Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bring what you've got and ride it.

I was able to come out with all guns firing on day 1 of the Crissy Field Slalom Series grabbing 6 out of 9 bullets to win the A fleet. Just like picking your line around the gybe mark, picking the right equipment is all part of the game. You've got to use every advantage you can on the race course to win.  The 89cm board mikes lab board and 10m avanti membrane rig allowed me to get a strong start every race and come out of the gybes powered up while the guys on smaller gear were often late to the start or came off a plane at the mark roundings. I've been racing on the SF city front for the past 16 years and know that the inside is always hit or miss so you want to be prepared. In most cases, you want to survive the gusts, but when racing on the city front, do not let your weakness become a vulnerability. While the 10m rig and 89 cm board isn't necessarily the quickest on a reach while the wind is up- it does have huge advantages in getting up planning sooner and through the light spots quicker.

Everything you need in life should fit in a VW van!

However, the 10.0 does have some disadvantages- you need some room to gybe. Luckily I found myself in the lead most of the races and didn't have to deal with much traffic. Anytime you get close to someone- disaster is likely to strike. I got taken out on the start of race 1 as TUR-92 decided to make some space between the pin end of the starting line and my 10m as I went for it, The result- we both went down. I was able to rally and finish in 4th. On the 7th race- I was arriving to the start line super early and knew about 10 seconds Id be over early without hesitating and letting the fleet roll me. Strategically, it made sense for me to draw over as many people over early  as I could with a big lead already established. I went for it accelerating and drew another 3 sailors OCS with me. The result- they use their throw out while I've got a cushion to rest upon.

Yes, the conditions were a bit variable with lighter winds on the inside of the course but given the choice, I think most racers still preferred racing than sitting in the beach waiting for ideal conditions that may or may not have come. While everyone has to race in the same wind, the one variable you have control over is the equipment you select.
For me it's a no brainier- I pick the the equipment that's going to get me around the race course fastest whether its a 89cm board on the slalom course or a kite foil on the windward leeward course.

A huge thanks to the Crissy Field Slalom Series sponsors, race team and volunteers that made it all happen, Without you  we'd just be going back and forth...
Results- here

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rebuilding the fleet from the bottom up

For the 2nd year in a row, the StFYC has expanded their Friday night slalom windsurf racing series to focus on less of the technical and more on the fun. The result has been better participation and an increased awareness of windsurf racing. We're getting people that have never engaged in the competitive side of the sport to enter a beer can race for the first time. The secret- make it easy and make it fun.

The slalom format is simple with a broad reach start as fast as you can go and 4 downwind gybe marks with the entire fleet in close pursuit. No special equipment is needed but like any sport you can get as geeked out on your quiver as your budget allows. Each race only last 2-3 min so if you have a bad start or fall at the mark you've got your another chance with the next race just moments away.
Slalom racing is all about good board handling, but if you can gybe- you can race.
When it gets windy, like it was for the 1st St.FYC Friday night slalom race of the season on May 20th, you may even be better off on bump and jump gear than traditional slalom gear. 14 racers braved a gusty 15-25k sea breeze and strong flood tide on the city front for 5 races starting just off Anita Rock and finishing moments later off the race deck of the St.FYC. All windsurfers are invited and just about the entire spectrum shows up. This year we have windsurf foilers, diehard slalom racers and newbies showing up on bump and jump gear. 
We kicked off the season 2 weeks ago with a shared rules seminar with the kite fleet. The incentive for attending was a 1st place on an extra race for the season. Those that missed out- got a DNC.
Needless to say- we had a lot in the crowd who had no idea of how the rules worked, but they left with a better understanding that even if you are right, collisions are slow and not the fastest way to get around the course.
3 more St.FYC Friday night races are planned for the season in addition to the Crissy Field Slalom Series run on the same course 4 Saturdays throughout the summer. More info on this seasons racing schedule can be found here.

Monday, May 2, 2016

42nd running of the St.FYC Zellerbach regatta

2016 saw the 42nd running of the Zellerbach regatta- hosted by the St.FYC with 7 different classes racing along the San Francisco city front. Dinghies, multi-hulls and kitefoilers were well represented with 100+ sailors on the course both Saturday for light air racing and Sunday when the big breeze kicked in.

First run in 1962- it made an important switch for the St.FYC who previously ran and hosted 'yacht races.' Dinghies were invited into the fold and for many years the one manned Finn class reigned supreme with the biggest fleet.  Local legend, Ed Bennett  was the first be be fed through the pipeline competing at the 1972 Olympics while representing the St.FYC. Later, it was combined into the Elvestom/Zellerbach regatta honoring Paul Elvstrom, winner of 4 Gold Olympic medals.
Fast forward 40+ years and the pipeline still flows with 4 St.FYC members competing in the summers 2016 Olympics in Finn, 49 FX skiff class, Laser radial class and in the Windsurfer class.

Saturday saw a fickle northley breeze turn westerly later in the afternoon and 3 races were run for the foiling kite class after the dinghies finished their morning races in light, shifty & puffy conditions. Most the kite fleet were on 12-15m foil kites but I was never even able to make it to the starting line with a 13.5m tube kite. The bubble on the beach made it nearly impossible to get the kite flying and get going. I made 3 attempts but finally bailed and watched the fleet from shore. Interesting enough, many of the foil kites who did make it to the course had to be rescued when their kites went down or got tangled.

The modern foil kites are an all together faster set up, proving more lift and greater range than a tube kite but come with its own set of vulnerabilities. Like any new innovations, there's a learning curve and most mistakes can be attributed to pilot error. The foil kites are especially vulnerable when they go down on the water. There is a limited relaunch time before the kite turns into a giant sea anchor. The bridle set up is way more complicated than a typical tube kite and can result in some incredible spaghetti during a self rescue.
Photo Credit: Eric Simonson- Pressure Drop

However, when its done right, a foiling kite board and foil kite are a thing of wonder in the light breeze. Heineken made it look all too easy, nailing all of this foiling tacks and gybes and getting 3 bullets for the afternoon The thought of being able to make my transitions and foil in 8k keeps me coming back for more- despite the early setbacks.

Sunday saw a dim forecast but the breeze turned on by the 2pm kite start.
I was well powered on the 8m kite  in 16-24k as I made it around the course but not before being lapped by the front of the fleet in the 2 lap windward/leeward course. Finishing just outside the time limit is a bit discouraging but Ill take the small victories when I can.
Overall- less crashes but transitions are still slowing me down.
Despite being able to make most my non foiling gybes, I only managed to make 1 or 2 the whole weekend. Trying to keep clear of the 70 other dinghies on the course also provided for quite the obstacle course. The lasers are liked parked objects when you're flying downwind at 25k+and best to be avoided at any cost.  I managed to stay out of trouble and make 2 out of the 3 starts and even beat a few other kites to the 1st windward mark but ended up with a mixed array of alphabet soup on the score sheet.

Kite foil racing sure isn't easy- especially in this fleet. It's humbling at best but I feel very lucky just to be able to compete and try to come in with a smile. Persistence is really the only key to success and that does not come without some long hard battles.
Results can be found here.

Onward and upwards...