Well, after two years on a transition board, I finally went sailing
on a genuine short board, a BIC Astro Rock. It wasn't a totally
pleasant experience, but I managed to get in 10 reaches of about
half a mile each before packing up, and I didn't fall off it. I
thought some of you, especially the less experienced might find
something of benefit in my observations. (Or more likely from the
responses of those of you who are more experienced pointing out what
all I did wrong.)
I was chicken to try sailing somewhere serious like San Francisco Bay
and wanted flat water, so since the wind was quite strong today I went
to the place I know the best, Shadowcliffs lake in Pleasanton (East of
Oakland and Fremont and 15 minutes from my house). I used a 7.4 single
cam WindWing sail to make sure I remained powered. I was never over-
powered, so that probably was a good sail size.
The Astro Rock is the only board I own that I can lift while holding the
rig. I always carry the other boards and sails to the water and connect
them there. However, I never could find a way to balance the sail and
the board with the sail over my head like I've seen so many others do.
Something would always drag or flip around. I gave in and carried them
separately. Can any of you give me any pointers on how to carry the
board and rig together?
So, I did a beach start and started sailing across the lake. I don't
think I could have gone very far without the experience I gained on my
F2 Comet transition board. Of course if I had given in two years ago
and taken lessons maybe I could have jumped from a beginner board
directly to a short board. Anyway, I knew the Astro Rock would be much
more sensitive to foot steering than the Comet, but it took me about
half a mile to start to keep it steady, and by then it was time to turn
around. I was going to attempt a jibe, but I soon discovered that short
boards slow down real quick if you do anything to upset the balance, so
I went for a quick tack instead. I've been practicing these for the
past year and got it turned around very quickly. I never sank either
end of the board more than a foot or so under water. :-)
I was also reminded that you have to be very quick on your feet to keep
your balance on a short board when you are not moving. I think all the
time I spent on the Comet with the 8.5 Aerotech sail helped keep me from
falling in here. One thing that is a lot better on a short board is not
having that stupid daggerboard to step on.
Once I got moving again, I got up on a plane, using the harness, but
was not able to get into the footstraps. In fact, other than getting
a foot in the back strap once, I didn't use them. I suppose that will
come with time. I think the heel of my foot was dragging in the water
a bit when I used the rear footstrap.
One big problem I had was that I was never able to keep it on a plane
for more than about 10 seconds or so. Part of the problem was that the
wind was not steady all the time, but I'm doing something else wrong as
well. I don't know if I'm stalling the sail, heading up, upsetting the
balance of the board, or something else. Any suggestions of what to
look for here would be appreciated. I'm ready to read through all
of the back issues of Windsurfing magazine to see if I can recognize
anything. (Oh, attention Ken Winner, why doesn't somebody collect
all of the How To tips from the past few years into an up to date
windsurfing instruction book for beginner through advanced sailors?)
The other bigger problem that I had was not being able to go up wind
for very long. The Astro Rock seems to go upwind well only when planing
and I already mentioned that I wasn't able to do that for long. I was
using the slotted fin that came with the board, which could have been
part of the problem. I was going to put on a 14" pointer fin, but I
discovered when I got to the lake that I'm going to have to grind about
2 millimeters of the tab off the bottom (top?) before that fin will work.
Of the three times I had to haul the equipment back upwind, I probably
covered half a mile. :-(
I was also wondering if the 7.4 sail was causing part of the problems.
It takes a 7' 6" boom, which is a bit on the big side. In fact, my 8.5
sail only needs a 7 foot boom. After the second time hauling the
equipment back upwind, I decided to rig a 6.3 sail that has 4 camber
inducers and only takes a 6 foot boom. That sail was a lot easier to
deal with but the wind was not strong enough to plane as easily with
it. I guess I'll just have to sail in stronger winds. :-)
After two reaches, I hauled everything back upwind to the launch area
once again and called it a day.
I'm totally tired and my forearms are sore, but I'm ready to try it
again next week. I won't sail the Astro Rock again at Shadowcliffs.
I'll stick with the Comet there, and only sail there when my kids want
to go sailing.
I expect the next time I sail the Astro Rock will be on the lake at
Shoreline Park in Mountain View. I remember watching all of the
people who sail there that never tack or jibe, but hop off each time
they get to a shore, drag the board back upwind a bit, then hop back
on. I was thinking "what a bunch of dweebs", but I think I'm ready to
try the same thing.
I figure I need to work first on getting on and maintaining a plane,
then make sure I can go upwind, then I'll go to Crown Beach at Alameda
and try sailing on The Bay (the wind is side-onshore, so there is no
worry about getting stuck out in the middle). I don't want to deal
with chop initially. Oh yeah, I guess I need to learn to waterstart
too. Hopefully sometime this summer I'll be ready to try some of the
sailing sites on the peninsula like Coyote Point. I intend to sail
one or two times a week until the wind dies in the fall.
I would appreciate hearing any tips, similar experiences or other
observations (but PLEASE don't include this whole article, we don't
need a bunch of 150 line replies here :-) .
BIC Astro Rock (9'4"), F2 Comet (10'8"), O'Brien (12') x 2, wide variety
of sails, etc. (Hoping to soon be an intermediate short boarder).