This is a diary so to speak. Documenting the outdoor activities I enjoy. Currently I'm trying to master windsurfing so that subject will be covered extensively. If you read this don't expect award winning writing as it was never really a strong point for me. You may however find a cool photo or two.

Most photos can be enlarged by clicking and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

This weekend I met Hanna.

This weekend was an eventful one. RIR hosts the final Nextel Cup race before Chase the first Saturday night in September. It is one of the events I look forward to all summer. It ends up being a "Guys day". We go to the track early to tailgate. We grill some good food, drink beer and take in the sights. The sights are usually worth the price of the ticket. There is something about racing, alcohol and warm weather that lowers the inhibitions and brings out the exhibitionists. It is great fun and gets better when the drinkers inevitably go from just being drunk to being stupid drunk. I think of it as a people watchers paradise.

This year Hanna paid us a visit. No, I'm not referring to a woman at the track I'm referring to Tropical storm Hanna. She arrived Friday afternoon and commenced to stop all race activity till Sunday afternoon. It was actually a blessing because I would be able to try some high wind sailing. It may seem stupid that a person of my limited skill would look forward to sailing in a tropical storm but how else do you improve if you don't push the envelope. Of course I always take proper safety precautions. Don't sail alone, flotation vest even though the water was shallow, sail in safe location, etc... I even went out and got a helmet just in case.

The really good local sailors headed out early to catch the Southerly winds at Buckroe beach. A place that is well beyond my skill level. I held back a bit and waited till around noon. I knew that as the storm center got closer and the wind would start to shift and allow me to sail at Factory Point, one of the safer launches, in extreme conditions.

I did drive by Buckroe on my way to Factory Pt. just to see what it was like and to snap some photos of the action. The winds were SSW averaging 25 to 30 when I took these shots.

Click photos to enlarge

Unfortunately for me the crew that was there earlier had already packed up and headed home so I didn't get any action shots. There wasn't a whole lot of post session chatter but what I did read was this. (Please bear with me as this is my interpretation of the cypher.) The conditions were extreme it was all or nothing, no time to be timid. Some made it, some didn't, some ended up with busted gear.

When I showed up at Factory Pt. I expected there to be some people out sailing. Not a soul was there. The wind here was slightly offshore and really strong. It was averaging 28 mph on my handheld anemometer. There was no way I was going out alone so I sat around and waited. After about an hour A couple people showed up, looked at the conditions and determined it to be to strong and off shore for them and headed back home.

I really wanted to sail so I waited a little longer hoping the wind would drop off or someone else would show up. About 3:30 there was a message on the Letsrig mailing list from Alexander looking for a place to sail. I relayed the conditions where I was, now WSW averaging 28 and continuing to clock more west. While I was waiting for him to show the wind went due west and increased averaging 35 with gusts well over 40 for a good 20 minutes. I was thinking that I wouldn't get the chance to sail at all because there would be no way I could hold down my smallest sail, a 4.1 in those winds.

35mph average on the Back river

This is the highest windspeed I recorded. several much stronger gusts rocked the truck while I waited.

The winds did start to come back down and another sailor showed up. Craig was traveling through on his way to Myrtle Beach, SC. and decided to stop based on what he had read on the WET website regarding this launch. Alexander and John Quinn drove up in quick succession. Now it was on, 3 of us rigged our 4m sails and John rigged 4.5. Craig was the first out and it looked like the sail choice was right.

Craig setting up for a Jibe


John finishing rigging his 4.5
Almost forgot the fin.
John did well holding down the 4.5 and even had it bagged out by the end of the session.

I first tried my Cross 102. I beach started and immediately went for the straps, the tail sunk the fin dug into the sand bottom and the wind dumped me. I tried again. This time I'll try to plane first then get in the straps then hook in. That attempt ended with and explosion of spray as the sail was ripped out of my hands by a gust as I blasted across the water. Next attempt plane, hook in, then straps. Result, catapult before I could get to the straps. I decided I didn't want to destroy my board so I headed back to the launch for a board change. I was dunked twice on the way back in but did manage to sail in control a good bit of the way, no straps or harness I just kept hanging off the boom like a monkey.

I grabbed my big board the 145L plastic Hifly Matrix, put the smallest fins I had on it and set out again. I know you might be thinking... More volume in those conditions???? I did this because I was told by a wise instructor to sail what I am comfortable on when trying something new. Now I'm not one to take baby steps so I had to at least try to use the smaller board first. The problem was I could have gotten in more sailing had I heeded his advice.

On the Matrix I still had the same problem, every time I went for the straps I would explode into the water. I went back to the beach and moved the straps to the novice position and problem solved. Made a couple runs, completed some tacks even attempted a jibe or two, all with only a few minor crashes. John did give me some high wind sailing advice before I got on the water that really helped. He told me to sheet in the sail instead of out to spill power in the gusts. It worked like a charm. I was starting to get comfortable but the wind was getting holey and the water was getting pretty shallow so it was time to call it a day. It was pretty cool though. I can now say I've sailed a Tropical Storm and I also got to use my 4.1 sail. Alexander mentioned it was good that I got to use it because it's the sail most likely to collect dust around here.

Just before we left we did spot a couple people sailing the Messick Point launch and I snapped these photos. Don't know who they are but they were flying across the water.

( Edit: 1 sailor identified, Dave T. )

There were a couple things that I learned. First, the over sheeting advice from John for sailing high winds was priceless.

Second, and I have to thank James for pointing this out as I certainly would have left the board at home. For learning something new or sailing in different conditions than your use to, it may be better to use a board that you are comfortable with rather than one that is more in line with the conditions. Now this may only be true in this specific instance because of the boards design or because of the venue but it was definately easier to sail the big board. The reason I say the venue might have helped is because even though the wind was upper 20's to mid 30's the chop and swell didn't get to bad.

That brings me to the third thing Factory Point is definitely a friendly venue especially if you are working on improving you skills. Just be mindful of the tides because of shallow water.

We did get to enjoy the race on Sunday. The tailgating was not nearly as fun as usual because of the midday start and the absence of my friends Rick and Frank. They both had to work Sunday so the postponement was bad news for them, fortunately they didn't have to eat the cost of tickets. The biggest disappointment other than Johnson winning, was having to listen to the Cleveland Browns get beat by the Cowboys while sitting completely stopped in post race traffic for 2 hours.


PeconicPuffin said...

Congratulations on a fine heavy-wind experience! There's nothing like submitting ourselves to ass-kicking and humiliation like trying to windsurf in crazy winds. The best part is that as soon as it's over, we want to go back for more!

If I might make one observation/tip offering. About your beach starts where the rig got ripped out of your hands (or you got flung over the board) the challenge with getting going in high winds is that there's no way to handle all that power except by adding it in tiny increments. If you were to slow down video of a good sailor waterstarting in 30 knots, you'd see that they don't just pop up onto the board and then begin to sail. Instead, the board starts moving forward as soon as the mast is about a quarter of the way up...then they raise the rig higher while keeping their bodies very low until the board is going about 10mph, and then they finish rising. The 10mph (approx) of speed they have reduces the apparent wind in the sail enough that they don't get thrown. Nobody can hold a sheeted sail in 30 knots on a stationary board.

Make a point of getting your board moving (sailing for a second with your butt in the water) before showing the sail more wind, bringing your body up slowly. As you get more comfortable with this you'll find you can slide your feet into the footstraps before you're fully standing up.

This is easier on smaller boards, btw. When you feel ready to try it, you'll be relieved to find out that in high winds, smaller boards are more comfortable and controllable.

Outdrsmn said...

It was fun!!! can't wait to do it again.

Thanks for the tip. I can visualize what you are saying. Looking back I was trying to do the exact same motion that I do in light winds and it worked till a gust would hit. That might expain why I have a difficult time waterstarting my 5.8 and smaller sails, I'm trying to pop up too quick.

With the foot straps, once I moved them I had no problem getting to them. The front foot felt right but the back foot felt strange. So yesterday I pulled out the tape measure and checked it against the other boards. The spread of the straps is goofy. In the advanced position they are set a minimum of 5" farther back from the back of the mast track as compared to the Cross. In the forward position the front straps are equal distance from the track but the rear one is forward by 3". So I put the front ones forward and the back ones rearward and they are now pretty similar. I'll see how it works next time out.
The more I think about it, it is possible the rear strap positions are for the larger sails as I believe this board will carry up to a 9.5.

Catapulting Aaron said...

nice sesh report dude! I pictured James popping up in your head like obiwan telling you to use the force (or the big board in this case).

These last few months I've learned that the laws of windsurfing physics are totally different in high winds, at least to your muscles.

My trick to high wind waterstarting is to point the board straight into the wind after I've cleared the sail, and clock it downwind ever so slowly while slowly showing the sail more breeze. The trick for me is to just get as much breeze as I need to get back on the board, then worry about sailing once I'm up.

I used to sail marginal conditions more frequently and the first day sailing out here I was getting catapulted on tons of waterstarts because I would start with my board on a reach. Now I always start waterstarts with my board pointed upwind (in higher winds).

Thanks for the post -- enjoyed it!