Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's About Community

Toucan Open Sept 10-12

"Once upon a time, in a land far away...The boards were long, the clothing was neon and the harnesses were few and far between"

I took the above sentence from Larsons Ski and Sport's website; they hosted the Toucan Open on Lake McConaughy in Nebraska in mid September.  Because this event has been going on for decades I thought the above sentence was most appropriate to describe the event's provenance and also remind people of why we go to events and why there are events at all.
I arrived the evening before and the lake level was high, and so was the wind!

People attend events and gather for varieties of reasons and I won't attempt to speak for everyone. But from my point of view windsurfers get together to have fun, improve our sailing skills, spend time with friends, family and maybe make some new friends along the way. It's also a great excuse to travel and explore.

Beach camping fills in and the wind outside picks up.
I had been to this event in the 1980s during the height of Windsurfer One Design races. It was more than a regatta, it was an event. People from all over gathered and they were excited to be there, they were part of something and you could sense it. Some were there to win, some were there to race better than their last regatta, and some came to just finish a race.

Toys for all ages scattered on the shoreline.

Karen Mariott, her sister Brenda with help from brother Ryan and their mom Joanne hosted the Toucan Open. They've been keeping it going and make it a welcoming environment.

I raced on my new Original Windsurfer and had some good fun races.
The first day was windy so after wearing myself out windsurfing I joined a few guys surfing the swells that were rolling into the beach.

It's amazing how much fun you can have if you want to.
Photo: Trying the Windsurfer for the first time.
I brought a couple boards and several people took them out for a spin.  It was fun for me to see people discovering the Original Windsurfer–something that's been around all along, they just haven't been exposed to it.

The last day brought light wind.  Someone recommended a Slalom Relay Race sailing on 2 of the Original Windsurfers (no it wasn't me!) and Karen made it happen.

Within 30 minutes 2 marks were set, and two teams were ready for the challenge. Each team had 7 sailors. The course was to sail around the buoys and then hand off the Windsurfer to your teammate.

I think it's safe to say most of these people had never sailed a Windsurfer, or if they had, not in the last 25 years.  For most of them it was their first time on the board and now they were racing on it!

After sailing the Windsurfer in the Slalom Relay some of the comments I got were:

"that is 'pure''s so simple and pure".
"that's fun, the board is so responsive and the sail is so light!"
Team effort

It was the Blue team against the Red team. I had met all these new people over the last 3 days, and now we were working together–or against each other–to win!

The wind was light but the spirit was high; we were engaged in the task at hand, beat the other team.
I was the last sailor for the Red team and regretfully I didn't sail down and away from the last slalom mark to knock the opponent on the Blue team off his Windsurfer.  It's hard to knock someone you just met off their board. Sorry red team.

Now that I know these fellow sailors better and they know me, next year I won't hold back. Watch out Blue team.
 This guy took a cruise up and down the shoreline with his daughter on the front of the board.
As the final sunset for the weekend set across Lake McConaughy the world surrounded by windsurfers feels like a smaller and happier place to be.
I am thankful to have had the opportunity to gather at this event to sharpen my sailing skills, have some fun and make some new friends.  Thanks Karen, Brenda and family for hosting and continuing to provide a venue for windsurfers an event and weekend worth coming to.
Closing comment: Do you have a local windsurfing community?  Leave a comment about what makes it work for you or what you envision it should be.  Is it all about sailing for you or maybe it's social first, then sailing? Or maybe you just want to go fast by yourself; hey that's okay too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Toronto Demo & Canadian Deliveries

In August I loaded the van with a few boards, the dog, and drove to Canada.

My first stop was Toronto at the Toronto Windsurfing Club for a Freestyle Demonstration and their Wednesday night series. I was invited by Tom Mae who is President of Windsurfing Canada and an avid windsurfer sailor.

Students from Kids Camp trying new Original Windsurfer

They have a sweet facility very close to downtown with a big beach. This seemed like a club where members drop in to check the wind and visit with friends in addition to windsurfing. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening several people introduced themselves to me and shared their windsurfing stories. Some weren't sailing in the evening race but wanted to come down to the club to see the "new" Original Windsurfer and say hi.

Here's a light-wind power jybe

The wind was light but I continued with the Freestyle Demo anyway and then took questions back on the beach from the "Kids Camp" students who had finished their day of windsurfing. They were kinda quiet so I kept talking, then one of them raised their hand and asked if she could try the board, then there were more hands, "me too, me too"!

They sailed the 2 boards I had rigged and one guy even did a back-to-sail (impressive) and 2 of the gals were having a ball and just kept sailing around, tacking and gybing. Back on the beach I asked them what they liked about the board and they all agreed they liked how responsive it was and how easy the rig was to use.

Next was the evening race. The wind was still light but that didn't stop this lively group of sailors from having a good time. A gal named Andree Gauthier sailed the 2nd Original Windsurfer and in no time it felt like I had been sailing with this club for more than just that evening. After a BBQ and loading up the equipment I left Toronto that night heading north.

Above photos by: Reet Mae

Next stop: Cottage Country
Cottage Country consists of all the Canadian summer cottages around and on the lakes and thousands of islands north of Toronto
Map and near the famed cruising grounds of The North Channel. Some crazy couple originally from California wanted a new Original Windsurfer and I (being also a crazy guy originally from California) volunteered to deliver it since it was kinda on my way home from the Demo in Toronto and they're kinda my parents. Oh, but I forgot to mention that while I was driving to Toronto I got a call from a guy in California and he wanted a new Original Windsurfer...and guess where he wanted it delivered? "Cottage Country" but even farther north. You just can't make this up.

Here are some shots of delivering the board and Hoyle sailing his new Original Windsurfer:
Everything has to be taken out by boat to the Islands. Here's the excited new owner. It was too far to windsurf after 2 nights of sleeping in the "van" with my dog Roscoe.

Rigging up

Hoyle's 1st sail on a "new" Original Windsurfer. Over 40 years later, he's still got it.

He was having too much fun so I paddled out to him to see if I could knock him off and pirate his new toy.
He took the bait! I successfully stole his new toy,
did some freestyle, then took a long sail around Lambert Island.
Roscoe waiting for me to return from my cruise...
My next stop was delivering another board to the northern part of Lake Huron. After that I drove back to Michigan. I look forward to another sailing session with the Toronto Windsurfing Club and another stop to sail with family.

Monday, September 27, 2010

ONE sail size. 40% is just a number right?

In mid July I traveled to the "Reservoir Rendezvous Regatta" in New London, Ohio. I really enjoyed this regatta because of the site, good sailing conditions and I was able to demonstrate how competitive an Original Windsurfer is, with just ONE sail size in a variety of conditions.

Photo: Camping next to the lake made this a great site.

This is only my 2nd competition racing on the new Original Windsurfer so I am still measuring it's worth against other boards. Especially racing against other boards with sails that are 40% larger.

"As the wind increased and I was in a constant planing mode, I wasn't overpowered like some sailors with big rigs"

I have to say it was a bit of a drive for me but it was worth it. The organizer, Phil Sage and his son Matt put on the event with help from the Town of New London. There was moderate and strong winds for the races both days and after a long day on the water Phil & Matt provided dinner and there was a big fire to gather around.

Race photo 1: Before the start.

Sometimes I do some freestyle before the start of the race, especially when the water is so nice and warm. Look! no harness.

Race photo 2: Just after the start, the Original Windsurfer accelerates and points to wind very well.

Race photo 3: Just because the other sails are larger doesn't guarantee they get off the line any faster.

I believe this is because the larger sails are difficult to maneuver...but it could be the boards also.

Race photo 4: 40% is just a number right?

Race photo 5: Fleet is tight, no slackers in this group of racers.

Race photo 6: Moments later after the first tack of the race, the Original Windsurfer is at front of fleet.

The Windsurfer can tack & gybe more quickly than any of the boards on the water that day, so every time there's a tack or gybe involved, I had an advantage. This is getting exciting... can I route for myself?

A couple people wanted to try my Original Windsurfer. One racer "Paul" even wanted to try a few races on it! So we traded boards and I raced his board for one race. It became clear I wasn't getting my board back from Paul so I relieved the organizer, Phil from Race Committee duties so he could get in a race, he was stoked and I was happy to help.

Photo: The next morning a new friend, Robin took the Windsurfer for a cruise around the lake. I think it was her first time on a long board, she said she was surprised with how responsive and fun it was to sail.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Sails on New Original Windsurfers

New Owners Get A Soulful Feeling -and- Windsurfer Ties for 1st Place!

Last weekend was the first time on the new Original Windsurfer. I drove to a regatta at Grosse Point Park put on by the Grosse Pointe Windsurfing Club. The park has a big grassy area to rig up and a small sandy beach to launch from, what more could you ask for? Oh yes warm clear water and we had wind!

I was excited to try my new board and experience a new venue. Six races were held in winds ranging 6 to 13 knots with stronger puffs blowing thru towards the end of the day. There was a photographer on the beach who captured one of the starts; see the photo sequence below. My sail is the ORANGE colored sail.Getting ready for Start

Flag down, horn blows, GO!

Go go go...

Pulling away from fleet

Original Windsurfer "Old Schooled" entire Prodigy Fleet!
photos by Mike Florian

My new Original Windsurfer didn't disappoint. In addition to it's ability to plane in almost all conditions, I also had a blast sailing it. Before starts and between races I played around and pulled off a few duck-spin-tacks, rail rides, power jobs and sail tricks. The Windsurfer's sail is 25% to 40% smaller than the other 7.5 & 8.5 sails on the race course, which is one reason you can do sail tricks and throw around the sail to power jib. But a high volume board & big sail didn't translate into more fun or a competitive advantage this day, because I ended up tied for first place overall. For a complete event recap, visit the MOWIND website.

As I was driving home and reflecting on my first sailing impressions for my new Windsurfer, I got an email from John (from Minneapolis) who had just bought a new Windsurfer a week earlier. It was also his first day out on his new Windsurfer, and his email sums it up best. I couldn't have said it better myself, so with his permission here's his note about his first day out on his new (original) Windsurfer:

"Yesterday, I finally went out on my new board. The conditions were perfect. The wind was probably around 10-15 mph. I was at my local city lake, Lake Calhoun, where all the local guys go in Minneapolis. There were probably 15 guys out.

It was great pulling up in the parking lot with the new/old-style board on top. I jumped out, unloaded it, placed it among the other big wide-style boards, started rigging, etc. I was so focused on and excited about getting that thing rigged up. I was so excited to get that thing out on the water.

I finally rigged it up and quickly brought it to the water. Jumped on and THAT OLD FEELING WAS BACK! That soulful feeling that I haven't felt in almost 20 years. I can't even tell you how stoked I was.

Within 3 minutes I did a couple of quick tacks where I quickly take two steps to the back of the board (it's sort of a dance move, when you think about it) and snap it around, and then immediately run three steps to the front and around to the other side. Within 6 minutes I was doing my quick jibes which only that board can do. I was riding with my back to the sail, front to the sail on the opposite side, on the rail, cruising backwards, with the sail backwards (going forward) and then doing a quick jibe in the opposite direction. Many of the other guys were sitting on the beach wondering when the wind would pick up and/or stay consistent to have any fun. The other guys on the water were just going back and forth, sometimes not moving, waiting for the perfect wind to enjoy themselves. I was passing guys, too.

I was having the time of my life.

My cousin, Mark, came down to shoot some video. I don't have it yet. He jumped on after I rode it for a while. He was as stoked as I was.

My Windsurfing fever has returned. That old feeling is back in my blood. I will now start noticing the leaves on the trees when the wind picks up. I've been riding short boards for a long time, but I haven't had that wind-in-the-trees sensitivity/awareness in over 15 years.

I can't wait to get out again.

I look forward to seeing the video John!

I've had several requests from folks to get a closer look at the new Original Windsurfer so here's some pics for y'all:
Thanks Marguerite Donahue for this shot

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Validation of the Original, some 30 years later

Last month I competed in 3 regattas. This isn't a big statement except it's been many years since I've raced so I wasn't sure what my skill level would be and I also wasn't sure what was happening in the world of racing windsurfers. I really didn't know what I was stepping into after all these years.

One of the races required an 8 hour flight to Europe, another required an 8 hour drive around Lake Michigan and the third took me through the fields of Ohio. But it wasn't the event's location, body of water or wind that made these regattas different. It was something equally as fundamental. As I recap the events below you'll read about the differences and I hope come away with a refreshed perspective on windsurfing, racing and equipment.

The Windsurfer One Design Team Sailing Championships were held May 7th & 8th during the Chia Waterman event on the island of Sardinia, Italy. There were 6 teams, each with 3 sailors. All teams competed on the same equipment–new Windsurfer One Designs with: beautiful sails, clamp on booms, retractable centerboards and adjustable mast tracks. The racing was very competitive but the mood was light and fun. I found myself giving each race and each moment my full attention and all my energy. After six races our team made it into the finals. We sailed hard and smart, making it as difficult as possible for our opponents. The finals were so close at the finish that the Race Committee had us sail another race to determine the winner. Before they announced there would be a final-finals race I felt exhausted; my hands were blistered and my face wind and sun burned. Luckily my sister Tara, who joined me for this trip, had some food and water in her bag so I refueled and made my way to the start line. Thank you Tara. I was engaged and didn't want to slow down now for the final-finals, even though I was showing signs of how long it had been since I had been racing.

Because all competitors were using the same equipment, these races were about the ability to negotiate a position on the start line, cover your opponents, read wind shifts, tack quickly, help your teammates, obtain inside overlap at the marks and execute a fast jibe without loosing your boat speed. Even if a team didn't make it to the finals, all competitors left this event with their sailing skills sharpened.

I am proud to report our team finished 2nd. We placed 2nd not because we had last years equipment or because we used the wrong sized sail, but because the other team as a whole were better sailors that day.

Returning home to the United States dodging the volcanic ash covering Europe, on May 15 & 16, we (my sister Tara & my dog Roscoe) drove about as long as the flight to Europe around the upper part of Lake Michigan to The Walleye Wagatta (named after the opening season for the Walleyes) on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It's organized by MOWIND and Wind Power Windsurfing. Thank you to the Race Committee that did a top-notch job.

I brought what I had to the regatta: an older Windsurfer One Design board from mid 1980s with a Windsurfer 5.2 sail from the late 1970s. Most of the 27 competitors had 8.5 or 11.0 rigs combined with high volume boards. There were also Division II boards.
Conceptually and technically these boards are very different from the Windsurfer I was sailing which is a low volume board with a smaller "soft" sail supported by late 1970s / early 1980s technology. When I began to rig up the morning of the race and saw everyone else's equipment, I thought to myself, "this ought to be interesting...." I've never raced a Windsurfer One Design against anything but Windsurfer One Designs, this would be a first for me.

I felt like a caveman that had been transported 30 years into the future of windsurfing. What new things will I learn from these sailors with all the newer high tech equipment? The first thing I noticed were the sails, they were fully battened camber induced. I also noticed the colors, or lack of; these sails looked very serious and expensive, like a sail I'd expect to see in America's Cup racing or being used to break a speed record, they were mostly transparent with some grey. It was going to be easy to find me on the water because my sail is one of the most colorful sails Windsurfer ever made: stripes of purple, yellow, red and orange cover the entire sail. And the best part is that there is a matching equally colorful streamer for the top of the sail. I believe streamers were made to compliment the festive nature of windsurfing, they are purely cosmetic. When I took the streamer out of my sail bag I stuffed it back into the bag before anyone could see it. Based on the equipment I observed around me, this group was not the leisurely colored sail-with-a-streamer crowd (although once I got to know them better I think they could be!).

The wind was light to moderate as I left the shore and sailed out towards the course. I had recently adopted this Windsurfer One Design for about $150, this was my first time sailing it. Everything felt fine but something was wrong on the lake. I looked around and noticed that everyone was hooked into their harnesses, except me. They were moving along at a good pace, but no one was hanging from their booms, they were all attached. My vintage Speed Seat harness floats too low on my hips for me to hook-in with light wind, and besides why would I want to hook in when I can sail! Duck tack, rail ride, back to sail, power jibing – I was having a blast doing tricks and warming up before the start.

The course was set and the starting sequence began, most of the fleet hung back away from the start line. I wasn't sure why they weren't jockeying for the best position.
There was one start for all classes. I was registered in two classes: the Vintage class and the Limited 8.5 class. Vintage is for old-school-equipment; there was me and Andy, he was on a Whaler. In the Limited 8.5 class you can race anything so long as your sail isn't larger than 8.5 so I am racing against sails that are up to 63% larger than mine. And because there is one start for all classes, I am also racing with 11.0 sails that are over 110% larger than my sail. I reminded myself I was there to have fun, meet new people and sharpen my sailing skills. I am going to be dead last. The start horn blew and the division II boards with 11.0 sails lurched ahead, out pointing the rest of the fleet. I tacked quickly away from their cover and headed for cleaner air. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the fleet; hardly anyone else was tacking over, I wondered why.

As the wind shifted I tacked, again and again making my way up to the windward mark. As I approached the mark and began to join the rest of the fleet I thought, "Hey I am not doing so bad, I am in the top 5 of my fleet" Sailors were tacking their boards in slow motion on the lay line to the windward mark. As I rounded the mark sailors in front of me were struggling to maneuver and jibe their boards and rigs. I suddenly realized what was happening all around me; the weight of the rig and the high volume board made tacking and jibing a labor. As I made my rounding between the sailor ahead of me and the windward mark I realized my rig had never felt lighter and my board more attentive. On the way to the leeward mark I lost a few positions to the larger sails but as I rounded the leeward mark I knew the upwind leg was my chance to catch up. As the day progressed I began to finish in the top 5 and was even first to the windward mark one race.

Many people asked to try my Windsurfer between races and I in turn sailed on their boards for a few minutes but towards the end of the day their rigs were too heavy for me to pick up so I just sat on their board while they sailed my Windsurfer One Design around. One of these people was a young guy who even did some tricks. He told me about a downhaul crank that makes trimming his large sail much easier. I asked him how much the down haul crank costs and he said about $125, which made me appreciate my recent Windsurfer adoption even more.

The third race I went to was held May 22 & 23 at Alum Creek in Ohio also put on by MOWIND. It was the same format as the Walleye and again the Race Committee did a great job. This event has been going on since the early 1980s and is one, if not the oldest regattas in North America. There were 9 races on Saturday in 6 to 8 knots of wind with some 10 knot gusts. Thanks Paul & Chris Sandstrom for keeping it going! Again I had some great races and great competition!

For complete race results and pictures on both events, visit

Having never sailed a Windsurfer One Design against other (newer) boards I really didn't know what to expect. Let me share with you that I left these races with a renewed appreciation for the design of the Windsurfer One Design and a greater appreciation for the boards original concept. I've seen some of the prototypes that were developed at the same time the Windsurfer One Design was being developed, and some were high volume boards. One that was named "Big Red" was even like a division II board and some were even super wide boards. But there's a reason they remained prototypes. I believe the concept behind the original, the Windsurfer One Design, still provides the best all-around sailing experience for the sailor on and off the race course. In fact while driving home after these races I called Hoyle & Diane to share my enthusiasm and let them know how impressed I was with the original Windsurfer. I think in a way it wasn't just me acknowledging this, but all the sailors I've spoken to and emailed who've shared their stories with me; their love affair with windsurfing and their passion for the original Windsurfer.

I look forward to attending more regattas this summer and going OLD SCHOOL :)

I hope to see you out there,
ps- Just received shipment of new Windsurfers so I'll be at the Patterson Park Regatta in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan on June 19th with a NEW Windsurfer. If you want me to bring an extra one for you to sail, let me know.