What to do? We arrive at the surf spot and there are only 10 knots blowing. Some might say that the day is ruined. That we are cursed to sit on the beach and tell stories of epic windsurfing sessions. Others might say it is time to try kitesurfing. However, it is still worth hitting the water with a board and sail, albeit some big kit.
Low wind conditions give us the posibility to gain sail control and try out new manoeuvres with less likelyhood of falling in. When I teach beginners I frequently practice sailng on the lee side, the heli tack or a sail stall (among others) mainly to stay entertained, but also to develop my skills. I know that every attempt even in low wind contributes to getting the hang of a manoeuvre with more wind. (more…)
Why do I need to know this? Well, although you can probably windsurf by following the indications of an instructor, if you are going to try and learn how to windsurf on your own, understanding thow the sail words will save you a lot of trail and error and frustration and improve our technique so that you can get the most out of the sail enjoy the full range of what is possible in windsurfing especially in terms of speed, the powerjybe and the bottom turn.
How the windsurf sail works
The sail works like the wing of an aeroplane. Funny thing is that I have had students that had taken plane flying lessons have the workings of a wing explained as: “working the same as a sail”. So, let’s explain how a wing/sail works shall we?
Here is a video that explains thie workings of a wing nicely if you can keep up with the speed at which he speaks.
First, let’s pretend the sail is a rigid flat surface. The best comparisson I have is comparing it to sticking our hand out of the window of a car (if you have never done this, you didn’t have a childhood)
When we stick out hand out horizontally, the wind generated by the car hardly affects us.
If we now tilt our hand slightly so the little finger (trailing edge) is lower than the thumb (leading edge) the hand starts to get rise. In other words it generates an upwards force called lift.
However, there is a second force, a sideways force called drag. As we continue to tilt our hand, the lift reduces and the drag increases. Eventually there is going to be more drag than lift and the hand will just be blown sideways rather than up. The same occurs with our sail.
Naturally just a small angle of attack of the sail to the wind only offers very little surface for the wind to generate any sort of force on whereas too much surface (from a too large angle of attack) will result in too much drag. We want to find the sweet spot between getting the maximum lift and generating only as much drag as absolutely necessary.
So now we know how important it is to find the best angle of attack of the sail to the wind. As we start to sail we only have to take into account the true wind.(blue arrow) As we start to move we start to feel another wind component which we will call the board wind (red arrow – in sailing it is called the boat speed).
If we combine these two wind components we get the wind we feel: the relative wind (green arrow). Depending on which course we are on and the speed we are going at we will get a different relative wind. Since our sail must be positioned at the perfect angle with respect to the relative wind, we must constantly be modifying the sails’ angle of attack to get the maximum speed the wind and sail can allow us.
Here is the relative wind as we build up speed..
And here is an example of how the relative wind varies at the same speed on different courses.
I hope now you get an idea how to get the most out of your sail. Now a small change in how the sail is built to get the most out of the wind.
Now let’s look at the profile of a sail and the air flow along it.
Air Flow of a wind/sail – Courtesy of Wikipedia
As you can see, the curve of the sail causes the air particles on the lee side to have a longer way to go than the ones on the windward side.
According to Bernoulli’s Principle this difference in speed creates a difference in pressure, the top side (our leeward side) having less pressure and the underside (our upwind side) having more. Since the pressure acting on our side of the sail is greater than the pressure on the other side, lift is generated and we move forwards.
These two components of lift generation (angle of attack and sail shape) are what makes up move. Understanding this will help us get the most out of our sails in terms of speed and early planing.
I hope this has explained how your windsurfing sail works. For an fun video going through exactly this subject you can check out Surfertoday.com and their post “How does a Windsurfing Sail Work?” If you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Carrying our windsurfing equipment can be one of the most annoying hassles of the sport if we don’t know how to do it right. Time and again I have seen people carry their windsurf gear in such inefficient ways that this aspect definitely deserves an article. Most of it is common sense but when you are used to a certain way of doing things or don’t adapt your carrying method to the type of equipment and the environment, you will certainly create a habit where you are going to waste a lot o energy in the process of getting your rigged gear to and from the water.
With enough wind
Above a certain wind speed this method is possible and even if we hardly have any wind, if we run or walk fast we can generate enough aparent wind to make this work.
We can position the sail holding the lower end of the mast and the boom close to the mast or over our heads with one hand on the mast (or boom close to the mast) and the boom. In both of these methods it is important that we keep in mind that tge wind is to do ALL the work. We only need to position the sail correctly relative to the wind. In fact, we literally only need to use TWO FINGERS to carry the sail in wind. If we need more than that, we are doing something wrong. Important to keep in mind is that the mast needs to be on the wind side with the mast foot being slightly more upwind than the boom, and slightly (5 cm, 2 in) more elevated.
With little to no wind
When we have very little wind we won’t have any help from the elements to lift the sail. However, as I mentioned earlier, we can create our own wind by walking fast or running.
Over the head
As with the method with wind, we can balance the sail over our head. One hand will be on the mast and the other in the sail with a flat hand so as to hold it with the maximum surface of the hand. The smaller the hand surface, the more we damage the sail.
DO NOT pull the sail down onto your head!
Our heads have a pretty small surface due to its round shape. The weight of the sail alone laying on top of our heads shouldn’t damage it. However, it we pull the sail down, it’s tge same as if we were standing on it when laying on the ground. At some point it will deform the plastic/cloth/monofilm of the sail.
Big Boards – One person
If you are strong enough you can lift the board under your arm by grabbing hold of the daggerboard or the daggerboard slot. Just make sure you keep the board on the lee side (downwind of your body) as this way the board is not pressing against you and you can let it swing away from your body, especially useful in the gusts.
(Board on the lee side)
Over the head
If we need to go upwind we can carry the board on our head (going across the wind or downwind like this can be tricky).
Remember, the board is heavy and has a large surface which means you can easily hurt yourself and others if you lose control of it due to the wind knocking it out of your hands.
Big Boards – Two people
Large boards are easy to carry between two people since the weight is distributed. The best method is for one person to grab the fin (the board positioned so that the fin is pointing away from the body) and the second person carrying the bow. As mentioned before, it is best if the board is carried on the lee side of the body to make up for the wind pushing the board. Also, when walking in line with the wind, the end with the fin (stern) should be pointing windward.
If you are privileged enough to have access to one of these, be sure to use it. It makes your life so much easier. Strap the boards on so that the eind doesn’t blow them off and hurt you or someone else in the process.
Although small boards are lighter and easier to carry than beginner boards, there are indeed ways to carry them that are impracticable and make life hard on us. Here are the methods of how to carry them correctly.
Fin to wind
Before we begin with all the ways, one thing to keep in mind is to always carry the board with the fin end pointing to the wind. This is the position that the board turns to naturally if we carry it at its centre of gravity. It may seem common sense to avoid using energy to fight the wind but I see this a lot on the beach.
Board on the lee side
The other thing to keep in mind is to carry the board on the lee side of our body. This way the wind doesn’t push us sideways but rather we can let the board be lifted by the wind and thereby be less heavy.
Under the arm
Nowadays, with the boards being wider and shorter rather than long and slender, this option of carrying the board in the same fashion as a regular sure board is not always possible.
Grab the lower footstrap and have the other on rest on your forearm. This keeps the board vertical.
Footstrap + mastfoot
Again, keep in mind not to fight against the wind.
Board and Sail Combination
Footstrap + Boom
This is the method I find the best and recommend. It is the one where we have the most control over the gear and so the safest. It is also the one that requires the least energy.
Footstrap + Boom (low wind alternative)
Although it looks similar to the previous one, it is prone to lack of control because the board can start to flap about over the arm holding the footstrap. HOwever, with low wind it is a lilttle easier to carry the gear if it is heavy.
Over the head back footstrap and mast
This consists of holding the mast underneath the boom, leaning the sail on top of your head and the other hand holding the back footstrap. The only time this one is practical is when we have to walk directly upwind. However, even then I recommend the first option as we will always have more control over our gear.
I have seen other methods of carrying the gear but to me they are not the way to go as they are cumbersome and offer less control. If you have any other methods to add, please let me know in the comments.
Once we are sailing back and forth we need to consider that we are indeed not the only ones on the water. In order to avoid collision we must abide by the rules of right of way of the sea. First we will look at the hierarchy of the different vessels on the water. The ones on top have more priority whereas the ones towards the bottom need to get out of the way (according to boatus.com).
Vessels not under command
Vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuver
(freighter that take ages to turn)
Vessels constricted by draft
(freighter in a channel)
Fishing vessels engaged in fishing, with gear deployed
(windsurfers & other sailing boats)
Power driven vessels
Basically, the ones that have more difficulty in manoeuvering are the ones who have priority.
Now that we have established whom we need to avoid and who needs to act to get out of our way, lets see how the rules apply withing the sailboat category:
In the first two rules, one person will not be able to see the other. We must keep in mind that the responsibility of avoiding the collision is always going to be of the person that can see the other. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Overtaking person needs to avoid collision
When two windsurfers going on the same tack, one behind the other and the one behind is going faster with the intention to overtake. As the person that is in front is looking forwards (as they should) they are not going to see who is coming up behind them. So it is on the person that is going to overtake them to avoid collision. And no, shouting to get their attention to make them get out of the way does not make you exempt from this obligation nor is it good form to do so.
Downwind over upwind
Again, two windsurfers sailing on the same tack. The one going that is downwind is going to have a hard time seeing the one upwind. Therefore, the one sailing upwind has the obligation to change his course if the one downwind decides to bear into the wind. If the one downwind can continue on the closed haul course, so can the one upwind. That being said, if you are going to bear into the wind, make the small effort to turn your head to avoid any scares or close calls.
Port bow over starboard bow
This is the only rule for which a call had to be made in terms of priority as both people are in the same situation. Two windsurfers are headed toward eachother on different tacks. Both can see eachother and effectively one must get out of the way. Which? Instead of using technical terms, let’s just put it this way. The one with the left hand nearer to the mast must change their course to avoid collision.
However, the one with their right hand closest to the mast has the obligation of staying on their course. They cannot go changing their course as they please as it makes the decision difficult for the one whi must get out of the way to decide on which way to avoid into.
In the end, it all comes down to common sense and common courtesy. Don’t be a nuissance on the water and try to play fair when having to share the water with others. If in doubt on what to do you can just stop or turn around. More than once have I had to hit the brakes due to the other not knowing the rules and changing course when they shouldn’t or simply being arrogant dicks and ignoring all rules. Most of the close call have been when two people decide they can both still arrive upwind of the predicted collision point and so not have to bear away.
As a small side note, these rule apply to when we are sailing on “flat” water. That is to say, not in breaking waves. When we are sailing in breaking waves where people are riding the wave and jumping around, the rules are a little different. I will write a post on that in the future. However, these are the ones that will count 95% of the time so abide by them.
This may be a silly question to some people but I have had it asked by various students. There are actually 3 ways to stop:
1. Let go of the sail.
The most obvious is naturally to let everything go, in other words, just drop the sail and let it fall into the T-position. With no power in the sail there is no propulsion and the sail dragging through the water causes ennough resistance to make you stop moving in a few short metres. The disadvantage: we will no longer have anything to hold on to so we have to either bend lur knees for stability or fall in the water.
2. Luff up to a standstill
There will be times where letting go of the sail is just not an option. Maybe there is someone downwind of you or you want to keep in control procedure, like shen sailing in waves. Also, if we are going fast, the sail falling in the water will cause the board to stop moving pretty quickly meaning that, since you are not wearing a seatbelt, you will go flying. The best option is to lean the sail far back and to put a lot of weight on the back foot so that the board turns into the wind quickly. This way we stop moving and lose power in the sail quickly while staying in control of the equimpent all the time.
Click on image to see in full size
3. Press against the wind
For those with a little bit more experience, when we are plodding along slowly and need to stop we can lean the mast into the wind and push with our back hand. Obviously this requires good sail control as we need to lean against the power of the sail with precision. I tend to use this when I sail closely behind my students and they fall in. In this situation none of the others would be possible.
I hope this has answered the question for some people and given a few ideas to others.
As with tacking, in my opinion, knowing how to gybe in windsurfing is unnecessary since our turn will be quite different as soon as we start planing/gliding (the planing gybe is very different to this basic gybe). However, to get to that level we need time on the water and until then we want to be able to turn around with style without getting wet. I will get around to writing a guide for the carve jybe in the future but this is all I have here for now. So here goes:
Click on the image to see in full size
- We start on beam reach (1.). We put the back hand further back on the boom and start to lean the sail forward (towards the wind) (2.).
- As the board starts to bear away, we move our front foot behind our back foot and place all our weight on it (3.).
- We keep leaning the mast forward and down towards the water.
- We pass through the downwind course and continue sailing clew first in the new direction.
- At this point we move our feet forward so that the new front foot is next to the mast and the new back foot a shoulder width behind (4.).
- As soon as the feet are in place we shift the sail remembering to bring the mast forward quickly as it shifts.
- We bear up again so we get back to half reach again on the new side (5.).
Important throughout the whole manoeuvre is to really lean into the wind as we are going to have the while area of the sail available to the wind and therefore a lot of power in the sail.