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.
One thing that happens almost at least once per lesson is that my student is pulled by the sail more than expected, rather than letting go holds on to the back hand and is forced to step towards the rail with one foot. This sinks the rail and ends ups tipping the board over and falling in.
This leaves them in the water and with the board upside-down. I have seen endless combinations of how people have tried to flip the board back the right way up. From the correct and effortless way to completely inefficient passing through only managing through raw strength. Here I will explain the ways to avoid and the best way to do it.
How not to do it
Push upwards from the water
This is the least efficient way as we are trying to lift a heavy board around a large axis against its buoyancy without having solid ground under our feet. Thats a bit of a mouthful to say that all we really do is push ourselves underwater since we sink easier than the board.
Rotating the board with the arms like a steering wheel from the bow or stern
The correct way
Here is how to do it properly:
- Turn the board so that the mast is at 90° to the board
- Go to the center of the board (at the position of the mast foot).
- Get onto the board (yes, on the bottom side of the board)
- Grab the far end and put your knees onto the close end
- Lean backwards onto your knees, pulling the far end towards you util the board has turned
Things to avoid in the correct way
Do not try to turn it towards the mast
If the mast is in the way, no matter how heavy we are leaning onto our side with the knees, the board will not turn. Also, make sure the mast really is at nearly 90° to the board. If it is in line with the board it will make turning it more difficult than it has to be.
Don’t let go of the board before it is turned completely
When we have turned it more than half way, some consider the job done and just let go. I recommend to hold onto it until it has flipped over completely with us under water and then just pulling ourselves to the surface that 0.5 seconds later. By letting go of the board you lose control of its position with respect to you. This means that it can either flip back into the wrong position or even worse, keep turning towards you faster than you expected and hit you on the head. Just hold on all the way.
A tip for the correct way
As in all aspects of windsurfing, we want to see how the wind can help us save energy. In this case this occurs if the mast is pointing into the wind. In this instance, when we lift the far rail, the wind pushes against it from the other side, making it flip over easier and faster. This is a useful tip for the lighter sailors like children.
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.
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.
In the first post on how to windsurf I mentioned and insisted on the fact that keeping the front arm straight is an essential element in windsurfing. Keeping this rule in mid will help us in the basic windsurfing position, doing the beachstart, the waterstart, the gybe and many other maneouvres. I would even go as far as to say that this is the golden rule of windsurfing. Let me explain why:
The Golden Rule of Windsurfing
Your front and back arms leading to the boom are the equivalent to the clutch and the accelerator of a car. Naturally the angle of our body with respect to the sail has an impact on this statement but in general it is true.
Back hand = accelerator
This is a no brainer really. We pull the back hand to our body, the sail offers more surface to the wind, we get more power in the sail.
Front arm = clutch
If you hold down the clutch of your car, what happens if you step on the accelerator? Nothing. You can tread on that gas pedal all you want, as long as the clutch is held down you will not move an inch. The same goes for us if we hold the mast hand close to our body. It is basically the equivalent of opening the sail with the difference that we do not have the option of closing it with the back hand. In order for the sail to catch the wind we must offer some surface to it which is not the case if we pull the mast close to our body (depending on our course).