Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 by the numbers

2015 was an another unbelievable year on the water with 164 sessions logged in 3 different counties- averaging 1 session every 2.2 days.  This year for the first time, I kited more than I windsurfed with 104 kiting sessions and 60 windsurfing.

It was my 3rd full year of kiting and almost 30th year of windsurfing.   I spent the majority of the year learning how to ride the kite foil board with 67 sessions logged. It's the first year in almost 25 years, that I didn't buy any new windsurfing equipment; however- kiteboards, foils and  more kites were added to the quiver.  My love for both sports still runs deep but I really got the foil bug this year. 
The most sessions come when the thermals turn on. This year, they dialed up in March and kept strong till October where I averaged almost 17 sessions a month during the windy season. 
I spent an equal amount of time in 2015 racing windsurfers as I did kite boards with 26 racing days on the water in 3 different local series- The StFYC Thursday Night Kite boarding series; The St.FYC Friday Night Slalom Series and the Crissy Field Slalom Series. The best results came with the inaugural Friday Night Slalom Series with a 1st place overall and 2nd place in the Crissy Field Slalom Series. Notwithstanding, the most difficult and hard work came in the Thursday Night Kite boarding Series where I went from not even being able to foil, to learning how to get around the course, to finally ending up 2nd in the B fleet.

This season, the number of DNF's surely outweighed the bullets but I wouldn't have done it any other way. The balance at the front of the fleet worked itself out with the races at the back of the fleet.
I missed a few key like the SF Classic and the Bridge to Bridge race but got plenty of time on the water this season. 
I made the most progress in the events that I struggled most with. In the Kite Foil Gold Cup in San Francisco, I was way over my head but put myself into conditions I would have otherwise backed away from. There's something about competition, that brings out the best in oneself if you keep trying and don't give up. The progress wasn't instantaneous like I would have liked it to be but rather a slow learning curve.

I increased my kite boarding time almost 200% in 2015 going from 34 sessions in 2014 to 104 sessions in 2015.   Mastering a new discipline has been way harder than I ever imagined. After 12 months on the foil, I can now foil in most conditions and even make most of my non foiling gybes. Its a long way from the first few foiling sessions where making it back to the beach was considered a big success. Even with that said, I've got long way to go before I become competitive in the kite foil fleet. I've yet to even attempt a tack on the foil board or even make one on the directional board but those are challenges to overcome in 2016. Before I even venture into the foil kites, I want to be able to master the foiling tack and gybe. Needless to say- its going to a long road ahead...But there lies the fun!

Here's a look at the season's data put into some graphic visualizations. For the record, I kept track of my sessions via twitter logging in what gear I used and complying the data at the end of the season. This allows me to see how much I use a particular board or kite and where my time were spent. 

The biggest surprise came with how much I still used the XL slalom set up of the ML 89 and 10m avanti rig- almost 20 times over the course of the year for high wind course racing, light wind slalom racing and swell riding under the Golden Gate.  Its the most versatile of anything in my quiver with a range of 10-24k. The kite foil board was the most used board in the 6 board quiver with 67 sessions logged for the season. The most used kite was the 10m Ozone Edge nearly doubling any other kite in my quiver with 45 sessions recorded. The most fun I had all season was with a custom surfboard I picked up in July, It made kiting in the voodoo chop so much more exciting. When conditions where gnarly and blowing stink on the city front, I grabbed the small surfboard with the 7 or 8m kite  and just ripped it- sending it as hard as I could.  That same set up worked great on the coast as well on the few times I sailed Stinson Beach- getting more comfortable in a new set of conditions.
This years biggest accomplishment was pulling off 2 slalom series and introducing a ton more people into slalom racing. Its a great feeling bringing new people into the sport and I couldn't have done it without the help of Soheil Zahedi and Jean Rathle- both who were instrumental in making the Crissy Field Slalom Series happen. Another big thanks goes to the St.FYC where I did the majority of my racing this year. They are by far the best at what they do year after year. Finally- a huge thanks to Mike Zajicek for repairing a broken slalom board not once but twice this season  and getting me a more stable foil which made huge strides in my foiling development. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Adventures outside the gate

Mother nature can be a cruel mistress- almost 2 weeks without wind- and the last month with only 5 days on the water after slowly closing in on 150+ sessions this season.
The thermals which had been running strong for the last 7 months shut down without a whimper at the end of October.
I tried but the northerly November AM winds were all too brief. By 1 PM it's all ready fizzled.
Never procrastinate a clearing breeze, I constantly reminded myself this fall
But the southerly storm winds were hardly any consolidation.
I watched one day- as the winds at Crissy went from 12-25k with an approaching front and veered from the north to east and then all the the way back around to the south- leaving a handful of kiters stranded offshore when it eventually died.
All the wiser- I waited and waited.
Eventfully the swell arrived in a big way but it was still too marginal to get out.
I finally broke out the big gear again and got up to the gate for 2 days of unsurpassed winter swell riding on Thursday December 10th and Big Friday where the wind and swell combined for the biggest rides of the season.
It was the biggest swell I had seen since the winter of 2012. The conditions are rare- only happening a few times a year at most. Big stacks of raw powerful sets stacked up neatly and perfectly timed for an afternoon ebb.

I'm one of just a handful of sailors lucky enough to enjoy it. There's about 10 of us - SF locals who are wind junkies- watching the forecast everyday for a chance to get out again and score the next session.  More so, I'm  just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time with the right gear,
You'd hardly think a 89cm board and 10.0 would make a good wave riding kit but you do what you have to to get to the wave.
Leaving from Crissy Field it was 10-12k but with the ebb- you're at the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in one quick tack. The 10m avanti rig is very powerful and gets going in 10k and with a 60cm fin. Combined with the custom 89cm mikes lab board- it exceeds in just about any condition from light wind slalom racing to high wind course racing and most importantly- pacific sleigh rides!

The first tack out the gate is terrifying with the huge mountains of swell surging in the gate and a strong ebb pulling you out. I still wasn't sure it would even work and Id be able to get back downwind in the marginal breeze and big ebb.  I took a few practice runs downwind just to know it was still possible and got my first taste of the big swell as it lined up near the Lime Point lighthouse and carried me down to Yellow Bluff at the base of the Marin headlands. I eventually worked my way over to the south tower where the red nun was was barely visible with a river of current bending it sideways in the incoming swell. I shot the eddy to the west of the tower and eventually slipped into the standing wave where for an instant- I was stuck in a perpetual motion machine- gliding back and forth down the face of the swell to the south of the tower as the ebb pulled me backwards. It's a surreal feeling as if trying to walk against a moving sidewalk. The rug is literally being pulled out from under you as you race down the face of a 10'-15' standing wave.
Eventually you get spit out and have to head up for some speed- catching the next set and carrying it towards Fort Point.
Every few minutes a really big 20'+ set would manage to break through- clearing out the whole line of surfers tucked in to the corner as the wave wrapped around the point.
I knew because it was breaking clear outside leaving me to drop in on 10' of whitewater. I got rick-rolled once and became separated from my gear but the ebb was strong enough and get me out of dangers way but quickly before I knew it, I was 1/2 mile out the gate.
This is where the ebb really surges. If its 5k inside the gate- it's got to be 8-10k here- raging like a river.  I caught some of the biggest swell I had seen trying to just get back to where I was 2 minutes previously. Massive walls of water barreled through lifting me up 20+ feel above the troughs below. At the bottom- there was no wind at all but I was still planing down the face of the wave with my foot firmly planted in the double footstrap just to cope.
I looked at my watch and although it had only been 30 min of riding at the gate, I knew to call it quits. My strategy is not to get to greedy in the winter. It took several long calculated runs to even make it through the gate as the ebb was building and the breeze was drying below 10k. Eventually I managed to shoot through and make it back to Crissy field just as the sky opened up and the next front passed through.
Derigging in the rain didn't seem so bad with a session like that in the books.

Big Friday came with the swell peaking at 16-23' and bigger 30' swell rolling through.
The wind was even better with 12-16k. I used the same set up and quickly found myself over my head as I worked my way out past Kirby Cove up to Point Diablo on the Marin shoreline. The experience is similar to being in the backcountry with nobody else around and nature in its finest glory.  
Otherworldly comes to mind as the swell quickly doubles and triples its size building, peaking and letting you ride for what seems like miles as as it works its way into a peak, crumbling beneath itself and eventually back to nothing  It is one of the most fantastic feelings being propelled by swell the size of large buildings and using the power of the wind to put you anywhere on the face. It's constantly changing and shifting beneath your feet.

The Potato patch is actually much further out just west of the headlands and Point Bonita but the swell continue to roll in the through the channel with amazing force. Some of the more recent maps released by NOAA paint an incredible picture of the seafloor beneath:

The ground swell was even glassier than it was previously with beautiful A frames forming and running into the San Francisco Bay from building thousands of miles away as the start of some tropical depression.
I again made my way south to where the waves were visible much bigger and breaking in a frothy white mess near the south tower of the bridge. The first swell I dropped in on stacked up so high and steep that it pitch poled me right over. Luckily I was able to water start out of it before the next set came barreling in. Heading back out the gate on port tack against the incoming waves really gets your heart pounding seeing a giant wall of water move in on you as you desperately try to get over it before it breaks. You really get a  heightened sense of awareness when sailing outside the gate as things can change quickly and you need to stay on your toes.
I rode what seemed like giants in a super short track gybing between the south tower and Ft. Point every 30-45 seconds. There's a fine line- a point of no return- near the San Francisco shore where the wind stops but the wave keeps going. Get too greedy and the next set will wipe you right out as you try to shlog back out. Time it right and you get the ride of your life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Putting it all together...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B fleet winners: David, Matt and John

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A closer look...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back to the basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting around the course

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The drone footage has been unbelievable.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

3 day bender on the city front

Thursday - July 23rd: beer can kite racing in 'fukitsnukin' conditions.'

25-30k is not helping my kite foiling campaign one bit, but I make do with what I can and head out on the surfboard & 7m kite to get more comfortable in the big breeze. I survive the night but don't get anywhere close to getting around the course. Its blowing the dogs off their chains. Foiling in anything over 20 knots still comes with unexpected results at best and bodily or equipment injury at the worst.   Do no harm is my mantra.
I've gotten about a dozen or so sessions in 25k+ conditions & direction board this season and am getting more comfortable kiting in strong winds. Like most things, it's time on the water that gives the most opportunity for improvement but I really got back the basics this week with some kite lessons from Gebi on the beach. It's amazing what a few hours of learning better kite control on the beach can do for your riding.I'm down looping now through my light wind gybes and pulling more from the center lines to power the kite.
Soon it will be time to face my demons downwind on the foil but for now it's building the basics up on the surfboard in the big breeze. I got 2 hours on the water perfecting some new skills and building up my confidence. I got in to watch the last race of the night in the StFYC BlueRush Thursday Night Series as the fleet was on their 6-7m foil kites and foil board in 25-30k making it look all too easy. The international foiling fleet is arriving slowly with the top dogs already here for next weeks Foil Gold Cup  In all good time, I slowly remind myself.

Friday July 24th: St.FYC Slalom windsurf racing.
This was the 3rd Friday night slalom race of the season with another evening of big breeze in the city front course. I'm stoked just to have gotten to the starting line this week as my board was in 2 pieces at the last slalom event in June. Local board builder extraordinaire Mike Zaijeck was able to work his magic and reconstruct everything back together again. While she won't be winning any beauty contest, she's still fast as hell and just 1/2 pound heavier. #inmikewetrust

The high wind course was set with 5 gybes from Anita rock to a finish off the St.FYC race deck.
The key to slalom racing is getting a good start and coming out of the 1st mark in good position with speed. If you can stay out of trouble the rest of the 2 min race, it's all good.

Race 1: I sailed conservatively knowing the fleet would make mistakes and I could capitalize on them. I may not be the fastest in the pack but making your gybes and not swimming around the marks goes along way to getting to the finish line in as little time as possible.
Al, CRad & Soheil all led pack on the 1st race but eventually they all went down and I was able to pick up a position at every rounding and grabbing the 1st bullet if the night.

Race 2 saw CRad  in good position again as he kept the lead to the 3rd gybe mark where he took a wide gybe and I was able to sneak inside with a tighter rounding.
Always be ready to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

By race 3 Xavier had shown up and was in full control with better board speed and nailing his starts. I had to up my game if I wanted to win. I rounded every mark just behind him for the next 2 races and never got any opportunity to even get my foot in the door.

Race 5-the breeze was still up to 18-22k and I was well powered in the 7.7 avanti m-2 rig & 42cm z fin. The fleet was early for the start and Xavier took the bait going over early. I seized the opportunity and led around the course getting the last bullet of the night and winning the evening.
Huge thanks to the St.FYC the the volunteers who mad the event happen.

Saturday July 25th- Crissy Field Slalom Series.
The 3rd Crissy Field Slalom Series of the season went off in epic conditions with 22 A and B fleet windsurfers taking to San Francisco the city front course in a building breeze and tide. By the last race it was blowing 25-30k+ with big ugly voodoo chop all over the course-perfect for slalom racing!

I was still on a high from winning the previous night and went in with the same strategy but with 22 boards on the line it would require a different approach. We ran the A and B fleets together so as to get more racing in.  PRO Robbie Dean set a 5 buoy down wind course from Anita Rock to the H beam set just west of the St.FYC with 10 Heats run from 3pm to 6pm

Race 1-I rig the avanti 7.7 and 45cm F4 fin and ML slalom board  rigged for some extra power but I didn't quite have the top end to get off the line well. As a result I was stuck in the middle of the fleet and got took out by someone not quite up to par on the mark rounding rules. While it's good to know the rules, it's better to avoid the collision. Sailing is always faster than swimming. I take my 1st throw out of the day on the 1st race.

Race 2 - out of the corner of my eye I saw a few people go down at the start near the pin end and immediately realize I'll have a few less to deal with at the 1st mark!
If you can come out with speed and power you can always gain a few positions here. I managed a good gybe and powered over 1-2 guys who took it wide but Jason Voss  had a good lead and control of the race baring any disaster. Chris Radkowski and I battled hard but I was beginning to feel the effects of the big fin. I couldn't quite put the hammer down on the reaches as Chris stayed in front of me to the finish and I get a 3rd.

Race 3- Xavier Ferlet and Jason Voss came out if the start with great speed and form. If I was going to get them, I would need to be a bit more aggressive but with already too big of gear for the conditions I had to ease off and maintain some control just to stay alive. That was enough for a 3rd place again as the pecking order was begging to get established.

Race 4- things were really starting to heat up with the wind gusting to 25k+ and the sea state getting aggressive. Soheil and Jean had a great race and maintained their place in the top 4 as I had to settled for 5th just behind the top pack.

Race 5. Hot of race 4, Soheil had the best start and mark roundings and maintained good control on the smaller 90l slalom board and 7.0 rig. He got his first bullet of the day as Xavier and I settled into the top 3.

We got a 30 min break and a chance to rig down. I switched to the 42cm z fin, added more downhaul, moved my booms down and laced my outhaul to the inner most position for best control. While I was still op'ed in 25-30k and big chop, I had better control. However there was no question, I would have been better off on smaller gear- just not motivated enough to rig another sail. This series is about finding the fun in racing again.

Race 6- Xavier and Jason got a good jump on the fleet and maintained control to the finish and I was able to hold off the rest of the fleet for another 3rd by sailing conservatively and picking up 1 board at each mark with good gybes and staying upright. The pecking order was beginning to  get cemented, so it seemed.

Race 7- The conditions were getting more challenging with the chop playing a major factor. Jean and Xavier had an epic battle in the leading positions on the last and most difficult leg to the finish with huge mounds of chop and gusty wind off the beach. Jean pushed Xavier deep and he responded by climbing above and the cat and mouse game continued till Xavier went down just before the finish in in epic fashion burying his nose and cartwheeling through the water but not before 5 sailors were able to pass him to the finish line just 100' away.
Jean took his first bullet of the day while I managed a solid 2nd in from of Jason in 3rd. Sometime all you can do is just let the others make mistakes and seize the opportunity.

Race 8-9. It's all a blur as it was so damn windy, choppy and full of confusion on the course with the full range of kiters and rec sailors acting like obstacles at every mark and reach. Not to mention- there was an incoming ocean race with 30-60'ers raging into the bay under spinnaker right through the course. I had to settle for 5th both races as it was getting hard just to get around the course without a major incident.  Jason sealed the deal for 2nd overall with 2 bullets as he looked in most control in those conditions as Xavier did his best for 2nd. Not surprisingly, Olan pulled off another solid race with a 3rd place on his wave gear and 5.0 showing it not about what you ride but how you ride it.

Race 10-  One last race to test the fleet. I gave it everything I had threading the fine line between control and sending it to the point of explosion. Just a few racers were left as conditions turned on more than most could handle.
Racers were going down hard in the last leg to the finish as the chop turned into 4-6' breaking waves and the wind was up to 30k+. Olan again managed to put the petal to the metal with the smaller gear and was gybing in full control. I surprised myself staying in 1 piece and ended up 2nd as Jason was breathing down my neck the whole race but I never gave him chance to make the pass.
Huge shout out to Olan for showing us its not about what you ride- but how you ride it!

All in all, some of the best 2 days of slalom racing we've had in awhile. Overall 3rd for the day behind Xavier in 1st and Jason in 2nd. Huge congrats to the rest of the fleet showing great form both on and off the water. Results can be found here:

A huge thanks to Robbie Dean and Jessica Barhydt  for their stellar effort on the water. You guys exceed our expectations every time!

The fleet was then treated to a post racing BBQ and awards on the beach- but with a new twist. Instead of giving the best awards to the top 3, the back of the fleet was awarded the best shwag donated from Ultra Nectar Clothing company and wind anemometers form iwindsurf.

A huge thank to the series sponsors for making this inaugural season happen: 101 Surf Sports, Adam Darriau Building and Design, Aerotech, Alamo Square SeaFood Grill, BlueRush Boardsports, Boardsports California, Fanatic Windsurfing, North Windsurfing, F4 Fins, iwindsurf, Ronstan, Sailing Anarchy, sb Design, Sports Basement, Ventana Windsports, Streetsailing, Ultra Nectar, WC Magnetics, Soheil Zahedi IT Consultant, Sandy Point Windsurfing & StepStone

I was so spent that I decided to skip Sunday's SF Classic race, one of my all time favorite long distance race so that I can recover in time for next weeks bender- 4 more days of kite foil racing in the Gold Cup hosted by the St.FYC from July 30-August 2nd.  I'm in no way ready for an event like this but all you can is try and hope you learn something and have fun in the process.

Photo credit: Eric Simonson- Pressure Drop

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Keeping pace with the Joneses

The SF Bay Challenge: take the biggest windward leeward course you can fit on the San Francisco Bay and the 2 fastest board sailing classes, add lots of wind & tide and what you get is no less than a spectacular weekend of racing from the city front down to the Berkeley pier and back.

The foil board kite surfers we're going to dominate. No question. That is if they could keep themselves out of trouble.  As for me getting down to Berkeley and back on a foil board. Simply not possible at this point. I'm lucky to make the leeward mark on the foil Kite board but not an endurance race like the Challenge yet.

I rigged avanti 10 & ml89 + 64 Kashy fin for the breeze and flood tide.
Good start with speed 1/2 way down the line. I tacked and rounded closely in 3rd behind Xavier on 9 & Tom in 9.3. The bigger sail was beginning to pay dividends at the top of the course. I even extended the lead past Alcatraz & got going very deep and fast. Ml 89 cm mini formula board has a great range but 10 was becoming all too much in the middle of the course in the steep chop and gust approaching 30k. At the leeward mark, Soheil, Eric and Jean had all made their move as I was in survival mode.
Eric who split tacks and stuck to the north side of Alcatraz challenged Tom and Xavier as they closed in at the finish. At the end it was the foil kites who dominated in just under an hour and the windsurfers in at 1:25 as Stefaans took the line honors with Erika just behind- both on foil boards and foil kites.
In hindsight I'm thinking a 9.3 may be the better high wind formula rig and light air slalom sail that makes the perfect 1 sail quiver for the 89cm board. 
This year it was all about keeping up with the kite foil fleet but I managed to pretty much forget out the windsurfing fleet. Most upgraded to the gaastra sail which has great range and speed + the JP or *167 is standard fare. There's 4 or 5 guys who can win a race in our fleet out of 7. No room for error or lack of keeping up with the Joneses.

Back up wind I was taking a beating. Port tack was straight into 3-4' breaking sets on the Berkeley shoals.  Meanwhile, Johnny Heinekin took himself out from the lead by wrapping his kite in the mast head of an approaching J105 fleet on the Berkeley circle He managed to climb the mast and dislodge his kite from the rigging but was out of the race. Great effort!

I stuck to the city front which was the wrong side as there was no relief from the flood. It took 3 long tacks to get through the city front gap at Alcatraz. On top of that the SW gust were spastic and unreliable as well as swarms of commercial traffic. 

Sunday saw the return of the breeze. I was spent - both figuratively and literally. After 2 course races in the city front the 10.0 was still too much with the gusts approaching 25k+. The top 3 fleet leaders all had 9.3 or 9.0s. Even Jean on the 7.7 and fw board was keeping pace. The 1st race I extended a big lead at the leeward mark but gave it all up upwind as the only the only real way to keep pace with a fw board upwind is by playing the uphaul with your front hand even in the gusts. Easier said than done. It was a race to the corners with long upwind legs and my angle was getting taken advantage of. I had to watch the remaining 2 races from shore as I was cashed out. Totally spent and not dialed into the conditions.


After 3 races, Johnny reappeared at the top of the foil fleet-Interesting enough with the new mikes lab foil with the kick back cant proving once again the Joneses are always evolving at a faster pace than the non Joneses. 
Huge thanks to the St. Francis YC, their volunteers and the competitors who made it through the last race for a great weekend of racing.
Photo credit- Chris Ray