What you can do if there is no wind

Well, most likely there is some wind. It may not be enough for water start and planing, but you can still enjoy the day on the water, exercise and polish your skills on a family board with a 5m sail.

Don't feel embarrassed because of the large beginner board; you are simply choosing the best gear for the given conditions. As well, there is nothing wrong with the smaller sail; true, you could go with the 7.5m, but it would be tiring, and your muscles will get tense. With the large sail, it won't be much fun, and you will learn less.

Smaller sail on a large board helps building self-confidence, and loosens you up. Relaxation is a key to success in many sports, including windsurfing. Instead of struggling you start playing and having fun!

You can practice many important moves applicable in the strong wind conditions, like mast-foot pressure, sliding grip on the boom, narrow grip vs. wide grip, and so on.

The video below shows what you can do when the wind is light. It was provided by a founder of North Wind windsurfing school Sergei Chuprov (aka Chuper). North Wind used to be very good place for beginners; unfortunately it was closed in 2015.

And here is another good video - what world-class windsurfers can do in light wind

To Start Plaining in Foot Straps

Here is how I learned to go on plane without much hassle.

  1. Good sailing position is the key. Your front foot is pointed to the mast and the back foot is cross board between the front and back straps. Shoulders and head turned where you want to go.
  2. Keep arms mostly straight. In case of a gust, bend your knees, get lower and hang on the boom. Here comes the first nuance. Your hands should handle the power in the sail on full auto, regardless of your stance. Practice, practice...
  3. I do harness first. On my last warm vacation, for the first time I broke the habit, and once found myself plaining, in footstraps and without harness. But it was an exception.
  4. Now the fun part - acceleration. Let's assume there is enough wind. You power the sail, and at the same time compensate by hanging on the harness and pulling the rig DOWN. At the same time you push the board forward with your front foot and move a bit back. Like pushing the board forward and from under yourself. Then faster and more back. Then you find the front footstrap waiting for your front foot. Important to avoid two mistakes. First do not bend in waist; if your harness quickly slides up - you are making this mistake. Your back should be straight and the head should be proudly facing forward. Second, you pulling the rig down is for compensating the power. It does not mean moving the rig back or onto yourself. The mast should stay more or less vertical. Only when you are going full speed you will be moving the rig back.
  5. Getting into the straps should be quick. Understand it sounds tough, however at some point you will learn how to unload the moving foot and after that getting into the straps will be piece of cake.
  6. Finally, once you are in the straps, straighten your knees. I sometimes feel like kicking the board forward and into the plaining with this motion.

Through the entire acceleration and plaining, keep pulling down on your harness. That would maintain mast foot pressure (MFP), keeping the board flat and taking your wight off your feet.

Later you will find that small equipment adjustments (harness line length, position, boom height) would make the entire experience much more comfortable. The ultimate objective is to go full speed and at the same time relax most of your muscles!

Forces in your sail

Remember your first encounter with a strong wind? For me it was quite a shock. Nothing seemed to work; it was tiring and frustrating. And, no instructor around to help!

Then I went to a clinic with Guy Cribb and corrected some of my mistakes, including the beach start. Shortly after, I successfully began water starting. So, what was wrong with me before Guy? Apparently, it was a misconception about the workings of the sail. I guess many beginners are falling into the same trap.

The wind should not be pushing the sail. The sail must be flying the wind!

It helps thinking about the sail as an airplane wing. The sail must slice through the wind. Close the sail carefully, and avoid getting into the 'stall' zone. Watch the video to better understand my point.

If you 'fly the sail' for beach start - you'd do it easier and with less wind.
'Flying the sail' in water start is probably the most important point to master.

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Mast Base Position Secrets, Part 1

Translated from Russian, originally published at www.surf-clinics.ru by Maria Esyutina (WindPro school).

In these articles we are going to discuss the question every windsurfer would ask at least once, 'Where should I place the mast base and why?' The most common response would be, 'Put it in the middle'. But then, why such a long mast track? The truth is, experts can notice a significant difference when the mast base is moved just by few centimeters, while 6cm (out of available 16cm) would differentiate settings between an intermediate and a professional windsurfer.

In Part 1, we'll discuss mast base positioning, depending on your level and objectives. Part 2 will focus on wind conditions and gear-specific tune-ups.

A windsurf behavior can be described as maneuverability and speed (when the mast base is shifted back), or better control (mast base shifted forward).

Maneuverability could translate, for example, into the effect of 'riding the fin', when the board is barely touching, flying over the water. It can also mean easy break from the water in freestyle, and sharp turns on waves. The bad news is that your board can easily take off - nose up - like a rocket, especially when you have trouble controlling the back foot pressure.

Better control results in smooth carving, for example, during a jibe; it gives feel of a 'softer' board, which cuts the water instead of wobbling on the surface.

However, most likely you've already heard all that. Now let's consider three effects of moving the mast base (of which you probably didn't even think):

1. Directional stability (when your board is moving in a straight line) is better at the forward mast base position. The old rule holds – move it a bit forward, and start planing sooner. Which is true for those who are just learning stable planing. After all, when the board is going straight line, getting it on a plane would be easier; as comparing to wobbling board, on which you are holding on like on a piece of soap.
With less directional stability (mast base is back) catapulting is more likely. Catapult commonly follows a sudden change in the speed or direction. Usually catapult happens when you lose control of the sail, but technically, it's a sharp change of direction that causes the fall.
So, the less experience you have, the more directional stability you need; therefore move the mast base forward!

2. Next is boom height, which, as it turns out, is also changing when you are moving the mast base. Imagine you're locked in a certain place on the board - in the foot straps for example. You are holding the boom, which is positioned at a downward angle from the mast to the clew. As you move the mast base forward - your boom will feel lower.
Lower boom gives you better control; lowers your center of gravity and adds counterbalance to the sail. Lower boom also adds load on the front foot and the windward rail, forcing the board better cutting into water, for example, in a chop (albeit reducing the speed).
Furthermore, additional pressure on the windward rail rolls the board against the wind, which is also pushing the board against the water resulting in better control; as opposed to the situation when the wind gets under the board throwing you into a catapult.
For those reasons, moving the mast foot forward would lower the boom, increasing control, especially in the chop and overpowering conditions. At the same time, lower boom results in later planing.
Here we are facing a dilemma: on one hand, moving the mast base forward results in better directional control and therefore facilitates planing. On the other hand, the lower boom prevents earlier planing.
So, when you move the mast base forward for earlier planing - raise the boom!
But, if you move the mast base forward for better control - leave the boom as is.

3. The incline of the sail (toward the stern). When the mast base is moved forward, sail leans back, and the opposite, if the mast base is moved back, the sail becomes more vertical. Back sail inclination reduces mast-foot pressure (MFP). And the opposite, if the sail is more vertical, increased MFP helps early planing.

In addition, swinging back any wing (sail, fin, bird's wing or a paper airplane) reduces both lift (power) and drag. Thus, by inclining the sail back, we're reducing its power. In the old days of long boards, mast track was 60cm long, and when riders moved the mast foot forward to the stop, power reduction and improved directional stability was so prominent that it was next to impossible to get overpowered. The long mast track used to be the way to make boards and sails fit extremely wide range of winds.

So, according to this theory, vertical mast yields more power and strength (mast base moved back), than the mast tilted back (mast base moved forward). Hence early planing with vertical mast... That's why expert windsurfers who don't care much about directional stability, often shift the mast base back to add power, agility, and achieve early planing. This, however, does not apply to an average rider, for whom directional stability is the key.
Summarizing, it's not necessarily true that moving the mast base forward improves early planing.

To make things easier for the reader, we put together a simple summary table, which would help figuring out mast base position next time you go windsurfing. Note that all measurements are relative to the middle of the mast track:

If you are learning foot straps:

Mast base: 5cm forward => the board moves in a straight line
Boom height:
+5cm => earlier planing and easier to move into the foot straps

If you are using foot straps and learning carving jibe:

Mast base: 3cm forward => better control and smooth carving
Boom height:
+3cm => earlier planing

You manage few carving jibes, but struggling to control at entry:

Mast base: 0-1cm forward => good control
Boom height:
no change

You are perfecting carving jibe and trying advanced moves

Mast base: 3cm back => better maneuverability and higher speed
Boom height:
no change

At this level, riders would notice a difference when moving the mast base by as little as 5mm!

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Mast Base Position Secrets, Part 2

Translated from Russian, originally published at www.surf-clinics.ru by Maria Esyutina (WindPro school).

In Part 1 we discussed mast foot placement depending on your level; the variation is about 6 cm between intermediate and advanced rider. Now let's consider reasons for moving the mast foot in a wider range.

The flatness of water plays very important role in the mast foot positioning.
We may generally distinguish between three types of environments:

In the chop, the mast foot should be moved forward, while in truly flat water the mast foot should be moved back. Generally, it's the main reason for the mast track being 16cm, rather than 6cm long.

So, the table from the previous article should be used with extra adjustments:

You should learn how to take into account water condition prior to going out, so that you don't have to adjust mast foot in the water. A good mast foot setting would allow comfortable ride throughout the day (unless conditions change).

You should also be taking into account your style:

With all that said, individual board design plays key role in the relationship between mast foot position and board behavior. The board bottom has a curved shape (called rocker), relatively flat at the stern, and curving up the nose. The curving starts somewhere between front straps and the mast track. The mast track is located where the flat rocker part is changing into a curve; therefore, a relatively small mast foot move may do a remarkable change. Downward pressure on the curved part would result in more resistance and breaking, while pressure on the flat part yeilds more speed.

Every board has a different rocker, therefore it's impossible to calculate perfect mast foot placement. The table numbers are more like guidelines for finding the best possible mast foot position matching your personal style, abilities and sailing conditions.

Summarizing, the next time you sail:

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Beach Start Tip

1) Approach the board from the back, rather than from the side
2) Instead of stepping forward on the board, drive the board backwards until you ready to climb UP
3) Put your back foot sideways across the board to drive the board closer
4) Drive the board backwards by swinging your straight arms up

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