Australian Windsurfing

Essential Improvers Tips
for windsurfing (PART 2)

LAUNCH TWIST THEN DROP. You carry board and rig into the water together, let the board go and have to spend a weary half minute hauling the rig into a position where you can manoeuvre the board and do a beachstart - an expensive nightmare when faced with a shore-break. The trick to getting away with speed, is to TURN DOWNWIND before dropping the board - that way you find that, with the clew flying clear, you're in perfect position to sheet in and step on.

TACKING QUICK EQUALS SAFE. In a tack the board grinds quickly to halt as it heads to wind becoming very less stable as it does so; the more quickly therefore, you can step round and sheet in on the new tack, the safer the manoeuvre. To hesitate is to wobble.

ANTICIPATE. Short boards turn into wind so fast that many get trapped and just fall back before they even have a chance to step round; so anticipate the turn and the sudden loss of pull by bringing your weight inboard and shifting onto the front foot BEFORE you arrive head to wind.

AROUND NOT JUST IN FRONT. A quick short board tack should be completed with just two steps. However, shuffles usually occur because the feet simply get in the way of each other. So don't just place the front foot alongside the mast, squeeze it right round so the back foot has room to slide forward and take its place.

RIG OUT OF THE WAY. Many see the rig as some kind of balance bar as they tack, holding onto it with both hands for support all the way round. As a result it usually knocks them off or at best the whole trick is just slow and stilted. So as you tack, transfer the mast into the new front hand and LET THE OTHER GO. You can then hold the rig back out of the way and use the free arm for balance.

FLARE GYBES. AN EYE ON THE WIND. In the flare gybe so much is going on that people forget what is actually turning them - ie. the wind - and are surprised when it hits the wrong side of the sail and drives them in. So be aware of where the wind is and present the sail to it as you turn downwind and then sheeting out as you turn through the wind.

FLARE EXTENDED. Of course the flare gybe relies on you stepping back to sink the tail but that does not mean you heave the rig down over your head with bent arms. As you move back you should still manoeuvre the rig on EXTENDED arms.

MOBILE HANDS. Some flare gybes are painfully slow because with their hands fixed in their normal sailing positions, the culprits are severely restricted in their rig movement. The rig is your paddle, the wider you can scoop it, the more turning force you create. The ONLY way to get that width is to release your death grip, get manually mobile and move both hands right to the back of the boom.

SAVE TAT GYBE! Once you've got the hang of making the board spin through the wind, the next challenge, especially on a shorter board is stopping it OVER-rotating. Whether it be a flare, slam or carve gybe, so many of them could be saved if only at the end of the manoeuvre, the sailor stepped forward more quickly and moved the front foot right in front of the mast. From there he can always level the board out and stop it turning.

UNWANTED LODGERS. Facially hirsute folk, do carry a small mirror in a harness pocket. It's very hard to take anyone seriously who's talking to you with their most recent nasal secretions lodged in their beard. The mirror of course allows you to check its contents on leaving the water BEFORE any social contact and therefore take corrective action.

GETTING INTO THE STRAPS. WIDE. To keep your weight off the windward rail and so stop the board spinning into wind as you step into the straps, make sure the straps are adjusted so your foot fits right through and that means being able to see all your toes. (or at least imaging seeing them if you're wearing boots)

POWER PLEASE. When the power of a big sail is pulling you forward, moving back on the board towards the straps should FEEL like the right thing to do. So be brave and take out the bigger one!

BOOM UP. A low boom, say chest high or under, is probably the commonest reason why people do not feel like stepping into straps. For medium winds and big sails, just under shoulder is the minimum.

THE FRONT FOOT DRAG. The best exercise to test your 'getting into straps' technique is to place the back foot between the front and back straps and then try and sail along dragging the front foot in the water. If you can manage it without heading up, it means you have learned to swing your weight forward on the boom and are balancing the power perfectly between back foot and mastfoot and the key to moving slickly back down the board.

LET THE HARNESS WORK. So long as you are powered up, you'll accelerate mare quickly if you hook in BEFORE bearing away and moving back down the board - after all it's easier to sheet in with your body than it is with your arms alone.

BACK FOOT BLUES. If the board goes into a frenzy whenever you put the back foot into its strap, you're guilty of moving too much weight onto it too soon. Assuming you're powered up, stay across the wind (that way the rig doesn't heave you forwards) and then ease weight onto the rig and the front foot as you feel for the back strap. Once it's in, gradually ease some weight onto it until you are standing with equal pressure on both feet.

NO SPEED IN A BLOW. It actually feels scary to even think about moving the feet towards the straps when the board is fully planing. When it's windy, the safest sequence is to move straight into the straps BEFORE bearing away completely and BEFORE the board is fully planing.

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Peter Hart

Peter Hart
is Britains best known windsurfer having participated in the sport at every level for over 15 years. International competitor, equipment analyst, level 5 Trainer (RYA), TV Presenter and journalist. He is also recognised for his contribution to the RYA Videos (World recognised as the definitive windsurfing training programmes), and articles every month in the UK's Windsurf Magazine