Friday, May 28, 2010

golden gate stoke

They say the time a person spends windsurfing is not deducted from their lifespan.
In that case, I feel really lucky!
Weve had a great spring in the San Francisco Bay this year with unbelievable wind after a winter of incredible swell.

Sailing under the golden gate bridge can deliver some epic conditions.
The pacific swell pumping in.
The wind funneling through the slot.
The current racing beneath.

When it all lines up, there's no place Id rather be...

Thanks to Eric @ h20shots for dangeling over the bridge to get this shot!
More shots from the day @

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finding the groove

Some sailors sail by the seat of their pants, others apparently need a notebook full of data to get them up to speed. I'm finding out that I fall in the latter category.
This year Ive been careful to track all my settings in hopes that I can find the groove easier when it comes time to race. Getting your equipment dialed in is an essential part of the game- especially when racing in a development class like the Formula windsurfer- and when your off, you're left scratching your head wondering, "is it me or is it my set up?"
And when you've found that setting that works in 15-20k, you know you can repeat it and not worry.
After a good month of racing and some serious tuning the last 2 weekends, Im beginning to get a feel for whats working and whats not. Sometimes the "ah- ha" moments come after a good session but more often than none, it comes after comparing the data on several sessions.
Of course, having good training partners is key.
Ive been lucky to line up with some fast sailors- sometimes staying ahead of them, sometimes falling behind.
Either way, at the end of the day, I have a better idea of whats going to get me around the course the fastest.

Downhaul settings: The North Sails seems to have 1 settings that works in most winds.
Too much and the cams have trouble rotating; too little and the sail feels top heavy and slow to accelerate (but still fast downwind.) In the heaviest of conditions, Ill add 1/4" of downhaul but release the tack strap to help with rotation.
The Neil Pryde sails seem to have a broader range of downhaul that works. Ive had the sail work well with a relatively tight leach in low to medium winds and still get great performance when its windy and I have the leach very loose.

Mast track position: Most everyone agrees 44" from the front fin screw in the ML10 is a good place to start. Move it 1/2" forward when using a smaller sail or when the water state is rough; move it 1/2" back when its lighter and the water is flat. Getting the right mast track position is very dependent on your fin as well. A more powerful fin will demand that you move the mast back to compensate for the extra power- but not too much that the nose of your board is flying around upwind.

Boom height:The higher you can go, the better angle you will get but the trade off is control.
Moving the booms higher adds more power to the rig and un-weights the board.
You can essentially sail a size bigger by moving your booms higher
In light to medium breeze, I try to run the booms as high as I can- especially with the 10.7 but as as soon as Im fighting for control, the boom comes down 1/2" at a time. As a result, the harness lines move forward. In 25-35k when its crazy windy, I usually have my booms low and get my angle through pinching to depower the rig

Harness Lines: The 1st 5 minutes off the beach will let you know if you have your harness lines balanced or not. I like to have a set of booms for each rig so the harness lines dont vary from moving the boom from sail to sail. If it gets windier and the boom comes down- the harness lines move forward 1"-1.5" from the center of effort. As it lightens up and the booms move up, they come back an 1"-1.5". In general, its easier to sail with longer harness lines as the breeze comes up so you can depower by siting down and bringing the rig to windward.

Batten tension: Again, its a balance of putting shape into your sails vs poor rotation.
Even with the NP Ultra Cams, you can tension too much and fight the rotation when coming out of a tack or gybe. In general, you want to add more to the bottom of the sail where you need power and have the leach of the sail above the boom fall off gradually.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Calcup 2: maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses

Saturday’s calcup saw some great racing off the Berkeley pier with Xavier Ferlet joining the SF fleet again for 5 races in 15-20k. The big breeze and fog that the city front saw never made its way down the Bay as Berkeley experienced sunny skies in a relative mild breeze. I held off on taking the 10.7 with the big forecast and was relatively well matched with the rest of the fleet on our 10.0m rigs.
I got a feel for the course and tested the line finding the boat end favored in what would become a drag race from the start. Those that started further down the line never really got a chance to recover with out the benefit of some extraordinary speed- which Xavier seemed to have. Sylvester, on the other hand, showed some brilliant moments upwind holding his own and even climbing with the new 9.0m north warp.
It’s good to know your own strengths and weaknesses but even better to know your opponents. Part of racing is trying to maximize your own strengths but also taking advantage of your opponent’s weakness.
After 5 races, it was becoming apparent that Xavier had plenty of strengths and not too many weaknesses. He lead at almost every mark, taking 5 bullets in the process. His speed and angle were just a touch better than mine so all I could do try to make my starts perfect, roundings as efficient as possible and of course not make any mistakes of my own for the rest of the fleet to take advantage of.
Sure enough, the pressure was on with Eric and Sylvester showing some great moments but never getting closer than 3rd. I held onto 2nd each race- almost getting the last one from Xavier as we crossed the finish line overlapped.
With a windward leeward course and mandatory upwind gate on the 2nd upwind and a clearly favored left side of the course, there wasn’t too many options for tactics. In situations like this, you need to take advantage of anything you can get. Eric and I had a few close situations were it all came down to who could tack fastest and get going again on the new tack. Other times, especially when there’s traffic you can set up a pick if you can think 2 or 3 steps ahead.
A few kites were racing with us on Saturday and Chip showed some great potential maintaining his position upwind in the fleet of boards and even getting ahead of me in race 3. It’s great to see the 2 fleets mixing it up together.
Even better to see is all the juniors racing this year with Marion, Saba, and the Lundquist brothers all getting more experience under their belts.

For all of Saturdays races, I used the 10.0 2010 north warp and kashy 70 cm xs fin

Friday Night Series- May 14

Racing at the St. Francis is about as good as it gets.
Guests can watch the races from the comfort of the grill room or brave the elements on the race deck.
Sailors have the options to go in between races and switch rigs when the wind changes and still be able to make the next start.
5 races are run every other Friday night throughout the summer and spring.
Unlike most formula races lasting 20-30 minutes, the twilight series is more of a series of sprints which each race lasting 6-8 minutes for the leaders.
The start is off the StFYC A and B buoys and upwind to Anita Rock- just off Crissy Field. Racing next to the shore limits your starting options to port tack and its usually the sailor starting on the inside that gets the favorable lift off the land and first to the weather mark.
Regardless of the course, it’s the best board-handling skills and ability to call the layline in the tides that makes the biggest difference in the short races.

Last Friday night was no exception.
With a huge wind range of 8-25k, it was anybody’s call what to rig.
The gusts were big but the holes were even bigger!
I headed out early with my Neil Pryde evo2 10.7, Ml10 and Z fin to sail the course, check the current and get a feel for the wind.
The middle of the course was light but the top and bottom were fully powered.
A few laps around and I was managing the 10.7- just barely.
If you can withstand the big gust with out much damage, the advantage of a bigger sail usually turns out to be far greater in the lulls where you make up a lot of distance vs those on a smaller sail- especially downwind!
Seth, Crad and myself all got off the line well and around Anita in front of the pack.
Timing was everything because we seemed to get our own private SW puff carrying us almost all the way down to B without gibing.
As we made our way around the leeward mark, things heated up and the 10.7 was a handful. CRad got the jump on me with Seth in the lead. I made the call the tack first as I knew the SW breeze would allow for a shorter layline to make the finish.
With CRad just below me, he got off his tack just a bit quicker and was able to get me by a ½ board length at the finish.
The lesson here- give it all you got till the finish!
Race 2 saw similar conditions with Seth on his 9.0 in the lead around the top mark and Crad and myself in hot pursuit. Again, in a SW puff we carried it down to mark B on starboard tack while Seth ran out of gas and had to double gybe to get around B.
I managed to hold on the rest of the race and take the bullet with Crad close behind and Seth in 3rd.
Next race saw Eric call his lines perfectly and not look back while Seth edges me out on the last tack before the finish. In a race like this, every point counts.
Race 4 saw Seth in top form again with Crad and Eric close behind.
I pulled the trigger a bit too soon and got called OSC and returned to clear myself.
I was able to claw my way back through some of the fleet- again trying for any points as the rules for tie breakers have changed with the latest RRS.
Appendix B now counts even your discarded races when looking at who has the better scores in the event of a tiebreaker (Thanks Ron!)I knew the points would be close going into the last race between CRad, Seth and myself.
I lined up perfectly for the start at B – taking into account the flood tide, the crowd and pulled the trigger perfectly accelerating off the line out in front of the fleet and getting in the inside lift.
The 10.7 really paid off well in the last race of the night with the wind dying to 10-15 and the rest of the fleet on their 10.0s. I held on for the bullet with Crad and Tom Purcell rounding out the top 3.
Overall it was Seth claiming the night with 7 points and Crad and myself, tied for 2nd with my 8th as a throw-out beating his 10th as a throw-out for the tiebreaker.
Next up, CalCup on Saturday in Bezekeley!
Waterhound report

Monday, May 3, 2010


With a slightly downgraded forecast from Saturday, it looked like the first decision of the day would be what rig for Sunday's 4 course races on the infamous SF city front.
I stood at the sea wall with 20 minutes before the 1st start with both 10.7 and 10.0 rigs ready to go. Without looking at what the rest of the fleet was doing (mistake 1), I choose the 10.0 (mistake 2)- thinking the breeze would be up sooner than later. But as always, you need to choose for whats happening now!
For the 1st 3 races I was really underpowered on the 10.0 in the critical spots and couldnt quite get that extra boost of speed or power when I really needed it but as soon as the breeze came up for the 4th race- I had everything dialed in!
Sunday's first race caught a few of the formula fleet by surprise as the boards were the first to start @ 12:30 and a few were late for the start. I had a few dramas of my own- just getting to the starting line as my upahaul came untied on the way down the the course. A few moments in the water, tying things back together and I finally found myself getting to the line with the sequence already started.
Not realizing the extent of the flood tide, I lined up for a normal run at the line but realized I could only make the pin end. I was doomed from the start as everything was looking the same as yesterday with the boards winning the boat end getting the jump from the start and the inside lift at the seawall after the first tack.
More often the none, the opening moves of the game, play a huge part in winning or loosing a race. Preparation is key. Had I gotten on the water earlier with the proper equipment, these 2 negatives could have been easily turned into something positive. Instead I found myself underpowered and behind a the start. A difficult scenario to overcome- especially having to sail in the leaders bad air the next 2 upwind legs. I tried some more high risk moves towards the end of the race to get a bigger reward but instead almost lost 4th place as Jean was motoring well from behind. CRad withdrew himself as he failed to round the offset mark after getting dunked on his rounding. In situations like this, you take any points you can get! Happy to salvage 4th.
In front, Xavier scored another bullet with Soheil and Al following closely behind.

The next 2 race saw similar conditions on the course with a variable 14-18k and strong flood tide. The 4 other dinghy fleets were now, at any point scattered around the course, making laylines, finding clear air and mark roundings- a more difficult challenge. On top of it all, there were plenty of weeds around the course making the decision to back down and clear your foils another variable in the game.
In general, sticking to shore and out of the stronger flood tide was the way to go upwind (as all the dinghies were tacking at the tide line and working their way up the city front) but as always the formula boards are better off banging a corner to keep their VMG to a maximum. Banging the left corner was not an option with the shore limited things. As it turned out, you had to almost bang the right side in order not to get to the shore too early and miss the port layline. A few people found this out the hard way and some big gains could be made on the final approach at the top of the triangle.
With his 11.0, Eric was able to close the gap on me with securing 2 more 2nds and by the last race we were tied. Xavier again took the bullets in race 6 and 7.

With the wind now in the md 20's and gusting up to 30, it was a different story.
Mental block off.
Everything was set up to work perfecly for the 10.0.
Getting the inside lift off the wall wasn't as critical as lining yourself up for a long port tack beat up the course. I got my lane and was off with CRad and the fleet just behind and to windward.
As we approached the middle of the Bay, and the chop became a more significant factor, I felt myself pulling away with better speed. I was able to keep the hammer down for longer and grunt my way to the windward mark just behind Xavier.
Control was the name of the game here with some wicked swell, voodoo chop, SF ferry traffic, the dinghy fleets and some rec sailors cruising back and forth. I pushed it hard in the double chicken strap matching Xavier line and gybed on his line to the bottom mark. At this point, things were so chaotic, I found myself in far leeward strap- straddling the board with a 4' wide stance going deep right towards the mark.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Xavier go down hard.
I rounded the bottom gate and made my way toward the wall and it wasn't before I tacked till the next boards went around the gate.
I had established myself a good lead and now just needed to protect it.
Upwind things were really hairy in the chop with the gust in the high 20's. I kept things managed well and began the last downwind with still a good lead.
That was until I pearled the front of my board into the back of some wicked chop.
I quickly recovered and was uphauling but again my uphaul knot slipped from the boom and I was back in the water- trying to tie the thing back on. What seemed like eternity, was enough to let Xavier, Chris and Al all pass me until I managed to salvage 4th just in front of Eric and secure 2nd place for the series.
Lucky to say the least but some great lessons learned in this race.
Always protect your lead even if it means sailing more conservatively.
Nothing counts until you cross the finish line!
Not having my equipment prepared is something totally preventable.
Next time, that uphaul is going to be secured with a square knot with 2 stoppers at the end.
Enough said...

A huge congrats to Xavier Ferlet GBR- 451 for taking 6/7 bullets and challenging our fleet.
Its always a real benefit to sail with someone faster than you- keeping you on your toes and making you question everything. Without a doubt, we'll be faster next time!
Also a big shout out to the St. Francis YC and their 20+ volunteers for managing the 65 boat circle with out any incidents.
The best race management out there- thank you
Photos Credit: Eric Simpson
Waterhound Report

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Day 1 of the Elevstrom /Zellerbach regatta at the St Francis saw the formula fleet waiting ashore as the dinghies made their way around the double windward leeward course in the light breeze. Finally at 1 pm with the breeze up to 10-15k and most of the fleet on their 10.0's in expectation of the building breeze, race 1 started with Xavier Felet taking the lead after the first tack. I managed to keep in tow until we got too far to the right and into the flood. I noticed Eric had tacked back early and was working the shore where the flood tide was less brutal. I tacked but Xavier was quick to follow and soon overtook me with just a bit better speed. As it happen, we both got the advantage over Eric as his port tack approach to the windward mark left him just shy of the mark and he had to double tack. Xavier took a commanding lead and never looked back despite some pressure and local tactics from me.
Race 2 saw similar conditions with Xavier in front and me just behind leading the rest of the pack. Off the breeze, we both overstood the bottom mark and let the fleet catch up. This time I didnt let the pressure off and waited for Xavier to make any mistake so that I could capitalize on it. On the final downwind run, it looked like Xavier was overstanding the bottom mark again so this time, I gybed for the finish with my line just barely making the finish boat. I stayed out of the harness, digging deep and pumping the sail to go as deep as I could and managed to get the bullet!
That's more like it!
Race 3 saw the breeze up to 18-22k with building chop. I made my approach to the starting line making sure I had speed but this time pulled the trigger a few seconds early and was OSC. I quickly gybed around and restarted on port tack committing myself right side while the rest of the fleet- except for Soheil made the way to the shore. I rounded just behind the pack with the Xavier, Soheil, Al. Tom and Chris all getting the jump downwind. Slowly over the next 3 legs I was able to pick all but 2 of them off with some better tactics around the course. Downwind, I picked up 1 board by calling a better layline. Upwind, I got another by heading the right side with more pressure and hiking hard and gaining on the boards to leeward. Finally at the windward mark, I was able to play my cards just right and squeeze off Eric with a fast rounding as he tacked at the mark while my port tack approach got me out of there quickly. With 1 last leg to go, I knew I had better speed and was catching up with Al but didn't quite have enough time to move into 2nd.
So it stands after 3 races, Xavier sits in front with 4 points, myself in 3nd with 6 points and Eric closely behind with 10.
Sundays breeze looks lighter and hopefully a chance to mix it up again.
Full Results
Waterhound Report
Thanks to Eric Simpson for the photos- check out his gallery @

Friday Night racing @StFYC

Round 2 of the Friday night series @ the St Francis Yacht Club kicked off with a solid 20-30k.
After 5 days of not sailing, it was a viscous welcome back with a steep ebb tide and strong fleet. With almost a 3 year hiatus from formula windsurfing, now SF local, Seth Besse managed a perfect night with 5 bullets while I held onto 2nd just in front of Al Mirel.

Friday Night Formula Windsurfing at the St FYC 4-30-2010 from David Wells on Vimeo.

As the winds tapered off, it looked like things might get easier but random puffs and 30 degree shifts kept everyone on their toes until the final 5th race.
Normally I like to get my kit dialed in before I start to race it but I made the decision to run the new north 10.0 with only 1 day of training on it. I wasnt quite able to find the speed off the line as the juniors made a habit of parking right in front of me with 10 seconds to go. Sometimes racing is more about getting out of your own way than getting around in front of others. Nonetheless, I had to dig deep to claw my way back through the fleet and salvage the night.
Race 1 say Seth and I battle it it till the last tack and cross the finish within a board length of each other. In short sprint like races, like the Friday night series, every little thing counts...speed, angle, laylines. No room for any mistakes!
Race 2 and 3 saw similar conditions but Soheil got the jump and pressured Seth till the finish while I made some comeback moves to cross just in front of Al for 3rd in both races.
As the wind decreased in strength, it became apparent that a good lane off the line was essential but I still managed to find room for operator error and didn't quite pull the trigger in time. Somehow, despite double tacking the windward mark, I still managed a 3rd with some smart sailing and good tactics. Still in front Seth scored another bullet with Al in tow for 2nd.

Thanks to Arnaud for the video
In the 5th and final race, things lightened up significantly to where there where holes all around the course with the random puff pushing or pulling sailors from the lead to DFL in the course of 1 leg. I didnt quite get my head wrapped around things and used the final race for my throwout to finish the evening in 2nd.
Overall- consistent but room for improvement as I made some critical mistakes at the starts that set me back significantly.