Tuning Tips by Tiesda You

A windsurf board normally has three tuning points: the fin, the footstrap positions and the mast track position. We normally tune boards in the following order: footstraps position first, followed by the fin and finally the mast track position. Because the Start is a board fitted with a daggerboard (sometimes also called a retractable centre fin), it's also important to know when to use the board with the daggerboard extracted, and when to use the board with the daggerboard retracted.

Footstrap tuning

The Start comes with three footstrap position options. These three positions cater for the beginner, the intermediate rider and the advanced rider respectively. The three positions are shown on the diagram below. Your board would be delivered with a printed copy too.

Footstrap tuning is divided into two groups: back strap position and front strap position. The straps should be fitted in that order too, since the position of the back strap determines the ideal position for the front strap. We definitely recommend using matching settings for the front strap and back strap. For example: if you choose to use the intermediate settings, make sure both the front and back straps use the intermediate settings. It would be very difficult to sail the Start with the front strap in the advanced position and the back foot in the beginner position. In fact, that would be pretty much impossible unless you were a contortionist.

Beginner position: you'll that these positions are very much centred on the board. They're close to the mast track where the sail connects with the board. Having straps in these positions is designed for sailing in very lightwinds, with small sails and little power - this is how beginning windsurfers sail. The board will remain stable, you can manoeuvre the board by raking the sail forwards and backwards. Some people also don't find the need to fit the footstraps for beginners altogether, which is fine as well. They are designed to help you stay steady and you don't have to worry so much about where your feet should be while sailing forwards.

Intermediate position: these settings are for windsurfers who are confident with windsurfing with more power and larger sails. To use these strap positions, you need to be at the stage where you are windsurfing with enough power in the sail that it allows you to hang off the boom, arms extended, leaning back with the only wind in the sail keeping you from falling back. You're pretty much planing, and skimming over the water and a fairly exciting speed. Because the intermediate strap position is further away from the centre of the board, it allows you to apply more power from the sail and into the board. We've designed the deck of the Start so that it's really comfortable under your feet, with a natural deck curve that allows you to grip with your feet. Lean back against the power in the sail, extend you arms and enjoy the ride. If you are reading this and are progressing towards this stage, I can promise you that this milestone known as planing will change your life for ever.

Advanced position: these are the positions that are the furthest away from the board's centre, and compared to the intermediate positions, they allow the rider to put that much more power into the board to generate more speed. As the name suggests, you need to have relatively advanced skill to windsurf in these positions but it's not beyond reach. Once you've progressed from beginner position to intermediate position, you're on a learning curve that will quickly see you blasting in the advanced positions, enjoying the thrill of pushing the board to its limits and windsurfing at pretty high speeds.

Once you've decided on whether to use the beginner, intermediate or advanced positions, it's time to screw the straps in to place. Always start with the back straps. You'll notice that the inserts for the straps have two or three holes. This allows each strap to be adjusted forward or backward in 2.5cm increments. If three holes are present, the middle hole is the one we recommend - this is the position we've been using when we test the boards and it's the position the majority of our team riders use. If you select the hole in front, the board would give you more control and planing is easier. If you select the hole behind the centre hole, you will get more power from the fin but control will be more difficult. In some positions, we have chosen to only have two holes to help save weight - in this case the back hole tends to be the option we use and therefore the one we would recommend. The front one would be used if you need more control and easier planing.

Each strap is fixed via a screw at either end of the strap. If you are going to use the middle hole for example, always make sure you use the middle hole for both ends of the strap - it'll give you a strap width of 15.5cm - a common width that works for many people. Of course, if you have very small feet, very large feet or wear boots while sailing, you can select a different hole that would increase or decrease the strap width by 2.5cm.

Remember to place the K9 insert in between the board and strap - it will greatly reduce the chances of the strap twisting. Also ensure that you fix the strap with as much screw tension as your arms can apply. Many people under estimate how much screw tension is needed, which means that the strap will sit loose, twist and over time, also undo itself. In the worst case, a screw can shear out and leave you with a damaged hole.

So now your back strap is set.

For the front strap, we also recommend the middle hole. If there are only two holes, we would recommend the hole that matches the one you selected for the back foot, whether it's the front or back hole. If you are particularly tall or short, or if your riding style requires a shorter or longer stance, then you can select a different hole that would increase or decrease your stance in 2.5cm increments.

So your straps are set, now it's time to fit the fin.

Fin tuning

Because our Starts are fitted with the deep Tuttle fin box system, you don't have to worry about the position of your fin - it's fixed. The Starts are delivered with a 40cm deep fin called the 'Shallow' fin. It was designed by Jim Drake to give as much power as possible without being too deep. This makes the board easier to use since you can start off in shallower waters.

Mast-track tuning

For mast track positioning, you will see that we have indicated three positions for you on the board. There's a central position, a forward position and a back position.

The middle position is the one we recommend for all-round use. However, the tuning option can go much deeper. First, we need to divide the tuning possibilities into two groups: windsurfing with little power in your sail (as beginners and intermediate sailors normally do), and windsurfing with lots of power in your sail (as more experienced intermediates and advanced riders do).

Let's first look at the first group, i.e. when you're sailing with little power in your sail:

The front position will make it easier for the board to accelerate and get planing. As a beginner or intermediate, use this position if you want to get the board to go faster. We call this position 'Early Planing'.

The back position makes the board more responsive to steering, making it easier for beginners to control the board's direction. This position also helps prevent the board (and it's rider) from drifting away downwind. We call this position 'Entry Level'.

The middle position is a good all-round choice. We call this position 'All Round'.

If you're sailing the Start with more power in your sail, then this is how the three settings relate:

The front position will allow you to power upwind, riding off the daggerboard in a racing style position. This is one of the great aspects of the Start, it's so much fun to ride upwind with power. We call this position 'Power Upwind'.

The back position gives you more speed and power when you're reaching - i.e. riding at 90 degrees to the wind direction. We call this position 'Power Reaching'.

The middle position is a good all-round choice, so it's called 'All Round'.

Daggerboard tuning

The daggerboard has two main functions. The first function is for the beginner who uses the board to learn and progress on. There would be little power in the sail in which case the daggerboard should be extended down outside the hull all times. The daggerboard will help the board from drifting away downwind and will improve the board's manoeuvrability.

The second function is for the advanced rider. If you are reaching, i.e. sailing 90 degrees to the wind direction, and riding with lots of power in the sail, then you should raise the daggerboard. Using the daggerboard in powered, reaching conditions will upset the board's balance and slow you down, making it very difficult to sail in the footstraps. When you want to go upwind however, extend the daggerboard and see how the board suddenly steers itself upwind, allowing you to power off the daggerboard and race upwind. It's a great sensation. A good tip to power upwind: place your feet so that they are at about the same level as the daggerboard, not necessarily in the footstraps.