Tech Talk: Tuning for Storm Days

Phil Soltysiak:

Every windsurfer is excited to see storm force winds in their  forecast. When the day comes and you pull up to the beach, the flying water and breaking waves give you that nervous yet excited feeling. Knowing how to efficiently tune your equipment for storms can convert those crazy survival windsurfing days into dream sessions. Here are tips to convert your next storm day into a dream session: 

Get a smaller sail: Every sail has a limit to it's range. At a certain point, downhauling and outhauling will make your sail too flat and too twisted, limiting its range and your fun on the water. Get a smaller sail. Personally I have a favorite way to rig my Revos and I don't stray from it. If it's too much wind, I'll take a smaller sail rather than cranking the downhaul and outhaul. 

Mast choice: It's tempting to use a longer mast you already own in your smallest sail. After all you probably only get a few days per year on it. However, investing in the right mast for your sail is key to a fun session. Too long of a mast is too stiff. It will take more downhaul tension to create the recommended looseness in the leech, and that extra tension will flatten out the mid section of the sail. It will also create more rig tension than the sail was designed for. More rig tension, a flatter mid section, and a stiff mast will make your rig feel twitchy, unforgiving, and lacking low-end power. The right mast will allow your sail to lock in a stable center of effort, give you more low end power, and breathe. It will be more forgiving in gusts and choppy water. 

So you have the right sail and mast, what now? Steady predictable power is much more fun and easier to handle than less power that moves around. When I rig my smallest sail and know I will be overpowered, I'm careful to make sure that my sail will deliver the stability for me to enjoy my session. I want to make sure the wind has a nice pocket to power up my sail and to lock into. 

I achieve this through the right amount of downhaul. No matter how windy, be careful to not over-do it. Downhaul to the recommended setting, and don't be tempted to go much beyond that. Over downhauling will lead to a dumpy leech, and flat mid section of the sail, leading to an extremely twitchy feel. 

The same applies to outhaul. A common mistake rigging small sails is over outhauling. Flattening your sail through outhaul will kill power in it, but once again it won't allow the wind to lock into one stable center of effort on your sail. The power will slide all over, making the wind and sail feel out of control.

Board control: If your sail is rigged properly and your board feels out of control, try sliding your mast base 2cm further forward. It will help settle your board. A fin a couple cm shorter will help make the same size board feel more manageable in higher winds.

Tall riders: If it feels like you can't get any mast foot pressure on your smallest sail, then try rigging it with a bit longer of an extension (or shorter head cap). This will shift the center of effort in the sail higher, allowing you to regain the balance you're use to with larger sail sizes.

Lastly, remember your settings. If you rarely pull out your storm sail, you won't remember how to rig it. At the end of every storm session write down your settings somewhere so you can pick up where you left off. I keep my rigging notes on my phone.