Sail tuning is one of the skills that gets overlooked during the learning process of windsurfing. Most people can kind of rig the sail correctly but are either unsure, or just plain don't know how to tune a windsurf sail. A badly tuned windsurf sail can make the experience of windsurfing unpleasant. There are only a few parameters you really have to look out for, depending on the sail. This guide should help for most windsurfing sail types although it will vary (or be missing aspects) for sails that have cambers for example.
When I rig my sails there are basically three things I look out for.
How to Tune a Windsurf Sail Correctly
Before I start, a quick disclaimer. Each sail type and brand will have different properties and their performance will vary greatly from one sail to another. This guide should be used to start you off but ultimately it is up to each sailor to test out variations to this starting point to see what works best for them. You can also check out the manufacturers websites to see what they recommend for their sails.
With the sail on the ground I push down on the sail with both hands. The sail foil should be just touching the boom on the other side. If it touches too easily I tense the outhaul more, if it doesn’t reach the boom I release some outhaul.
This also depends on the wind. If the wind is light you can release the outhaul a little to make the sail curve more round. If the wind is stronger or you feel overpowered you can tense the outhaul more to make the curve flatter so the sail doesn’t pull as much.
Too much outhaul
If we pull too much on the outhaul, the sail will be very flat, which means that it will lose the profile. This means that all the advantages of having a wing shape are lost and all you are left with is a wall for a sail.
Sails have evolved depending on their discipline. In the same way that you wouldn’t use a formula 1 car to race a rally, you also need the correct sail and board for what you want to do. Here are the 4 basic types of windsurfing sails with their differences:
Wave sails are made for stronger winds so they tend to be smaller. They are also made to be used in waves which means that the sail panels are reinforced to make sure they don’t break during a wipeout or your knees landing on them, etc. The battens are also stronger so they don’t snap when a wave breaks on them. This implies that they are also going to be heavier than other sail types. They are also cut so that the boom is shorter and there is not much sail surface below the boom to avoid it being caught by the wave.
I know what it is like to finally get back on a windsurf board, excited to taste the salt water again, feeling the wind on your face, the sensation of gliding over the water, only to realise after an hour or two that you have to stop. You have no more energy. Your forearms are aching, your legs are tired and you somehow don’t manage to get your breath back.
When I was at university in Newcastle (UK) I would always come back to Tenerife over the holidays to help out at my parent's Surf Center. While in the UK I would focus on studying and living the stereotypical student lifestyle (lectures, parties, hangovers) which meant that not much time was spent at the gym. I would come back to Tenerife to help out at the Surf Centre and realised that I was knackered after a day teaching.
From my second year onwards I took up judo which improved my cardiovascular performance as well as increasing my overall fitness. The difference to my next return to Tenerife was impressive. I could get back into the rhythm of lessons and free-surfing with no impediment from my body at all.
Now I see lots of people who rent at the Surf Center that are bummed out when their body won't allow them to continue windsurfing for more than an hour or two due to either their hands getting blisters (usually after a few days on the water) or because they are out of shape. (more…)
The centreboard (or skeg) is a tool which causes some confusion after a few hours of heaving learnt how to windsurf. Many people are unsure about when it is necessary, useful or a hinderance. This article aims to explain how and when to use the centreboard to get the most out of it.