Friday, June 24, 2011

The Ultimate Crossing: Bart reached Maui, June 22nd 2011, 10:45am

The Ultimate Crossing: Bart reached Maui, June 22nd 2011, 10:45am: "Bart just reached Maui, after a very brutal 14hour paddle through the Alenuihaha Channel with wind always from the side, sometimes changing ..."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

This Year's Fins!

Type R » Black Project Fins

I am looking forward to plenty of sailing on these fins. With any luck I will get my hands on the S-Type and perhaps the X-Type to see how they work

Do I use too big a sail?

As well as using my new Kona, I am trying to get back into slalom sailing.  Now I have found with the sessions that I have had so far this year that I have not been sailing well.  It has got me thinking about whether I use too big a sail (for my ability).  I have put together the following table for a number of sources and I am going to see how this compares to what I would normally rig up when I am next out.

Wind (knots)   Slalom Sail Sizes  Board
          6-10                 8.8                    135
         10-16             8.0 - 8.8            135
         16-21            7.3 - 8.0            110
         21-25            6.0 - 6.6            110
         25-31               6.0                        95
          31+               5.5                    95

A name?

It seems that everyone is naming their Kona Longboards.  Well I suppose I had better join in, so my 10'5 is now known as "Kylie".

Great review of the Kona 9'5 by my buddy Ed in Boards Magazine

"Having sailed the Kona 9'5" five times in the last week at: Littlestone x 2, Westbrook Bay (Margate), Minster, and Pirate Springs, I thought I'd be well placed to do an initial impressions review,

The planshape is quite a teardrop design with the width taken right the way forward and a narrow, drawn out tail that is similar to a waveboard in width. Step tail is found where you'd find the back of a conventional board and the rear srap is over the leading edge of the fin (long fin track). I've set the stance wide and the straps big as per a waveboard.
Comfy deck with spongy bits under heal and finished in attractive green and white colour scheme.

Carry just like a conventional board. It balances well on the front strap.

On the water:
Have used with 5.8, 5.2, 4.5 in waves from virtually flat on Wed to Monday which was chest high.

Coming in:
Catches EVERYTHING. If you are a surfer you will know what I mean. Even in very light winds say 5knots, any small lump of swell can be pumped onto and the board then accelerates quickly onto the plane enabling you to get in the straps, ride the wave and glide between sections to link up sandbanks all the way to the beach pretty well every time.
The bottom turn is phenomonally good. Lean forward and commit the rail and it goes round in a beautiful arc even when left late and on a steep face. It's the best bottom turn in the business I reckon because of the amount you can commit at slow speeds; feels really radical.
Top turn; 'roundhouse' turns in about a board length. It's not snappy, but it does not fight you and carves round well. If you misstime it then you can stay in the straps and the tail supports you even at very slow speeds.
Down the line. I went down the line purely using the wave in the lulls and basically surfed the board from the straps on glassy waves faces for quite some distance. Also laid it down into rail driven power turns during powered up moments.

Going out; Off the plane glide out with feet up by the track, punches through the waves with ease (one foible; get splashed in the face by the white water hitting the nose).
On the plane work out through the waves by storming off downwind to avoid sections or luffing to a virtuall standstil to get over the biggies without jumping. The float means you can stay in the straps at a standstill then pump it back onto the plane rapidly.

Freeride; Composed, pleasant ride, with the security of knowing you can sail back from miles out off the plane in comfort if need be. Gybes with the best of them, Chop hops well (oops!). The thin and wide nose rides low and looks beautiful as it skims along

Upwind; off the plane it pulls about 200yards on the shortboards in one standard tack, on the plane about the same as the shortboards when riden from the straps or much better if feet placed more forward.

Change your mindset when you ride this board, forget planing at all costs. You can plane at the same time as the freestyle boards but that would be missing on all the fun. 
If there's any kind of wave then think like a surfer and use the sail to 'paddle out' to the line up (where the waves first break). Tack, and hang about just edging along slowly and watching. Pick your wave and bear away to pick up speed then surf frontside and backside all the way to the beach. Rinse and repeat!

It's the best board I've ever sailed by quite some margin. Each session the wind was gusty and many packed up in disgust. I had my most enjoyable waves sessions maybe ever.
It's all going to be about finding gusty cross/cross off venues from now (albiet with full on jumping sessions too from time to time on my small waveboard), searching for reefs and sandbars and riding waves regardless of the wind. I was suffering from a serious mojo crisis and am fairly bored with bashing along in onshore stuff. This board has thrilled me beyond expectation this past week and I can't wait to explore new spots in previously impossible conditions on it. I urge all of you to get a demo on one of these. The 9'5" is perfect for my 73kg and would prob still be ok for up to 85kg. After that the 10'5" may be a better choice.

I've named mine 'Konan'.

Full forum discussion can be found at:

Boards Forum

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Do I Windsurf?

Why do I windsurf?  Its sometimes very easy to go with the crowd and continue what you have always doing without troubling yourself to think about why you do it.  However, it is more fun to question your approach, at least from time to time.  I am like a lot of sailors in my part of the world, I grew up as boards got shorter and was young when planing on a board was the difference between the old (some would say pioneers) and the new (which was once me), so everything was devoted to get planing otherwise you were not having fun; and who wants to have no fun?  Recently, I have begun to think that this has led me to neglect an important aspect to windsurfing and that is simply being out and having fun, as the old surfing quote goes "the best surfer on the water is the one having the most fun".  I have been prevented from doing this over the years by only having boards of no more than 110L which are not much fun where there is little wind or what wind there is is gusty and fluky.  This is something that has preyed on my mind in the last couple of years, especially as now I can usually only sail when I am free and those times are not always windy.  Also, I am lucky enough to live three minutes drive from Bough Beech in Kent and whilst this is an excellent inland venue it still suffers from the more gusty nature of lakes, so again my 110L does not really work that well here (I am 90kgs by the way, in case those light weights were thinking 110L "that's huge!")

So what is the purpose of the rather long introduction above?  Well, no getting enough out of my sailing has been bugging me and I sort of thought that a "long-board" was the answer, but I did not know what to go for. Raceboard?  No (not yet at least) as this would mean buying a new rig and I did not want to do that.  Also, I have tried some old raceboards and just not got on with them for the sort of sailing that I want to do which is playing in small waves and doing old-skool freestyle.  Beginners boards?  Again, no as they all seem to be short these days and do not (in my humble opinion) carve well on small waves - I have tried.  SUPs?  Now that seemed to be getting closer as I have had huge amounts of fun with one in Maui, but when the wind came up a bit, it did not work as a windsurfer at all.  Recently I have been talking to Ian Kraft (aka Krafty) (well know in Kent and other places from Kernow to Tiree) and he was telling me about the fun he has had with an Exocet Kona 10'5 in small waves and light to medium winds, i.e. from 6 to 14 knots.  In fact it gave him so much fun that he has decided to import them into the UK -  Now that spoke volumes to be as its along the lines of "I liked the razor so much I bought the company" - showing my age here with that advert quote.

So when Ian offered me a chance to try the Exocet Kona 10'5 I couldn't wait for rubbish conditions to try it out in.  Last night was the first chance that I have had since the board has sat in my back room waiting to get out.  I met Ed (another Kona sailor) at Littlestone and we checked out the conditions.  As we looked at the time coming in and the familar slow, mushy waves breaking in a pretty confused sort of way I asked Ed what he thought was good about the Kona longboards, he simply smiled and said, "the only thing that I will say now is that they are special", not sure what to make of this he went on by saying "we can talk about them after you have been out".  With that I rigged up my Hot Sails Maui Smack 5.5m and Black Project 28cm wave fin and walked down to the water.  The first thing that I noticed was that without thinking I had picked up the board as I would my short boards with the sail on my head and carrying the board by one footstrap.  Now, even though the version I was trying was not the light "TT" version I could easily carry it as I would a short board; it was so well balanced.  I thought, "well thats good at least its not hard to get to the water, because there is a long walk at Littlestone!"

On the Water.  So to the waters edge, by now the wind which had been strong enough to be out on a freestyle wave board had dropped off and I could see the guys already out bogging and planning in equal measure- that stop-start style of sailing that's so frustrating.  Well that was not for me last night, I simply cruised out through the white water and pushed the nose downwind when a gust came and progressively (but quickly) came up onto the plane.  Then when the wind dropped the reverse happened, no fuss, no sudden stop.  I thought that's pretty relaxing so lets concentrate on finding the waves.  Now, at this point I decided it was time to put in a quick gybe so I leaned into what I thought would be a slow drawn-out gybe and then I was in the water as the board had turned so fast that I had been left behind!  As I was swimming after the board I remembered what Krafty had said "Don't get caught out by your first gybe, its not slow to turn.  Though I bet you will forget this and be too slow!".  So laughing, I had to say, "Krafty, you were right!"

After that little hiccup I quickly waterstarted (though I did have time to notice the raised pad behind the back strap which was in the perfect place to rest the boom and make lifting the sail easy - co-incidence or great design? - and headed back in looking for some waves to play with.

What I found great about the board was the ability to cruise around and either glide to be in the right position if there was no wind, or plane and point high if there was some wind.  This meant that I was catching so many more waves than if I had been out on my freestyle wave that it was not true.  Now, once I caught a wave I had thought that the board would simply straight-line it; but not a bit of it.  In the same way that it carved faster than I had anticipated when gybing it like a long-wave board on the wave.  Simply put, it turned and this fact made it so much fun to play on the limited waves we had.  Also, with the volume and waterline making it easy to get up wind I had the confidence to head down-wind to make full use of the waves or pick up a new ones down-wind.  Again, more fun than I would normally have expected in those conditions.  In fact when I was sailing down a little wave it came to me that the reason that this board was such fun was that it was a longboard that felt rather like a short board, what I mean by this is that it gave very similar sensations to a short board, but at slower speeds and in lower winds.

By the time I got back to the beach a couple of hours had flown by and I was just in time to see some of the other guys leaving in a slightly grumpy mood as they had not really had enough wind to get the most out of their freestyle boards.  But I was lucky to have a broad grin on my face as I had had a great time on the water- and that is what it is all about.

The Future.  Next time, I am looking forward to seeing how close I can get to being able to change down to my Proof 94L  wave board straight from my Kona.  I think that there will be occasions when I can do this, perhaps where the conditions are good, but I think that I will still need a freestyle wave board as a cross-over,  but lets see.

I am also looking forward to trying the Kona on a lake with a 7m as I think that its glide will be a winning formula with a freeride sail - got my eyes on something like a SuperFreak.

Thanks for a great evening sail must go to Ian Kraft, Hot Sails Maui and Black Project Fins and my sailing buddy Ed.

Lots more to come...

Other people's views.  Other tests you may find interesting:


Thursday, July 8, 2010

UKWA Slalom - Hove, 3/4 July 2010

Last weekend saw my first attempt at any form of competitive windsurfing, apart from sailing with my brother (but that has always been a little one-sided...), when I took part in the UKWA's Masterblaster at Hove in the UK.  

The Concept of the Masterblaster - This is a new addition to the UKWA's slalom events that have been going for many years.  It differs in that it is aimed at people who would like to race other sailors but do not want to dedicate themselves to it, or people looking to try out racing without the stress of joining the amateur fleet (I have been told that it is actually very laid back).  The format is very simple and matches what most windsurfers do whenever they sail in that it only involves sailing out to one mark and back.  The start is taken care of by means of a beachstart in the shallows and the finish is a dash up the beach to tag the Race Flag, which is being held by the Race Officer.

I think that the approach of the Masterblaster Event is perfect for me as I am keen to add a little competition to my sailing, but do not want to totally commit to a race series and indeed, to be truthful, I do not yet have the skills to be able to complete a full-on amateur fleet race.  And for these reasons, I think that there are lots of sailors who would enjoy the Masterblaster concept.  As Nik Baker said at the prize giving (yes, there are prizes too...) "...if you can sail out and back; then you can race!"  The prizes and overall organisation of the event was done my Nik Baker (North / Fanatic / ION) and I think that this helped in putting on a really good event.

I know that some people will be put off by thinking that they need all new slalom gear, but I do not think that is the case.  If you consider that the racing will most likely take place on flat water in winds from 6 knots to 25 knots (I was told that above that it becomes a little too hectic and competitors tend to prefer watching the Pros compete, though that is not written in stone) then to be perfectly competitive I think that an average weight sailor could happily use one sail to get up and planing in about 11 knots (say 7.5 or 8.0 freeride sail) and one sail to use when they can't hang onto that sail, perhaps a 6.5m again another freeride.  As for boards, I think that a 120 to 130 freeride board would be perfect with perhaps a change down for wind over 18 knots.  I think that most people either have this kit already or have access to it.  So there is no reason why not to give another Masterblaster Event a go.
Formula kit was perfect for the first day

Watching how to complete the final gybe


My Event - My brother (who raced many years ago) had impressed on me the importance of the need to arrive early and get rigged up as soon as possible.  So, I was ready by 8:30am with boards and rigs ready to go.  This meant that I could then have a chat with the race officer and find out how things worked.  I was very impressed with the organisation of the UKWA and also their helpfulness.  It certainly made it starting out very easy and enjoyable.

The wind on Saturday morning was not ideal for me as it was hovering around 9 to 11 knots, but the Race Officer, Ian Jackson, was keen to get as many races in before the much talked about shoredump appeared around high tide.  We were only to happy to agree to this as our starts were to take place in exactly the place the shoredump would dump!  Later we saw plenty of broken battens and a few broken masts when the Pro and Amateur fleets came in for lunch as the shoredump munched a a few sails.

As the winds were light most of the honours went to a chap on formula gear and Jack from Essex who was a little lighter than me and also a very good youth sailor.  Though when the wind came up I found that my 8.0 Hot Sails Maui GPS was perfect for the job, though I could have held down a bigger GPS if I had one and that would have helped me in the light airs especially as one of the reaches was a bit on the tight side.

As the tide and the wind came up the shoredump gathered strength it was decided to finish the fifth race of the day and look forward to the next day when better wind was predicted for the afternoon.  This allowed us to sit up on the beach and watch the Pro and Amateur Fleets.  It was very interesting to observe the various rig and board trims of the sailors and see the differences in boardspeed.

The next day saw plenty of wind which increased in the afternoon to something over 18 knots.  This was perfect for me and I stuck with my GPS 8.0 and Mistral 135L.  This combination allowed me to score a first and a couple of seconds from the five races we had.  All of the races were very competitive with some good close jockying for position around the gybe mark.  I think that I was unlucky not to win a couple more races as I think that I had the necessary board speed, but I hit chunks of weed a couple of times and slammed in.  With the short races there was almost no time to recover and catch up, still there was nothing that I could have done about the weed and it was the same for everyone else.

After all the races had been completed I was pleased to see that I had managed second place, behind Jack who had sailed well all weekend.

To sum up I really enjoyed the event.  The organisation was very good and the fellow competitors were very helpful and friendly and also learnt lots of things by simply taking part and talking to people.  The only downside was that I lost my GPS Recorder GT-31 somewhere after being slammed, so I can not post the tracks and speed for the weekend.

One final thing to say is that all of the competitors were grateful to Ian Jackson who ran the races brilliantly and really made the Masterblaster event.

I am really looking forward to the next event I am free to enter which is at the end of August at Worthing.