Need for Speed
by Geoff Moore, 2008.
Why the need for speed and footstraps?
Up to the limits of board velocity achievable by mere mortal sailors who don’t have specialized gear, about 30 knots, the faster you go the easier it gets. After the first few runs where the new velocity is frightening, you develop the understanding that you’re gonna be OK. Then you begin to see the benefits. First, when you’re going really fast the water surface gets very firm because of the big increase in buoyant force. So the board actually gets more tolerant of bad foot placement and errant rail pressure. Second, in the jibes you suddenly have a lot more time, and the sail pressure gets lower. You have more time because the board is going so fast that it coasts down from 30 to 25 to 20 to 15 to off the plane instead of 20 to 15 to off the plane. The apparent wind on the sail goes from off the 15 knots – off the plane (3 knots downwind) = 12 knots, to 15 knots – planing (20 knots downwind) = -5 knots (i.e., backwinded) or just a few knots. The board is firm like standing on the beach (because the board is coasting so quickly) and handling the sail is like sail chi on the beach in a no-wind day. This is why Amanda thought it looks so easy. It IS easy, but you need speed to get it. And the faster you go, the easier it gets to jibe.
I spend a lot of time out of the straps, or have only the front foot in the straps, largely when I’m just barely powered up. The straps on a well-built board are in the sweet spot for balancing up the pressure on the fin. So getting your feet on the sweet spot means that they have to be in the straps. Once in the straps, there is dramatically better feel and fine control over the attitude of the board on the water. It’s more about board steering control than it is about preventing launches and facilitating jumps. Last, and probably most important of all, the footstraps facilitate sheeting in by driving back against the sail with your legs and core muscles.
If you can’t walk back on the board far enough to get back there, you’re not going fast enough (or you are putting your feet too far to the rail without sufficient speed to support that). One solution would be to continue bearing off the wind longer to continue building up speed before moving back. Don’t be in a rush. Bear off and keep moving back until you are going very fast. VERY fast.
If you can get back on the board but find yourself unable to unweight your feet, i.e., can’t pick up your foot, the solution is to learn to hang down on the boom (either with your arms or with your harness). This transfers the weight on your foot to the mast base, and allows you to pick up your foot. It also moves that downward pressure further forward and flattens the board to keep it from rounding up. If you can’t hang down on the boom, it’s probably too low (hence Brian’s suggestion to raise the boom, though I prefer my explanation of why it works). Once your weight is supported by the mast base and your BACK foot, you can pick up your front foot and comb your hair with it if you’re flexible enough. Not having practiced enough yoga to do that, I put my foot in the front strap. Drive back with your front leg, and your weight is now transferred to your front foot and the mast base, leaving you free to pick up your back foot...and put it in the back strap.
Now you can sheet in as hard as you can, you can control the attitude of the board on the water, and thereby get the speed that gives you all the time you need to jibe.
Mike, the name of the video is University of Speed, by Brad Duffy. Good luck finding a copy!