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Old 15th October 2008, 07:49 PM   #1
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Default beginner having trouble with higher winds

I am a beginner windsurfer. I have a Nova 180 board and a 6.5m sail that I am told is not designed for a lot of downhaul. I have become reasonably competent over the summer at windspeeds just short of planing conditions. Recently in higher wind conditions I am having trouble getting the sail powered up. I end up having to push hard with my forward hand and pull back hard with my back hand just to control the sail. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 16th October 2008, 05:22 AM   #2
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Charlie M,
Welcome to the Starboard WS School forum.
Can you tell us what brand/model your 6.5 m2 sail, and what brand and length/MCS/IMCS your mast is?
Your higher wind issues could be associated with how you are rigging your sail, or possibly some sort of technique issue.
Are you using a harness yet?
"Pushing" with the front hand usually means you are using a harness and your harness lines are incorrectly balanced.
When your sail is correctly rigged, and your harness lines are correctly balanced you normally would never need to "push" with your front hand.
Also, if you remember what your sail looked like last time you rigged it, where was the front of the batten above the boom relative the the fore and aft centerline of the mast.
If well forward of the front of the mast, you don't have nearly enough downhaul and you aren't getting the mast bent enough as a result of less than required downhaul.
If the front of the batten above the boom is pulled back to about the center of the mast, then your mast bend and downhaul would seem to be about right.
If the batten above the boom is well behind the back of the mast then you may have excessive downhaul and your sail may be "over flattened" which reduces the power in the sail, but may also make the sail very unstable and hard to handle.
Also what mast base extension are you using..... the brand and the amount of extension you normally use.
Hope this helps,
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Old 16th October 2008, 10:02 PM   #3
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Hi Roger, quick question on the side: assuming the sail is rigged ok and lines are centered but you are overpowered - how do you prevent the "Robin Hood stance"? (I'm not sure if you call it the same, but I'm sure you know what I mean - at some point when overpowered it's impossible to sheet in and you need to push the sail hard away from you with your front hand while having back arm bent and it looks like you were doing archery not windsurfing, thus the name "Robin Hood stance" )

One formula sailor I know said you just move the lines way back and bite the bullet.
I'm not afraid of extra power, but how do you handle it, because "Robin Hood stance" is very uncomfortable.


Last edited by marek; 16th October 2008 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 16th October 2008, 10:42 PM   #4
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when im overpowered i do two things: get my ass as fast into the footstraps as humanly possible so i get in a good position. I lean in with all my weight: legs slightly bend so you're a bit more seated then you should (it doesn't give the extra speed but it ads to the controle) and then i strart pulling the lot upwind so the power in the sail becomes bareble and i can start streching my legs and take up a good position. And yeah: move the harness lines back and also, but the farther appart, when i'm seriously overpowered i'm talking two fists between the two ends. This will divide the weight more across the boom which gives you more controle and tires your arms less. But these techniques all have one major dissadvantage: top speed is limited. You wanne go fast? start working out.
Haiko, AKA crazychemical
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Old 17th October 2008, 05:04 AM   #5
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Hi Marek and CC,
I was sort of waiting to discover what sort of sail the OP has and then hopefully we would have a better idea on what the issues might be.
As far as the "Robin Hood Stance".... I hadn't heard that one.... why not simply "ease" your sheeting angle.
If you have your harness lines balanced like mine, the rig will have a mild back hand pull even when very overpowered, and you can simply "ease off".
Where is it written that you have to "hang on" for dear life with the rig locked down on the deck and fully sheeted in?
I know many formula racers have been runing their lines really far back but the idea there is to make is so when you "push out" with the front hand, you are really sheeting in, so the load comes off the back hand and the back foot to some degree.
I've tried it, and it works, but it's very uncomfortable to me.
As far as "spreading" your harness line attachment points for overpowered sailing, many used to do that, but with modern sails that don't drift the CE fore and aft in the sail much, many sailors are now running only 1 fist width or less (the free stylers run the lines with the attachments together) .
So I don't think this is really applicable here.
We'll find out if the OP lets us know what sort of rig he's using.
Could be something a very old triangular, long boom, soft sail, or
it could be the latest fully battened 6.5 m2 rig. How each would feel and
the conditions under which you would need to "push out" with your front hand, would be completely different.
Hope this helps,
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Old 17th October 2008, 07:22 PM   #6
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Here is some additional information:

Sail: Gaastra 6.0 Freetime (not 6.5)

Mast: Fiberspar 3200, 430 cm, IMCS 21, carbon content 30%

Extension: About 12 cm? (don't have access to the rig right now to check)

I am not on the harness or in the footstraps as of yet. I should add that in these good wind conditions I am just slogging along. It feels like the sail is half backwinded and half powered up.

Consulting with my instructor, he says that the downhaul is about right. He thinks that I may be getting too far upwind and that I should try heading offwind to get things going, then adjust course.

Thanks for the replies.

Last edited by Charliem; 17th October 2008 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 18th October 2008, 08:47 AM   #7
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Hi again Charlie M.
OK, I think I see some "issues" here.
The Gaastra Freetime 6.0 is a school/trainer type sail.
In the 6.0 m2 size it has only 4 battens (not very much info on the Gaastra website
regardng the Freetime).
Without any specifications on what mast the 6.0 Freetime was designed for, it's a bit hard to tell how compatible your Freetime is with your Fiberspar 430 cm IMCS 21 mast, but that would probably be about the right specs.
Unfortunately, the Freetime is designed for fairly light winds, as a school/resort/trainer type sail so it most likely does not have the range (windspeed)or stability that a fully battened rig (like the Gaastra Pilot, an entry level sail with 5 battens and pretty much the bottom end of the Gaastra freeride full performance designs) would have.
So, I would guess that the Freetime simply may not have the stability you need for higher winds.
As for the front hand "push", my guess would be that you are spreading your hands too far apart on the boom, moving yoru front hand a bit too far back on the boom, and pulling way too hard with your back hand, resulting in being oversheeted.
And, as your instructor suggests, you are heading too high upwind.
The front push is most likely caused by the sail basically stalling as the wind starts to get around your mast to the lee side of the sail.
I completely agree with your instructor that you need to learn to sail at lower angles.
Some of this may be due to instability in the rig, but other factors may be that you are getting your weight a little upwind of the centerline of your BIC Nova 180 and this is causing your board to want to head upwind all the time. If your board "tips" upwind at all, it will turn upwind because that's what tipping it upwind is telling it to do.
Are you using the optional small center fin in your Nova?
This would cause a significant change in the techniques needed to sail your board at lower angles and contribute to your board "rounding up" alot.
Try this.....:
Next time you are out with your board and rig in higher winds, after you uphaul, step back to get both your feet behind the mast BEFORE you put any power in your sail.
Then with the mast or boom (grip it right near the front please) bring your rig across the board until your mast is upwind of your board's centerline and upwind of your front shoulder.
Now reach FORWARD (not out) right in front of you back shoulder and put 2 fingers over the top of the boom about a shoulders width behind the mast.
Rotate your entire upper body just enough so your board begins to move forward on a beam reach (directly across the wind on the easiest point of sail).
Only rotate enough so that you power the sail up!
Only the amount (5 or 10 degrees here) required so you feel a nearly equal "pull" on both your front hand and the 2 fingers of your rear hand.
Resist any temptation to rotate your upper body more, or "pull in" with your back hand.
You should sail easily across the wind on a beam reach.
As your board picks up speed, you can sheet in slightly more.
If you let go with your 2 fingers on your back hand the sail will "sheet out" a little and the power will go away.
So, only sheet the sail in enough to put power in it.
Resist the temptation to rake the rig back and pull the sail in more as either of these will cause your board to want to turn upwind and stall and creating the front hand "push"
If you feel any front hand push, release the boom completely with your back hand, and bring the mast more upwind across the board to steer it off the wind a little.
Try sheeting in by rotating your upper body again and see if you can get your board to accelerate on a beam reach.
Resist the temptation to rake your rig back and sheet in all the way like other sailors with better rigs and skills.
You are sailing on true wind.
They are more advanced and are sailing on apparent wind which changes the wind direction and increases it's speed.
You will "get there" soon, but for now work on just steering further off the wind, and getting your board moving well.
Your Freetime (and all other WS sails) make two kinds of power.
The first kind is good and drives you and your board forward and is found with the sail well sheeted out (like around 45 deg. on a beam reach).
The 2nd kind of power is "not so good" and unless you have the skills to take advantage of the wind shift and increase in speed that comes with sailing the apparent wind, it will simply try to move your board sideways downwind, and also "load you up" with a lot of force that isn't doing you any good unless you have apparent wind skills.
Hope this helps,
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Old 22nd October 2008, 09:10 PM   #8
Roly Gardner
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Hi Charliem,

I thought that I would add a quick comment here as I think I have experienced the problems you are facing more recently than the more hardened pros above. I started windsurfing in 2006 and bought a Carve 145 with a new 6.5m Gaastra Pilot rig to which I quickly added an older second-hand Tushingham 5.7m sail realising that the 6.5 was too big for the conditions I was sailing in. I sail off the South coast of England near Eastbourne so it is often choppy with large shore break. Not the easiest place to learn I have to say.

I began to go out in windier conditions towards the end of 2007. The biggest tip I received was to do everything a little more quickly and a little more extreme than I had been used to in lighter winds. You have more time to adjust and greater margins of error when it is not blowing a hooley. When the wind picks up a bit I found that before I could react I was back in the drink.

The answer for me was to try to uphaul and get my feet in the right place quickly BEFORE sheeting in with the back hand a LITTLE bit to get the power on. This is what Roger told me and is now saying to you. This is all well and good if you are not rounding up into the wind which is exactly what was happening to me. Everything stalls, you go nowhere and eventually get dumped after fighting with the rig for a bit. So, ensure that the mast is across your body into wind and slightly forward in order that you bear away. The nose of the board turns off the wind and when you sheet in it begins to power up slowly. Once underway you can increase the power in the rig by sheeting gradually.

My problems did not end here I have to say. Once you start to power up the standard "7" stance no longer works, being too upright. You need to oppose the rig's power with your body not just your arms and this takes some adjustment. Leaning out over the windward rail, eventually in the harness, keeps the board flat, energy driving through he board and you dry, at least for a little while! I thought that I was doing this but my instructor kept on at me to make more exaggerated movements and eventually I got it. You may find that you over compensate and over adjust from time to time. It is a balancing act and you develop a "feel" for it.

Sounds like you are not far off and that a gradual upgrading of kit as you improve should help. The nirvana of planing and blasting is just over the horizon and I bet your face will hurt you will be smiling so much. Good luck.

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Old 24th October 2008, 07:54 PM   #9
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I was able to get back on the water with my instructor over the weekend and made some major progress. As a beginner I am always trying to sail upwind to avoid being dumped downwind in the weeds and having to make the long walk back (they say there used to be snakes in the weeds but this is no longer a problem since the alligators chased them off). We discovered that I was consistently getting my weight too far to the downwind side of the board and thus carving the board downwind while tilting the sail way back trying to go upwind. With that little tip I was able to remove the center fin and sail all over the lake. Not enough wind on that day to really get going though. Hopefully we will get some wind before the end of the season. The wind doesn't blow a hooley around here but maybe a nice norther will come through. Thanks for all of the comments.

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