most of the fleet. Xavier quickly realized this after not even having made the 1st start in the flood tide on medium slalom gear and made the switch to bigger gear and finally his formula board.  I was doing what I need to do and that was put a few positions between myself and Jason in order to move up in the overall series but CRAD and Al were sailing very well- keeping themselves in front of a me a few races as I got hosed off the starting line in the 20 board fleet in the  middle races of the day. 

After almost 2 hours- we only had 5 races in for the A fleet and 3 for the B fleet. I knew things were close between Al Crad and I so I had to take the next bullet to order to secure things. I nailed the start and led around the course with Xavier trailing and Jason back in 4th. Going into the last race, I  had another perfect start at the pin in the light conditions jumping out in front and leading at the 1st mark and getting a great jump at the rounding  but it was so off course that the I didn't even see the 2nd mark. I let 4 boards slip in there but knew a 5th would be my throw out for the day and it didn't really matter. 

The results were super tight from 2nd-4th with Al with 17 points, CRAD with 16 and myself with 15. I just made it as Jason was back in 5th so I had him on points for the overall- moving up into 2nd place behind Xavier for the series.  Xavier sailed a perfect series carrying a 1,1,1 as his season series scores and was awarded the M9 Memorial trophy with Bill Weirs kids presenting in to him.

A fleet podium: 1st Xavier. 2nd Steve & 3rd Jason

B fleet winners: David, Matt and John

Overall- a huge success for slalom this year with almost as many B fleet racers as the A fleet.  Now, it's just getting people to show up.  I'm still not convinced setting any equipment restrictions on the fleet will encourage new sailors. There's some complaints about how using a formula board in a slalom race isnt fair and we should all use the IFCA class rules with 85 cm wide limit on board width and registered production boards.

We saw how quickly limiting equipment worked for the kite course boards. In a matter of 2 seasons- they have become almost extinct with the foil boards and foil kites leading the charge with development and constant evolution in a separate new class.
Adapt or get left behind!

This year we had no rules on equipment. Race with what you've got. I've always felt that's the best way. Who wants to be on the wrong gear- slogging around the course when you could be planing? Windsurfing and sport in general, like life is never going to be fair.  People will have different amounts of experience and money to spend. Most often, someone will always have better gear than you and more time on the water. Equipment is only part of the equation but a tactical one that should be part of the game. Sometimes you get burned with too big of gear but sometimes, just sometimes, it works even at Crissy Field.

A huge thanks to my sponsors for helping make the season a success- Avanti Sails, and Patagonia!
Also a huge thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors of the 2 race series: St.FYC, Bluerush Boardsports, 101 Surf Sports, Boardsports California, F4 Foils, West Coast Magnetics, StepStone, Adam Darriau Building & Design, Sandy Point, Aerotech, Ultra NEcta, Soheil Zahedi IT, Streetsailing, North Sails Windsurfing, Fanatic Windsurfing, Ronstan, sb design. La Ventana Windsports, Sailing Anarchy, iwindsurf, Alamo SeaFood Grill, Sports Basement and the Crissy Field Yacht Club.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A closer look...

It's the last of the slalom series this week with both Friday night racing at the StFYC & the Crissy Field Slalom Series on Saturday. Both series have a throw-out so its the best 3 out of 4 scores but a lot can change going into the last race of the series.

A closer look at the season scores is often warranted knowing in advance what it will take to move up a position or how much cushion you have between the racer behind you. This is often the case going into the last day of a multi-day regatta or series. Risk or reward. How big are the odds? What are the payoffs?

Friday Night Slalom Series
May Slalom Results
June Slalom Results
July Slalom Results

I did RC the 1st week so Ive got everything to gain going into the last race with a 1,2.
Xavier's fate is sealed with 4 points and  the best I can do is tie on points if I win the final race while Xavier does his mandatory RC.  The tie breaker goes to the racer with the better individual throw-out. (Xavier carries a 7th from July so its so its to my advantage to make every start in addition to winning the night if I want to win the series.) Still tied? Then it comes down to who has the best individual scores (yet tbd). Still tied? Then it comes down to who won the last race. (which in this case would be me.)

Jean sits in 3rd with 7 points just in front of Soheil with 9 with both already having done their RC. CRAD who carries 10 points will do his RC and cant finish worse than 3rd in the series unless Jean finishes 3rd or better or Soheil in 1st. In order for Jean to get 2nd- he would need to beat me by 5 points. Soheil needs to put 3 positions between himself and Jean if he wants to get on the podium.

Crissy Field Slalom Series
May CFSS Results
June CFSS Results
July CFSS Results

Going into the last race- Xavier has 5 points and no chance to lose (even if he doesn't sail and uses his throw-out.) Jason carries 8 points into the final race and myself 14. However once the throw-out comes into play, I need to put 1 position between myself and Jason to move into 2nd and not finish worse than 3rd. Only a 1st or 2nd in Saturdays race will move me up. If I only beat Jason by 1 position, we remain tied and tiebreaker goes to Jason with the better throw-out. The strategy calls for bigger risk moves to reap the reward!
Jean carries 15 points into the last race and Soheil with 18. Jean has secured 4th place but needs to beat me by 2 positions if he wants to move into 3rd. Soheil has no chance to move up from 5th unless he can put 3 positions between himself and Jean.
But then again- anything can happen.
Minimize the risk and maximize the reward.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back to the basics

After having bite off way more than I could chew- I decided it would be prudent to get back to the basics. I hired Gebi to do some coaching after the Kite Foil Gold Cup and learned more from a few hours on the beach than I have all season on my own. The opportunity was priceless in terms of making a few breakthroughs that should help my kite foiling progression in the upcoming months.

The 1st lessons were all about kite handling- or moreso how to fly the kite efficiently by using your weight on the center lines vs sheeting the bar in for power. Its amazing how much power you can get from the kite by keeping the center lines loaded.

Next up- downlooping. I'd never really put this into my quiver of tricks until it was too late. Most times on the foil board, you will need to downloop the kite to keep the speed through the gybe and not drop off a foil. Even in light wind, on a directional board you can downloop the kite to keep it moving vs falling out of the sky. I learned a great trick about reaching under the bar with your back hand and pulling the lines to start the loop vs using your bar to start the turn. You can control the pivot and power by how hard you pull the line and the weight on the center lines.  The advantage is you come out of the turn- not having to spin your bar.

After that- regular looping seemed pretty easy- even spinning the bar to get the lines untwisted- No big deal!

We worked on stalling the kite and relaunching from every position to get comfortable once the kite goes in the water. From hot launching to rocking the kite onto its back- it all begins with a fluid pumping motion using both lines or even the center line to guide the kite back up into the air.

I'd gotten unhooked once or twice before on the water and freaked out- ending my session as the kite looped and crashed. Now becoming unhooked from the kite is still alarming but I know what to do- just grab the center line at the chicken loop to control the power and hook back in. Grabbing the bar- just adds more power to the kite when you are unhooked.

Next order of business was tacking. After having grown up sailing boats from the time I was 7 or 8, tacking was one of the simplest things you could do- just push the tiller over, duck below the boom and carry on to the other side. I had begun to try some tacks on the kite course board last season but the foil came and quickly set me back in terms of learning everything over again.
We essentially broke the tack down into a few steps to get from one tack, float through the eye of the wind, and carry on to the other side. Simple enough!
This maneuver- as simple as it sounds is very tricky to learn as ducking under the lines and into the wind is not an intuitive thing to do.

Step 1 begins by sheeting out and building up some speed with the board before you carve the board into the wind. The front hand comes off the bar to unweight it and steer the kite up and across the window. But then goes back on to bar to float through the turn. You push the board with your back foot essentially pivoting it around a point under your body.
Step 2  turns your body through the eye of the wind facing forward while the board turns through the wind below. Your feet and toes essentially steer the board and guide it across the window as you try to apply minimal downward force taking your body weight up with kite and keeping the bar unsheeted up at your head level.
Step 3 keeps the new front hand pulled down on the bar to dive the kite and create power coming out of the turn so as to  resist the momentum to fall into windward by creating a balance with the kite power.  If the kite doesn't have enough power coming out of the turn, you can go right into a downloop with the kite- gaining more power and time to get things going again
Step 4 - spin the bar to untwist the lines.

Simpler said than done. This will be one of those transitions I'll need to spend 10000 times doing to master. Along with the downlooping, I've got a lot to keep me busy in terms of practicing maneuvers on the water. Ultimately the next step is to get the transitions solid enough that I will be able to foil through my tacks and gybes.
One step at a time...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting around the course

The 2nd half of the Kite Foil Gold Cup was all about making progress overcoming obstacles.
While there's still many dues to pay- the hard work paid off and I finally got around the course for the first time.  A small victory but Ill take it.
I made some huge gains off the wind in the lighter races going deep with the kite low in the window and really sending it. A breakthrough moment as I now know its possible to now get downwind more efficiently. Still there were some spectacular crashes on the foil- both upwind and down- but particularly on starboard tack. The right side of my body is bruised battered and botched.

Day 3 started with a fizzle. The 1st 5 minutes out in a butter smooth flood tide and 14k of breeze, my 10.0 kite broke a center line. I hustled back to the beach and made the switch to the 7.0 as the breeze was building but the cleat on my 2nd bar was slipping giving the kite full power at any moment. Somehow I managed in the spastic and gusty conditions off crissy field and even ended up on the score sheet as finishing not 1 but 2 races. Most likely- I was lapped finishing my 1st race as the fleet finished their 2nd race but it was my first time just to get around the course.  By the last race- things got ugly as the wind built to 20-25k and the 7.0 became more than a handful. I called it quits as the downwind falls were becoming more and more painful.

Watching the gold fleet races from the wall was spectacular. The fleet has evolved with everyone on foil kites and the newest foil technology.  The gold fleet sailors all had gps trackers making it possible to watch the race live in the St.FYC grill room. The tracks for each race can be viewed and races replayed here. French sailors Maxime Nocher & Nico Parlier stayed on top of the leader board just in front of locals- Johnny Heineken and Joey Pasquali.

The last day had a full flood tide and mid teens to starts the day. The gusts were starting to roll in and we had 2 back to back races so I headed out with the 7.0 kite again - a bit underpowered but all entirely doable. Just getting down to the course was more feasible with a smaller kite as I wasn't constantly overpowered and could concentrate on sending it deep and keeping the kite moving.
Upwind, the kite foils effortlessly. Its almost not even the same sport as off the breeze.
I got off the line just behind the pack as to avoid and any tangles and kept out of trouble- except for the dozen or so random face plants on starboard tack that seemed to slow my pace down.
Small stumbles but just remember to get back on the horse.
Enjoy the full days racing via Jamie Donaldson:

I was even starting to make some transitions as the non foiling gybes are becoming a bit more stable and although not on purpose- tired my 1st foiling gybe.  The bottom quickly gave out as my speed stalled and I went right into a big face plant. I managed to get around the course twice in 3 races before the wind picked up to just about nuclear. Another small victory but feel I gained much from sailing the regatta from kite handling, foiling and time on the water.

There's a great collection of videos from Robbie Dean at the IKA facebookpage
Full results 
Huge thanks to the St.FYC for the excellent regatta and their armada of volunteers
Photos via Live2Kite

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015 SF Kite Foil Gold Cup- Day1 and 2: paying my dues

By the start of the first race, I had already mathematically eliminated myself from qualifying into the final gold fleet. A rather disastrous start if there ever was one one but this race was was not for the winning, not even for the taking. This race was just about showing up, getting to the starting line and putting myself through the paces.

I'm in a league way over my head but I've got nothing to lose.
Day 1 at the Kite Foil Gold Cup in San Francisco actually began several months ago at the last Gold Cup event in La Ventana Mexico. That was the start of my kite foiling experience. Its been a rough road since then with almost 4 months & 30 days of learning foiling on the kite board. The experience has been very rewarding but very challenging, In all honesty I though Id be getting it by now but this is one tough nut to crack, Don't get me wrong- kite foiling in general is unbelievable fun- flying above the water with everything silent but when you add the racing element to it- you put yourself to the ultimate test. There will always be racers better than you and there lies the fun- how to catch up!

With 72 registered foilers, this is the biggest foil event in the US. Kite foilers from around the world have joined the local fleet for the 2nd stop in the Kite Foil Gold Cup- a series run by local PRO Robbie Dean, only its 2nd year but gaining a huge momentum with 3 stops in La Ventana Mexico, San Francisco, Ca and Townsville, Australia later this year.

Day 1 starts with lighter breeze but the shit hits the fan soon enough with the local sea breeze flooding through the golden gate mid afternoon, I take out my 10m Ozone edge and make it to the start of the first race for the yellow fleet in 12-16k of breeze. I start conservatively just behind the fleet as to avoid any tangles and stay out of trouble but just like that the fleet is off. I sail off to the far side of the course and just miss the windward mark on my approach and have to double tack. As I make it around, I struggle in the lighter winds at the top of the course and before I know it the fleet is back at the windward mark lapping me in the process. 

Downwind is still a struggle. My angles are just a bit deeper than a beam reach when it gets windy but improving as I learn to get the kite down and back in the window. I finally round the leeward gate but there's no time to make it back upwind and to the finish so I just stick around for the next start. 
Race 2- I cross the line with in 30s of the start just behind the fleet and make it upwind in good shape. Downwind is a complete disaster again taking up 80% of my time on the water, I complete the course but the next fleet has taken the course already and Ive been timed out- another DNF. 

I recompose myself on the beach mentally tackling the next challenge as the wind is now up to 20k+, my limit on the foil where things potentially get broken. I rig the 7m kite and head out like a hot mess exploding in epic fashion just trying to get downwind to the start. I never make it as the RC is banging off races in record time.  I sit out and watch my fleets final 2 races with the peanut gallery from the beach- trying to ease the pain with a cold beer.

Lessons of the day- you gotta make it to the starting line if you even want to even play the game.

The drone footage has been unbelievable.

And of course- if you want to watch Thursday's full racing- sit back and enjoy the full show via Jamie Donaldson:

Day 2 was poised to be golden with lighter wind forecast. I was in the blue fleet so we started 2nd after 2 yellow fleet races. I didn't even get 100' off the beach with the 10.0 before the shit hit the fan again. Gusty, sporadic, shifty and holey. Everything you could hope for in a kite launch. Imagine your whole rig just falling out of the sky. Inverted, twisted and tangled. Now to deal with it. I managed a relaunch but everything was inside out- a 1st time for everything but I swim 15 min in with the kite after hastily wrapping my kite lines up and missing the 1st race in the process.
I motivated for race 2 getting the 7.0 strung up with the 2nd bar as the 1st was a full birds nest that would have to be dealt with later.
The gust were now even more spastic with the 7.0 all together the wrong kite- either too small or way too big. It took me a while just to get down to the starting lines averaging a major catastrophic wipe out every 30 seconds but the fleet was off for their 2nd start. I was barely in control both up and downwind with more time in the water than upright. I follow the fleet to windward with multiple explosions but decide I've reached my limit with the 7m kite and head back in as the crashes are getting more painful.

I'm not sure I'm even participating in the same sport as the top of the fleet.
They look graceful floating around without effort at every transition while I stumble at every opportunity. I take for granted most of the fleet has been kiting for 10 years + leading the pack in the development of the sport while I'm jumping in fresh learning to kite and foil at the relatively same time.

Regardless kite foil racing is one of the tougher challenges I've faced. I've been at a plateau for the last 2 months trying to progress downwind. OMFG it's so frustrating not even being able to get to the starting line. I haven't even begun to think about transitions. I do however make a nice discovery when I jumped on the Zaijcek board and foil. The whole platform is way more stable and predictable. Not that it's doing me anyhow to get around the course but know someday its gonna be easier.
For the next hour- I untangle my lines from the 1st race that have been left gathered in a ball at the corner of the beach. 
Lessons of the day- sometimes its not even possible to get to the starting line. You've got to learn how to crawl before you can walk. Nonetheless learn how to fly.

 Onward and upward. 2 more days of the SF Kite Foil Gold Cup to prove to myself that I can do this. 
Here's the video to the raw footage form Friday's  racing via Jamie Donaldson:
Photo credit- Eric Simonson- Pressure Drop
More photos here