Old vs. New

Last post
webguy's picture
webguy
Online
Joined: 12/31/2000 - 22:01
Posts: 9941
Old vs. New

Interesting and suprising article in Windsurfing this month comparing old gear to new.  The conclusions (which I did not expect were as follows):

1. an old (early 90's) board and sail will plane before a modern board and sail of the same size.
2. new board and sail will be faster than an old one of same size.
3. new board and sail will jibe easier than old.

I would have guessed new stuff would plane first because it is wider, but jibe worse and be slower because it is wider.  However, the results seem to be the opposite.

It does appear to me that new stuff is probably much easier to sail.  

It was indicated that the reason the old stuff planed first was the old sails were more powerful.  With the same sail, it seems the new stuff planes ahead of the old.  The reduced power goes hand in hand with "twist" giving sails a wider wind range (so you can take your 9.0 out in 30 kt or so, I suppose.)

What I am trying to figure out if this indicates that while boards have gone in the right direction (wider, eaier to sail, w/o giving up speed and manuevering) maybe sails have gone in the wrong direction - i.e. it now takes a 9 or 10 meter sail to eqaul the 8 meter motor of old.

In a recent post on rec.windsurfing one of the premier sail designers went so far as to say that the sail designers goal is to make the really big sails perform in really high winds.  Maybe they are headed in the wrong direction.  I for one would rather have a 8.0 that was more powerful than a 10.0.  (Not  that I want the downside of the old units, just that I would rather they not sacrifice power so that a 9.0 was sailable in 30 kt, by a few elite sailors.)  EVen if you can hold down a really big sail in lots of wind, it is simply not as convenient, or as much fun to lug an oversized sail around.  (I sail my 9.0 moore the time than anything else, so I am not one of the just say no to 6.0 crowd either).

So, what do you all think?

Randy

0 Like
webguy's picture
webguy
Online
Joined: 12/31/2000 - 22:01
Posts: 9941
Re: Old vs. New

I'll bite... I once (like many of us) had an Aerotech 7.5 IYRU which was basically a hi-tech version of an IMCO sail.  It did one thing well, powered a long board up to about 15 mph of wind.  When one put that on a short board, it would plane surprisingly early but if the wind hit 15, it would become to control as it was full all the way to the up and had very little twist. I'd say it had less range than a good modern 9.0/9.5.  

Now here is the kicker.  Those tight leeched sails were a bear to uphaul.  Much more difficult than the 9.4 I currently own.  I'd rather uphaul a 10.5 than that 7.5.

I think sail makers are trying to develop a sail that has the widest range rather than one that is the biggest.  Material  costs and simple economics suggest that if they could wring out the same performance from a 7.5, they'd do it (they'd sell a lot more $450 7.5s than $550 9.5s).  It's just that a twisty big sail does it better than a non-twisty smaller sail.

As you mentioned Randy, you use your 9.0 all the time.  It wasn't that long ago that we used to speak in reverent tones about Flipper's 8.2 and that he used such a big sail on a short board.  Only the fringe "open-class" longboarders owned 9.5s. Most of us wouldn't go past a 7.5 and T.C. only went larger than a 6.8 after banging his head trying a trick on Dylan's skateboard.

0 Like
Randy's picture
Randy
Offline
Joined: 05/05/2002 - 10:38
Posts: 3668
Re: Old vs. New

Webguy, I see your point.  I too had the same Aerotech 7.5 (I bought it from you) and could never get it to do much of anything, but then I never used it very much.  (Maybe there was a reason for that, mostly I had an 8.5 that was no harder to use and it seemed a lot more powerful.)  And I do recall that a number of years back I had much more problems uphauling than I do now.  (I thought that all that practice built up my uphauling muscles and my easy uphaul certainly didn't hurt.)

Anyway, I guess my point is that I wish the sailmakers would turn their brainpower to makng very powerful sails that are smaller, while retaining the other nice qualities we see nowadays.  Up to now, they have done a good job of making a big (say 9.0+) sail something one can live with, but my fear is that they are headed in the wrong direction.  Will we need a 12.0 in a couple of years?

Probably if the WS article was a little more fair, it would have compared say a modern 9.5 to the old 8.0, since the "twisted" off part of the sail perhaps should not be counted the same as non-twisted area of the old stuff.

In the end, I also suspect that the old gear also had better sailors connected to it.  It was a lot harder to master the older sails and boards, so the sailors had to be very good.  

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

0 Like
webguy's picture
webguy
Online
Joined: 12/31/2000 - 22:01
Posts: 9941
Re: Old vs. New

Randy,
I think it would have been interesting to see the new sails on the old boards and vice versa, myself.  Also, there were some hidden biases- the Explosion wasn't designed to use a longboard 7.5 but a course-slalom 7.5-6.5.  I wonder what a '96 V-8 would have done on that board re: its speed.

The constraint sailmakers have is the dynamic components of the spars (mast, boom) which when stressed by the force of the wind, tend to do things which in traditional sail design, power up the sail.  The loose leech and stiff carbon booms are attempts to negate those tendencies.  With a tight leech, when the mast bends off, the leech just gets tighter- not what you want.  With a loose leech, the top twists and as much reduces drag as dumping any power.  As well, given the apparent wind from water surface to 16 ft up, you need that twist anyway.  Modern sails are so much faster than old stuff that the difference is more pronounced (remember that there is very little wind close to the surface of the water because of surface friction which is even higher with waves and swells but the apparent wind may be 30 mph or great 16 ft up).

Given the brain power of those who do a good job of designing sails (Spanier, Peterson, Hansen, Henderson, et al), I'm sure that occasionally they ponder the possibility of power from smaller sails. I must say, as long as my 9.5 is easier to uphaul than the old 7.5s, I'll put up with the bigger nominal number attached to its description. I think they are as limited by the laws of physics as anything else.

Under current design- somewhere around 9.5 seems to be the practical max for Joe Lunchbox-windsurfer.  The guys using the 12.0s are the same who used 9.5s on their longboards (right, Dan Burch? Wink  )

But, it's interesting to speculate that if a 12.0 was built that would power you from 6-20 (as opposed to the 8or 9-20 for your 9.0 ) but was no more difficult to handle, would you buy it?  Planing in 6 vs 8 is a dramatic difference in planing time around here.

Then again, life was simpler when I had a 7.5,6.2 and 4.7 and just 2 boards.  Didn't sail as much, though.

0 Like
Randy's picture
Randy
Offline
Joined: 05/05/2002 - 10:38
Posts: 3668
Re: Old vs. New

"Sail Inflation" is actually a topic Ken Winner wrote about in Windsurfing a number of years ago.  I don't think I would go for a 12.0 even if it did allow planing in 6 kt (or even 6mph.)  However, lowering the limit to 6 could make a huge difference.  If someone can do it with a sail that fits on a 490 mast (say about 9-9.5 or less), I'll probably be the first to buy it.

I guess what I am getting at is this.  Board makers have made boards 100 cm wide to lower the planing threshold 2 kt (or whatever.)  While there are a few nutcases like me who will sail one of these things in 20 kt with a 5.2, I think very few "real" shortboarders would consider using such a board in windy conditions.  So for most sailor, the "range" of a formula board is say, 8-15.

Sailmakers, though seem to be moving in the opposite direction.  They want to make the really big sail that can go to 20++++.  For racing (which comprises maybe 1% of windsurfing) this is understandable.  However, for recreational use (the other 99%), I would rather see a sail designed to lower the planing limit of the big boards by 2 mph, even if it means they are not going to be usable at 25 mph, but instead top out at 15, maybe even 12.  

So here's what worries me:  Are the sailmakers making sails that sacrfice the "low end" by 2 mph, to add 10 mph to the high end. If so, its a bad trade because they are adding capability that is not very useful, at the expense of something of high value. I would rather get a 9.0 sail that works in 6-12 than something bigger that works 12-25.

Having said all this, I will say that the combination of current wide boards and big sails has probably helped my fun factor more than anyone I know.  So we are at almost the right place.  I'm not ready for a 12.0, yet, but who knows....  (Maybe if I add some more weights on my weight machine and eat a high protien diet.  Or how about some Stacker 2???)

Randy

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

0 Like
webguy's picture
webguy
Online
Joined: 12/31/2000 - 22:01
Posts: 9941
Re: Old vs. New

Ah - this all touches on a discussion that I have longing to hear people talk about.  I basically find my self in agreement with Randy as far as I understand what he is saying, although I am so far out on this subject that I have trouble finding common ground for discussion.  Equipment design seems to be largely driven by the requirements of racing, and while these designs may be excellent for many folks in many sailing environments, they may not be everyone's cup of tea.  I personally prefer smaller, lighter, more powerful sails and smaller boards than are presently popular.  I sacrifice some planing time at the lower end and I  suppose some speed at the upper end, but neither of these usually bothers me much.  One thing I believe about our local conditions is that on a typically breezy day, more often than not, the wind tends to be on or off.  When it's on, most people are planing,and when it's off, most people aren't, almost without regard to sail size.  When it's off I especially like having a smaller , lighter rig.  As far as boards go, for sure the new wide boards and deep fins promote early planing, but surely must copromise some handling characteristics relative to more traditional designs, I would think ( but maybe not).  Any way just some personal opinions and perspectives.  I hope to see this discussion go on.

0 Like
webguy's picture
webguy
Online
Joined: 12/31/2000 - 22:01
Posts: 9941
Re: Old vs. New

"So here's what worries me:  Are the sailmakers making sails that sacrfice the "low end" by 2 mph, to add 10 mph to the high end. If so, its a bad trade because they are adding capability that is not very useful, at the expense of something of high value. I would rather get a 9.0 sail that works in 6-12 than something bigger that works 12-25. "

In fact, most sail makers make a couple of lines of large sails.  Flat, big race sails meant to be held down in 20-30+ and rec large sails that are softer, more powerful and more realistic wind range.  Something most of us don't do however is adjust the outhaul enough to power up our sails.  Telling comment by Kevin Pritchard in a recent Windsurfing (paraphrased): When going downwind in light air I'll let the outhaul out by at least 3 and as much as 6 inches.  

Wow! Most of us are afraid to slack off an inch or 2.  

Sailmakers are caught between a rock and a hard place.  Race results sell sails as much as real world performance.

0 Like
Randy's picture
Randy
Offline
Joined: 05/05/2002 - 10:38
Posts: 3668
Re: Old vs. New

"Race results sells" is probably a big part of all this.  (Sort of like the old NASCAR adage - win on Sunday, sell on Monday.)  I think it is also becuase racing gives one of the few "objective" (though perhaps misleading) ways to test stuff.  Whether sail or board A is "more lively" or "better jibing" than board or sail B, is pretty subjective (especially assuming they are very close to start with).  First place in a race is not subjective, even if the winner is only 1/1000 quicker.  (i.e. 5 feet on a one mile course.)  So races "prove" what stuff is best, which can never be done in any other circumstance. However, racing greatly maginifies small differences in performance.  A board/sail/sailor combination consistantly 1% better than the rest wins the world championship, probably several times in a row.  (OTOH, guys like me, consitently 30% worse - well you get the picture). So, the sailmakers are kind of pulled into this by the what the market wants and considers important.

I agree with Chris view that racing gear tends to drive things, perhaps more than it should.  (Since all my favorite boards have been race boards, or close to it, this works for me.)  However, race gear has to perform in more "average" conditions, and (by accident or design) is generally easy to sail.  Which I guess is why beginner boards (whether the longboards of old, or wide boards of now) are usually tuned down race boards.  

As for maneuverability, its what you compare it too.  My formula board is much more maneuverable, easier to tack and jibe, and far more forgiving than my Superlight 2 was, for ex. Probably not compared to most shortboards. Then, I don't really consider myself a capable enough shortboard sailor to really say for sure.  

I think the wind being "on or off" is certainly true for Galts Ferry most of the time, and to a lesser extent at most places in the area, on westerlies.  For easterlies at places like Tidwell, there is a lot more time when the wind is steadily "almost enough".  In either case, lowering the planing threshold can increase planing time a lot, if that's the goal.   However, days when "early planing" is needed may also be spent working on freestyle, perhaps developing skills more effecively, overall.  

At Galts there are lots of holes and other pathological wind features.  Still, for me, the wide boards seem ideal at Galts.  In fact, I recall thinking recently that my formula board is probably the ideal board for Galts Ferry (not sure that's what the designers were shooting for, however. ;D)

Randy

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

0 Like