Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Dinghy regatta report

Another great weekend of racing on the San Francisco city front with 91 sailors in 6 different classes spread out over 2 courses to close out our 2012 season. The formula fleet joined the kite boarders in mid afternoon starts both days while the 505's, wettas, lasers and radials all raced later morning starts and finishing by the time the big breeze rolled in.
With 6 races spread over 2 days in 15-25k, we had some great racing despite only 6 formula boards in the line up.

Our fleet is uber competitive and any 5 of those 6 sailors could win a race.
Our finishes were typically within 20-30 seconds of each other after a 15-20 min race!
There's no one sailor who has an advantage but its the one who makes the least mistake that normally takes the most wins.
Al Mirel was sailing very consistently Saturday afternoon taking all 3 bullets while CRAD, Tom, Soheil and myself all battled it out for the remaining spots. Lyn Olinger joined us as well making sure the women were represented!

The breeze was building all afternoon and all of the fleet was on their 10.0's except for Tom who was on the 11.0. It was almost as though there was 2 different breezes on the course as the inside was well lit up with lots of chop and rebound from the sea wall while the outside middle of the bay remained lighter and flatter- go figure as its usually the opposite! The tide was changing on the inside first and we had an tide line across our course most of the weekend.

I choose the high to medium air set up with the starboard 167, 64 kashy fin & avanti 10.0.
If I can get a lane and sail my own race- this set up works well.

I wasnt able to break free from the 2-3 sailors around me until Sunday when I went for better starts and gained a lane when I needed it most. I started off with a 4th as I got hosed at the start and never caught up well. Next race- I rallied back for a 2nd behind Al in a good race.
Race 3 - Tom and Al got a good jump but I was catching up on the last downwind.
With the flood tide, I was able to gybe early and take advantage of the extra speed of the flood and sail less distance I knew Tom was down there in my blind spot but couldn't tell exactly where.The avanti 10.0, starboard 167 and a small fin just rip downwind in the breeze.
The more parallel stance of the chicken straps makes it easier to push on the fin and get some blazing downwind speed.
Tom and I crossed the finish line together but he got the nod form the RC to take 2nd behind Al. When in doubt- push as hard as you can.
At the end of day 1- Al collected 3 bullets while Tom and I sat tied for 2nd.

Day 2- Breeze up so I went with the same set up. This time- making sure I got off the line well. I struggled out of the gate again starting with a 4th but quickly came back to take the last 2 bullets- ending up tied with Tom again but taking the tiebreaker on who had the better throwout. My last 2 races- I was able to shut the door on my competition at the start. I immediately went to the hand on the uphaul technique and made sure Al did not barrel over me. From there it was staying in control.  Soheil looked like he was going to get the last race but I passed him on the downwind- again taking advantage of the flood tide by sailing less distance. I also think the smaller fin and 167 goes better off the breeze than a mikes lab and bigger fin. 

At the end of the season- I finally have a better idea of what works and what doesn't and how to use that most effectively as possible.Sometimes this is the biggest challenge- just to know your equipment well enough be able to take advantage of it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Without a doubt, the level of our local fleet continues to rise every season.
It was all too evident in the last Friday night race of season when 3 of us tied for 1st place after 5 races. In the 12 + years Ive been racing windsurfers at the St. Francis- I dont ever think I've seen this happen.
Out of 5 races, we had 4 separate sailors with bullets!
It goes to show that no matter what- not only does every race count, but every decision you make on the course counts
And with the way the racing rules for sailing are (appendix b for windsurfers)- even your throw outs count when you're tied at the end of a series.

The lesson- race the series like there was no throw out!

Race 1 started with the fog and flood tide coming in strong along the city front course.
The RC from the race deck called for Course A- a quick windward leeward with 3 laylines to call in less than 6 min. The twilight series is a small sprint course that require calling exact laylines and sharp board handling skills. 5 races are run with sailors able to discard their worst scores.
13 races in the season. You can miss 2 and you have to do RC 1 time in the season.

Somewhat reluctantly I rigged for the gusts with my Avanti 10.0 and 67cm kashy.
The night before I was practicing on the course and got knocked down pretty hard a few times with some big southerly puffs at X.

I knew right from the first beat I was in trouble as I got rolled, not able to keep a lane with my medium size fin. 30 seconds into the race, I had to duck CRad's stern and go for speed. Meanwhile Eric was killing it - calling his laylines perfectly and getting the first bullet in a 14-16k breeze followed closely by CRad, Soheil and Al and myself in 5th.

A quick regroup.
I moved my boom up, my harness lines back and let about a 1/4-1/2" of downhaul off to get more power into the rig for the 2nd race.
This time around, I was able to get a clear lane off the start and immediately move into what I call my 'low end gears.' By holding the uphaul with my front hand and standing the rig upright, I was able to keep more pressure on the fin and drive the board. The technique works well with the starboard 167 as the board doesn't require a lot of power from the fin, but rather a more efficient technique from the sailor.

In fact, the board gets too over powered most of the time when there is breeze and a smaller fin is usually better to keep things under control.

Al was able to get a good inside start and B and reached the top mark just ahead. As we gybed out to get better air past Anita rock, I was starting to gain but knew the big move would be to call the layline for the leeward mark. On a short course, you can make big gains by calling the laylines better than your competitors. With the flood tide coming in strong, it also gave me a reason to understand and use the flood to carry down the extra distance. Al kept going as I gybed away but soon realized I hadnt gone far enough- even with the flood tide to help me.
I had 2 more gybes to make right around the leeward mark just as Soheil was coming in strong from the outside. I managed to keep him just behind me all the way to the seawall where I called for room to tack and we both headed up the last 1 minute beat to the finish line.
Im not sure Ive ever been in a closer finish as we were dead even going across the finish line just pinching up enough to make it around the A buoy and through the finish line.
I got the nod from the race deck letting me know I had won that battle but Soheil was far from finished.
Race 3- I kept the same strategy and went for speed off the line starting just below the pack at B but getting a good jump and immediately going the one hand on uphaul mode. I was blazing upwind even with a 67cm fin in 12-15k. The key to racing with smaller fins, I found- is to always keep the fin lit up by heeling the board to leeward and creating additional lift. Its harder to do when you're in a pack of boards with not much room to breath so getting clear air is essential to making it work. A smaller fin is usually faster if you can keep it lit.
 Shown above-uphaul technique to rail the board!

I kept my lead, called my laylines and got the bullet not taking any unnecessary risks up the final beat. When your in the lead, a more conservative approach works best.

By the time race 4 came around the flood tide had increased to 2-3 knots and the fog was as thick as mud. I went for the same thing that was working before- a conservative start in the middle of the line but a good lane with clear air. I ran down the line sailing over a few sailors gaining speed and dipped back down. With the flood tide, you can always count on the fleet being a few board lengths back from the line and can usually find a mid line sag. Eric came out just in front of me as we reached the windward mark in front of the rest of the pack after over standing the top mark and coming in strong as the flood was pushing us down. Im not sure how but Eric was able to gybe and get going leaving me struggling as the starboard tack fleet sailed right over the top of me leaving me with nothing but dirty air.
Here is where the 10.7 might have been a better choice.
In formula sailing you always want to be powered at your maximum.
Once you fall off a plane- game over :/
The sooner you can get back up to speed- the better.

As I got going again I lost track of the leeward mark in the fog and sailed way past it, almost having to sail back upwind to get to it. Meanwhile Soheil closed the gap and was right on my tail as we rounded X.
This time, I went all the way into the wall while he tacked early. There was just enough of a wind bubble on by the seawall that it took me a few seconds to get going again and Soheil took 2nd in front of me calling the perfect layline to the finish line.
Race 5 was almost a repeat of race 4 but in the last min there were no puffs coming down the inside of the course.  The best thing to do in a light wind start is to get going early to be able to plane off the line. I got off the line well, starting to pump and get going almost 30 sends before the gun. I used the speed to head down the line as the rest of the fleet stayed parked at B on the inside. With a good lead, all I had to do was call my laylines right and Id be golden.

Seems simple enough!
Try calling a layline in a 3k flood tide and a dying breeze!
I sailed past the layline and counted to 10 and even gave myself an extra 10 seconds for safety as I was ahead. The angles in formula windsurfing as such that you can look over your back shoulder when sailing upwind and if you can see the mark, you should be able to make it. When sailing upwind on a windward beat, I always keep track of the windward mark and start thinking about tacking when I look over my front should and the mark just goes out of my view.  With a ebb tide, you can tack a bit sooner as the ebb will carry you upwind. With a flood tide you need to sail past the laylines to compensate for the ground you will lose due to the flood.
I just made it around sneaking past Anita and gybed back out to the breeze outside. The downwind layline was even trickier as I lost sight of it again in the fog and had to do a double gybe to get back on course. This was enough to let Soheil back into the game as we rounded the leeward mark pretty close. I had the lead but anything was possible with just one last move to make.
This time, I made the call and tacked before I reached the light air on the inside.
Soheil kept going.
I just about had the finish line laid when I got to a lull and failed to keep the board moving and with the flood tide going strong, it pushed down enough to where I had to double tack the finish while Soheil took his first bullet of the night.
That was enough for Soheil to take his 1st regatta win of the season, breaking the 3 way tie between Eric & myself.
The big lesson tonight was calling your laylines.
It can make you into a hero or a zero.

Aweome performance by all and another great season of racing at the St.FYC.

The RC has invited us to race in the fall dinghy regatta on October 22-23 so 1 more race to look forward to this year!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

water under the bridge

5k ebb & clean peaks stacking up nicely at the south tower...

I had just gotten off an 11 hour transatlantic flight.
The recycled stale air and 3" of coach class leg room clearance had just about broken me.
I needed a fix.
The jet lag could wait.
I rode down the presidio, across the gg golden gate bridge on my bike to pick up my car in Sausalito and then down to the beach where 15-22k and a big ebb tide swell were waiting for me in the middle of the Bay.  From the bridge you could see the brown water ebbing out the gate like a river.
The tide lines lines were fantastic with the ebb tide swell setting up perfectly in front of a flat water paradise in the middle of the Bay.
I immediately took the ebb ladder up to yellow bluff at the Marin headlands were the swell was already penetrating the gate with some nice sets barreling through the slot.
The wind was in the high teens with an abundance of late afternoon sunshine coming through the golden gate. The September twilight colors are so intense that it makes you want to be the last one off the water every time.

Experience had taught me not to ever get too greedy- especially as the season starts to rool down.
Nobody like a shlog home even after a stellar session1

The avanti 7.7 and mikes lab slalom board were the perfect set up.
2 of the lightest pieces of equipment I have in my quiver and have ever sailed.
They make windsurfing so much fun as it feels like you've got nothing in your hands or below your feet at all.The board just floats over the chop and through the gybes.

Even with a cut down 44cm carbon formula fin, the board turns so nicely in the 3-4' swell that was stacking up with the outgoing ebb tide and opposing seas breeze.
The advantage of a strung membrane vs a traditional sail is amazing.
The sail feels like a rigid wing but soft enough to feel the power.

A few missed gybes and a thorough salt water flushing of 50 degree water and it was all good! Like I never missed a day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

blue moon sprint

There's hardly a day that goes by that I don't try to line up on the San Francisco Bay and sent it downwind under the golden gate bridge.
Its the ultimate sailing experience!

If I'm not there, I'm thinking about it.
Its one of my favorite places in the world to be.
Conditions are never quite the same despite the the bridge being there since 1933 towering 220 feet above mouth of the San Francisco Bay.
I've been sailing under the golden gate bridge since I first moved to San Francisco in 2000.
Id recon at least 50-75 days a year x 10 years has allowed me to see a huge variety of conditions.

The chop, the swell, the wind, the inbound & outbound commercial freighters, the wildlife, the fog, the long dronning buzz of the foghorn, the view of the San Francisco city front on one side and the Marin headlands on the other, the tide lines, the incredible perspective of sailing under the bridge with the swell lifting you up are all the things that make this place so special.

There's the north tower set at the Marin shore.
Legend has it the great whites come here as the channel runs deep and is ripe with sea life.

The South tower can create a standing wave on a good ebb tide that allows you endlessly ride the incoming swell while the tide pulls you out!

Some days, the center span can bring howling 40k gust that venturi through the coastal gaps and under the golden gate bridge and into the San Francisco Bay while the ebb runs like a a river in the opposite direction stirring up a voodoo chop of white frothy mess on the water's surface.

Other times, the water is like a sheet of silk with barley a ripple on and the flood tide running at 4-5k into the SF Bay. It days like this that you can plane across the water on a formula board without a single sound.

Ive painted the picture.
Set the scene.
Enter the 2012 Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race.
I tried to run the course a few days earlier in the week and develop a strategy based on the winds and tides along the city front and in the southern shipping channel. My goal was to stay in the breeze, gybe early if needed to and stay upright at all cost in the voodoo chop. Max ebb was a 4:54 with a 3.65k outgoing tide

I was becoming intimate with my custom double chicken strap on the starboard 167 formula board through the disorganized chaos of chop and swell on the course. This years starboard goes especially well off the breeze and Ive learned that it doesn't need a big fin at all to stay powered.
My cut down 64cm kashy fin made the ride tolerable and even somewhat enjoyable.

The last piece of my quiver was the avanti 10.0 sail.
Despite being a light wind slalom sail- the sail blazes downwind. Its my go to sail for sailing in most any condition on formula in the SF Bay.

69 other high performance sailing craft joined the fun for a 5:30 start.
Rumor had it 2 Ac 45's were going to race plus l'hydropture- an amazing experiment in fluid hydrodynamics and all out sailing power. To give you an idea of what the hydropture is capable of- take the record they broke earlier in the week practicing speed runs on the SF Bay.

In winds just above 20 knots, the boat reached 44.5 knots driven by skipper Alain Th├ębault and with the CEO of America’s Cup team Artemis Racing, Paul Cayard, aboard. That's more than 20 percent faster than even the bay's high speed ferries (which run at 36 knots). In heavy wind the boat has a top end potential of 61 knots (more than 70 mph.)
I tried lining up with her earlier in the week and got spat out like a water melon seed in the turbulence of wind and water wake as they passed me like I was standing still.

During the line up during the pre start- it became obvious the boat wasn't in a safe position with all the other kites and formula boards jetting in every direction. The took the wise move and started 5 min early for the safety of everyone around.
That however still left the Aussie 18 skiffs and kite boarders to content with as well as a handful of other foiling trimaran powered kites, extreme 40 catamarans, and what not's on the starting line.

The start was postponed as we waited for in inbound tug and an outbound freight to clear the starting area. The start line was set between the red nun buoy west of the south tower and a start boat set just north of mid span. The line was broken up into 3rds with the kite and formula boards starting in the most northern section of the line.

I knew there would be a mid line sag with the ebb and the fact the 2 mid boat lines were not sighting the line. I had Johnny Heineken just below me as we both squirted out from the pack 5 seconds early  and got a good jump on the pack at the start. I've sailed enough against Heineken that I know I can trap him, at least temporarily, by sailing beneath him and limiting his kite but I wasnt looking for any battles. I was just looking to go as fast as I could downwind 7.5 miles to the finish line set beneath the eastern most span of the Bay Bridge. Besides Ive given up on trying to beat the kites downwind while powered. They can go super deep. The only chance is when it lightens up and the formula board is back in the game again.
I continued on starboard tack off the line till around the St.FYC where I gybed back and could tell the top few kites had much deeper angles and I crossed just in front of the first skiff and held a good lead on the rest of the windsurfers. The pressure was starting to drop in the middle of the Bay so I gybed back and had a nice line just above Alcatraz.  There was a lot of disorganized chop and I was going between the chicken and the double chicken strap as the pressure went from 14-22k.
The tug that delayed our start was now bearing directly towards the finish line with the top few kites weaving around it. I choose to stay north where the pressure was as I didn't want to get trapped on the south side of the tug where the city front winds could be lighter as we turned the corner towards the Bay bridge.

The move paid off as I was still in the hunt in the top 10. Gomes went down hard just in front of me as he dipped his edge of his kite in the water while trying to stay alive on his slalom style kiteboard.
A ton of different strategies on what works best on a strictly downwind course
Heineken, who was using a course board, 13m Ozone edge kite but smaller fins had walked away at this point and was nearing the finish line. I was making some gain on kiter, Adam Koch on his course board in the lighter stuff but one or two puffs carried him 100m deeper and out of reach. Nearing the finish the top skiff just crossed in front of me but I had better speed bearing away for the finish.
It was going to be really close.
We were overlapped at the finish with the skiff finishing at the pin and and myself at the boat end.
I looked around and was happily surprised I was able to get all the other windsurfers and about 90 seconds back from the winner.
With the kites taking the top 7 positions, the first skiff just edging me out, I sat in 9th overall.
Johnny Heineken a new course record with a time of 14 minutes and 14 seconds blazing deeper and faster than anything else on the course.

Steve Sylvester was the 2nd windsurfer about a min back from me with Eric Christianson following close behind.
You can always count on the St.FYC to throw a good party and awards after the final competitors are picked up, boards put away and sails rolled up.

Johnny's secret- go fast and don't look back!


Past winners:
1998- McKee Brothers 49'er 27'-18"
1999- Bill Wier- windsurfer 25'-20"
2000- Vlad Moroz- windsurfer 21'-20"
2001- Rob Hartman- windsurfer 20'-20"
2002-Chip Wasson- kiteboarder 18'-04"
2003- Micah Buzianis -windsurfer 16'-23"
2004- Seth Besse -windsurfer 17'-10"
2005- Anthony Chazez- kitrboarder 17'-54"
2006- Jeff Kafka -kiteboarder 20'-28"
2007- Chip Wasson- kiteboarder 16'-30"
2008- Howard Hamlin- Aussie18 skiff 22'-25"
2009-John Winnning Ausie 18 skiff 19'-46"
2010- Michael C -Aussie 18 skiff 19'-44"
2011- Bernie Lake -kiteboarder (16'-15")
2012-  Johnny Heineken -kiteboarder 14'-14"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic Sailing commentary

How the non sailing world sees Olympic sailing:

Big congrats to Dorian Van Rijsselberge from the Netherlands for winning the men's fleet with 2 races to spare.
Both his training partners for the past quad also placed in the top 10- Canadian Zak Plavsic & New Zealander JP Tobin.
Their program was run by former Olympian windsurfer Aaron McIntosh.

The biggest thing I came away with after watching the Olympic sailing was from the Australian 49er team who said "It's not about your best race- It's about your worst. Make sure every race is a keeper. Every single point counts."

Friday, July 27, 2012

8 day windsurfing bender

 8 days & 32 windsurf races later this summer windsurfing bender comes to an end. We completed 8 formula races & 12 slalom heats at the US Windsurfing National Champs in the gorge this week (and for those you following- that was after a 5 day formula north American champs in SF last week.)
Going into the last 2 races my energy level was just about depleted. My muscles ached, my feet were cut, my ronstan watch was even giving me a blank face, not with its usual count down but with a WTF are you doing look!
I think the thing that got me was starting formula races at 9:45 in the morning.  
Darren Rogers saw "the cloud in the hole," which meant accelerated breeze down the gorge corridor for the last day of racing. 
I had gotten a good jump on the 1st race of the day finishing 3rd but Xavier was 5th so that meant we were tied going into the last race. The breeze was 16-18k and I was having good speed and angle on my avanti 10.0 &  zf71 fin in my starboard 167. I arrived in a pack at the top mark with 5 other racers and gybed early following Bruce back to the middle of the river. I've learned that lesson well- don't split tacks with the undisputed king of the river. At the leeward mark I had a clear lane back up the port beat upwind. I held my own with Percey in tow. We split tacks downwind and I was able to sneak into 3rd. 
Going into the last race I switched down to my 64 fin as the breeze was up to 18-22k. I tried to protect the left side of the course as the breeze was sw but alas Phil &; Xavier got an early jump on me in the stronger breeze in the middle of the river. Xavier just edged me out by 1 point to take 2nd in the formula fleet but thus is the closest I've been this season. Phil was in a league of his own making the Maui Sails look very fast & took every bullet of the series except where he was dsq'ed for a port/starboard incident on day 2. 

The call was made to switch to slalom with a 11:30 start. I hadn't even had my morning coffee yet and I was rigging my 4th sail of the day. I went with what was working best- the ml 70cm slalom board, 44cm fin & 7.8 north warp. The board comes out beautifully from the gybes and is effortless to sail. 
I know I didn't have the top speed as the top 2-3 guys in the fleet as I don't get to race slalom as much as formula but I knew I could be consistant. I had 3s and 4s from the previous days and was sitting in 5th overall for the slalom out of 44 racers. 
First race I hit the start perfect coming into the first mark in the pack but climbed right over then and was comfortably in 3rd behind Bruce &Phil 1/2 way through the race. I fell on 1 gybe but minimized the damages by only letting one guy pass me and finished a strong 4th. 

Next 2 races I was doing well but not in the top hunt as I was getting a bit OP'ed with the 7.8 in 22-25k. Normally I would have switched down to the 7.0 but my mast snapped the previous day leaving my luff sleeve with a pretty impressive 6' tear. 
Ouch! Run with what you've got.
1 more round of slalom with 3 races. For each fleet. I went down hard the 2nd race but just held it together with a top 5 finish in the last race to take the mens masters division title (just in front of Xavier!)
Bruce had a strong slalom showing so that bumped him up in the overall for 2nd behind Phil who killed it again in slalom. Tyson Poor was the only one to properly challenge him tying him in points but Phil won the tiebreaker. 
In 3rd place overall Xavier &; I tied for points but I was able to win the tiebreaker with the better throwout from the formula & slalom series. 
3rd overall ,1st  in men's masters slalom &; 3rd in formula was how I ended things. I couldn't be more stoked. I gave it my all and came out well. 
There's still some things to improve on but with Phil the great grand master still kicking my ass I think I'll have plenty if time to get it right. 

Overall a great regatta with the AWT stepping up to run the event. 
Thanks to all the volunteers who made it happen. 

Thanks to my plethora of sponsors & team that helped make it all happen:
St.FYC, Neil Pryde, Avanti, North, Starboard, Z fins, Patagonia & Mikeslab. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

US Windsurfing Nationals: Take it while you can get it.

US Windsurfing Nationals Day 3 from American Windsurfing Tour on Vimeo.

The forecast looks meager at best during this weeks us windsurfing nationals in the gorge.
Day 1 started with 3 formula course races in 10-16k then building to 14-18k before we switched to slalom where 6 heats were run.
So far consistency has paid off with no over earlies & no big bummers. Except for a slalom mast breaking in the beach I was pretty consistent with a 3-3-3 in formula behind Phil and Xavier. I used 10.7 in first 2 races before switching down to 10.0 for last race. Racing was close with the top 3 walking away from the rest if the fleet. Out front was McGain and then Xavier and finally myself battling it out. I was able to get good starts on starboard and hold my angle well upwind. The Np 10.7 really trucks downwind in the 12-15k range.
Last start I got below a few slow starters and had too work my back though the fleet. The 10.0 was well powered in 16-18k and I managed to get back to third by tacking back early in the 2nd upwind beat and getting a nice lift behind Wells island right to the mark.
We had a 30min break before switching to slalom where I again was constant with 3 4th places. I was playing it safe not trying to make any mistakes but fully charging in the 1st and 2nd beats.
After that it's kind of a parade so I must concentrated in making all my gybes. The slalom hears are divided into 4 groups of 11 sailed each so 22 on the line or each start.

US Windsurfing Nationals Day 2 from American Windsurfing Tour on Vimeo.

Day 2
Slow start for the breeze to fill in with a 1pm start & 3 course races followed by 3 slalom races.
Wind was lighter than the previous days so 10.7 was working well. I charged hard off the line and was going back and forth with Xavier for 2nd behind Phil. It can down to the last gybe where I was able to squeeze past him by pumping just a bit harder and get going 2 seconds sooner.
Sometimes that's all it takes!

Race 2 started with me winning the pin and getting a good jump on the fleet and was climbing on Phil on starboard tack but his angle seemed better better matched on port. I was running the z 71 fin with the 10.7 with good speed. Downwind I had Bruce for 2nd but it looked like the tacking angles were similar to yesterday so I tried to tack back and gain on Phil but ended up loosing Bruce as both he and Phil were able to make the layline in 1 tack. Downwind it was Bruce who just snuck by Phil at the finish but it turned out Bruce was osc.
Great lesson- keep your cover.

Race 3 started similarly with most of the fleet on starboard except Xavier was looking to comeback strong as he broke a harness line in the previous race. I switched down to my 10.0 as it was already 18-22k. Speed and angle were very good. Xavier was a bit closer to Phil charging the front while I was going back and forth with Bruce. He finally got me in the last downwind as I finished 4th.
Another 1/2 hour break and off again for 3 rounds of slalom.
I was way more consistent today at least for the last 2 races where I picked up a 2nd & 3rd. In race 1 I got hosed at the first mark with Percy sailing right over me as I went down.
The next 2 races I again charged hard making the big gains at mark 1. I feel really comfortable with the 7.8 and ml slalom. The board gybes really well and comes up on a plane soon after coming out of the gybes. I was running a 44cm carbon fin in 16-22k.
At the end of the day- sailing good but still some room to improve as always.
3rd in formula & 4th or 5th in slalom.
1 more day of racing to finish this 8 day windsurfing bender of 2 back to back regattas.

Monday, July 23, 2012

putting it all together

I'm not sure the regatta could have ended on a higher note.
I got my best results of the series on the last day with a 4-4-3 bumping me up 2 positions to 6th overall- just shy of my top 5 goal but at this point Im stoked to have found the speed and angle around the course to hang with the top guys.
Conditions weren't as hairy as the previous 2 days but rather a modest 15-22k and a flat water flood tide. The avanti 10.0 came alive in terms of performance and I was able to use it all 3 races. I had my mast track pegged a bit more forward and everything felt dialed. My starts were much better popping out from the pack and getting a clear lane to grind upwind. Its times like these when everything lines up that keeps me coming back.
Details form the race are a little fuzzy at this point but I do recall making the biggest gains right from the start off the line with good starts. My 1st 2 races I got off the line on port tack with a few others and held strong up the long beat to windward. Im beginning to finally realize what it takes to fly the 64cm fin efficiently. You really need to keep on your toes to keep the foil trimmed correctly or your angle suffers. Downwind- it's a dream through the chop and swell. 
I was playing things a bit conservatively in the flood tide by overstanding and that probably cost me 1 or 2 places but better to be safe than have to double tack the windward mark. Downwind, its just the opposite- you can take advantage of the flood tide by understanding the leeward gate and pushing hard in the flood tide for big gains.
Since we were sailing a single lap course, the legs were quite long so you needed to be aware of how sailing next to the shore would affect the boundaries of the course. I finally nailed it by rounding the leward gate and heading outside and not tacking back until I could cross last chance beach, Once there- you could tack and take advantage of the inside southerly lift and almost make the line wile the others who banged the outise corner had to deal with the flood tide across the bows and with out a doubt had to double tack the finish line.
The last race I rounded 3rd behind Al and Schurman. I had a good lane on Al upwind and was confident I had him but Schurman and the rest of the fleet went inside. Who to cover?
I stuck with my gut and went outside and the puffs inside were still random. The mistake I made was overestimating how much flood was left. When Al tacked for the finish, I waited another 10 seconds but this was too much as he called the layline perfectly and snagged 2nd. We almost got Schurman as he was struggling inside with lighter air.
Overall- very happy.
Now off to the gorge for the US Nationals.
Stay tuned.....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

finding your limit

Day 4 on the formula windsurfing North American championship was about finding your personal limits. How much could you give before breaking?
It was a battle against mother nature and she served up quite a plateful on the San Francisco Bay.
Conditions were epic for racing with 20-30k of wind, voodoo chop and sunshine.
We had 3 races with BRA999 continued to dominate but the local fleet was a lot closer giving the top  pros a run for their money. Our fleet showed them what we do best- run deep in the voodoo chop. It was balls to the walls sailing downwind in viscous chop, ferry boat wake and container ship traffic.
I started off the day with 2 4th places- my best so far but the last race kicked my ass and I had to settle for 9th. Tom and I had the same idea- start on port and get to the middle of the Bay where there was a more consistent breeze. We both found holes in the starboard tack line and poked through giving up a clear lane up the first beat. At the windward mark set near the presidio shoal the winds were already gusting 25k+. The pack rounded and immediately jetted downwind through the voodoo chop and swell. I though- just keep it together- the leaders arein sight- you might actually get this one! I charged as hard as I could getting to the leeward mark in 3rd just behind Jesper. I had a batter rounding and was climbing on him but meanwhile Xavier was putting the hammer down footing below us with better speed. I let Jesper tack thinking he didnt have the layline but he just made it and Xavier was able to speed below me just grabbing 3rd.
Next race- same scenario- Tom and I on port. The fleet was tight at every mark. One mistake and you were shot out or swallowed alive. I literally saw CRAD get swallowed by a ferry wake at the leeward gate. The last upwind was brutal. I found myself in 3rd again but with Tom on my weather hip., We both had similar speed and angle but as the beat wore on I was getting knocked down in the 30k puffs with my 9.5 rig. I tacked only because I could keep my body contorted any longer. Luckily it was right on the layline but Tom just edged me out for 3rd.
The last race kicked my ass. I fell on my gybe downwind and was out the back door.
Oh well 2 out of 3 would have to do.
Im still only 1/2 way done with this bender as the US Nationals start on tuesday in the gorge.
Pace yourself is my matra

Saturday, July 21, 2012

local knowledge vs internationa lexpereince

Our fleet has stepped it up today with local knowledge paying off. Despite Schurman continuing to dominate, Eric & Al set the bar high continuing to charge the top 5.
The course was changed to a single windward/leeward with 2 mile legs so
the long beats & current played a big factor.

I've been struggling to put together a decent regatta this week with some good moves around the course but nothing yet that has popped me in the front pack.
An OCS in race 4 put a damper on my first race of the day as I came out of the gate a bit too strong but continued the race anyway & got a 5th. I rounded the leeward gate just in front of BRA999 & held him off on the long grind upwind. Good practice even if it ended up not counting.
Next 2 starts I was a bit more timid and paid the price again getting a 2nd row start. . In this fleet you can't make any mistakes & have to be on your A game every minute or else someone will be there ready to capitalize on your mistake.

Finally in race 3 the breeze and chop were up giving the locals a chance to shine. The ebb had started on the inside and the breeze was gusting to 25k+
outside.  I got taken out when I had to duck below a 50' sailboat sailing right through our windward mark layline. The wind shadow ripped the rig right out of my hands. Ouch.
I rounded the top mark deep in 8th but had a brilliant downwind catching up to 4th as there was some carnage on the inside of the course where Jesper and Al went swimming.
Downwind through the voodoo chop I made some gains sailing right to the gates while others overstood.
The regatta is at it half way point with the leaders settling in but still opportunities to make gains.
Top 5 is still within grabs!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 1 report from the trenches.

It's all out the comeback I remind myself as I dig a deep hole at the end of day 1.
Overall a great day of racing but the odds did not seem to be in my favor. 8-8-5 finishes in marginal conditions then a good race when the wind came up.
On top of it all my file for redress got denied for a technicality. Ouch!
The jury was pretty insistent that I hailed protest despite informing the RC after the race & informing the protestee that I intended to protest after I found him on shore. But rules are rules & I won't make that mistake again. Yell those magic words after any incident just to cover your ass!

video via Patrik Pollok
Race 1 started as the ebb built. I went out early on my 10.0 & 64 thinking breeze up at any moment but came in to switch to my big fin.  I headed into 1st start with power but got taken down at the start by a barger who dropped their sail on me. I made an effort to come back but never got through the mid pack in the 2 lap race. The  breeze was shifty 12-16k going back & forth from sw to NW puffs.  I even overstood finish letting  Crad slip in there. Eric & Al sailed a solid race grabbing the top local spots while Wilhelm slipped in there grabbing the bullet & Jesper had to settle for 2nd. Avoiding the obstacles is foremost in putting together a good series.
Race 2. Wind was still up & down & shifty. Fog cane in mixing it up alot.
I let off 1/2" of downhaul & bumped my booms up for more power as I didnt have enough time to switch rigs.  The course was shortened but I didn't take notice. I paid the price. I overstood the top mark & the finish line giving up 3-4 spots. Ahhh! Not as bad luck as Jesper who broke a boom. Wilhelm again took the bullet with the 10.7. I felt like I had great speed downwind gaining a few spots but just need to kept my head in the game.
Race 3 we had a break onshore while the kites went out again. Breeze was building. I switched to 9.5 & 64 fin and found the edge. It was a 1 lap race. I played the breeze & gained a few boards downwind outside and was in the hunt at the leeward mark with Tom & Xavier just ahead leading the charge to the shore as Wilhelm & Jesper sailed outside to the breeze. Xavier almost made the cross at the end but Jesper prevailed and got the bullet. I was 5th but felt more solid in the breeze.
3 more days to get it together.

photos via @stfyc

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Practice race

Day 1 of my 8 day windsurfing bender: 5 days of racing FW North Americans in SF then off the gorge for the US Windsurfing National Championships. Video by Patrik Pollok

Monday, July 16, 2012

the early years

 I'm working on an 'interpretive display' for our community out reach at Crissy Field for the GGNRA requirements to host our upcoming event there and came across some great history of the sport via the Original Windsurfer site.. The timeline there tells the story month by month in the early days of the sport and how it developed over the course of time. 
Enjoy- and be sure to stop by Crissy Field this week to see the display!

 windsurfing- the early years

1969: The year the sport got it's name

Hoyle and Diane Schweitzer commissioned Malibu Yacht Club member Phil Wilson and
his wife Buoy to make a promotional film to play at boat shows.



Nor Cal Windsurfing



1978 labatts beer comercial


1977: The end of the first decade

 Paul Hengstebeck's footage captures the Windsurfer lifestyle.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Local knowledge

Local knowledge goes a long way after you've been sailing the same course since 1978.
 "It was a good advantage to be screwed before," noted Chip Wasson who's the only sailor to have won the event on a windsurfer and also a kite board.  Chip took both the SF Classic & Ultra Nectar Challenge this year beating the rest of the 35 board fleet of kite boards & formula windsurfers with an elapsed time of  just over 2 hours on the 50 mile + tour of the San Francisco Bay.

The legend begins not with Mr. Wasson but within the annals of windsurfing history.
The San Francisco Classic dates itself as one of the oldest continuing running long distance windsurfing races in the world.
The start is off Crissy Field with the first leg to windward around a huge nun buoy beyond the south tower of the golden gate bridge where a washing machine of eddies and waves churn. Next the reaching begins- off to starboard to a stationed boat near the north tower and then back to the city front. (In 1982 a second triangle around the above course was added.) The course crosses the Bay 8 more times. Racers must sail either below Alcatraz to Blossom Rock and then close reach back to the nastiest mark on the course- Point Blunt on the southern tip of Angel Island. There the wind accelerates to 40k amidst swirling currents and standing waves. After Blunt, it's all down hill broader reaches and easing winds, except  that the racers are usually too spend to appreciate it. The final insult comes when the wind lightens so much that pumping is required for the last 1/2 mile reach to the finish at the eastern most gap in the Berkeley Pier.

The story goes, that after winning year after year and waiting for the rest of the fleet to finish at the bottom of the Berkeley Pier, Robbie Naish casually sailed back upwind to the St, Francis Yacht Club while the rest of the fleet hopped in their waiting cars with their boards strapped to their roofs crossing the Bay bridge back to city and the prize giving.

There lies the start of the next challenge or aptly named- "The Ultra Nectar Challenge."

Racer's finishing time for the SF Classic is their starting time for the UN Challenge. The course is a free upwind leg with no marks except for the finish line set in front of the St.FYC on the San Francisco city front.
Its the only race I know of that requires you to sail a 22 mile downwind slalom course  in order to start the next race.
An epic feat of proportions any way you look at it!

This years race was no exception. With a full moon just days before the flood tide was raging at almost 4 knots under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Red Nun looked like it was being towed upwind with waves stacked up on its windward side.
Any experienced racer of the SF Classic will tell you its equally about playing the wind and the currents and this is how the race was won- just 5 minutes into the 2 hour + journey.
At the start of the race, it was only 8-12k and a glassy smooth up swelling but that would change just 10 min into the race when racers had to gybe around a hellish field of voodoo chop at the north tower with puffs already into the high 20's

Both Chip and Tom Purcell lead the charge and sailed up through the gap between the South Tower and Fort Point getting some relief from the 4k flood pouring in through the gate while the rest of the fleet (myself included- d'oh) sailed almost twice the distance under the mid span in the hardest part of the flood tide. By the time they rounded the first mark they had practically already won the race as they had a 4-5 min lead coming into Anita Rock for the downwind reaching trip to Berkeley.

Thanks to Arnaud for the photos from Crissy from the start, the bottom of the triangle and the Anita rounding
I lead the rest of the port tack fleet up and under the gate getting to the lay line then sailing another 30 seconds past to account for the flood. I came in strong and was 3 or 4th at the top mark battling with  Soheil just on my tail.
I ate it at the north tower gybing in what looked like the largest mogul field you've ever seen on a 45 degree double black diamond icy mountain slope. The rest of the fleet however was still struggling to get around the top mark fumbling in the flood tide.  I caught up again with Soheil after rounding Anita and off to Harding as I had a bit more power with starboard 167 in the lighter patch just off Anita. Once we got close to Harding Rock  things began to heat up again with the puffs in mid to high 20's and a decent amount of voodoo chop to contend with. We both sailed below Alcatraz getting as close to the island as possible without losing the wind.
Blossom Rock was another mine field.  The wind was gusting to 30k+ and the race wasn't even at it hardest point yet.
Gybing was not really an option but more so just turning the board and flipping the sail over to the other side as to avoid falling in and being sucked up by a black hole of churning voodoo chop.
I wasnt so much sailing but surviving. There was no way to put the pedal to the medal even with a 64cm fin a 9.5 rig but falling would require even more effort to get going again. I kept charging even with Xavier sailing through my lee and passing me at Point Blunt.  I really didnt care that I was getting passed I just wanted to finish this race and be done.
Another harrowing reach back to R2 and back to R4.
This is where I made my mistake and let Soheil get past me. I carried on further on port tack past R4 while Soheil gybed right away. As I came into the top of the Pier I could see he had a good lead but the one rule of thumb Ive learned over the years is to never ever give up. Anything can happen.
Sure enough he went down on his last gybe at the X buoy on the Olympic circle.
A charge went off inside me telling me to push a little bit harder.
But alas not enough time to real him in as I finished in 6th place letting Headington sneak past me on his kite somewhere along the ride.
I was spend. I mean really gone. I had no energy for the upwind ride back home so I decided just to sail back conserving as much effort and not really focusing on the race. I tacked when by back start hurting, Stopped again to lower my boom. Stopped again to lower my booms again. The wind was gusting into the mid 30's with no relief in sight.
I had a brief moment of adrenalin as I saw Tom down with his second broken mast of the week.
There's one more spot I thought to myself but I really couldnt keep in going after getting knocked down several times upwind
10 min back behind the leaders I finished but nearly collapsed in the parking lot from exhaustion.

Thanks to Arnaud for the photos from the race deck at the finish of the UN Challenge
That was the toughest race Ive ever done but I didnt even have a decent story to tell compared to waht happened behind me.

Jean nearly collided with a container ship on the way downwind as he was sailing directly across its path. The safety boat reached him at the last second and they made a  effort to flag him away. He made a effort to gybe but looked over his shoulder and saw the bow of the freighter coming down on him. That's when he decided to jump off his board and swim away- which probably saved him as his gear was tossed like a rag doll form the bow wake.
Soheil had a equally harrowing experience as  his board and rig got away from him  in one of the 40k puffs and went cartwheeling down wind end over end. He swam for 5 min to catch up and just barely made it before his gear crashed onto the rocky shores of Alcatraz.

The kitemare stories coming in were pretty harrowing as well with one kiter wrapping his lines up on the south tower and having to climb up the base tower on the small ladder to get rescued sans kite.

A huge congratulations to the  22 sailors who finished the race and for Tom for showing that Xavier is indeed beatable.
Also a huge thanks for all the RC, volunteers and chase boats form the St,FYC .
SF classic results
UN Challenge results

dueling winds- sf classic day 2 course racing

The iwindsurf forecast was spot on for Sunday for the SF city front
Dueling competing NW & SW winds fighting for control
The gusts were spastic and sailors 50' away would be getting lifts while others would be getting knocked.
To say the least- it was a challenging day of racing but everyone had to deal with the same conditions.
By the last race however, the wind jumped from 10-15 to 35K and only 3 of us were able to make it around the course.
I used the opportunity to try to test my 10.0 in as many conditions as possible.
The big difference was rigging with more downhaul.
The sail performed well but the 68 z f series fin felt a bit too soft especially in the spastic gusts where I would get completely lifted out of the water and spat down like a fly. Believe me- I wasn't the only one.
Cm by cm I moved the mast forward after every race for better control and by the last race it was pegged almost all the way forward.  I still think the track could be a bit more forward on the *167.
Its really important to know the limits of your equipment and to take advantage of switching to the optimal sail or fin when you've got the opportunity- or else others will .  Even how you trim your sail or your mast track position can affect  a lot of things

Thanks to StFYC for the photos

Our fleet is really tight and any number of sailors can win a race on any given day.
Tom took the weekend by surprise winning the SF Classic and the course racing on Sunday.
His equipment was optimized for the conditions.
The north 10.0 and 9.3 like a lot of wind and that's pretty much what we had.
Toms using a 68 kashy and a dialed in L10  so no excuses from his quiver.
Xavier ended up in 2nd but I could tell in the lighter stuff he was suffering on 9.0 and 61 cm fin in terms of angle.
We had 1 race where it was only 8-12 at the start and you had to stat in the pressure otherwise you were screwed.
The trick is just not to get stuck below as you'll be footing at the same angle while the rest of the local fleet pinches in the puffs.
I snuck ahead of Soheil in the last race of the series otherwise he had me in almost every race.
He's found his optimal trim conditions with his NP evo4 9.5, ML12 board and ifju 67 fin.
Awesome to see him get it all together as dialing in your kit can be one of the hardest things to do.

I was a bit up and down in terms of performance although you cant expect a results if you start in the 2nd row, I got screwed 2x upwind off the starting line in bad air and had to foot like crazy to get a lane I could sail in.
Downwind Im still very impressed with the 167.
It goes really well except when it gets too over powered.
Im finding you need to fin down sooner as the board already has plenty of power
Upwind there's a fine line of too much power or not enough.
Ive experienced the 71 Z F to be too flighty in anything over 15-16k and chop but also the 64 kashy to be not quite enough upwind when its not completely lit.
Still searching for those optimal trim settings....

Race 1 saw Xavier edge out Tom, Soheil in 3rd and myself in 4th as I got hosed off the start and didn't have enough time to recover in the 18min 2 lap races. Everyone's got their stuff dialed and there's no room for error.
Race 2 saw me ducking Eric off the start as I started on port but ended up with Soheil on my hip and no room to breath so I again went to foot and lost a lot in the 1st 20% of the race. Downwind rounding the gate- there was only one option- to go back inside and get the shore lift. A parade but it kept you on your toes. The spastic gust made it interesting as racers on the same tack were getting lifted and knocked.  Again 4th
Race 3 was really light at the start. In fact light enough that you need to stay up on the line almost 4 min before the start. I immediately tacked over with Soheil 20 seconds after the start to get back in the fresher breeze in the middle of the Bay while Tom, Xavier and Eric got stuck on the inside. Downwind it got lit up pretty quickly and Tom ate it on his gybe and it was clear sailing into 2nd as Soheil maintained control and got the bullet. I nearly lost it heading in the seas wall from the  leeward gate as I got a spastic gust that lifted me right out of the water. Luckily it spat down into a waterstart position and was able to recover relatively quickly.
Race 4- My mistake- not rigging down as Tom switched down to 9.3 and Xavier was already on 9.0. The wind shot up to 35k + on the first upwind. It was stupid windy to the point where control was the only issue with my 10.0. Tom just edged out Xavier for the win while I held it together for 3rdedging out 'Mr Comeback' Jean Rathle!
Never ever give up!

Thanks to StFYC for the photos and great day of racing

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday night smack down

5 races tonight in a gusty 15-25k breeze & big flood tide. It looked pretty tame by the time we rigged at 4:45 and I was almost ready to rig the 10.7 in anticipation of a dying breeze but Im glad I didnt as the city front spastic puffs rolled through making it a hang onto your pants kind of day!
Race 1- I started just I windward of Crad & he pinched me off on the 1st upwind as I was still trying to dial things in. I footed below him, rounding 2nd  but caught up on the downwind passing right over him on the 1st reach. Gybes were super sketchy as you had to do 3 in about 30 seconds in course B.
I rounded just behind him at leeward mark and he exploded on his tack near shore as the puffs were really coming in strong. I tacked and it looked like I would have it but got a big knock just at the finish forcing me I do 2 tacks and CRAD got the win by a few feet
I was super op'ed so I came in between races and put 1/2" more downhaul on and  had better control the next race
Race 2 slow getting to start line as I left beach at 4 min and got rolled again with Crad jumping right over me off the line.
Big puffs were super spastic & the fleet was getting lots of knockdowns. I heard a big bang off the start and looked back to see Tom had just broken his north mast right off the line. (That's the 2nd north mast in a week that broke as Eric suffered a broken mast on his way out to the Calcup last week.) I barely held onto 2nd as the Fz 71 was as still very powerful and I was getting lifted right out of the water in several of the big puffs.
I came in and switched down to zf 68 fin and had much better control in 3rd race but got screwed at leeward mark rounding in front as the GGYC big boat fleet was starting and Eric snuck in there to take the bullet while I managed another 2nd. Sometimes its all about timing and there's not much I could have done.

Race 4- I didn't call layline on flood tide again and sailed too far. Eric stuck in there again to get to the top mark 1st. He's got good speed in big breeze both up and down and I couldnt catch him at all. The good news was my equipment was starting to feel very comfortable in the breeze and no problems on startboard tack like I was having before.2nd again but happy.

Last race. Good speed and angle all around leading the race but carried it to the wall too far and got stuck in a really light spot letting Tom get the last bullet just overlapped at the finish.
Overall- good leaning more about the equipment. 10.0 avanti sails better with 1-2cm not downhaul than I had before. Z 68 fin has much better control and still good speed and angle. I m beginning to get a much better feel for my quiver- knowing how it will react in what conditions but in hindsight should have had the 9.5 ready to go as that's the better high wind sail.
I made several small mistakes costing me 2-3 bullets but sailed consistantly 2nd with 5 2nds.
Eric took the bullet for the night grabbing 3 bullets while the rest of the fleet sailed somewhat inconsistently in  crazy puffy winds.  At the end of the day, its not really how the rest of the fleet sails but how well you sail against yourself!

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Registration is open for next months North American Course Racing Championship for the Formula Windsurfer & Kite boarding fleets hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club-
5 days of races are planned with the starting line just off Crissy field on the San Francisco city front from July 18-22nd.
Bring you 'A game' because this ain't your normal dog & pony show.

Each fleet will be racing with their own start and a combined 'Round the rock' race will be held at the conclusion of racing on Sunday where kites & boards will attempt to navigate around San Francisco Bay's most famous rock.

See you on the starting line,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

CalCup 3- still learning...

Getting rolled off the start...
Getting passed to leeward...

These cant be signs of a good regatta but depending on how you look at the mistakes you make, can determine how well you succeed.

photos via Lyrah Colvin

I used this past weekends Calcup as another round of testing before the big events in July on the city front and in the gorge. I played with a few downhaul settings on the avanti 10.0. Some worked. Some did not.
I tried my small fin in medium breeze. It worked well when I had clear air and room to foot but the moment I had to fight to keep my position on the first beat or around the leeward mark, I was suffering.
The 64 kashy is great for downwind and more than manageable upwind but there was to be sufficient breeze to keep the foil lit up. On the other hand- Ive been having good success with the Z 71 F fin in terms of being able to pinch well in the flat water and flood tide. The softer tip becomes a bit of a liability downwind in the breeze. The one fin Im anxious to dial in more is the 68 Z F.
Having good equipment is golden but knowing how and what limits your equipment can perform at its best is priceless.
Im still feeling boom height plays a huge role in upwind performance.
More so on this years starboard 167 than any previous board Ive sailed.
The higher I can run my boom, the better angle I have.
That is, up until a point where a high boom is preventing you from keeping the nose of the board down when it starts to get overpowered. Then. when you're overpowered, the low boom is better for control.

2 good races in 2nd & 3rd and 2 mid pack races were enough to give me an idea of what was working and how far I could push my small fin- not too far!

Xavier look comfortable on the 167w and NP9.5 taking all the bullets with Tom stepping it up on his North 10.0 for 2nd. Interesting to see Xavier running his mast all the way forward in the track for control. Im pegged at or just forward of the recommended trim settings with my 9.5 and 10.0.

Although I haven't had as much time as I would have liked on my NP evo4 10.7, Ive been relatively successful with making the 530 x9 mast work in lieu of the recommended 550 x100. Crad and Al have found the 10.0 evo 4 is working much better with the older 530 x9 mast vs the newer recommended 520 X100 masts. With that said, I expect them to up their performance in the next few weeks and for it to be very close racing for the North American Championships next month.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June triple header

Racing on the San Francisco city front course can bring plenty of surprises.
There's the 40k+ gust that hit you like a slap in the face!
There's the 4' voodoo chop that can stop a keelboat in its tracks!
There's the 5k ebb that that makes calling any layline nearly impossible!
There's the ferries, commercial fishing boats and freighters who go right through your course!
I wont even begin to mention the 40 degree foggy & cold summers...

But this past weekend- we had none of that.
For the first time in ages, we had a pretty civil conditions racing on the city front course with a flat flood tide, sunshine & a manageable 14-22k of breeze every day.
The Formula windsurfers and kite boarding fleet had 3 days of spectacular racing from the St. Francis Yacht Club.
Racers were treated to a combined Friday night series with the kites joining the windsurfers for a make up race on the outside course; a combined long distance race to Berkeley and back on Saturday afternoon and 5 more course races on Sunday afternoon.

Overall- pretty stoked with podium finishes every day!
I introduced a new sail (err..Technora fiber loadpath membrane) into my program the last 2 weeks and finally got a chance to race with it for 2 out of the 3 days
The avanti 10.0 performed really well right from the start. Despite being built as a light wind slalom sail- it's got great stability and control in the puffs and great range.
The biggest difference from my other formula sails is the weight- almost 1/3 lighter!
Oh yea- its pretty dam sexy too- in a twisted carbon, laminate polymer kind of way...


The Avanti website gives a pretty good explanation of the technology involved in membrane sails.
I was impressed right from the beginning.

Avanti Machine M-1 from Avanti Sails on Vimeo.

Despite starting strong on Sunday and finishing a bit slow- I learned a lot about the new sail.
Unlike most other formula sails that have 1 downhaul setting, the avanti 10.0 has a 1-2" range.
The big mistake I made was not to add more down haul as Sunday's breeze increased.
But any negative you can turn into a positive is worth it's weight in gold in your long term performance!

Friday night began with a roar.
Literally as the wind was 20-30k
I opted for my NP evo 3 9.5, 67 kashy and starboard 167 for the best control around the course.

At the start of race 1 I had my booms set 1/2 way down in the slot just to keep the nose of the board from flying around
As it lighted up to a reasonable 18-20k, I raised them back up and subsequently got better angle.
The starboard 167 has great speed downwind.
It's the quality Im most impressed with on that board.
If I'm behind the pack, I'm usually able to pick up a board or 2 on the downwind legs with better speed.
In the 1st 2 races, the north crew on their 9.3's showed really good form.
That sail works really well in op'ed conditions and Al and CRad pulled ahead.
However as it lighter- the NP evo 9.5 and starboard 167 combo pulled away with better speed.
I managed to get the last 2 bullets but with a 2nd and 3rd in the 1st 2 races, I was tied for 1st with Al who's throw out was a 2nd and thus got the tiebreaker. It just goes to show- at the end of the day you're fighting for your best finish even if it's your throw out.

Saturday's Ronstan Challenge was a combined start with 24 kites and 16 formula boards for a 24 mile windward leeward course from the San Francisco city front to the gap in the Berkeley Pier and back. The conditions were light at the start with 14-16k of breeze and a flat flood tide running all day but the forecast was for big winds later in the afternoon.
I choose to use my new cut down kashy 64 and 10.0 avanti so that when it got windy, I would be prepared. Plus you want to be comfortable for a long distance race.
I opt'ed for a port tack start with most of the fleet but got shafted out of a front row start by a flurry of kite lines all around me.
It's a long race I thought to myself- settle into it.
I rounded the windward mark behind  the top 5 kiters and Xavier and Tom who managed a great start pulling away from the rest of the fleet.
As I looked back, it could have been worse and a lot of the fleet was double tacking to make the top mark.
I settled in for the long ride down to the Berkeley pier passing Tom just above Alcatraz and trying to pull in Xavier.
The 64cm fin made the downwind ride almost a pleasant experience.
Really-  it's a whole different game when you're not fighting the fin for control.
I was pleasantly lit but not over powered.
The avanti 10.0 was really stable pulling like a truck despite being a flatter light wind slalom sail.
I pulled the track strap pretty tight to put some draft in the lower 3rd of the sail.

Mike Z was putting on the pressure from behind as I saw him a few times but never let him pass me.
At the leeward mark- set just north of the gap in the pier, I rounded with a group of kiters and Xavier with a 30 sec lead.
The top kiters were dominating with Johnny pulling a horizon job heading back up the city front.

Photos by Chris Ray
As I made my first split form Xavier, my game plan was starting to develop.
I tried to stay in the lee of Treasure Island and Alcatraz to avoid the flood tide.
Xavier choose to go up the north side of the Bay so I opt'ed for the city front as thats the only was I knew I could beat him.
I was having a good tacking battle with Tai on his kite up the city front and lost track of Xavier on the other side of Alcatraz.
My heart was racing knowing that I might just take the top spot for the boards.
Soheil was making up some distance from behind in 3rd so I had to put my efforts into covering him and not loosing the left side of the course.
As I made my last approach to the finish line set in front of the club, I saw Xavier come flying across the other side of the Bay from what seems like nowhere but the kid's got some real speed. He crossed me on the last tack and got the bullet for the windsurfers while I held onto 2nd and Soheil in a close 3rd.

I didnt feel as fast upwind with the smaller fin in the medium breeze as Im usually a pincher but the small fin takes a different sailing style.
You need to get the flow around the foil first and then come up for angle.

Sunday's course racing started off great. I got an early start and sailed the course and developed a strategy for the day.
The flood tide was building all day- stronger on the inside early then building in the middle of the bay as the day went on.
However- the breeze was pretty weak on the inside.
It would be a gamble to go there downwind unless it was filled in.
My plan was to stay in the breeze at all cost and take advantage of any inside port tack lifts and flood tide I could.
I started off with the avanti 10.0 and Z F 71 fin. The fin is soft and allows great angle when pinching- especially in a flat flood tide. In the ebb, I find it easier to use a smaller fin when the chop is more of a factor.
Race 1 started with winning the pin end on port and holding my angle upwind well. I rounded in 1st but carried it into the shore too long while the rest of the fleet immediately gybed out for the fresh air. I was able to grind them down one by 1 and grab the bullet. 
That's the way to start!
Race 2 was similar but I had Xavier on my hip 3 out of 4 legs. I was able to pinch him off on port tack 2 out of the 3 upwinds and just missed calling the top layline and let him get an inch which he turned into a few feet. Downwind I noticed the 167w he was on was going a bit deeper in the lighter stuff and he put some more distance on me and I finished 2nd.
Race 3 is when I came in and switched down to the 67 kashy as the breeze was up to 18-22k.
My mistake was not putting more downhaul on and switching gears on my sail like I did with my fins.

For the next 3 races I felt really over powered - especially on starboard tack.
Its the tack you need to foot more on as the flood tide is 90 across your bow vs right into it on port tack.
Soheil was able to pass me on the last 30 sec starboard beat the the finish to grab 2nd.
He subsequently sailed a very consistent series while I struggled to pull it together and just managed a 4th and 5th as it got windier.
He's got his ML12 and NP 10.0 dialed and that allowed him to sneak into 2nd overall while I held onto 3rd overall.
Meanwhile Xavier walked away with the rest of the bullets.
A solid performance on his part.

In the kite fleet, Heineken continued his domination with 5 more bullets.
Final results can be found at the STFYC site