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macca18 3rd February 2009 04:20 PM

Need some Advice....
I've only just recently started Windsurfing, about 3 months ago, and was after some advice. I've been out on the water for probably 15-20 hours, but where I sail (Canberra Australia) tends to have pretty poor winds at this time of the year, I weigh about 93Kgs and am 1.87m tall. I bought a new 2005 Aerotech Charge 6.2m and Starboard Rio 195L. Can beach start most of time, and get up on the plane every so often and comfortable going where I want to. Happy getting in and out of the harness but not too confident using the foot straps. I find I tend to rail upwind by getting into the straps as they seem a long way from the centreline of the board and can't keep the board flat by pointing my toes.

My main problem is the Charge doesn't seem to handle small gusts very well when in the harness. I get pulled very upright and need to sheet out dramatically with my back hand to get back under control - and thus feel I can't really commit to the harness. Though getting over the "fear" of getting pulled over the sail or falling back into the water. This is the only sail I have ever used so have nothing to compare it against.

I'm looking to get a new sail, and thinking a 7.0m North Natural for 10-15kts wind usually experienced around Canberra. I'm hoping this will handle gusts a lot better and will be all round a far better standard of sail. I have a pretty cheap 10% carbon mast and was after ideas on whether its worth upgrading to a 50%+ carbon North mast when I get the sail. Any thoughts?

Also thinking of getting a short board in the not too distant future.... looking into a 133 Starboard Futura....



Roger 3rd February 2009 05:11 PM

Hi Timmy O,
Which year model Rio 195 L do you have?

As far as your feeling of getting "lifted up" up onto your toes in the gusts, thre are some things you can do to improve the "gust handling" characteristics of any sail.
First, is your current mast the one recommended for the Aerotech Charge?
Is it the same specifications as the mast recommended for the Charge.
Are your downhauling until you get the correct amout of "twist" in the top of the
Having the top of the sail "twist off" correctly will improve your ability to handle the gusts.
At 93 Kgs. a 6.2 m2 rig is pretty small for 10-15 knots, so it would seem that you have a
bit more to learn to get comfortable.
Rome was not built in a day, so give yourself more time to get comfortable with your existing rig in the gusts.
Soon you will learn to allow the rig to support your body weight.......fully commited to the harness, but right now you haven't developed that level of trust.
When you can commit all of your body weight to the rig, the "railing upwind" while in the footstraps will correct itself.
Trying to "lever" a big wide heavy board like the RIO off the wind (or completely level when in the footstraps) is going to be very difficult unless you have the sail supporting your weight, and you are confident that it will continue to support your weight.
The North Natural 7.0 might be an improvement and I would suggest buying the recommended "best mast" from North for that sail if that's the way you decide to go.
The 133 Futura would be a good choice in a first shortboard for someone your weight.
If you have the '08-09' Rio M, you have a great board to practice your shortboard technique. Just stop using the centerboard (except for getting back in in emergencies)
and you can develop your shortboard technique pretty well on the Rio M.
Hope this helps,

macca18 3rd February 2009 05:27 PM

Thanks for the feedback Roger. The Rio is 2008 model.

I thought I was downhauling enough but after checking out the manual again and looking at some youtube videos I reckon it probably wasn't enough. Will try a bit more next time and see how it goes. I'm happy with how the leech should look but probably been in too much of a hurry to get on the water to do rig it properly.

It is the same specs as the one recommended, 460cm, IMCS 25 etc, however it was a cheap Arrows?? brand I believe. I have read that the correct mast is a big factor in the correct rigging of the sail, however wasnt sure if there was noticeable difference between brands of sail... and carbon content. My understanding is carbon content only decreases the weight - which has beneficial follow on effects.

I have "tried" the Rio with the centreboard up a couple of times so will get comfortable with that before upgrading to a Futura.

Thanks for the help.


Roger 4th February 2009 11:03 AM

Hi Timmy,
If you are getting "jerked around" by your rig, you can add a bit more downhaul to "loosen up" the top of the sail and flatten the lower portion to depower the sail pretty much from top to bottom.
Be sure to readjust the outhaul whenever you change the downhaul to keep enough
tension to stabilize the sail.
Additional downhaul is nearly always better than additional outhaul if easy handling in higher winds is your goal.
Carbon content can also result in a more responsive mast. I would think a very low carbon content mast would feel a bit "dead" by comparison.
Anyway, your progress here sounds phenomenal. Hooked in and mostly in the footstraps
in 3 months is pretty darned good.
More time on the water will make things easier, and also give you more experience "tuning" your gear to get the best performance and the easiest sailing.
Hope this helps,

Ken 4th February 2009 11:33 PM


Your comment -

"but not too confident using the foot straps. I find I tend to rail upwind by getting into the straps as they seem a long way from the centreline of the board and can't keep the board flat by pointing my toes. "

This makes me think that you are trying to get into the straps too soon. There is planing and then there is planing. What I mean is that there is a phase where the board rises up in the water, but still has moderated drag because it's not flat on the surface. Heavier boards like the Rio are slow to plane. If you try to get into the straps at this point, you will sink the windward side of the board.

Wait until you get going faster before trying the straps. Then get into the front strap first (it will give you a secure feeling) and it will help prevent being pulled over the front of the board if there is too much wind in the sail. Then work on getting into the back strap. You must balance most of your weight on the front foot so you can move the back foot smoothly. You might practice this on the beach with no fin in the board to get comfortable with the movement.

As Rogers says, you are making great progress. It just takes practice, practice, practice.

Philip 5th February 2009 11:37 AM

Regarding equipment I have seen used in Canberra it seems that competent sailors on 130 to 160 litre boards use around 8.5m sails for the moderate summer breezes and often hang onto these into fresh winds - so that should give you an idea for the future. Stiff easterly 'sea' breezes when they arrive (late on a summer's day) can be lots of fun too.

Winds are gusty in summer in Canberra (or any time really which is why Canberra produces more than its fair share of top tactical dingy racers) as they bend around the mountains and react to the thermal mass of the continent causing significant shifts. With the prevailing NW winds they will shift westerly in gusts and back up to North in the lulls - you need to play their game when pointing or doing tacks/ gybes.

Gusty conditions certainly put a premium on having a good match with the rig components, the board, straps, fin, harness & lines. The waist harness is popular and user friendly, while some speed merchants with free race gear will swear by the seat harness.

The fresh to strong wind 'season' is spring when 7m is a popular size. Keen slalom types will have a smaller sail in their quiver for when things get really interesting. One question is whether to rig for the gusts or the lulls. Southerly winds in winter can be relatively gust free, but a bit cool, the days are short and gear stays soggy (small price to pay though).

Although there is no WS club in Canberra, there is a strong local WS community that is more than willing to share experiences - just ask around at your local beach.

macca18 5th February 2009 01:44 PM

Hey guys, thanks for the comments. Luckily I had 5 weeks off over Christmas and spent it at the Sunshine Coast so went almost everyday. Great winds up there, though the 6.2m Charge was challenging in 25kts. Plenty and negative learning and sore back and arms later, I'm finally getting comfortable.... and loving it.!

I'll definitely wait till I get planing faster next time before trying to get into the straps and I'll use the "front foot first" method. Thanks for the tips Ken. I've practiced getting into the straps on land. Front foot I can usually find ok, and have to "swivel" the back foot in by rotating on the heel, but I'll practice some more. I'll concentrate on planing technique before trying the foot straps again.

Thanks for the Canberra tips too Phillip. I've only been here a short while and bitterly disappointed with the Jan/Feb winds here. I came from Newcastle on the coast and the wind was fantastic everyday - pitty I didn't take up the sport when I was there. Looking forward to the good breezes but not the bitterly cold water and air temp. 2 Days ago I was planing (not too fast) quite nicely and thought I was the king until the wind went from a nice steady 15kts to 0kts in an instant. I fell backwards into the water and then it took about 10mins to get to shore. Good chance to practice self rescue though.

I have ordered the 7.0m 2009 Natural with a 460 Silver mast (thanks to our PM KRudd for a handy $950 pay out). Can't wait to get out and try it.


Philip 7th February 2009 04:07 AM

Yes, I should have mentioned that in the summer the winds can take the form of 'cells' that have curved fronts so you enter on one tack and exit on another (sometimes back winded) ready to repeat the process all over again. This probably explains your walking the plank more than a few times especially as in hot conditions we all tend to 'drift off' and then fall off.

Wannabe 10th February 2009 03:49 PM

No offence meant here, but the best thing for you to do if your learning to windsurf in canberra would be to take a weekend away in Jervis Bay... More than likely the conditions would be much easier for a learner and you will make a huge progression in a short time

Philip 11th February 2009 06:38 AM

Good point Wannabe. There are any number of great locations on the NSW coast south of Sydney that are easily accessible from the Canberra tableland via the coastal escarpment. They include Wollongong (Lake Illawara), Jervis Bay, Batehaven (near Batemans Bay) and a whole raft of coastal bays and lakes over some 400 km of scenic coast line. There are many excellent surfing spots as well - no wonder this coast is so popular with holiday makers from Canberra, Sydney and the Monaro (Snowy Mountains etc) region.

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