|28th October 2009, 03:56 PM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Peter Hart: The Upwind Challenge
THE UPWIND CHALLENGE
Being able to sail upwind, whatever the situation, is the most valuable of all the windsurfing skills, whatever your level - and that's official.
Upwind frailty is an insidious windsurfing malaise that can ruin the day of beginner and expert alike. At a basic level it results in a miserable 'walk of shame' - a slow, ego-bruising trudge back up the shore in front of your peers.
If the intermediate free-rider doubts their windward ability, they're reluctant to bear away to fully release on to the plane and so never build up enough speed to give the carve gybe a proper go. Instead they're constantly looking over their shoulder trying to squeak back to where they started from.
And then there's the wave sailor. The swell is good, the wind is sideshore. Conditions are perfect. But he looks downwind and sees a craggy, rock-strewn shore. So does he opt for the little wave board ideal for shredding the polished faces? No, he takes out the tank because that's the one he knows he can get back upwind on. The result is a safe but deeply unsatisfactory session.
Excellence in all sports but especially windsurfing, thanks to the threat of a foreign and ever-changing environment, is linked directly to confidence. Being able to sail upwind and get home whatever the conditions or the kit you're using, is a source of massive inspiration. It diverts your mind from the business of simple survival to the altogether more fruitful task of enjoying it and getting better.
It's a massive subject so lets take a specific scenario. You've got a 135 ltr mid range free-ride board which you like to use with sails from 5.5 up to 7.5.
There's 15-18 knots of wind but you struggle to hold station. So what's the problem?
The three areas to look at are your technique, your tactics and your set-up. Lets start with the latter.
At the 'Gorge in Oregon there's a strange phenomenon. It's the downwind walk of shame. Yes sometimes you see people walking downwind along the shore to get back to they started from. Because? Firstly the river current is taking them upwind but mainly because it's often crazy windy. And what's the hardest and scariest thing to do in a gale? Bear away and sail broad to the wind. Yes the easiest way to control loads of power is to head up close to the wind. There's your first and biggest clue. POWER is your greatest upwind weapon - so long as it's the right sort of power, i.e. controllable.
Your first decision I to go for the biggest sail you can comfortably handle. Assuming you're above 70 kg, the 7.5 is the right choice because:
1. In 15 knots you should be able to plane easily without having to bear away constantly.
2. It matches the board perfectly. The boom length, weight and size give you perfect trim on all points of sailing. It's the feeling where the board tracks straight and true without you have to contort your stance.
Say you played safe with a 6.0. You'd be under-powered for a start but also there wouldn't be enough power in the back of the sail to drive you upwind. With a short boom the effort would feel alittel fr forward thereby loading your front foot and making you bear away.
I you went for a giant sail, say a 9.5, the rig would over-power the board. Neither the board nor fin would have enough resistance to withstand the sail's lateral forces and you'd crab downwind.
Avoid the extremes. If you bag the sail out too much in search of power it becomes inefficient. It can't exhaust, feels heavy in the hands and drives you sideways.
With too little outhaul, the sail goes back handed. You'll then direct the pressure into the back foot and risk overloading the fin.
Too much outhaul (and downhaul) and you pull the guts out of the sail, flatten the foil too much and end up going nowhere.
Sailing upwind in moderate winds, your sheeting angle is closed - i.e. you'll be sheeted right in with the foot of the sail over the board's centre-line. If you have a low boom, under about shoulder height, your back-side will be skimming the waves. A higher boom leaves you in a more upright stance with your legs driving against the rails at a more efficient angle. Adjustable harness lines can also you're your cause especially on bigger free-ride kit. Racers tend to shorten their lines from about 30 down to or the upwind leg as it lifts their hips and makes the board sail more off the fin.
The obvious way to help you sail upwind is to fit a bigger fin - but be cautious. Stay within the recommendations. The 133 Futura, for example, is designed to accommodate fins from about 40-50 cm. When you're setting out, you're often not making best use of the power and perhaps not sailing as fast and precisely as you should. The bigger fin will give you more lift and resistance at slow speeds. You can use a bit of back foot and lean on it when you're barely planing, and still get a positive reaction. It's your instant upwind companion. A possible down side is that a big fin can make you lazy and heavy footed. Ultimately a smaller fin will behave better in the manoeuvres AND drive you upwind just as well - you just have to sail faster.
You can improve your upwind performance tenfold just by being smarter. Tactics in this area is a massive subject but I'll limit myself to just 2 key tips.
1. Don't waste ground. Liken upwind sailing to rowing upstream on a river. Every time you lose concentration or stop to pick your nose, you lose ground.
The most popular mistake is to leave the beach off the plane and just drift off on a broad reach. Even without a daggerboard, it's possible to sail higher upwind off the plane than on the plane. Use the windward rail for extra resistance. Stand forward of the straps, press on the heels to sink it, steer upwind until you find that point where the board stops tracking and starts crabbing sideways. Having made ground upwind, you feel good about bearing away in the gusts to get planing.
2. Quick starts. Standing, lying, sitting in the water with your kit, in a force four you drift downwind ant about 1 kph = a slow walk. Now you may claim that you don't uphaul or waterstartt deliberately slowly and that if you could get going more quickly, you would but … actually a loit of peopke do waste a liot of time, cursing their luck/incompetence or floating around having a breather. A few points here:
1. The best to have a rest is in the shallows with your feet on the seabed.
2. The longer you hang arounbd before trying to recover the rig and waterstart, the harder it is as the rig has time to sink.
3. Clock the shifts. Spotting and reacting to changes in the wind direction sounds like the domain of the pro racer. In reality, at a basic level, it's quite easy and, at many locations, is officially the easiest way to make massive leaps upwind
|Thread||Thread Starter||Forum||Replies||Last Post|
|Technique question||Supper||Do it standing up! The Stand Up Paddling Forum||1||3rd February 2008 02:49 AM|
|Is it technora or wood for dedicated (non-professional) windsurfers?||northeast||Free Forum||6||11th January 2008 12:43 AM|
|Windsurfers to Know||James||Free Forum||0||8th January 2008 12:09 AM|
|Technique DVD||Guy Cribb||Free Forum||0||31st October 2006 02:23 AM|