Windsurfing Tips:
Harness Lines Weed
We have only just started this section, so look for more tips in the future.

Zen and the (Never Ending) Art of JIBING:   -- By Da Zen Meister Barry

(published in the Jul. and Aug. '96 newsletters)

LOOK  OUT !! - It sounds so simple, but it's so easy to forget.  Look before you jibe. I usually try to look before I even unhook and then again right before actually jibing.  The first look is during the planning phase of a jibe and the second is a kind of protective backup to catch anyone or anything (boats/boards/barges/etc.) that may have been in your blind spot.  Make it a habit more important than brushing your teeth.

GO FOR THE GUSTOS -  Unless you're severely overpowered, try to start a planing jibe in a puff - not a lull.  In flat water, speed is your friend when it comes to jibing. Extra speed helps two ways.  One - high momentum will help carry you thru a jibe. Two - since you'll be traveling faster than the true windspeed, the sail will automatically de-power as you de-accelerate, which in turn makes it easy to flip the sail.

GET SHORT - I'm not going to tell you to bend your legs more.  I repeat:  I'm not going to tell you about not bending your knees enough.  Knee bend gives you a lower center of gravity (for increased stability) and better shock absorption when going over chop. Bend your knees enough so you can almost look under the boom when carving a jibe. Try for 90 degrees of bend.  Grab a magazine and look at the pros knees in all the pictures. I've never heard of a person having a problem of too much knee bend. I dare you to try and bend your knees too much. Try and get someone to video a few of your jibes. How much are your knees really bending?

SPIN - Don't Hinge. Can you imagine the difference between the way a revolving door spins versus a hinged door?  Most people incorrectly let the sail rotate around the mast instead of spinning around the center of effort (or very near). The secret to getting the sail to spin instead of hinging around the mast, is to PULL as well as push.  If you just push or let go of the back hand only, the sail will hinge around the mast.  Try to pull the mast forward with the old front hand as well as pushing with the back hand to get the sail to spin in your sail releases.  Most hinge sail releases result in the mast falling to the outside of the turn which causes the board to round-up and complete the dreadful “J” jibe.

BROAD TO BROAD - Most failed jibes end up on a pinch or heading slightly upwind.  The jibe should be completed onto a broad reach instead.  Go into the jibe on a broad reach and finish on a broad reach.  How do you finish the jibe earlier?  Go into the jibe with plenty of speed, which will aid an early sail flip.

QUIT WAITING - One of the things that keeps people from flipping the sail soon enough, is the obvious tardiness of the sail flip.  Why?  There is a short period during a jibe when you'll be traveling the same speed downwind as the true windspeed.  Here's the scenario: During this short period there is no pull in the sail...which means the sail won't help hold you on the board...Oh my gosh!...I’d better wait a little longer to flip the sail...I’m slowing down now as the the wind  catches-up and refills the sail...Now the sail is pulling on my arms again and I can counter-balance against the pull to help keep my balance...but now there's a lot of awkward pull from the clew first sail and Ill just instinctively dig in the tail to counter this...which slows me down more...which puts more pull in the sail...which I counter with more tail dig...which slows me down even more...which makes the pull even harder...until I either fall or finally let go of the sail.   How to avoid the “vicious circle of jibe?”  Flip/let go the instant the sail has no pressure/pull and is de-powered.  This slack time is a blessing. Don't let it pass you up - flip the sail. A good exercise in fast flat water, is to see how soon you can let go of the sail.  Most people already know how long they can hold on ... too long!!

RELEASE ME - Often, people don't let go of rail pressure soon enough when jibing.  The jibe is tentatively initiated with very little rail pressure and progresses to too much rail pressure at the end of the jibe.  This often results in what I call a “J” jibe.  The jibe starts out straight and planing and ends up slow, slogging and overturned. The most successful jibers press on the rail firmly during the first half of the jibe, when there is a lot of board speed and flatten the board (reduce rail pressure) for the second half.  This gets the majority of the carve out of the way while the board has planing speed.  The second half of the jibe is more of a coast than a hard carve.

KILL THE POWER - In order to successfully plane thru a jibe, you have to de-power the sail somehow.  There are two ways to correctly kill the power, or de-power, a sail (sheeting out is not one of them). Outrun the wind - Sounds hard but its not.  You're probably doing it now if you're planing.  Example: In a  twenty MPH breeze, everyone's going 25 MPH. The trick is to carry that speed into a jibe.  If you start out traveling 25 MPH on a reach and wind up going 20 MPH half-way thru the jibe (straight downwind in our example 20 mph wind), there will be no wind, and hence no pull, in the sail. As the jibe progresses, your speed will continue to decrease and the pull in the sail will increase as the wind catches-up.  You see the problem right? Don't wait to flip that sail.  Flip as soon as possible after carving past straight downwind. Otherwise, the pull in the sail will be too much and you'll have to lean back... which kills the speed even faster...which increases the pull... Heard it before, right? Outrunning the wind is the easiest way to learn how to plane thru a jibe on flat water in winds under the mid-twenties. Go into your jibes with mucho speed. Oversheeting  is the second way of “de-powering” the sail. Often this technique is used in conjunction with outrunning the wind or by itself.  Its the only technique that's going to work in near 30 MPH or greater winds, on confused & choppy waters.  Oversheeting is your KEY to highwind jibing.  You're never going to be able to lean your sail and body forward and into the turn, unless you learn how to oversheet.  Its easier to oversheet when you're traveling close to the speed of the wind.  You can start to learn oversheeting even when outrunning the wind.  Before you get to the point when there is no wind in the sail (mid-jibe), give the back hand a little tug to oversheet the sail.  By starting the oversheet pull progressively sooner in the jibe, you will eventually be able to start the oversheet motion almost as soon as the jibe initiation.  This opens up the door to tighter and tighter jibes. Jibing between swell/waves (instead of bouncing over the tops out-of-control) will be in your bag of tricks. Oversheeting is the only way to jibe when there is too much wind to outrun the wind (most bodies of water get choppier with increasing wind and will limit your board speed to near 30 MPH).  How to oversheet? See “Cheater Bar” section.  You will often have to be patient when oversheeting the sail. When truly powered, it will take a little turning in the jibe to decrease your apparent wind enough to allow the oversheet.  Just be patient and commit to the forward and in, lean of the sail and body.  After you oversheet the sail, you need to usually let the clew out a little or you may become backwinded. Don't become so focused in oversheeting that you forget the early release and overturn the board (See “Broad to Broad”).

CHEATER BAR - If you have a really stubborn bolt or nut to loosen, what do you do?  Increase your leverage. Get a cheater bar.  If you're having a hard time oversheeting the sail, in order to de-power the sail, what do you do?  You use the equivalent of a cheater bar - Move your back hand to the rear of the boom at least 12 inches.  Try for 18 inches.  The bigger the sail and the more powered-up you are - the bigger the cheater bar (reach farther back with that rear hand).

REVERSE OR STEP?  - I personally feel that a step-jibe is harder to master than a reverse-foot jibe.  Some might think I have this reversed.  I'm right and they're wrong.  Sure a step-jibe is the jibe to learn for racing, but it requires you to switch your feet during a crucial part of the jibe (the sail flip). It also becomes harder and harder to step-jibe in higher winds.  So why not learn a technique that you can use to plane thru a jibe in the broadest range of wind first - the reverse-foot step jibe.  After you get the reverse-jibe wired, then learn how to step-jibe like the Robbys and Bjorns.  In a reverse-jibe, you flip the sail and then you step.  Often these two happen very close together.  Almost simultaneously, but the sail flip happens first.  This allows you to continue (and feel) the carve with the feet, while you flip the sail.  Once the sail has been caught on the new tack and power starts to build-up in the sail, then untwist your legs.  Its a good exercise to try and see how long you can sail on the new tack with your feet in the reversed stance.  Its even cooler to try and jibe back to the original direction without ever having changed your foot stance.  From personal experience, learning to reverse-foot jibe (flip then step)  was 50% of learning how to plane thru a jibe in higher winds (25 mph or greater).

SHIFT GEARS - Too bad jibing technique for non-planing and planing conditions doesn't shift like an automatic transmission.  Remember, in light winds (non-planing) you're actually reverse steering with the feet.  Pushing down on a rail helps the board to turn in the opposite direction. This is true in both short and long boards - very obvious with a daggerboard down on a longboard.  Most people forget this on a shortboard in non-planing conditions, or when they biff a planing jibe. In non-planing conditions, the dominant turning force is the sail - not the rail.  Leaning a sheeted-in sail to the outside of the turn is what most helps turn the board.  This is the opposite of a planing jibe, where the sail needs to be leaned into the turn.

TOW - One more obvious tip.  Time on the Water is better than time on the shore watching.
Go get wet !!
--  Barry Ritchey


Harness Lines:   These are some general recommendations realizing that each sailor has their own individual preferences.  Harness lines should be short, stiff, easily adjustable, and non swinging.   The center point between the end attachments of the lines should be approximately 24"-30" from the front of the boom measured along the outer curve.  Optimum position of the harness lines changes with sail size -- farther back for bigger sails and farther forward for smaller sails.  The apex of the harness line loop needs to be positioned in line with the center of pull of the sail.  This position is best determined on the water.  When hooked in and powered up, the sail should rest in good position without effort.  If you are having to pull in with either arm to keep the sail in good position, then move the harness line toward that arm until the sail is balanced. Once you find the best position, note the mark on your boom so you can easily return to that setting in the future.
When speed planing, harness lines should be short to keep you in a fairly upright position with a raked back sail.  The loop should be about 7" deep for a wide boom and about 8" deep for a narrow boom measured from the bottom edge of the boom to the inner margin of the line.  Long harness lines with the sailor hanging way out over the water is a slow configuration.  When sub planing, the harness lines need to be long so that you can be comfortably hooked in to an upright sail -- one of several reasons for the recommendation for adjustable harness lines in the article below.  However, if you find yourself stuck out there with fixed length lines, you can make them effectively longer by moving the ends closer together on the boom or shorter by moving them apart; and you can lower or raise the boom to add to the effect.

--  By Dr. Gus Ting

(published in the Mar. '99 newsletter)

That's right. If you just blinked, the bold statement once again, fixed length harness lines are for people with fixed minds... or who sail in fixed wind or on a fixed point of sail.  I tempered my initial thought, "... with sick minds."  Has anyone out there ever had to schlog home when the wind went from planing conditions to non planing conditions? What about sailing comfortably powered-up and have the wind pick-up a sail size or two?  Have you ever had to sail on radically different points of sail during a sesh? Is all of your sailing done in the same conditions -- only flat water, only bump, or only wave sailing? And I almost forgot one: Do you ever share a rig with anyone else? If none of the above points covers your sailing, you can go back to sailing in Shangri La or seek counseling. On my top-10 list, adjustable harness lines rank up there close to clamp-on booms, as one of the neatest refinements to our sport. If you don't got 'em, you don't know what you're missing.
Let's take schlogging for example. When you're not planing, the rig is in an upright position. The rig isn't raked back.  This makes for a very high boom to body relationship. When planing, the rig is raked back, which effectively lowers the booms. Fixed lines can't cope with the range. If your lines are short enough for planing, then you have to unhook when schlogging. If they are long enough to schlog with, then they are too long for optimal sail trim & body position.  With adjustable lines, you can run them short for planing and lengthen them to still remain hooked-in if you have to schlog for a long distance or time. When the wind picks up and you either can't get to shore to down size the sail, or just want to keep on sailing, adjustable lines can improve your survivability. As the wind picks up to official overpowered strength, lengthening the lines allows the body to move further away from the sail. The greater distance allows you to better counterbalance the beast that your sail has become. Longer lines also allow you to comfortably sheet out the sail when overpowered. Most of us slow down a bit when overpowered and sheeting out corrects the sail trim. Trust me. Most racer heads have know for years that adjustable lines allow you to optimize for different points of sail. Sailing upwind, or any situation with high apparent wind, works best with short harness lines -- the rig is 'close hauled' to your body. Off the wind sailing, especially overpowered, works best with longer lines. Different water conditions can often demand a different harness line length. High speed sailing in flat water, where the ratio of induced wind to real wind is very high, works best with short lines. Choppy water sailing, when your board speed doesn't exceed the wind speed, can better be handled by just a slight lengthening of the lines. For wave sailing, you can run long lines for outbound schlogging if under powered  or shorter if more powered up. You can also run asymmetrical line lengths (port and starboard lengths aren't the same).  Patience. The lecture is almost over. Kathi and I share a quiver. Before adjustable harness lines (was that the Kennedy or Nixon era?), we would have to change out harness lines or booms if we needed to up or down size sails (thank goodness for velcro-on harness lines). Now, all we have to do is 'adjust' with a small tug or lift of the thumb. Such luxury.   Bottom line: Go out and buy some adjustable harness lines or make your own. You can use your old fixed lines as prairie dog leashes. Or better yet, give them to your friend that lives on Maui, who only uses a 4.4 in perfect 25 knot winds, who only sails the same break day after day, who never ventures up or downwind, and who darn sure doesn't share his (or her) gear.
-- Dr. G.T.  (a.k.a. Barry Ritchey)


Weed:  If you sail in the Laguna Madre of Texas or the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina in weed season, you will need to use a weed fin.  The weed season in the Laguna is from late spring through mid fall.  A weed fin is a raked back fin designed to shed the weeds and prevent buildup of weed in front of the fin.  If this buildup occurs during sailing, the increased drag and loss of efficiency will result in a substantial decrease in speed.  If you find yourself unable to get planing when there is weed in the water even though you have plenty of power in the sail, weed on the fin is the likely cause.  If you stop and flip the board over quickly enough, you might catch the weed in the act or at least see the offending blob floating away from your fin in the water.
At Bird Island you will need a fin raked back moderately to about 47 degrees.  For the causeway side of the Laguna, where the weed problem is more severe, you will need more rake -- 40 degrees or so.  I use a fin with a 12.5 inch draft for my 9'8" board and a 10 inch draft fin for my 8'6" board.   The fin area should be big enough for the board size to allow you to go upwind well and minimize spinout.  Mount the fin all the way forward in the fin box to help prevent spinout.  The leading edge of the fin should be smooth and free of nicks.  It should be straight to shed the weed -- not concave or convex to catch it.  Sand any irregularities smooth with fine sandpaper .  Larger nicks should be filled with solarez or other filler and sanded.  If you can, try not to hit the fin on the bottom to avoid more nicks in the future.  A smooth transition between the nose of the fin and the bottom of the board is essential as well.  If the front of the fin protrudes beyond the fin box, make sure that the gap between the front of the fin and the bottom of the board is well filled so that no weed can catch there and start a buildup.  Being unable to find a good, reliable filler for this gap, I filled mine with ding stick.  If you want a more flexible but a less durable and satisfactory solution, you can use clear silicone II caulk instead and trim the edges with scissors after it cures.  Here's the procedure:  Remove the fin and apply a small amount of Vaseline petroleum jelly to the board in front of the fin box.  Apply a small piece of cellophane to the area and smooth in position (the Vaseline keeps it in place).  Clean and dry the underside of the nose of the fin where the ding stick will be applied.  Prepare a small amount of epoxy ding stick (usually available at your local discount store or windsurfing shop) and apply to the front of the fin to overfill the gap.  Place the fin in the fin box making sure that the layer of cellophane is between the board and the epoxy so that none will stick to the board.  Partially tighten the fin in position.  Do not fully tighten or you will end up with a gap later.  Trim and smooth the epoxy around the nose of the fin.  Let dry in place overnight.  The next day, remove the fin and the cellophane.  File and sand the epoxy to make a smooth transition with the fin.  Tighten the fin in the fin box and check for a gap.  If a little gap persists, apply a little more epoxy and repeat the procedure.  You want a smooth transition between board and fin with no gap.  If you can achieve this, it may solve your weed problem.  If the fin ends up raked back a little more than it was, then so much the better. This trick has worked well for me in heavy weed conditions.
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the modification:
If you find yourself sailing in heavy weed, try to avoid the bigger patches by running a slalom between them.  Definitely avoid the big patches with foam and/or birds sitting on top -- these can stop you dead in your tracks!  During the weed season, lean toward larger sail sizes when deciding on what to rig -- you will need extra power and speed to cut through the weed.  Speed is your friend in these conditions.  If you can get going fast quickly and keep going fast, you are less likely to catch weed.  When you are going slow, weed tends to build up on the fin, and then you can't get planing even when you get into stronger wind until you take measures to shed that accumulated weed.  If you find yourself schlogging when you should be planing, you probably have weed on the fin.  To get rid of it, you can stop, flip the board over, and remove any weed that remains.  Another technique is to head the board up directly into the wind (look before you do this turn) and stall the board.  Drift slowly backward a bit and the weed blob may float away from the fin (this trick can work!); then push the nose off the wind and sail away.  A third technique is to try to jump the weed off the fin.  If you are in the straps and have enough speed to do a little hop, you can try to jump the board out of the water a little bit to get the weed to fall off the fin.  This trick can be quite effective if you can pull it off.
With the right gear and a few tricks, you can minimize your frustration and maximize your sailing fun in weed season.  Good luck.     -- Drjibe
For more windsurfing tips, check out these links:
Lefebvre's Windsurfing Moves CCAF Windsurfing