Friday 24 February 2012

Hot Sails GPS - developing feel for the sails

There are some very skilled windsurfers that I sail with, and watching them I can see how efficiently they deal with the conditions. No matter what the wind does their sail holds still and does not get thrown around as they control the power from a gust, and manage to keep up speed through a long lull. One thing I notice when watching them is the foot of the sail is the constant, and gentle trim movements ensure limited movement from the bulk of the sail. Then when I look at the mast tip, it is flicking fore and aft from the apparent wind and real wind gusts.

For the past year I have been trying to emulate this, I realise that every wrong movement reduces the acceleration and efficiency of the run. Doing this I spent most of my time reading the water and being ready to counter the gusts which usually resulted in over-sheeting the sail or dumping the power by getting lifted up.

Within a couple of runs with the Hot Sails Maui GPS I felt like the sail was doing this work for me, the foot stayed stable and the sail was reacting to the gusts rather than me, leaving me to search for the points to bear away in confused choppy conditions. My old sails were also very good but seemed to lift me more and in turn upset the trim, especially when the water was choppy. I only experienced the feeling of being in complete harmony with board and rig once on my old kit, in only a few sessions with the Hot Sails GPS I have felt that a few times.

There is no waiting to get planing with the Hot Sails GPS, it is not slow to plane like some speed sails I have used and the low end acceleration is phenomenal. When I first started with the fully cammed sails I had one very light sail that planed really quickly but I struggled to get above 30knots (my ability at that stage, not a reflection of the sail design), then I bought a different brand heavier more aggressive style sail which initially I found very slow to plane and it took a fair bit of skill to work it (my first few sessions I did not realise I needed to bear away to get it up onto the plane quicker), once going I could get this over 30knots regularly. Once planing it accelerated quickly but I always found it a slow starter with a high top end as opposed to a fast starter with a lower top end. I must stress that I am using my experience and ability as the constant here and it is not a criticism of the design of the sails I am referring to and more experienced sailors will have a different experience I am sure.

I assumed this was a trade off like gears on a bike, something that was a forced choice for the designer due to physics, and could not be changed. I am convinced so far that Tom Hammerton who designed the Hot Sails GPS has proved me wrong on that assumption, the  GPS sails have blistering acceleration and a top end that I hope one day I will be able to reach as my skill improves. A friend and phenomenal speed surfer took the 7.3 sail out for two runs and beat my best ever speed on both runs in not the best conditions, I am not yet skilled enough to get the top speed from the sails but know I will progress a lot with the sails. So far I have had better speeds with the Hot Sails in worse conditions than I have achieved previously which gives me confidence.

So far I have used the 6.6m and 7.3m a couple of times each, only once on reasonably flat water, although it was very busy as there had been no wind for 3 weeks and it was the weekend. I attempted a single nautical mile run across Portland Harbour, which is a difficult place for a nautical mile. I had quite a slow start almost straight after a gybe at 22knots, peaked at 30.1knots and kept the hammer down for a good 500m over 29knots, the end was lacking at 22knots for a good 8seconds. The harbour has a big drop in wind as you reach the last third of the nautical mile, and always in the past I lost speed or span out as I went over a deep water channel where water floods out from a long lagoon behind Chesil Beach. My previous record was 25.9 knots in an West wind going on Starboard tack, often a good tack for the discpiline due to a more consistent wind and water state. Last Saturday I was over the moon to have destroyed that by over a knot with only one half hearted attempt, and scored 26.96knots. I wrote a few months back that my next goal was not top speed but to do a nautical mile over 27knots, this first attempt on a Hot Sails GPS gives me confidence that I will easily get that on my next good day with a few attempts.

That day I was also riding the Exocet RS4 and using the 35cm Black Project fin, both of which I don't think I can live without now. I seem to be getting better speeds on the RS4 which is 69cm wide than my Mistral 95l SLRD which is 59cm wide. The Mistral is a great board and I know it will go to excellent top speeds, I have had 34knots out of it several times. It is a very light carbon machine that needs driving well and needs a refined technique, where the Exocet is also a thoroughbred slalom board but it will forgive a bit of bad technique without losing acceleration or speed, which is something I need at my stage in the sport. I am very happy with this whole set up and cannot wait to get my feet on the Exocet RS2 with a 32cm Type R Black Project speed fin and the 7.3m Hot Sails GPS in about 22knots of wind. I have an feeling that this will be a perfect set up and allow me to learn the technique I attempted to describe in the first paragraph.

I have so far only been able to get out on the 8.0m Hot Sails GPS once, in very marginal winds. The only people planing were the Techno sailors from team 15 who weight about the same as one of my legs. I was able to get the set up planing a few times and experienced great acceleration before I had to gybe and start again slogging looking for a gust (due to the direction of the wind and the shape of the launch area). I am confident that this sail will help me get a good score in the BSA Slalom in light winds, and soon will have the 8.8m as well to back it up.

To summarise I have had few sessions so far with the new kit from Hot Sails and Exocet and each session has built my confidence that it will serve me well. The Black Project fins I loved from the first moment, the Type R seem to be controllable in any winds, the Type S take a few tweaks to your stance when you change over to them from the Type R, once you adjust your sailing (dont sheet out when bearing off, grow bigger balls!) they grip very well and are one of the best to get back upwind to start again.

More details will come on each part of kit in the coming months, I will back all this up with GPS data. Other great news is my new booms, extensions, and other components will be arriving from Chinook early next week thanks to Ed from Kbay. I will be doing an article soon about their kit, I already have several of their booms from 2009 Big wave carbon, 2010 Carbon Slalom, to their new 2011Pro 1 alloy big slalom, and extensions, mast feet and race lines. It really is in my opinion the only supplier of rig components that I will buy and have for a long time thought they were worth the little extra that they cost.

Its a real shame this weekend, the UK Hot Sails team were meeting up here in Weymouth but the wind has not come to allow us some good photo shoots. Looks like the doldrums for the next week at least in the UK again.

Good speed and winds
The Bus

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