Saturday, April 25, 2009

Battle at sea...

The St. Francis Yacht Club and the hardy racers of the Bay Area fleet never cancel racing. It just doesn't happen. At the 07 Nationals, we raced the final two heats in conditions that caused the race director to issue stern warnings to people, as well as send competitors in against their will when they were floundering at the start line. But they don't cancel racing.

Make that they very rarely cancel racing. Last night's Friday night race didn't happen. It was blowing somewhere around 30, with a vicious ebb throwing up some pretty big voodoo chop, and when John Craig (said race director) asked the assembled (and fully rigged) crowed of racers whether they wanted to race in this, only one hand (Jean's) went half-way up.

Instead, I got to test just what the upper limit of my Exo 71 is. The board did remarkably well in overpowered 6.0 with a  34 (a 36 would have made for better jibes - that is a pretty wide tail on that board, after all). With that much range, Exocet isn't doing itself any favors - people just won't be going out and buying multiple boards if each of them has that much range. Good for the consumer, I guess (and so, in the long run, good for Exocet). Lots of fun was had as most of the guys took out their slalom or freeride stuff. Much tailwalking and hilarity ensued, along with white-knuckle maching reaches through the troughs (usually ended by some stray piece of chope throwing up a ramp where there hadn't been one a second before - gotta love Crissy on an ebb...)

The pictures don't do the day justice, as it was pretty tame on the inside 200 yards or so, which pretty much exhausts the effective range of my little camera.  For a reality check - David Wells (blue Aerotech) was on a 5.7 and an 84l freeride board; Jean (red Aerotech) was on a 5.0 and a 78l wave board. It was windy...

Today's CalCup will be in Berkely - lots of wind expected for that. After that, it's time to drive home.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That's more like it!

And just like that, the heat wave is over, the marine layer has reasserted itself with a vengeance, and after a long day of pretty interesting sessions on database performance tuning, I got to play with my new slalom toys.  Crissy was showing off its normal self, with voodoo chop caused by a nice strong ebb going out against some pretty stiff breeze. 

I got to try my new Exocet WSl 71 (yep, another black machine) and my new Sailworks NXsl 7.1. Normally, I try to only dial in one piece of new gear at a time, but since I couldn't bring my old board with me for lack of space in the car, there was no alternative. The 71, however, behaved just like the 67 - I set straps the straps in the middle position, put the base at 135cm, put in my 40cm Finworks, and the board felt like an old friend from the first reach. Jibing is as friendly and transparent as the 67, but with better speed throughout the turn (bigger boards are nice that way).

At times, the combo should clearly have been too large, as it got pretty darn furry, but giving the sail a bit more downhaul and moving the boom down an inch made things manageable. Lining up with the guys, it seemed that the large board did not incur a speed penalty in the heavy stuff - and the way it glides through holes and accelerates out of the turns bodes well for the upcoming slalom season. The 7.1 is a nice refinement from last year's sail - it's got a bit more shape down low and is way more pumpable - but when you're lit, it just goes into low-drag mode and keeps going faster.  I'm psyched - I don't get nearly enough time to tweak my slalom setup, given that I don't get to sail slalom much at home, so having gear that's this plug and play is a real blessing. If you're looking for new slalom kit,  you should take a good look at Sailworks and Exocet - it's working for me. 

At one point, I took a short break and shot some pictures; unfortunately, the haze and flying sand/spray on shore made it pretty hard to capture anything exciting. It was fun sailing with David, Steve, Jean, as well as Royce and Robert. Glad to see there's a bit of a slalom scene at Crissy - the spot is so perfect for it (if you don't mind getting your fillings rattled on port...)

Tomorrow's another day of cramming my head full of information, hopefully followed by a quick session with the Berkeley crowd. Then it's on to Friday Night racing at the St. Francis, the Calcup on Saturday, and then the long drive home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

SF heat wave

I'm getting to indulge in the geek's dream this week, attending the MySQL conference in Santa Clara - which just so happens to be conveniently located in the Bay Area, home to some of the most reliably windy conditions anywhere on the US Mainland, as well as what has to be one of the most competitive local racing fleets anywhere. Of course, the Bay Area is having a bit of a heat wave right now, so when I rolled into town on Sunday, Crissy Field looked more like a Mediterranean beach than its usual wind-battered, fog-covered, self. The Bay, meanwhile, was far from displaying the usual voodoo chop, and thousands of people were roasting in the sun as temps reached the high 80's.

Today, after a long day of tutorials on data warehousing in the morning and scale-out/scale-up of transaction systems in the afternoon (yes, Karryn, I took copious notes...), I escaped the Silicon Valley heat sink and made it to Crissy Field. At that point, a wee bit of sea breeze was starting to build, and a lone kite racer got some rides. Soheil was there as well, and we both rigged 10.8's.

It took a bit of slogging, but I finally found a patch of breeze and a rip that went against the massive flood to get me towards the South Tower; Soheil went in to wait for a bit more breeze (hey, he gets to sail here every day if he wants to, so his sense of urgency is probably a little less than mine...). I was rewarded for the slogging and the pumping with a glorious sunset session close to the Bridge - nice steady sea breeze, glassy water, not a whitecap in sight, and tons of porpoises feeding on the rip lines. After 45 minutes of bliss, the breeze started to fade, so I started the journey back.

I got to shore just in time before the breeze died totally; Soheil (who had come back out when the breeze filled in a wee bit) actually had to paddle back the last 100m or so. Forecast for tomorrow is for more of the same (but a bit stronger), with the marine layer coming back on Wednesday, which should produce some solid breeze. I hope that comes true, as I've got a brand new Exocet WSl71 to dial in, along with a new set of Sailworks slalom sails.