Monday, June 30, 2008

voodoo chop

It wouldn't be summer in San Francisco if there wasn't a stiff breeze and a dense shroud of fog making its way through the golden gate. For the last 2 weeks, the sea breeze has been firing almost everyday making sunset slalom and formula training the call!
Ive been lucky enough to get by with a little help from my friends here- lending me a ML7 and north 10.0 while Im back for a few weeks. Thanks guys!
The fleet here has been training for the upcoming SF Classic- billed as the longest running windsurfing long distance race in the world. In the past few years, the kites have joined the formula boards for the full tour of the Bay. So, in preparation, I've been doing some deep long runs and reaching across the Bay- lit up with a 70 cm fin. From the first few sessions of testing, it appears the Finworks PRO formula fins is going quite well both upwind and downwind when lining up against the kashy fins.
It also wouldn't be a summer in San Francisco with out the infamous voodoo chop on the SF Bay. Turbulence (like the south tower of the Golden Gate bridge) or converging tide lines combine to create an amazing array of standing chop, boiling with fury. Getting through this mess is only possible with the help of the chicken and super chicken straps on the Mike's Lab formula boards. It took me a week or so to get back into the groove but once here, sailing in the steep ebb tide and chop feels comfortable again. Of course, just when you get comfortable, windsurfing finds a way to humble you again.
Yesterday evening, I was running the top half of the Classic course coming down from the north tower to the Presidio shoal buoy- sheeting in as much as I could through the boiling water below to keep my speed up. One second lapse in my concentration was all it took to chuck me off and land upside down, hooked in ontop of my rig.
Dazed and confused, I picked myself up and kept going.
Upwind, I've been picking up somethings again I seem to have forgotten while sailing in the relative non tidal lakes and seas of Europe. You've really got to pay attention to where the current is relative to your bow. You can either pinch or have to foot. Figure this out and your upwinds could be reduced significantly as you make your way around the course.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

San Francisco Breeze.....sort of!

The last week has been busy with work and travel back to San Francisco for my quarterly trip back for work. Of course, this time, it was planned around the windy season in SF!
I arrived back to San Francisco last week and within a few hours after the 12 hours flight I found myself under the Golden Gate bridge riding the pacific swell once again.
The winds were strong in the middle of the Bay but getting there was the problem.
Nonetheless, I shlogged out to the windline and got a great session at the bridge with my 6.3 and ml slalom board with the SF kite crew who had their racing canceled that evening.
Ahh it was good to be back!
Friday was much the same as we prepared for a Friday night race at the St. Francis.
The formula crew here was kind enough to lend me some equipment leftover from last season!
But alas, even a 12.0 wasnt enough to get around the course for the twilight series so we headed up top to the bridge where the breeze was- catching some good rides at fort point in 12-18k and a wicked ebb tide.
Saturday brought the CalCup where again, we struggled to get to the course- set just upwind of his Lordships in Berkeley. Once there, however the breeze kicked in good for 4 wound up races. I borrowed a 10.0 Hansen sail form Percy and wow, what a handful! The sail had plenty of power in the breeze despite being pretty flat below the boom. I struggled to find my form again in the breeze but a few races in and I was sparring around the course with the leaders.

Mike Percy managed to sail away with 4 bullets in his home waters, showing good form and tactics in the breeze.
C-Rad was showing some amazing potential with his new line of formula fins.
The local boys have created an evolution of the C3 D series, making the foil softer and more responsive. I was pretty impressed with the angle and speed he was getting with a 68 cm fin in 18-25k. As usual there are a few suspects in the local fleet with some great form and speed.
On Sunday, with the skies ablaze from the recent wildfires, Crissy went off again for another sunset slalom session.
The breeze still had some south in in which made for a bouncy ride on port tack going straight into the chop upwind. Once over on starboard tack though, I had some of the fastest runs all season thinking I couldn't go any faster until I sheeted in, bore off and accelerated even more.
Fear was the only thing stopping me form going faster.
The trend continued into the week and by Wednesday evening I was out for the 5th time in 6 days. Quite a contract from the fickle dutch summer breeze!
I got a chance to try out the new finworks PRO fin this week- the one Fernando used to clean up at the US Nationals 2 weeks ago. My first impression without lining up against anybody was wow- quite a ride off the breeze! Very slippery.
Im anxious to try it out against the fleet here in the next 2-3 weeks while Im back in SF.
Up next, the nose will be against the grindstone for work but hopefully getting out on the water a few days a week after work for some training sessions and then on the 12 and 13th of July is the famed- SF Classic!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Regio Cup

The latest edition of the Dutch Regio Cup series went down in Tjeukemeer in the north of Holland last Sunday. With a fleet of 27 formula boards and just enough wind to get going...for a while and then stop...and then get going...and then, well you get the picture....classic lake conditions.
The wind was a side shore 8-10k breeze and with the flat water, it was perfect conditions for the north 11.8 and lightiwind IFJU fin. Unfortunately a lot of 2-3 knot holes as well and like always when you are racing next to a shore line, there is normally a shift off the land.
I was finally able to get a clean lane off the starting line and climb well in the first race of the day. The guys on the inside were gaining some on the lift but at the top mark I rounded 3rd and was flying off the breeze. At the leeward mark, the RC called the fleet back to restart as half of the fleet was stuck in a hole near the shore. Good practice nonetheless.
We repeated the scenario several times without much luck at completing a race and finally with a break ashore, the RC decided to run a fun race instead.
Although racing in these conditions is a lottery of sort, it takes a lot of skill to work each puff and climb your way back through the fleet if you get hosed.
Its really important to keep your head looking around in these conditions and stay in the breeze.
In most of the abandoned races, the lead changed several times but consistently the leaders took advantage of every opportunity. You can never count yourself out as usually there is always another chance to gain a position in the fleet.
Enjoy the photos:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sopot Formula Grand Prix Day 4 evening update

With the seabreeze failing to arrive by the 5 pm deadline, the 2nd leg of the Formula Grand Prix Tour has ended. The fleet waited on the beach all day but the wind never got about 5-6 knots.

The rankings stand of the last race yesterday.
Racers are packing up now with some going home, other going to the next PWA event in Costa Brava but most will return next month for the Polish Championships and European Championships which are back to back.
Enjoy the photos from the last day.

Sopot Formula Grand Prix Day 4 morning update

We finally hit the water for the first race on Friday at 4pm. The breeze was still a light 8-10knots with holes and big shifts around the course. The steep short waves sets were also making it really hard to keep going upwind. I found you needed a very powerful set up- booms high, tack strap pulled tight, and most importantly easing off on the downhaul by 1-2cm. None of this, though, helped me get off the starting line in either races today.
The key it seems - is to get a good running approach with no chance of even falling off a plane.
Seems obvious but trying to do that with 60 other boards in a marginal winds and chop is easier said than done. The guys in front are doing an amazing job to stay in clear air and keep their speed going.
In both races there were big shifts and major holes near the beach on the left side of the course. It made it a gamble either way and some sailors were left sanding for minutes without wind. No redress in the world would even help these sailors out!
The fleet was really spread out and by the time I got going off the line the first half of the fleet was gone. It was playing catch up from there and trying to pick off a few boards every leg.
I switched to the lightwind IFJU fin today with some good results upwind. In the clear breeze, I was able to climb well but when stuck rounding behind the parade at the leeward mark- no fin is going to help you out. I had to go for speed and footed with good speed to the corner.

We waited around after the 2nd race for another 20 minutes before the RC send the fleet back ashore around 6:00 pm.
Up in front it's s till Steve Allen, Gonzolo Costel Hovel and Jesper Vesterstrom fighting it out for the top positions.
Results here
Photos here

Today is the final day and the breeze is supposed to come- maybe not in time as the last possible start is at 5 pm. You can follow the live ticker at the formula class windsurfing web site

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sopot Formula Grand Prix Day 3

Currently we are on postponement as the seabreeze has failed to develop at 2pm.
Allision Shreeve gave a presentation on the new Formula Windsurfing One Design Format.
It's up to sailors now to convince the representatives to vote favorably at the ISAF November meeting.

As for me, I think the new class could fit in well in the existing Formula class but at the Olympics in 2012 do I want to be sailing on a rig that was designed 5 years ago?
Formula has worked so well because of the innovation and development in the class. Having Olympic class status is a doubled edged sword: you've got to abide by the ISAF regulations such as having one rig to work in 6-25 knots. Thats always proved to be a compromise compared to the Formula class where you can have up to 3 rigs that can match each sailors weight and wind range.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sopot Formula Grand Prix Day 2

Day 2 started with the postponement flag up to 1:15 pm before the fleet was sent out in light conditions, Leaving 30 minutes before the start- I still was not able to make it to the starting line and immediately started the day with a DNF. I could not getting planning or stay planning to save my life.
The chop and waves today were steep and close - making getting going a real challenge.
There were at least 20 other boards that didnt make the start as well- but thats no consolidation. In hindsight, a little less downhaul would have helped.
Race 6 was started immediately after in similar conditions.
This time I made sure I was on the line but unfortunately not even close to planning as half the fleet sailed off the line while the rest sat parked until the chaos settled and slowly got off the line to the corners of the course. The wind was still oscillating as the 2 breezes were fighting each other- similar to yesterdays conditions. I finally managed to get over right corner and tacked and rode the endless knock back to the other corner. Not the best scenario for a comeback.
At the top mark, the mark boat was taking readings of 3-4 knots but as I later found out, our class rules are not too specific in regards to wind minimums. Specifically, the only requirement for the RC is to have at least 7 knots in the minute before the start.

The next 2 legs continued like this as it was not my day on the water today.
After 2 races, the fleet was sent it with little chance for any more racing.
At the end of day like today- you really want to give up but as they say- its not how you win or lose but how you recover.
With just one more race, we get 2 throw outs, so from now one everything counts.
I moved from 19th to 30th today but with 2 more days of racing I can make it up.
Tomorrow's forecast doesn't look strong but with the lessons I learned today, hopefully I wont be repeating the same mistakes...

As usual- you can find the ticker form todays action at the site

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 1 Sopot Formula Grand Prix

Day 1 turned out to be a fantastic day of racing here in Sopot Poland for the first day of the Formula Grand Prix. Winds were light to medium from 10-17k but the sea state was still quite confusing. Sailors had to deal with an array of chop and swell around the course as well as an aggressive fleet at the start. Most of the races, port tack was well favored and it took some weaving and yelling to get through without damage. Gonzo wasn't so lucky went down hard on the starting line in race 3 but with redress still came out in 3rd at the end of the day.
Up in front- it's any body's game as there are quite a few sailors capable of winning here. The level is quite high at the top.
We had 4 races today which I managed to go well sailing in the top 20 in the first 3 then stumbling 100 meters form the finish line in race 4 when I ran into a plastic bag and went down hard letting 1o sailors go by.
Overall, a bit better performance in the light wind as I am trying out a new fin Holland and found my angle upwind. I was able to maintain a lane and even gain some. Off the breeze- Im going well gaining 1 or 2 spots each leg.
We are running the outside trapezoid course with the leeward mark set just in front of the Sopot Pier. It makes it rather difficult to get the layline as the pier sticks out and a lot of positions are lost as sailors are fumbling to get around the mark. I was one of them and got screwed trying to manhandle the 12m rig.
In race 3 I switched down to the 11.0 with good success as the wind was building more more so the sea state was becoming more difficult to handle with the bigger rig.
Overall- a good day for me with some signs of improvement. I am sitting in 19th now in a fleet of 63 and just 3 spots out of the prize money.
With 4 races completed, everybody is quite tired tonight after the first day of racing.
Im off to bed before another big day tomorrow.
Forecast looks similar but hotter as the w-end approaches.
Results at
Photos here

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sopot Formula Grand Prix day 0

After a 13 hour drive from Amsterdam I made it Sopot Poland for the 2nd Formula Grand Prix event of 2008. Most sailors hit the water today to tune up their equipment. I'm still in the process of trying some new stuff out so even the day before the competition, I'm trying out new trim settings and fins to get things dialed in.
The biggest difference I noticed today was with the use of a wide end boom. I was able to go deeper and still have speed. Upwind I am still not 100% there but there are some really good sailors to line up against here.
Overall a good impression with most of the fleet arriving today and getting on the water for a few hours. Sopot is a beautiful old town on the Baltic sea and the race is centered a great sailing center just on the beach. The conditions, although light provided to be quite a challenge with a building sea state and some unruly swell to deal with. Most of the fleet was on their 12m rigs today with light powerful fins.
It looks like the competition will be tight here with the top 16 fighting it out for the prize money.
More reports tomorrow.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

road trip

With gas prices nearly euro 1.6/liter (thats over $8 a gallon for for you US sailors) I put a hold on the first Formula Grand Prix regatta last month in Portugal but with the Sopot Formula Grand Prix just 2 Euro countries away in Poland- Im off on another road trip.
The van is packed, sails tested, fins retested and even some fins for sale for gas money.
Will report more onscene...