What little I know.

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What little I know.

It's not much.
My first sailboat was a 15 ft Snipe. I sailed it a lot and after a few months I was sure I had the whole sailing thing wired. Snipes were then a big deal in one-design racing and one breezy weekend in October I got invited to enter a regatta at Lanier. It was pretty grim. On the first leg of the first race the whole fleet of 40+ boats walked away from us so fast that by the first mark we were DFL-WB, (Dead F’ing Last-Way Back). It was not that fun because there was nobody anywhere near us to “race”. We had no clew how everybody could be so much faster. But sailors are generous so advice and tips were easy to come by. Before too long we were “racing” with others at the back of the fleet and things were a lot more fun. A big dog I was not and I never got a single Snipe regatta trophy but I had a blast trying to figure it out and competing with the little dogs. Here is some of what I’ve learned since then.

Go sailing. Go sailing a lot. Time on the water is the single best thing you can do to improve board handling skill and getting Windsense. Sailing and training with your peeps is better still, if you want to improve racing skills.

Tweak your gear. You don’t have to have the best stuff to enjoy racing but breakdowns and stuff that doesn’t work will take a lot of the fun out of it.

The two things that make racing compelling to me are tactics and strategy. Tactics are what you do considering other racers. Strategy is what you do in the absence of competition to get around the course the fastest way possible.

Race courses almost always have upwind legs. This is where most races are won or lost. “Playing the shifts” is the game. We mostly don’t think about wind shifts on a day of regular windsurfing or foiling. Mowing the lawn (reaching back and forth) is so much fun – why bother, right? Racing longboards (foils too) changes it quite a bit because we can make higher angles to the wind. The first time you “tack on a header” and see the gains you make, you get it. But this can be very nuanced and the learning curve is long and always challenging… will this wind shift persist? … what’s coming after this?... is this shift big enough to pay off… do I want to be on this side of the course or the other?... would I lose too much speed while tacking? There’s a lot to think about. Wind speed matters a lot too. In strong wind, tacking a lot will cost more and pay less than in light wind. “Keep your head out of the boat”. Looking upwind is a big deal in seeing the big picture. All else being equal, it’s best to stay toward the middle of the course. Long zigs and zags increase the distance sailed. Unless there is a great reason to go way off to the boonies, don’t. Learn to judge your tacking angles and to figure out where the “laylines” are (where no more tacks are needed to round the mark).

Playing the shifts down wind is harder for me especially in light wind. I get a little ADD-ish. One thing that I look for on downwind legs is which tack is better for surfing. You can make out really well getting good at surfing. Ditto for pumping. Marginal planing conditions make for decision time– should you head more or less straight downwind, surfing, looking for shifts and more wind, or head up enough to get on a plane and use the speed to make better time? Planing is sure more fun but you usually need solid wind and have to be good at jibing to make it pay. If I’m way behind somebody on a downwind leg with both of us just pointing at the mark, a big gust or new wind will usually make me roll the dice that planing will help me catch them. The gust is getting to me first, and I figure– nothing to lose. In strong wind, pointing it straight down is hard and ugly– I’ll almost always go to the planing fun zone.

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Re: What little I know.

Strategy starts at the Start. It’s easier to stay ahead than to pass, so why not just start winning early? In shifty lake wind, it’s hard to set a start line that is perfectly square to the wind for very long, so one end will usually be favored. There are a few ways to figure which end is favored. Ask around on this. I think it was Gene that years ago found a good video on racing, The Winning Streak, maybe? Anyway, it was very British and I don’t remember much of it except their description of a start line with everybody bunching up at the favored end. A “Bellicose Thicket” was the term. Avoid the Bellicose Thicket - Clear Air is the Ticket. Here’s how to get a good start: Once the line is set, sight the line from the boat end finding a fixed object on the extension of the line. Because it’s very hard to judge where you are relative to the line without doing this (and very few will do it), there is ALWAYS a sag in the line. Boards in the middle will be back from the line. Boards on the ends will be very near it. Start toward the favored end (not at it), in clear air and DON’T BE LATE. (You need a watch with a timer).
Unless you can’t cross the line on starboard tack it’s almost always best to start on starboard. There are a few rules about starts that could come into play, but not often and they are pretty simple. Ask around.

There is usually a lot of traffic at the first rounding mark. Most often it’s best to plan your approach so you are early getting to the starboard side layline. Without the right of way, port tackers can get screwed royally at the mark.

To stay ahead of somebody, the simple rule is to stay between them and the next mark. If they tack, you tack. That way you stay in the same wind and they can’t get any advantage. The opposite is true if you are behind. You want some separation to find the advantage. If you are faster at tacking you could engage in a “tacking dual” and try to gain a little with each tack. But watch out for others passing both of you while you are duking out!

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Re: What little I know.

This start is at the MC Scow National Championship at LLSC a few years ago. There are no slackers in this crowd, but check out the sag in the line.

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Re: What little I know.

Great job, Chris. I'm going to stick this into the wiki.

One more thing about the start: it's better to be above the line at either end at the start than behind everyone. If you are downwind of the line, "trying to stay out of the way", you are suffering the disturbed air of every fast sailor. If you want to keep out of the way, do it from the sides so you can hit the line at speed.

Having said that, the closer you are to the line at the start, the less you are behind. The best racers are as close to the line as possible. If you watch windsurf or windfoil slalom racing, you see this big time. They are going something like 10m/sec, so being 1 second late is being behind by 30 ft. Ten seconds, which really isn't long, means you are a football field behind.

The start and dirty air (the disturbed air downwind of a boat/windsurfer) are big reasons you can never catch up if you start behind. Yes, the guys/gals in front are fast but they are also sailing in a lot more wind than you. Something sticking up in the water disturbs the wind from 10-15 times its height. So, for a windsurfer, that means you can feel the effects as much as 100-150 ft downwind. Now make that 10-15 windsurfers and you can see why they are going so much faster than you.

Okay, now that the beginner is absolutely freaked out out, let's get back to basics. All this isn't about you racing or winning but getting better for that freeride day out at the lake. As your upwind skills improve, you'll find yourself going more places, faster. You'll know if you are likely to be able to cross safely ahead of that other sailboat or not. You know that if you get caught upwind, how to make it safely back downwind if either the wind kicks way up or decides to take the day off. You've raced in high wind and in almost no wind and you are confident about getting around. Pretty soon, instead of going out and mowing the grass, you decide to see if you can turn the corner over at Aqualand and head upwind from Van Pugh towards Vanns Tavern. You get good enough that you don't just go back and forth in front of Old Fed but head up and into the channel. These are the things participating in a race helps you gain.

Last, last, last: If you are in DFL, your biggest fans will be the guys/gals up front. They remember what it was like. They are happy, as Chris said, to help you get better. They are excited that you came out and gave it a go. Biggrin

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Re: What little I know.

From 2015. A shifty east wind made the line pin-favored at the start and most of the fleet is struggling to get to the line. Dave Stanger (53) is right on time at the favored end (no surprise) whilst wiseguy, Kurt Schumaker (153), thinks he can make it on port tack. It didn't end well for Kurt. Thanks to Kevin Osburn for the great photos that day.

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Re: What little I know.

My first attempt at racing was in B fleet at one of the Fall Regattas back in the late 80’s early 90’s. I did pretty well in that one but then the next time I raced in a open class fleet in the Fall Regatta....I didn’t do well at all against the big boys but it was still fun. I didn’t race again for years until I was volunteered to Partner in the Special Olympic Sailboat races in Biloxi, Charleston, Charlotte and Macon. This involves a partner steering and working the main and a special needs athlete working the Jib. As easy as this sounds
There was some stiff competition since a lot of the other partners were veteran racers and sailing instructors. They were all really helpful and I learned a great deal about racing. Like Chris said” most races are won on the 1st leg or more importantly at the start line. It’s not impossible to come back from a bad start but unless you tack off and get a lucky shift or two you’ll be stuck in everybody else’s dirty air.

Anyway that’s my 2cents. If you’ve never raced you should give it a try at least once, I promise you will love it.

Alan

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Re: What little I know.

Getting upwind is a key thing, especially the angle you make into the wind. With long boards it’s really important to load the centerboard and fin to create lift. The trick is “railing” the board. You do that by forcing the leeward side of the board down. In light wind, I just stand on the lee side of the centerline. In a bit more wind (practice tells you when this is) I like to use the head of the centerboard to lever it onto the rail. In strong wind, the beating strap(s) are the way. I only have the aft beating strap installed and use my front foot on the windward rail to adjust the angle. This is a really pleasant sensation, feeling the board lifted by the centerboard and the board slicing through the chop. (It happens right about the wind speed that I think ,“I could be foiling”). Sad

I've learned a lot more from watching other people than I could ever figure out on my own. Dave Stanger is the master. (He taught 2 time Olympic medalist, Mike "Gebi" Gebhardt how to windsurf). He always wins the Fall Classic. Sometimes I'm near enough to him to pick up a few things, but mostly not, so I just ask him. You can ask him too. He'll tell you. Here he is at Shell Point a few years ago motoring upwind. You can see his foot levering the centerboard. Look also at the height of his boom and length of his harness lines. This is how you get the most leverage on the rig– high boom, low hook.

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Re: What little I know.

I have to be honest and say that this post is depressing to me. Because it highlights how little i know or can even comprehend / absorb most of what's discussed and fine points of sail, board, and wind handling pointed out. Clearly many of you have probably forgotten much more than I know -or will ever know, at this rate.
"Ignorance is bliss" fully applies here! 😀
Having said all that, I am glad to read webguy's intention to save/catalog all this great insights and info somewhere here- maybe one day I would feel ready to be able to absorb more of this and maybe even try out some of the tips. Who knows, maybe some years from now, I might even consider myself ready to give a go to racing? Odder things have happened, I suppose? 😊

And because of that, in balance, I am glad that you all experienced folks are taking the time to document & share these!!

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Re: What little I know.

Hamdi, I'm probably making it sound harder than it is. Longboards are definitely different and maybe verging on dinosaur status. If you can fit in your schedule, I can get you on one of the Race Committee boats. WAZP Foiling Jeremy Pape is running the show... super nice guy and expert racer.

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Re: What little I know.

Foildude,
When you have time discuss or even better illustrate what gates we will be using .
Sometimes ( ok, often) I am confused about what to do. Especially if there is two laps

Also...direction around the windward mark

Thanks

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Re: What little I know.
FoilDodo wrote:
I think it was Gene that years ago found a good video on racing, The Winning Streak, maybe? Anyway, it was very British and I don’t remember much of it except their description of a start line with everybody bunching up at the favored end. A

I have a copy which I will donate as a trophy for the last place participant, but in the meantime I will have showings at my home theater for the mere price of $100. Or if you don't want to pay anything, you can watch this:

Don't let the age of this video fool you - it is as relevant today as it was when it was released. (Some of the tuning points might be different with newer gear but you would get the idea. The best racers will probably be on the oldest gear, which will look the gear in this video.) The part about right of way is very important. The start line info very important, the flags, and start sequence - change with the venue - so make sure to know which is which. That is what the competitors meeting and sailing instructions are all about. It's all good stuff.

What happens in a black hole stays in a black hole.

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Re: What little I know.

Jolly good video Good
That guy in the video, Julian Anderson, unknowingly served me the most embarrassing slice of humble pie ever. It was at the Mistral Worlds at San Francisco Bay in 1991. We sailed the long distance race on IMCOs– 200 boards on the start line. We started near Crissy Field, upwind to near the bridge, a screaming reach most of the way across the bay, then a wild ride down to near Alcatraz and back to the start– two laps, 12 miles total. With a crowd watching and the PA pronouncer giving an excited blow-by-blow, Julian won it, lapping me right at the finish line! In my defense– I'd broken the pedal off my mast track with it stuck in the farthest back position making the long upwind tortuously slow. It was better to at least finish the heavily weighted LD race than to take a DNF. Stories abound from this epic week. It is easily the most intense and memorable regatta ever for me... even though I was nearly the Worst in the Worlds.

Me and the Robster, just hangin' out.

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Re: What little I know.

My personal best: I got lapped in 5 minutes foiling in Clearwater. Lol

Great story, Chris. That's an amazing memory. SF Bay is one of the sailing world's epicenters from America's Cup to windsurfing and kiting. Some of the best sailors in the planet in big wind, tide, chop and container ships.

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Re: What little I know.
Quote:
what gates we will be using
It's very likely we'll do a simple "Windward - Leeward" course, leaving both marks to port, (left turn around them). We'll have "Sailing Instructions" that include a diagram of the course, a description of the starting sequence and some other stuff. We'll plan some time for a pre-race chalk talk. We should get Stanger to do it.
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Re: What little I know.

One issue I have is remembering the start sequence with the different flags and horn blows, sometimes for multiple fleets. I've also found the flags on the LLSC committee boat don't stick up very high and can be hard to see.

I also have the book "Start to Win" by Eric Twiname. It focused on dingy sailing but applicable to windsurfing.

Bill Herderich

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Re: What little I know.

I will talk to RC Boss, Jeremy, about the start. We might want to switch to an all horn system and 3 minute sequence. Some other boats do this and it seems to work really well. You do 3 long sounds at 3 minutes, then 2 long at 2 min, 1 long at 1 min. At 30 seconds-3 short, 20 seconds- 2 short then 10 short countdown to zero.

Windward - Leeward course example:

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Re: What little I know.
FoilDodo wrote:

I will talk to RC Boss, Jeremy, about the start. We might want to switch to an all horn system and 3 minute sequence. Some other boats do this and it seems to work really well. You do 3 long sounds at 3 minutes, then 2 long at 2 min, 1 long at 1 min. At 30 seconds-3 short, 20 seconds- 2 short then 10 short countdown to zero.

Windward - Leeward course example:

All left turns - like a real race track. Biggrin

--- The Arrogant Jerk: Crabby and irritable since 1998.

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toolman3336
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Re: What little I know.

When in doubt,follow me to the marks

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Re: What little I know.

When in doubt,follow me to the marks

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