Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maui Race Series State Championships Event Preview - 60 Days of Summer Day 22

Saturday brings the Maui Race Series to a close with the final event of the race season here on the Valley Isle. The Neil Pryde sponsored State Championship will bring together racers from around the globe as far a field as South Africa, Australia, the UK and of course there are a lot of riders from the USA many of whom are Hawaiian grown. All racers will have one thing in common as the first hooter blows, a desire to become State Champion in their respected division and by this time tomorrow we will have our champions crowned.

All sticker'd up and ready to roll...

On a personal note this event will mark my return to racing after a 15 year gap and I am really looking forward to it. This afternoon it all camer back to where it begun some 20 years ago at Alton Water in the UK when I first applied my sail numbers to a green and black Dolphin Sails 6.0m, back then it was K197 but I later shortened that to K97. The sails and boards may have progressed some what but, the feeling of marking a sail and preparing your gear for race day is still the same and those feelings came flooding back today.

Planning is everything and I thought that I had all bases covered but, then it got stupidly windy for Maui with gusts of 41 mph today with the same forecast for tomorrow. Today I could not sail in a straight line with my 5.5m (my smallest!). The last 2 weeks of training has been with 8.0 thru 6.0m. Enough of today, tomorrow is race day, all bets are off, the sun will rise and I will be on a mission until the final chequered flag falls to signal the end of the final race.

Bring it on!  Tune in tomorrow for the full report with pictures and onboard video action, see what it is like to compete and hear how my return to racing goes!

More to follow...

Friday, July 30, 2010

GoPro tails, Weird Wind and a little bit of Perspective - 60 Days of Summer Day 21

I decided to take a rest from my slalom training and popped down to Sprecks for a quick session to test out some different sets of twin fins for Black Project on my wave gear. It felt rather strange to be on small and loose kit after two weeks of slalom sailing. I am not sure what was happening today but I couldn’t seem to get comfortable even for a moment. One second it seemed stupidly windy the next not much was there, I wasn’t the only one having the same issues, it was just a really funky day. When I looked online later I saw that it was gusting from 20 to 36 mph and rather shifty so that explains a lot. With the wind so unpredictable it was hard to settle into any sort of rhythm but the sun was shining and the water is warm so I wasn’t complaining (OK maybe a little!).

I was working with the GoPro again today. I am still trying to iron out a few issues. Stills from the mast mount seem to be coming out blurred, which I am convinced is due to the vibration, I will try some different settings and see if that solves the issue. My lens for the most part did not fog up but I did notice a little water later in the session but this did not affect anything, this is totally my fault for not changing the water absorbing strips before going out. I have 3 sets and they all look identical, I am going to get my sharpie out and number them so that I don’t make that mistake again. NOTE TO GOPRO: WHY DONT YOU MAKE THE DIFFERNT COLOURS OR NUMBER THEM LIKE GOLF BALLS? The final issue is not quite knowing how hard to tighten the screws, I want to leave a little give in case of collision but today I didn’t do them up enough and most of my mast mount footage was lost because it kept slipping as I went over the chop.

A rare non blurred mast mount shot, often they seem to have patches but I am confident I can solve the issues.

So of you who have read a few GoPro related posts will be starting to wonder; Why bother? The answer is simple to explain. You would take hundreds of photos on land to get that perfect one in relatively controllable conditions, getting the right shot is never easy there are so many variables. Now add water, wind, vibration and human error into the mix and it is clear that you are unlikely to get the perfect shot straight away when you strap a camera to yourself or your gear and go onto the water. There needs to be that element of luck present for you to get the picture that you are looking for. That being said, you need to persevere and eliminate error wherever you can so do take advice from others and do get out there with your camera, gain experience, iron out the issues on the so so days. In time you will be ready for when the conditions are good and you’ll end up with the great clip of video or the stunning shot. I am yet to get there but I feel that it is just around the corner.

This is just a sample of some of today's video, nothing too exciting but great as always to be on the water and hope you enjoy the ride.

What’s coming up?

Tomorrow, I will be looking ahead to the Neil Pryde State Championship which will take place on Saturday with my full event preview including my take on preparing for the big day, hopefully this will give you the motivation to get out and give racing ago even if you are (like me) a die hard wave sailor at heart!

Pic of the day

This picture was actually taken last summer, the stunning Makanalua Peninsula behind me is protected by some of the world's largest sea cliffs and is home to the Kalaupapa leprosy colony. 

In the 1800's it was chosen at the perfect(?) place to isolate leprosy victims. I am currently on a self proclaimed mission to find wind, waves, fun etc. but at age 33 (the same age as me) and in 1873, Father Damien deVeuster, arrived at Kalaupapa. A priest from Belgium, he served the leprosy patients at Kalaupapa until his death 16 years later after contracting the disease. Father Damien built homes, churches and coffins; arranged for medical services and funding from Honolulu, and became a parent to his diseased wards. Puts what I am doing into perspective some what but it is really motivating to see what is possible! You can read more about Molokai and the Makanalua Peninsula  at and lots of other sites. The isolated community is still there today and yes, still cut off from the world although largely by choice.

Sailing record = 100% (20/20 possible days)

More to follow...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eight in the 808 - 60 Days of Summer Day 20

My Tabou received some more attention this morning and is now sporting a flesh lick of paint. I am itching to get back onto a wave board and sail after a couple of weeks dedicated to being overpowered on big gear. After confirming my entry this morning and choosing my event t-shirt size (which ended up being quite difficult!) I arrived at a much windier Kanaha than was presented yesterday. It was set up to be a great opportunity to get some high wind practice in and I rigged a 6.0 with most people of 5.5 – 5.8m sails. It looks like it will be rather windy on Saturday so I had picked up a 5.5m to add to my ever growing quiver of boards and sails. There are not many details online about the 2010 Maui Race Series but this weekend Kanaha will host the Neil Pryde State Championships, the first possible start is 11:30am so get down and check it out. It should be a good watch for all the family (entry if FREE for spectators!). I will be posting a report on Saturday evening which will include onboard video from my races so that you’ll be able experience what it is like to hurtle round a slalom course with 10 other guys all trying to beat you!

With my two week preparation almost complete my plan for today was to simulate a full race day which consists of 4 races in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, I would use my timer to practice my starts and try to get into some sort of rhythm. It was extremely choppy especially in the upwind area where the races will start. It is hard to fully visualise the course without the course actually being laid but I know the Kanaha waters well and the GPS tracks are interesting and show that I managed to keep a fairly constant course throughout the day. I completed 4 back to back downwind slaloms with a max speed in the low 29’s.

The timers used these days are rather better than what I had15 years ago with a big display and being easy to use.

After a brief lunch break I was back on the water for the second set of 4 races. The wind had picked up (but looking at the online data it appears that it wasn’t as windy as two days ago when I was on the 6.6!) and I was thankful of the extra inch of downhaul that I had added during the break but, the broad downwind legs especially the first two were extremely tough and it was hard to keep the board in a straight line and from smashing into the chop. I have been practicing on a figure-8 course in recent days so it was interesting to try out a different angle.

This is the analysis of one of the practice races, you can clearly see the sail upwind and start (the shorter red ones) where I was coasting and then the 5 legs. The start is towards the beach from the outside and it this clearly shows how much slower it is going out through the chop on the 2nd and 4th legs. At the weekend I will try to set a WAYPOINT at the startline so that I can assess my speed at each of the starts.

By 4:15pm I had successfully completed 8 practice races and hadn’t fallen off at a gybe mark even once! I figured that was a good time to quit for the day! My max speed was clocked at 29.82 knots and I was pleased with a new Alpha 500 PB of 22.734 Knots which will go towards the HAM challenge score, looking more closely this was completed with only a max speed of 26.7 knots which makes me think that there is more that I can do here.

Check out the HAM website, maybe you could do a challenge in your sailing area?

This GPS image shows all of the tracks from today, again you can clearly make out the start area in the top right, the five legs and the upwind cruising (back up to the start).

After arriving home having completed some errands (of which one was to stock up on Powerbars!) I once more donned my running kit and set off into the wind and up to Paia before going straight up the hill, it was a fairly short but tough run and I was really pleased after a fairly taxing day at the beach. I do feel somewhat ready now for the weekend and I may not train tomorrow or Friday instead opting for some bump’n’jump action as I am keen to get on my waveboard and try those new fins some more.

Pic of the day

On top of the world, click to enlarge

Sailing record = 100% (19/19)

More to follow...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Beautiful Day to go Sailing - 60 Days of Summer Day 19

The morning started with some much needed repairs to my wavebaord, who will be back to pounding the waves in Sunday once the racing is completed rather than sat in my back yard cooking in the sun.

It looks rather messy at the moment, but a good layer of filler today and plenty of sanding and it looks much better, all that is left now is some spray paint and some Sharpie markes (for the graphics) and she'll look as good as new (almost!).

My box of board fixing tricks.

With not too much wind forecast in the 808 state I had half planned an SUP downwinder before the wind picked up enough to get some light air slalom practice in. The downwinder will have to wait until after Saturday as I really need to keep training. It was a very different to normal Kanaha today with very few people at the beach, it was a peaceful and pleasant place to hang out and the 10-14 knots onshore breeze was perfect for the 8.0m and 80cm wide board.

Later in the session the wind picked up a little but not enough to challenge Tom’s record speed of yesterday.

I tried a slightly different set up today with more downhaul, slighter higher boom and longer lines, this seemed to work well and I felt the most comfortable that I have on the big kit. With the sun shining on the deserted beach it was great to hang out and swim with Liz before getting out for one final session. No great speeds today on the GPS as it was a little too light, it would have been good to have tried an 8.8. Thanks to Liz for all the pics today.

Not much wind today but great to be on the water on such a beautiful day here in Hawaii.

So it is just a few days to go until the Neil Pryde State Championships and everyone is getting geared up. It looks like there will be 20-30 knots of wind on the day so looking at the logistics because I definitely need 5.5, 6.0, 6.6 and 7.3 rigged and ready to ensure that I am covered. The thing that I never forgot about racing was the enormous amounts of equipment needed, it is a bit easier here in Hawaii because it is one warm but secondly the wind is relatively constant but it will start off lighter in the early rounds, get windier as the day progresses and be lighter for the later races so I need to be prepared for everything. With the first race at 11:30am I am guessing that my mound of gear will need to make the short journey from my house to the beach around 9am.

It was great to feel a lot more comfortable today in the gear, what a difference from 2 weeks ago!

One more question on my mind is whether to enter the Semi-Pro or the Expert division, I want to race against my buddies Matt Wicks and John Smalley (who I used to race against when I was young) but I don’t want to chew off too much and be at the back of the pack all day. I will get the opportunity to race in the 19-39 category too which will be really tough but great fun. I need to register tomorrow so will sleep on it and make up my mind in the morning. I finished the day with the Kanaha and back run and was pleased with my pace.

Pic of the day - I have talked about the Kanaha run lots in the last couple of weeks so I though that it was about time to include a picture that I took while out on my bike along the path. What a beautiful place to run/ride/walk, it is really motivating to look up and see this.

Click to enlarge

More to follow...

Records Smashed! - 60 Days of Summer Day 18

Sorry about the later than normal post, the internet has been down here in Maui, just as a reminder how isolated this place actually is!

Today was a slightly strange day, when you have had wind everyday without fail I guess you get a little complacent. In recent days I have been sailing a little later in the day, we have been so busy and it has been good to avoid the hottest part of the day (although any day feels cold here compared to Bahrain!) too. Tom (HSM Designer) and I had arranged to sail together today so that we could test the 2011 Hot Sails GPS and the new prototype Black Project fins but to our surprise the wind looked light on the north shore so we opted to race over to the forbidden south side to sail at Kihei (most sailors fear the 8 mile drive down south but, as Tom pointed out when you have driven 6 hours to sail in Cornwall only to be “skanked” and drive 6 hours back home a 20 min round trip doesn’t seem all that bad. On arrival in Kihei I was thinking to myself that I had never actually sailed there (yes, I too have been one of those sailors!), I didn’t want to jinx the trip so kept quiet but, those thoughts were enough to ensure that the God of No Wind had cast a shadow on us! Oh well back to Sprecks (where Liz and I live) but rather than the having to listen to the same CD over and over (like on a trip to Cornwall) there was barely enough time for 2 tracks of the pounding Hammer music.

When the wind is light and from the North or North East then it is usually windier in Kihei but it is not that popular unless you are a racer or freestyler.

On arrival it seemed pretty light so Tom rigged a 2011 8.0m GPS prototype and I rigged a 5.6m 2011 Bolt prototype. I was a little concerned that the Light Wind Speed Challenge was on his mind and fearful that my record would fall. I was also testing the new 16cm Twin Fins and the GoPro anti fog strips. Unfortunately the light wind meant that while I kept my 100% record for the summer it wasn’t the most exhilarating 30 minutes of my sailing career. I was trying to work out the criteria for claiming the day but, as I caught a gust and managed an under rotated back loop I figured that would do it. All the time I could see Tom thundering down the Camp One Speed course and couldn’t help thinking that the record was about to fall but much to my surprise when back on the beach Tom had not managed to break the record YET!

Tom eventually smashed my best 8.0m speed by setting an impressive 29.9 knots (10 seconds) and with that he regains the Light Wind Speed Challenge trophy. That speed is going to be hard to beat here in Maui but you wait until I get the 8.0 out at The Wall, Bahrain. Tom is pictured here with his new 2011 GPS prototype.

The wind had dropped down and I decided to summons the wind gods once more by de-rigging in the hope that the wind would materialise and give the Hammer another shot at glory. Right on cue as the final piece of my kit was neatly stashed away the wind picked up to a steady 15 knots and Tom was back out, even from my vantage point some distance away I could see the record tumble and Tom regained what is rightfully his with a speed of 29.9 knots. Tom will have to wait a little longer to get the trophy back in his house as it was unfortunately smashed in transit between Sprecks and Paia but, the less said about that the better! Congrats to Tom who raised the bar today. If you are interested in joining the Light Wind Speed Challenge and use HSM GPS sails please email me.

1st Tom Hammerton 29.9 knots (2011 8.0m GPS Prototype, 2005 Exocet S4 125 ltr)
2nd Chris Freeman 27.14 knots (2009 8.0m GPS, 2005 Exocet S4 125 ltr)
3rd Andrew Freeman 25.33 knots (2009 8.0m GPS, 2005 Exocet S4 125 ltr)

You will see that we have all set our fastest times with the same board!

2011 HSM Bolt Sneak Peak – I moved over to the Bolts (from the Fire) for 2010 so it was great to be able to try out the 2011 prototype and I was instantly impressed by what it brought to the table. The light weight and easy handling has been maintained but with added stability. The now fashionable shorter boom with over hanging leech, new panel layout and new colour scheme make it look the part too. Sail and board fashions have meant that we have had a variety of contrasting looks over the years (remember the fluro Kleppers of the late 80’s that fell apart at the seams then compare that to the very plain white F2s of the 90’s) but for 2011 it seems that manufacturers have gone for lots of really bright colours and the water will look like a gay pride parade through San Francisco or Brighton for the foreseeable future (that is until the 2012 sails are released when I am sure all will change again).

For 2011 the Bolt features a new panel layout and great new set of colour schemes.

Bolt 2011: Loving the new colour scheme and easy handling. Today I was trying a new boom mount with the camera very close to the clew; I also angled the camera to give this slanted view and to get a wider field of view, will be good when we get some bump'n'jump or wave riding. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Bolt’s x-ply window has been kept for added strength and the four battens remain (I wonder if any manufacturers will seriously try to make a 3 batten wave sail? I saw a prototype from one company at Ho’okipa a couple of weeks back). As you know from reading the above there wasn’t mush wind so I will have to leave my full analysis until I get a better day to test but, my first comment was; “When can I have one?” I will have to wait becuase they are not available yet.

Providing that there is wind it is back to the training ground tomorrow and some more slalom practice, if the wind is light I will be trying the regain the trophy! I must make sure that I register for the weekend too.

Pic of the day

As I said that the beginning of my 60 day mission, you need plenty of gear to be on the water everyday and as you can see from the photo the gear is mounting up in our back yard. Normally I just have one waveboard and two sails! Luckily for me Hot Sails Maui are always there to sort me out, I can't imagine how I could cope if I had to pay retail for all this stuff!  

Sailing record = 100% (17/17 possible days)

More to follow…

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Run Rabbit Run, HAM Challenge & Molokai Crossing - 60 Days of Summer Day 17

Ever watched that little rabbit being chased in a greyhound race by the pack of angry dogs? Well if the answer is YES then you’ll know how I felt today at times during my training. A mark had again been laid again but today we had up to 7 guys all challenging for places. The basic set up goes something like this; all race out to sea from the beach, the leading sailor gybes and the rest follow, the leaders(s) stall to let the others get close before accelerating and racing full tilt towards the mark, round the buoy and then race back out to sea. In a bar pool type winner stays on manner the leading sailor then decides when to turn and the next drag race is started. The racers included Peter John (super fast and infamous Kiwi), Gregg Thomas (the oldest PWA slalom sailor), Tomohiko Komai J202, J???? (not sure his number or name but he is on JP/NP) & HI5 (earlier in the day HI34 was also racing). I am starting to get to know some of these guys and it is really motivating to get some input into my challenge.

Gregg in action at the last event. This pic was taken by Jimmy Hepp and you should check out his website and Facebook page, he is becoming Maui's businest photographer, keep up the good work, you are great!
More of the rabbit, well to get experience leading and chasing you can choose to gybe at different times and naturally if you are behind you tend to become the leader at the start of the next race, not to say I was always in last place but it did get a fair few opportunities to lead out the pack and having Peter John’s massive frame maxed out chasing you and more often than not hammering past you, is quite a sight. The set up meant that by the time get got to the inside mark there would often be 4 guys all trying to negotiate the choppy turn and this was really the best part of the session, being that close at the mark to some really fast guys was great fun and really challenging. I spent a lot of time checking out what lines they took and trying to follow and react. It was so hard to keep a smooth line and maintain speed with all this confusion. It was again reinforced how important it is to stay on your feet, a few times I managed to sneak inside a fallen rider and make up some great ground, at other times I fell from the #1 spot and came out half a leg behind EVERYONE. A great day of practice and I say a big thank you to the guys for their help, I look forward to some more sparring over the coming days. I was on my 6.6m again and that was great but later in the session the gusts became too much and my crash percentage rose, you can see from thart below that it was gusting 35 mph at times. My session finished as I took a massive fall on what would be my final gybe of the day, not sure what happened but one second I was at full speed coming into the mark, I had just unhooked (luckily) and coming over some chop, the next thing I remember was being under my gear in a heap, my shorts hap ripped off and my timer had started itself! I seem to have got away with just a stiff neck so nothing that a few Advil and some ice can’t sort out.

Advil - keeping windsurfers on the water when they should be resting in bed! I can't count the number of times I have trashed my ankle or something but loaded up on ibruprofen to reduce the swelling an numb the pain so that I could go out an wreck some more!

Click to enlarge this and take a look at the highlighted area, you can clearly see that the exists from my turns were rather messy today and they got worse as it got windier.

I was on the water between about 2:30 and 4:15 pm today, the big gusts around 4pm were getting tough for me to control and a 6.0m would have been fater round a course.  

I have been invited to take part in the HAM (HawaiiAmerican) Speed Challenge this is a GPS speed event where a team from Hawaii competes against a team from The Gorge and one from New England. There are 3 scores that count; best 100m, best nautical mile and best Alpha 500 (this is a leg and a gybe in the middle). I set out today to set a respectable nautical mile and estimated that it would take me 2 minutes (at 30 knots) so I set my timer and set off for a massive downwinder which was so much fun. When I got my tracks back on the laptop I was pleased with my speeds during the main part of the run but my overall speed was hindered by my acceleration time at the start and because I didn’t go far enough and my gybe out to sea counted. Next time I will run for 2min 45 seconds so that I can be at as close to max for the entire 1852m (= 1 nautical mile).

Click to enlarge, you can clearly see my nautical mile attempt in green. My avergae was 25.39 knots but most f the time I was running in the 27 to 29 range. If I can get a full fun anywhere close to 30 knots I would be thrilled.

Over the next few days I will try to set a decent 100m speed, I need something in the 35 knot range (my current PB is 33 something – on choppy water) and good Alpha 500 for that I need to set myself up on a one mark downwind slalom course, this is a really good concept and one which would be very interesting to the racer because it is not just about your top end and is a better measure of how you would fair in a slalom race.

All in all a good day and one during which I had a lot of FUN and after all that is the moto for the 60 Days of Summer Project.

Today's pic of the day: This pic was taken with the GoPro mast mount and captures the moment I landed an over rotated forward, you can see that I let go on impact to try and save my board! I think the result is pretty cool and I hope you agree.

One of the aims of the 60 days is to encourage others to be inspired, so the question is simple "What would you do with 60 days?" If you have read this far please take a few minutes to leave your comments below and share with the me and all the readers what you would do. I have found that by voicing your thoughts they are more likely to become a reality so by leaving your little note below you will be one step closer to your goal.

Whats up next? It is time that I registered for the race event next weekend, I will try to get that sorted tomorrow and in 3 weeks time there is a Maui to Molokai crossing so I need to find out some more info and look into the logistics; that would be a great experience, the channel is super rough and really dangerous. I am a little sore from a few days of having the pedal to the metal and really think that my wave board needs some attention so taking a day off racing tomorrow and will go in search of waves, jumps and tricks, maybe a good day to get working on those freestyle moves, that is sure to be a funny thing for people to watch!

More to follow...

Slalom Sparring and Prototype Fins - 60 Days of Summer Day 16

With just a week until the final Maui slalom race of the season the action at the beach is hotting up. Everyone seems really motivated to do well next weekend and it had led to some great training opportunities as racers jostle for position on the water. Confidence is so important during these super charged testosterone full races and that knowing that you can out pace or out turn your fellow competitors is vital if you are going to succeed on race day.

I am starting to meet a few of the racers at the beach who seem to be at Kanaha every afternoon and it has been really useful to get some input from equipment set up to advice on starting. I remember my first few events on the UK national circuit in the 90’s and how intimidated I felt, that cannot have helped my performance so it is great to feel a little more at home amongst the racers here. Tonight I set up some sparring with a fellow competitor who has his own buoy. Rounding a mark on your own is one thing but when you add other sailors into the mix the perfect laydown slalom gybe may not, okay probably isn’t the best policy and you have to adapt to the situation FAST before you either bounce out and fall and/or get hit by someone else. I almost don’t want to write this but I seem to be developing a habit of falling when the person in front of me falls, not sure why but that is certainly the time to attack rather than falter. After several rounds of sparring I was really pleased, I had plenty of speed and managed to cut inside at the mark and come out with some speed. We were running really short legs to get as many competitive corners in. We were both using GPS tracking and it was great to be able to compare. At first I was running 26-27 knots but as the wind picked up my speeds increased to 27-29 knots. At the end of the session we had a good chat about the good and bad and agreed to meet up to practice starts – I now have a timer so need to get used to using it and the starting procedure.

I am pleased to see less dark colours on the turns today = better speed maintained! Best 100m run today was 29.035 knots with a top end of 29.605 knots.  

I was set to test a 32cm prototype race fin today but that almost didn’t happen when I realised that I didn’t have a set of screws that fit – they were all too long. Luckily after searching my box of bits I just about managed to find enough washers (about an inch think on each screw!) to fit it snugly into the box. (My session was almost halted again when I broke my downhaul rope and had just enough left for a double run through the pully rather than a tripple, it was rather hard to get the desired tension, note to self - get some spare line!) For the last couple of days I have felt the need for more grip and this new fin certainly gave me that, it was really smooth and I felt in more control. I think that this will be perfect for 6.6m and lighter wind 6.0m weather but, I think that I might need a 30cm when I am over powered on the 6.0m and a 34cm or 36cm for the 7.3m.

The 32cm prototype felt smooth and fast, it was great to have more control and better grip. I look foward to getting my hands on some other sizes.

I also have a some 16cm Twins to test out, they have plenty of flex so I am confident that they will have plenty of slide. I have my fingers and toes crossed for some waves so that I can try them out and report back.

On arriving back at the ranch I still wanted to push myself a little further and again donned my running shoes, to be honest maybe I should have rested but I am always keen to see when the max is and I came pretty close to finding it today as I totally blew out half way through my run, eventually I got home but totally shattered. This is where I must pay tribute to Powerbars which proved an excellent way to help speed up my recovery. I think that it is time for some rest and the latest episode of Friday Night Lights!

I have been really pleased with the Powerbars I bought the other day, these seem to really help in the recovery phase and I will certainly be buying some more.

Pic of the day - Paia Bay

This is one of my favourite beaches in Hawaii, whether you want a swim in the summer, to relax in the sun or a surf in the winter this is so often the perfect place to be.

Sailing record = 100% (15/15)

More to follow…

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Slalom 102 - 60 Days of Summer Day 15

I believe that I completed the Slalom 101 course yesterday with a Merit and today it was time to face new challenges offered by the Slalom 102 syllabus! With a little over a week until the Neil Pryde State Championships today was time to step up the training on and off the water. While I know that my technique will be rather rusty come race day I want to ensure that my fitness is top notch. I know that it is a grueling day of racing with 8 races to complete (4 in my division and 4 in age category) and the fitter I am the more consistent my pace will be. For those of you who have been following this blog for a while it will not come as a surprise that I feel that fitness will be one of my strengths because I (almost) obsessively train year round in the gym, on the road and in the pool; my GPS device has become one of my training partners and measures of success.

The first part of my training today was scheduled to be a long bike ride; Liz and I rode 26km including a long stint into the wind and then straight up Haleakala; tough but, great fun. We arrived home rather tired but both managed a sprint to the finish, Liz not happy with 26km carried on to Kanaha and back to make it 33km - nice work before breakfast!

Time for some food, rest and rehydration. During my break I went to collect the new prototype Black Project Fins that I will be testing in the coming days and weeks, they look amazing but more of that in tomorrow’s post.

My on water training today would focus on the turns as this is an area that I definitely need to improve and I wanted to try out the 6.6m and AA combo. There was a buoy set up at Kanaha on the inside which provided a perfect target and with a few others with the same idea often there were others at the mark which created some competition. I was less powered today and the turns were far more successful although I always seemed to fall when the sailor in front of me crashed, not sure why that was! My GPS is providing me with important feedback; my runs today were slower than yesterday in the 27-29 knot range but this was expected as I was working on a figure 8 course today and I was less powered. The 27cm Speed fin was definitely too small today and the new 32cm Race prototype will hopefully change things (the prototypes were being photographed today and were not available for on water testing).

I am getting more used to using the GPS and software and it is providing some great feedback, every flat water sailor should get one!

I was exhausted when I got home but I wanted to push myself a little more and powered down and Gatorade and some water; changed into my running kit and strapped my GPS to my wrist, I was ready to set off down the bike path to Kanaha once more. It was tough but with the wind on my back the first 3.5km wasn’t too bad although when I turned and had to run into the 20mph wind my legs really started to feel it, but with the help of a few good tracks on my iPod I completed the 7km course in 39min. I am not sure that I know a descriptive word to describe how I felt but all I could do was lie flat on my back for a while on our living room floor. Another Gatorade and a Powerbar later I did feel rather more human once more. Training for today was complete and that felt good!

Two Weeks – When I started the project I set out to motivate myself and others, see how much action I could get and have a ton of fun. In the last 2 weeks I have windsurfed everyday, hiked, surfed watched the sunset, ran, swam, biked and had a great deal of FUN. I have pushed myself to do new things and have been encouraged by the number of visitors to the blog on a daily basis. As we enter the 3rd week it is time to step it up a gear so watch out for some interesting posts in the coming week and please keep reading and remember to spread the word as your feedback is extremely motivating.

Facebook Advert – I teach Economics and Business Studies so as a marketing experiment I decided to create Facebook ad for the project, let me know if you see it and be sure to click through. These could be a great way for you to promote your business? I set a $2 a day budget and left it run for 7 days and paid 17 cents per 1,000 impressions. It took about 10 minutes to set up.

This could be a great way for you to target your customers.

Pic of the day
I talk a lot about Kanaha Park in my posts so thought that it would be a good idea to include a pic that I took one early morning a couple of weeks back.

Click to enlarge.

What’s up next? With the forecast for it to be flat and windy on the North Shore I expect that there will be some more slalom training tomorrow and I am keen to test the new 32cm fin but I also want to get out on my wave board and test the new 16cm twin fins, maybe I will be able to do both but I’ll have to wait to see what feedback my body gives me after today’s effort! A south swell is expected to arrive over the weekend and I would love to loose the sail for a few hours.

Sailing record = 100% (14/14)

More to follow...

Friday, July 23, 2010

60: Day 14 – Slalom Training

The forecast for today was for stronger trades and no waves. In the past I would have been sat at home moaning at the lack of swell. However, this year things are different and a flat and windy day was perfect for me to try out the smaller slalom board (more kit borrowed from Tom!) and a 6.0m. It is quite likely that it will be rather windy for the State Champs in 9 days so I was really motivated.

Before going out today I was extremely keen to get the GPS unit working correctly and check on the official speeds from yesterday. After trying a number of different pieces of software I settled for GPSResults from, this is really easy to work out and makes it easy for you to superimpose your tracks onto Google Earth.

It seems easy to use but I will need to read the tips online and ask others how to get the max out of the software.

I was extremely pleased to confirm that I had broken both Tom and Andy’s 8.0 speed and I would be able to claim back the family trophy. The Lightwind Speed Challenge is a bit of family fun and speeds are only counted when the sailor is using at least 8.0m and a board bigger than 100 ltrs. The speed ladder now stands like this;

1st   Chris Freeman  27.14 knots (2009 8.0m GPS, 2005 Exocet S4 125 ltr)

2nd  Tom Hammerton  25.63 knots

3rd  Andrew Freeman  25.33 knots

Tom was a little sad to hand over the trophy but I am sure that my speed is not that safe and he'll back claiming it back at some stage soon enough. When I get out at THE WALL in Bahrain, then I think that 32+ is possible on this gear maybe more.

Enough of yesterday today was nothing short of exhilarating. With the wind peaking at 35mph I rigged my smallest slalom sail a 6.0m GPS and paired it with a borrowed Alex Aquera ( designed full carbon slalom board and 28cm speed fin. Wanting to simulate race day and test myself I set about sailing a number of full downwind slalom races, the course is always set up in the same place at Kanaha so it does make training easy. I will try to use a watch to get my starts better but I need to get one yet!
Winds were maxing out at 35mph today, more than enough for my 6.0m!

After the first completed course I was a little shocked how tiring it was, I was on the edge with the sail and board combo and crashed one of my turns. When it is this windy at Kanaha it is so choppy and going out it was really difficult to keep the board on the water, coming in was easier over the back of the waves/chop but disaster was always just a moment away. On checking my GPS my course max speed was somewhere in the 27 knot range, less than I had expected (and not good enough). After a short rest I cranked on 2 more inches of downhaul and slid my track forward 2 inches to keep the board down. I completed 2 simulated races with very a short break in between and my top end speed had increased to over 31 knots, I was starting to get used to being so overpowered. Sailing today brought back memories of my youth when my brother and I always sailed totally maxed at Mersea Island in Essex. I was struggling on the turns and that will kill any chances that I have in the race. For the 4th race I slid the track back an inch and worked on simulating the start better, I was getting tired by now and while the speed felt good, it wasn’t as fast according to the GPS and I crashed 2 turns. Time for a break.

After a brief swim and chill out with Liz (thanks to Liz for some motivating words xx) I went for a final test race. The wind had moderated slightly and I felt a lot more in control and much smoother. I gave myself a countdown in my head for the start and raced to the first imaginary jibe mark. As I powered down the leg I kept telling myself to push it and commit myself in the turn and it would be all ok. A few moments later I had flipped the rig and was settling down on the next leg; that was a better turn, right one down 3 more to go. Confidence is a great thing and my next turn was better still despite the large chop on the outside I managed to come own planning and with one slight pump I was settled back down and hurtling down the 3rd leg. I was enjoying this more that earlier in the day and I nailed the next two jibes. I was so pleased because I had shown myself that with a bit of grit I would be able to complete the races. When I was training for the Amwaj Triathlon I completed the full course after work one night and that gave me confidence, this was the same. I don’t want to get too excited because doing this on an imaginary GPS course on your own is one this but doing it with 10 other guys round buoys is very different but it is a start and one from which I can build.

GPS tracks overlaid onto Google Earth - If only we'd have been able to analyse like this back in the 90's!

During my 3rd race I hit a peak of 31.14o knots and a 100m best speed of 30.329 knots.

Evaluation time; to be able to see your speeds and tracks on the computer after your session is amazing, I could look at each of the races that I did and work out where I was fastest and look at my jibe arcs. My top speed came from my 3rd race with a max of 31. 14 knots and a 100m speed of 30.33 knots. I was pleased because I wasn’t sailing a speed course and that was in the heat of battle. My record on a speed course is only 33 or so knots at the moment (something that I am keen to improve during the Maui VMax events in August). It was windy today but not as windy as it could be, it is clear that 6.0 will be too big for my 72kg medium frame on the windy days and I will try to get my hands on a 5.5m. The fin I was using was a speed fin and I didn’t feel like it gave me enough grip or control, I will try to address that issue too. In all, a great day of training and one during which I learnt a lot about my gear and more importantly myself. Training will continue tomorrow.

At the end of the day I was totally exhausted and asleep on Anne and Tom’s couch at 8:30pm!

Pic of the Day

I finally got my camera working so I will be including some pics from the last couple of weeks at the end of each post over the coming days. Today's pic of the day is from the top of Haleakela.

Click to enlarge, high res image available on request.

Sailing record = 100% (13/13 possible days)

More to follow…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

60: Day 13 – Lucky for some

Today’s big news is that Maui has a new addition. A BIG congratulations go out to Anne and Tom (Hammerton) on the birth of baby Jack this morning. From his size we are already expecting him to follow in his fathers speed sailing footsteps. I look forward to the day when he is sailing alongside me at Ho’okipa (hopefully my other nephew Thomas and my God Son Seb will be there too!)

Liz and I took time out for a South Side visit this morning to La Perouse (which was windy but flat) and Big Beach with our friends, it is always great to see a different part of Maui and get a different perspective, the skim boarders were putting on a good show for the on looking tourists at Big Beach.

Looking towards La Perouse Bay, this can produce great waves (very tough) on a good south swell, although I prefer to surf at nearby Dumps.

The skimboarders put on a good show even if the waves were small.

After a visit to Maui Memorial Hospital to meet Jack for the first time I got on the water to test my new GT-31 GPS unit and see if I could finally get on the family Light Wind Speed Ladder (click for rules). With between 12 and 16 knots blowing at Kanaha and fairly flat conditions I was pleased with my peak (display) of 27.69 knots on my 8.0m and 125 ltr board. I will have to wait until I can work out the software and calculate my official speed before I will know if I will be regaining the trophy.

This is the trophy that I am trying to win back from Tom the current holder with 25.63 knots set back in April.

Today's GPS display, I am keen to see what my offical speed was, fingers crossed!

Liz and I are planning a day at Kanaha tomorrow and I plan on working on my slalom and will be tracking everything using the GPS. To sum up, all good here in Maui and our 13th day turned out to be rather a lucky one. Sailing record still 100% (12/12 possible days). There is a forecast for south swell so we may see some action on the surfboards over the coming days.

More to follow…

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

60: Day 12 – GoPro Update, Board Fixing Memories & GPS Speed

Board Fixing Memories - As I woke this morning my first port of call was to check the quality of my night laminating and that brought back many memories. When I was in my teens and early twenties I used to live in a house in Paia (I think that in those days there wasn’t a windsurfer who had not at some point lived in a Bliss house) with a bunch of guys and the odd brave girl. Each evening the backyard was full of broken boards, ripped sails, resin, bits of glass, sometimes the odd bit of prized carbon (which we used to get from the Sailboards Maui dumpsters up the road) and the swoosh swoosh sound of sandpaper on glass filled the air. We had to get our boards fixed up enough to get them on the water the next day and no job was too big or too small. If it rained and much to John’s (the house owner) disgust the fixing had to move inside. Phil Baker was the oracle; if you needed advice on how to fix something he’d be your man and even if you didn’t need help he spent hours standing by helping people get there stuff back together (he once fixed a board using a used cereal box!). We fixed cracks, we put in mast tracks, fin boxes and even put snapped boards back together all in the dirty, dusty and windy back yard. One of more interesting memories was fixing my K-bay which I had put on the rocks (the one with the swallow tail for those of you who remember), suddenly I heard lots of shouting and screaming, I looked up to see a full FBI swat team storming our neighbours’ house - that was rather shocking!

Don't worry Phil will fix it! I got this Quatro for 50 Bucks and without a mast track but it went on to be one of my favourite boards ever!
Fast forward 15 years and much has changed but much hasn’t. Paia is rather safer, well if you stay clear of Charley’s, Phil has lots of kids so he has a little less time to help people with their fixes but he is still ever present if you need advice but I am still fixing my broken boards in my back yard rather than in a proper work space but, I am pleased to report that all that training in my youth must have paid off and the glass job that I did last night seems to have been good and after some time under the sander (ok some things have changed) my trusty Tabou was ready to hit the water, it will need some filler and paint but it is back on the water.

Today’s Wind and Waves – Everyone was ampted about today, we had all had such a fun day yesterday and I had hoped to get some video footage but, the conditions were far from optimal. It started windy and there were a few waves rolling into Ho’okipa but as we rigged high clouds came over and the wind started a downward trend. I looked out and saw a few people ripping and was encouraged - later it turned out to be Jason Prior that was making it look good and he could make Camber Sands in a Northerly look good. By the time I was on the water there was virtually no wind and combined with the sluggish trade swell it wasn’t the best of sessions but enough to keep my 100% record and that is important. There was plenty of wind for slalom later on but I took the decision to relax on baby beach with friends, I have sailed alot in the last 10 days or so and my hands and ankles in particular are a littel sore. Later in the day I went for the 7km Kanaha and back run and set a new course PB of 36 minutes 43 seconds, I am hoping to improve on this in the coming weeks.

To GoPro or not to GoPro? UPDATE – in an early post I asked this question and want to add some further info for those still considering buying a GoPro camera to capture their sessions. Cost is always an issue with any purchase and at first look the camera look quite reasonable, the HD Wide Angle Naked (this is the best of the cameras) which comes with no mounts retails at $259.99 + tax and shipping but you must consider the extras that you will need before you commit because if you don’t you will be disappointed.

  • SD memory card preferably 8GB or more (max 32GB): $50 (for 8GB)
  • Handlebar Seatpost Mount (for boom mounts): $19.99
  • Roll Bar Mount (for mast mounts): $29.99
  • Grab Bag of Mounts: $19.99
  • Surf Hero Expansion: $19.99
  • Anti-Fog Inserts: $14.99
Total: $414.94

At $14.99 the Anti-Fog inserts are possibly the most important pieces of the puzzle and do not go without them!

If you are happy with that outlay then that is a good first step but buying the gear will not guarantee you success. I have had a few people come up and ask me about the cameras and how I am getting on, one guy said to me;

“Is that new?”

“Yes” I replied,

“Arhh, yes they are always new – people get fed up with them and then don’t use them anymore so they are always new!”

I am keen to prove this guy wrong and strongly feel that they have a place and that many people can get enjoyment and from capturing and sharing their sessions. Once you have got your gear sorted and I urge you to do this immediately when you purchase the camera is this will not only save shipping but lots of frustration you then need to work hard at first to get good pictures, you are unlikely to get a good shot straight away and you will wade through hundreds and very quickly thousands of photos and hours of video until you get the desired result.

My top ten things that you should remember;
  1. Buy all the stuff listed above at the time of buying your camera
  2. Have a medium Phillips style (cross head) screw driver at hand
  3. Don’t assemble your mount on sand – I dropped a screw and had a hard time finding it!
  4. Use the screwdriver to tighten the mounts but don’t do it too tight, make sure that on impact it can move, that way you protect your camera
  5. Try lots of different mounts and mounting positions but don’t spend to long changing during each session.
  6. Ignore all negative comments from onlookers
  7. If at first you fail, evaluate why you failed then seek to improve next time
  8. Be ruthless with your editing; if it is not perfect delete it. You are better to have one good shot from each session or one small clip of video rather than a ton of so so images and video.
  9. Share your results on Facebook, everyone loves the pics, especially non-windsurfers and surfers, one friend said to me after watching a headcam video “Now I can see why you like windsurfing, this video let me ride with you – I want to learn”
  10. Remember why you bought a GoPro in the first place and keep going
GPS Speed – Picked up my GT-31 and Aquapak today (thanks Hammer) for sorting that for me, all I have to do now is set it up and put some tracks down and see if I can climb up the Maui VMax 2010 Speed Ladder. I will of course air my trials and tribulations in due course.

Check out this link for some useful Info:
More to follow…

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

60: Day 11 – Waves at Ho'okipa!

The non summer-like weather continues and despite experiencing a little more cloud and less wind that normal we have been consistently treated to above trend surf for July. Today was the best day in July so far with waist to overhead surf at Ho’okipa out of the North East. The beach looked more like late spring than mid summer and with many of the travelling pros away wave selection was rather easier. I must give a shout out to Bernd Roediger and Graham Ezzy who were killing it today more than others especially considering the tradish nature of the swell. Sorry no GoPro video or pics today, I was concentrating on sailing today but was gutted that I missed a great shot when my buddy Phil and I were riding the same overhead wave, he went first, I followed and hit a nice vertical aerial and looking down all I could see was him in the bowl, was a super cool moment, just as I landed super vertical I caught the nose and wiped out inches from him (which was rather funny), would have been a nice piece of video or pics. I think that I have solved the fogging issue, after getting the stuff my friend Dave suggested I chatted to Bart who told me that the HD cameras were especially liable to fogging and GoPro have made special re-useable inserts that set me back $16 which soak up any moisture I will see how that works out.

I was testing another board today because I wasn’t convinced about the starboard, this time it was a 78ltr custom (ex Diony Guadagnino) logo’d as Mistral but made in the Nelson factory (they make super strong boards – which is good for me!). This board is a super short and wide nosed with twin fins, on this board the fins seem to be set further apart. This board is set up to turn and turn it does and while testing it was clear that it needs to be driven hard, extremely hard all the time. On the wave it great on the bottom turn but the wide and short nose without much lift made it rather sketchy when coming off the vertical lip and landing aerials in the pocket. I think that a board like this should be in my van and I think that it would be much better for the winter with smoother waves and more offshore wind with more loaded up top turn. As an all round wave machine this is not right for me at the moment (I am kinda disappointed because I do really like it but I must use my head not my heart). More breakages today as my rather old harness exploaded, (I thought that I had heard a few creaks earlier in the day) it is amazing how hard it is to sail without a harness.

You can clearly see how wide/short the nose is on this board.

The search goes on, I will be back on my Tabou tomorrow and look forward to the under foot comfort. I know that I am no spring chicken (33) and have been abusing my feet, ankles and knees for many years and the extra padding on the Tabou boards combined with my super soft and comfy Hot Sails straps are like my Nike Air Max which have reduced the pain in my knee although I hear that some feel that they are too soft. Given the saturation of Quads at Ho’okipa I must try a couple before I decide to stay with a Twin.

What’s up next? Waves are set to continue for another day. Keen to get back on my Tabou it was a funny sight last night at my house with me laminating in my back yard with my headlights on, I couldn’t see much and I will see in the morning how clean my glassing was. Got an email to say that my GPS unit has arrived so I will be able to post some speed tracks and it will be great for my slalom training over the coming days. I will be testing some new fins which are about to hit the market in the coming days which will be interesting and will let you know how that goes.

On review in the light it seems that I did an okay job in the dark, I guess I have had rather alot of practice! Time now for the sander so that it is fit for the water today then it'll be filler and paint tonight although the forecast is for rain so that might have to wait.

More to follow…

Monday, July 19, 2010

60: Day 10 – Destroyed

Twin Falls - The first part of today’s post is related in many ways to yesterday’s and I must have a little bit of a rant about the state of Twin Falls. I took our visiting friends there this morning, I thought that it would be fun to swim in the pools and get a few waterfall jumps in. I haven’t been there for a couple of years and while I knew that it had changed what presented itself this morning was nothing short of disgusting. Who has let one of Maui most natural beauties turn into a trodden down zoo of people?

During my visit this morning I saw at least 3 tour guides each with 20 or so paying customers and hundreds of tourists milling about, I do not exaggerate there was a 100+ cars parked and an estimated 250-300 people in the area. The pools and trails were so packed it was no way relaxing and in no way how Hawaii should be, one particular tour had people lined up ready to jump off one of the upper falls and it appears that somebody (I am guess the tour guides) has cleared some vegetation and rocks so that it is easier to jump.

A rare moment with noboddy in the pool!

I have been going to Twin Falls for 15 years and in the past there may have been 4 cars max, it was beautiful, it was relaxing, it was great to get out into the forest and be surrounded by natural Hawaiian beauty, now it is horrible, a mess and something should be done about it. I am not sure what the solution is but, unless something changes you might as well tarmac it and make it like the Iao Valley, so to sum up and finish my rant I declare Twin Falls an ENVIRONMENTAL disaster and urge you not to visit and speak up if you agree with me.

Summer Waves - We were treated to some trade swell today with waves between waste and head high at Ho’okipa, the variable wind meant that the crowds were kept to a minimum at times and while it was a little light on the top turn it was great to get some rides in. I was using the Starboard again today and was pleased with it on the waves although still concerned about the thin pads and I am going to try some other boards. I had a great fun session with friends today and hope we get some more action tomorrow! Still keeping a firm hold of the 100% sailing record since returning back to the island and it looks like the wind is forecast to keep coming.

I love the sense of movement in this shot

I included this pic becuase it shows the waves that we had today, I had left the camera shooting my mistake so this shot is just down to luck.

Would be good with a bigger wave.

I just love the colours and lighting of this one, again another one that should not have been.

GoPro Update - I am having some fogging issues, my friend Dave tells me that RainX on the outside and goggle anti-fog should do the trick so I will get that sorted in the morning. I did a boom mount and got some fun pics before my lens misted up. Hoping for more waves tomorrow and I think that I will use the headcam and record some video.

GPS - I have had some great runs and bike rides in the last 10 days and what is particularly great is seeing GPS tracks of the North Shore rather than of all the tracks from Bahrain which I have done so many times recently. Today I had a fun 7km run to Kanaha and back during early morning, I was so happy in my surroundings that I couldn’t stop myself singing along to my iPod, hope nobody heard me!

I really enjoyed my run this morning from our house to Kanaha and back along the bike path.

More to follow…