Pt 2 intermediate
Getting planing represents the cornerstone of windsurfing technique. How you approach it depends what level you’re at and kit you’re using. In future articles I’ll be looking at the challenge through the eyes of the first timer and the expert. But in this first piece, I’m going to address the plight of the intermediate, who’s getting planing (eventually) but he knows it’s not pretty.
EARLY PLANING . Part 1
Of all the skills, being able to get on the plane early is surely the most potent. In his first article on the subject Peter highlights the key areas.
Being the slowest to plane out of your peer group, makes you feel like the frumpy kid who’s always left over when the captains have chosen their sides for the football game. You stand out like a sore thumb. It’s so depressing. But as well as being responsible for poor mental health, dodgy planing technique lies at the root of a heap of technique issues.
The racer who is under-performing at the back of the fleet may blame his outdated sail; however if it takes him just a couple of seconds longer to get planing than his nearest rivals, he will lose up to 20 metres on every tack.
The wave sailor who keeps getting caught and drilled on the way out by the pitching waves may be guilty of bad timing but is just as likely to be wasting precious seconds getting planing – seconds that leave him wallowing around the impact zone when he should be cruising over unbroken swells into the clear water out the back.
The flawed carve gyber associates his constant tumbles with bad rig and foot changes. His real problem? The huge board and rig he needs to get him up onto the plane, are really too big to handle round the corners once he is up on the plane.
Yes, away from the race-track (where the aim is often to hold down as big a sail as possible), those having the most fun are not just plane first but are also on the smallest kit.
There are two types of early planing. There’s the talent of getting going in the lightest of winds when all around are ‘bogging’ up to their knees. In this instance it’s about creating an artificial wind. A certain board may plane in as little as 10 knots of wind but it needs 15 knots to get it planing. Those five extra knots have to come from pumping the sail to create pulses of power strong enough to release it from the water.
There’s also the everyday skill of being able to get going instantly whatever the wind – and that’s what we’re looking at here. Even in a gale, some take ages to grind up onto the plane, finally emerging from the water like a breaching whale in a maelstrom of spray. It’s a picture of wasted energy.
So what are you trying to do? The basic mission statement is straightforward. If you hold the rig upright and sheeted in; at the same time hold the board flat and level as you move towards the straps, the board WILL rise onto the plane, so long as there’s enough wind.
So with that in mind, these are the areas where people most commonly mess up.
Plane int 1 To get the most out of the rig, keep the hands back on the boom, grip it with the fingertips and get the forward by extending from the shoulders.
On off power.
Like a learner driver stamping on and off the accelerator pedal, many lurch on and off the plane because they’re not staying sheeted in and delivering a constant flow of power in to the board. The solution also answers another question about when you should hook in. ‘Straight away’ is the answer. Hooking in and using your whole bodyweight is by far the most efficient way to power up the sail. You just have to stay committed to the harness.
To plane you hve to deliver a constant source of power into the board, which can only happen of you commit totally to the harness.
Not enough power.
Assume for a moment that there is enough wind to plane, you have a big enough sail and it’s rigged well. If you still can’t find the power to get going, look in three areas.
1. The rig isn’t upright and forward.
If you pull the rig back and down to windward, you decrease the area presented to the wind and drive all the power into the tail, whereupon you stall and head up. The ways to keep the rig upright are:
- keep the hands back on the boom, especially the front hand, extend the arms and hold the boom in the ends of your fingertips.
2. You’re on the wrong point of sailing.
- make sure your boom is at least shoulder height and favour harness lines long enough that with your elbow in the loop, you can nearly grab the boom. I know some enjoy the ‘locked in’ feeling given by very short lines. However it’s much harder to get planing in the harness and so is a lot more tiring.
You have to head off on the point of sailing where the rig produces just the right amount of power. If it’s howling, you therefore start quite close to the wind (even upwind of a beam reach) to avoid getting hurled over the handlebars. In a moderate wind or any situation where you’re struggling to get going, you need to bear away onto the most powerful point of sailing, which will be somewhere between a reach and broad reach.
Generally, for fear of ending up downwind, people just don’t bear away enough when they try to plane.
In all but very strong winds, you won’t get planing unless you bear away – and that means going downwind!
3. Keep the air moving.
Until a pro is planing, he’ll always be working the sail. Little pumps with the back hand make the leech open and close and encourage the wind to flow over the sail. Crudely put, you’re catching the wind and throwing it out behind you. If you do nothing, the wind tends to stick to the sail like air in umbrella. The sail can’t ‘breathe,’ so it generates no power and it feels as if the wind has dropped.
Heading into wind.
Everyone does it to start with. Why? The commonest reason is trying to move back into the straps too soon at too slow a speed. Until the board is nearly planing, it won’t create enough lift to support you as you step back onto the tail and into the straps (the least buoyant part of the board).
Other than that, it’s all down to sail and board trim. Imagine what you’d do if you deliberately
wanted to head into wind? You’d do one or a combination of the following; pull the rig back; sheet out, press on the windward edge and stamp on the tail. Do NONE of the above and you’ll carry straight on and plane. So that means:
1. Stay committed to the harness to keep the sail powered up.
2. Put as much distance between the boom and your torso as you can by extending from the shoulders and throwing the rig forwards and upright.
3. Press on the toes, especially those of the back foot, to keep the board level as you accelerate. To do that, your weight needs to be spread over the whole foot. So stand tall, lift the hips and, above all, don’t drop back onto the heels until you feel the fin lift the windward edge.
4. The sinking tail and the lifting nose – it’s a foul symptom that recurs throughout the syllabus from getting going to, planing fast to carve gybing and is a result of not directing enough force into the mastfoot. To cure the problem, you to have to:
- power up the sail more by throwing the rig further forward and bearing away;
To keep the nose down and the board tracking, ease the hips forward in the harness and drive your weight into the mastfoot
- or more simply by easing your hips forward into the harness so you use your bodyweight to hold the nose down.
As will all fault-finding missions – always start with the most basic basics. The car won’t start. Do we dismantle the engine? No we first check to see if there’s any petrol in it. It’s taking you ages to plane. So increase the power (bear away and hold the rig more upright) and reduce the drag (keep the board level). Simple really!