Issue 326 - JUNE 2012
GREAT EXPECTATIONS pt 2
MASTERCLASS Alone or in a group, with or without a coach, to make the most of a windy session, the way to improve is analyse and challenge every aspect of your technique. Photo Dave White
GREAT EXPECTATIONS pt 2 Words PETER HART / Photos Hart Photography
A run of consecutive windy days, usually on holiday, brings the all-too-rare opportunity to really improve. If you donâ€™t, what is happening? Last month he looked at the environmental and equipment factors that help and hinder and in this issue Peter Hart focus on technique and the methodology of being an effective self-coach.
EARLY PLANING CHOICES
To return from holiday an earlier planer would signify a massive, life-enhancing leap forward. The longer you spend off the plane in a planing wind, the greater the drag through your body, especially arms and palms. Slow planing is not necessarily due to bad technique as wrong technique for the conditions and design of board. The popular method is to get moving, hook in and stand forward on the board until it’s planing – and then move into the straps. Mix it up. Experiment with your front foot position. Some super short modern designs just won’t plane until you move right back and release the nose. Test your fitness by employing the racer/freestyler method of pumping from the footstraps. Experiment with hand position; try hooking in straight away until you hit on the method that pays off. Photo Simon Bassett It’s tiring but the quickest way to make some models plane is to pump from the footstraps…
n the upper echelons of sport, the ability to spot latent, world-beating talent is akin to panning for gold. It looks easy – but obviously it isn’t, otherwise they’d all be doing it. The science is now in place to identify extraordinary physical specimens. Just hook them up to various monitors, make them sweat on the treadmill and the computer will tell you all you need to know about the ‘twitchiness’ of their muscle fibres, their lung capacity, their ability to absorb oxygen etc. And while all that is very important, especially in sports, which are primarily about power and endurance, it only tells part of the story. The majority of extraordinary physical specimens do not make it to the top. What most high achievers have in common is that in terms of natural talent, they are good enough, although not necessarily the best. But they all possess two other qualities, which not even the slickest computer can quantify. The first is good old-fashioned ‘grit’ and the second is the ability to self-train.
We all understand ‘grit.’ It’s the belligerent refusal to give up either on the training ground or during the match. It’s putting in the hard extra yards, running up a Yorkshire fell in the driving sleet in mid January while the rest are tucked up on a sofa watching ‘Cash in the Attic.’ It’s Johnny Wilkinson putting in two extra hours of tediously repetitive kicking practice after training. The advantage of being a good self-coach is less obvious since the best surely have an entourage of coaches on hand 24/7. But it’s the difference between the dumb jock who needs constantly to be told what to do and when to do it, compared to the more intelligent athlete who takes the coach’s advice and then tailors it for his own needs and even makes up his or her own regimes. The best performers are acutely aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They have an instinct for which methods are bringing improvement and which are a waste of time and, above all, are prepared to experiment and change.
DIY In windsurfing you have to be a good self-coach, because even if you sign up to the odd clinic (a brilliant plan in my unbiased opinion) you still spend most of the time NOT getting instant feedback. Unless you give yourself a good talking to now and then and make
Photo Hart photography …but you have to bear right away and really work.
Photo Hart photography Still the easiest and most energy efficient planing method is to hook in straight away. To make sure you’re really committing to the harness, try getting onto the plane with the front hand off.
changes, a string of windy days, rather than offering an opportunity to improve, merely gives you the chance to drill and deepen those miserable ruts. The changes we discussed last month focused on the role of the environment and kit. This month it’s about technique. It’s the same story. To get better you have to change something, which opens up the possibility of getting worse before you get better. But lets be positive. The changes don’t have to be too radical and benefits can be immediate. What’s equally important is to challenge everything you do, not just the fancy moves. By taking it back a level and examining something basic like a beachstart, you may discover it’s actually not that great; and the technique quirk that stops it being great, like bad hand positions, infect other moves further up the scale. Basic improvements can have a wondrously positive knock-on effect. So as you pack the bags for the dream holiday, or just contemplate a windy weekend, here are a handful of changes you can make to kick you off the plateau, set you on a new track and have you return from that windy holiday refreshed and … better!
PETER HART TECHNIQUE MATHCING the HANDS and FEET
The front foot matches the front hand position, which is way too far forward. The footstraps now seem a long way away.
You can make major improvements to your speed, trim, early planing and manoeuvres just by changing foot and hand positions. The concept to grasp is that feet and hands will automatically match each other. For example, if you place the front hand right at the front of the boom (bad habit), the front foot moves forward to match it, to prevent a catapult; as a result you’ll find it difficult/impossible to move into the straps. By moving the hands back on the boom, you’ll change the whole trim of the board for the better. Bad habits start early. If the hands stay forward on the boom, you’ll stand too far forward on the board.
Just by moving the front hand back, moving the back into the straps feels possible and normal. Feet and hands now lie in perfect symmetry.
New tracks – different ruts You can force technical change by doing nothing more than drawing different lines on the water. The GPS history of many looks like that of an obsessive figure skater – a deeply worn figure of eight across the wind - tacks or gybes in exactly the same place. It should look more like the path of a drunken spider with Attention Deficit Disorder – a scrawl of lines all over the place. Change the routine. For most the trigger to gybe is the fast approaching bank (where it may be choppiest and gustiest). Do your turns in different places, in gusts rather than lulls, seconds rather than hours after launching. Vary the width of your arcs. By carving harder and turning tighter, greater forces build up and you have to take up steeper, more committed angles. By widening the arc, especially at the beginning, you increase speed and the chance of performing rig and foot change on the plane. And go somewhere. Give yourself a distant upwind goal and enjoy the thrill of a screaming ‘down-winder’ making it a law that you have to try a gybe every 20 seconds. This simple exercise has transformed people’s gybes in 2 ways. - they practise and embrace sailing broad to the wind. - they naturally lengthen out the beginning of the gybe, enter faster and carry more speed to the end.
dodgy ones display the roots of much evil.
point, and frequently, tipping over it. In windsurfing, people are often inhibited not so much by the fear of a An element that distinguishes pro from amateur is fall as the dread of getting re-started. If you can’t stand the dynamism and explosiveness of their moves. From the prospect of another 5 minute, energy-draining, gybing to ‘spocking’ it’s the sudden powering up of the lung-filling underwater wrestle with the rig, you will play rig; the sudden extension of the legs, the sudden change safe. You’ll slow down before doing any move and you’ll of direction that throws the spray and produces gasps of remain in a narrow cage above your feet and never take ‘did you see that …’ up any angles. It’s the same with beachstarting. Ask yourself this when you first step on the board do you slow down or accelerate? If you head up, you slow down and the board sinks, you then have to bear away to coax it back to the surface and get going again, which involves loads of drag through the arms and wastes time and energy. In a dynamic beachstart you land on the board in your sailing position, moving, even planing.
Fall with style.
The real advantage to a good running beachstart is that the board doesn’t sink and so planes earlier. And because of that you can launch in shallower water without smacking the fin.
The rig recovery, for the most part, should be totally unnecessary. If you fall intelligently, you don’t let go and surface with it still flying. The worst habit is that of falling on top of the rig and driving it under, usually following a catapult.
The humble beachstart is a ‘tick box’ manoeuvre. Once you’ve done one you tend not to pay it much heed. But
Improving any dynamic balance sport comes dropping your body into the void and flirting with the tipping
On a training trip, a realistic aim is to do every waterstart in under 10 seconds. And here are 2 tips that make the most immediate difference – one relating to the rig recovery, one to getting up.
From a running start use the rig to push the board forward and bear away. Then jump on (not step casually), throw the rig upright and sheet in so that the pressure of your feet landing near the back of the board is balanced by the mastfoot pressure.
Getting Going – with an explosion!
Average waterstarting stems from a lack of experimentation. With the rig recovery, people find a method and then use it in every situation. Take the technique of resting the boom on the tail of the board. It’s quick if the rig is lying on the downwind side of the board with the mast by the tail – but really slow if it isn’t.
It’s counter-intuitive but try and get under the sail as you fall by twisting your body and sheeting out (and taking a deep breath).
ADDRESSING THE RIG - in 3 dimensions
Hart Photography … and that’s how the gybe finishes, with his body still square over the footstraps, standing over a sinking tail.
Your first meeting with the rig is usually a bit confrontational. It tries to pull you over so you fight back. You sit down and heave. It sorts out the initial problem but like meeting a person, unless you sort out your differences and try to work around each other, the relationship is going nowhere. Improving comes from addressing the rig in 3 dimensions. Standing square to the rig is fine in certain speedy situations – but as you change course or set up for various moves, you have to think of moving in front or behind the rig to anticipate the change in direction or give yourself a better position on the board. Hart Photography It’s not a bad stance as such (although the boom is a bit low and the arms a bit bent) but setting up for the gybe, he’s still locked to the rig square on standing over the footstraps …
Creating a surge. We’re back to explosions again. To rise up, the default action is to throw the rig upright. It’s fine but it may not be enough. Waterstarts improve when you co-ordinate more and more lift devices such as kicking with a spare leg, bearing away and sheeting in. It’s the latter that makes the most immediate difference. And to sheet in most effectively you pull AND push, pushing up with the front hand and pumping the back hand. And as a final thought, there is a ‘go for it’ element to waterstarting. I see people with wind in their sail, just sort of waiting there for the stars to align. The longer you wait, the more chance there is of the wind dropping or the board being knocked off line. With the rig flying, give yourself room by swimming upwind, put one or both feet on, sheet in and go!
This is an algorithm made up on the spot, but if you halve the time it takes you to waterstart, you double the intensity of your planing moves. STANDING ALTETRATIONS The key to self-analysis is determining the difference between what’s actually right and what’s just familiar. First of all, there is no ‘right’ stance. Look at the pros – they all stand differently according to their preferred
set-up, which in turn reflects the size, strength and length of various limbs. ‘ Right’ in this case, means right for you and what you want to do. So it’s not about trying to emulate the ‘in’ style of Joey freestyler, but more analysing your relationship with the rig and how you actually direct power from the rig into the board. Here are a few experiments.
Change harness I write this from Ireland and yesterday a guy arrived at the beach to go wavesailing without a harness and was looking to borrow one. I had spare seat harness, which wasn’t quite what he had in mind but beggars couldn’t be choosers. He hadn’t used one in ten years. After the session he handed it back and said he couldn’t believe how well he went upwind. Changing harness, from seat to waist and vice versa, for a few sessions immediately gives you a new perspective on power control, engaging different parts of the body and forcing you to stand, trim the board and sail differently - and often better.
From waist to seat. By some distance the waist harness has become the popular choice for both good reasons - freedom, ease of hooking in - and, not so good - fashion and conformism. The potential drawback of the waist harness is that it can ride up, and the higher the hook, the less of your bodyweight you commit to the rig. Like in the ‘good ‘ol
Hart Photography At the same moment, entering a gybe, tack or any speedy move, you should try and overtake the rig. Depowering it slightly by bending the front arm, you ease, hips, knees, head and shoulders forward and get into the front seat, from where you can dominate the board. bad ‘ol’ days of chest harnesses, where the hook rested somewhere between your nipples, you need a lot of core strength to hold your body taught and get the power through your legs into the board. Transferring to a seat, as soon as you hook in you engage your centre of gravity, automatically commit more weight to the rig and drive it through your legs. You instantly double the force you normally transfer into the board. For the first time the board properly releases onto the plane and you can get the back, as well as front foot, in the straps. For others they get a feeling of what it feels like to drive the board with the legs (that’s why you go well upwind). You can of course use the legs with a waist harness but you have to be more proactive.
From seat to waist If habitual seat wearers have a bad habit it’s they can be a bit defensive and lazy. To get going they can just drop and drive. If it gets breezy, they can just sit a bit lower – after all that’s what it says on the tin. Before you know it you’re in a bent-armed squat with the pressure resting permanently on the heels. Swapping to a waist encourages you to stand taller (because it’s more comfortable). With your hips higher and more inboard the weight spreads more evenly across the feet, you can use your toes to trim and hold the board level, which is key to getting smaller boards with smaller fins to plane. And perhaps best of all, it encourages you to move.
PETER HART TECHNIQUE WIDENING your CAGE of MOVEMENT
Lack of confidence combined with well rehearsed habits can make you play safe and stay within a confined cage above your feet. Making your moves faster and more dynamic comes from widening that cage, moving behind and in front of the feet, taking up bigger angles, spreading arms and feet to power up both the board and rig – and basically, like a dancer after one too many, just freeing up.
Photo by Dave White. The gybe is working but he’s trapped inside a narrow cage over the board, standing over his feet with hands and feet close together. Momentum alone carries him through a wide gybe.
Addressing the Rig The relationship some people have with the rig can be too one-dimensional and a bit confrontational. The rig pulls forward, so you stand behind it and lean back. That works on a broad reach, but also explains why you end up in the back seat standing over the tail in gybes. Clean moves stem from a stable platform where you’re balancing the weight between both feet, or often favouring the front foot. You get into this position by depowering the rig and easing the hips forward. The secret to moving down board size and sailing multi-fin boards in to get off the back foot The key is to depower with the front arm. Practise it on long comfortable runs. See if you can overtake the rig and look around the mast. It means you start every move further forward on the board and won’t be playing a game of catch-up. You realise that in some instances, body forward, rig back is more effective than rig forward body back, especially as you set up for manoeuvres.
Widening the cage of movement
Photo by Simon Bassett. By widening hands, and feet and extending arms, you widen the cage and create so much more room to drive and trim the board.
Greater freedom of movement stems primarily from confidence. Chucking yourself into the unknown is the fast-track method to improvement – and hospital. It’s safer to nibble away at it. Gybing for example, give yourself a commitment scale from one to ten. Move up the scale gradually, a bit more pressure on the rail, see how far you can get your front arm from your back foot; extend the front arm more and more to power up. Tighten the arc gradually. Bend both knees more and more until they’re almost touching the water.
EARLY PLANING - mix it up If you had to single out one skill, the improvement of which would signify a successful holiday, it would be earlier planing. It’s so often a set-up issue (boom wrong height etc - see last issue) but it’s also technique. Not necessarily bad technique, but the wrong one for the design of kit and the conditions. Here are instances where changing approach pays dividends.
This is a pet subject of mine. Comparing a pro with someone who is less confident with the immediate situation, the obvious difference is the amount they move. The latter, in both their stance and their manoeuvres is locked in a narrow cage between their feet, fearful that to move out of this safe zone could provoke a loss of balance. It all looks very safe and un-dynamic.
Step back to release.
The pro on the other hand lives in a huge cage, spreading hands to widen sheeting angles, spreading feet for balance, dropping right forward and back to engage different parts of the board, throwing the rig forward and back, to windward and leeward to create more power.
On short (240 and under) wide boards the entry to the nose rocker is about half way between mastfoot and front straps. If you leave your front foot by the mastfoot, you push a curved section of board into the water and produce the drag of a big bucket.
If you did your planing apprenticeship in a longer board era, you adopted the good practice of staying in front of the straps to keep the weight off the skinny tail and hold the board level, right up until the board was planing. On more modern shapes, standing too forward can actually stop the board planing.
On some more racy designs, you need to step into the straps to make them plane. Two messages here: 1. Whatever board you’re on, experiment with the front foot position just prior to planing. Moving it back or forward a couple of inches, can free up the nose and make all the difference. 2. The only way to release some short, wide boards is to step into the straps.
In straps, pump hook in When to hook in, how far to bear away, when to move into the straps, are all elements that vary according to how powered up you are and the design and size of kit you’re on and in how much of a rush you are. The modern ways of freestylers looking to get planing with as small a sail as possible, is to bear away, step straight into the straps and pump themselves onto the plane before hooking in. It’s very effective, if you do it right. It also calls on a level of strength and fitness, which you may have at the end of your holiday. But it’s only really necessary if you’re underpowered or racing.
Hook in as soon as … To plane hooked out requires a lot of strength and tension through the core. If you’re loose in that area, the energy gets absorbed in a wobbly gut and never makes it through your legs into the board. The harness is your most effective early planing tool (especially a seat harness) since the hook lines up your centre of gravity and engages all your bodyweight. In most situations, the best plan is to head up onto a close reach and hook in straightaway.
PETER HART TECHNIQUE WIDE HANDS – the secret to ultimate pleasure
If you were to change one thing on your holiday it would be the position of your back hand. It has to be mobile – moving back to power up the sail, moving forward to sheet out. Static hands are a huge inhibiting factor and are the main reason for bent arms and a limited cage of movement. When you do get used to moving the back hand back in the gybe, prepare for a big change in power and speed which will necessitate changes in the way you stand and balance. In short, you may get worse before you get better!
Upwind the boom is closer to you and stationary there’s less power in the sail both of which make hooking in easier. The longer you delay hooking in and the faster you’re going, the more the sail powers up and the more strength and energy is needed to hook in. Many delay hooking in through a simple mistrust of the harness brought about by serial hooked in catapults. If you feel uncomfortable hooking in early, try lengthening your lines and making sure you hook in pointing upwind where there’s less forward pull in the sail. A windsurfing holiday is a good time to make friends with your harness.
The two main causes of crippling blisters on holiday are, harness lines in the wrong place and bearing away and powering the sail up before hooking in. Gybe – the deepest rut of all Hart Photography Feet locked together, nose resting on the boom. It’s all down to the back hand position – too far forward where it can’t get enough leverage to sheet in.
… but the sudden increase in power pulls him off balance. He’ll now have to move the back foot back and take up a more committed position to the inside – all positive changes.
One of the best ways to lift you out of a general sailing rut is to try a manoeuvre which hitherto has been completely outside your radar and which may give you a completely different take on power control and generally lift you out of your comfort zone. One such move is the old body drag. It makes you fall in for a start. But once you nail it, heading up to step off and bearing away to get back on, you find your waterstarts, early planing and willingness to be reckless, all improve.
He moves it back – much better, potentially…
Visual cues can really help. Colourful tape at the back end of the boom reminds you to move the hand right back. Once you get into the habit, prepare for amazing changes. Photo Dave White The body drag – whacky but surprisingly instructive.
Given 5 or 6 days of consecutive wind most people will see their gybe hit rate increase. But often it’s not the technique that’s improving so much as their fitness, which in turn quickens the feet and makes them more responsive and able to recover from messy endings. The list of technical gybing woes seems endless. But whatever the symptoms, straight legs, juddery carve, scrappy rig change, the root causes inevitably stem back to how you handle the rig – not powering it up, not depowering it at the right moment. – which in turn can usually be down to how and where you hold it. If you had to work on one thing during your extended training sessions, it would be your gybing hand positions. The way to create and control power in the gybe is through a wide grip. ‘Move back hand down’ is on most people’s ‘to do’ list as they enter the gybe. The problem is that they don’t move it back far enough. On the first day of the holiday, get some colourful tape and wrap a bit on the back end of the boom as a visual reminder. When you start properly powering up the sail, which is inevitable when you move the back hand back, expect some surprises. - You carve so much more quickly that you get thrown off to the outside as if from a spinning roundabout. - You may have to adjust your back foot position. If, up to now you’ve sheeted out in gybes, you may be tempted to place the back foot quite a long way forward, alongside the front foot, to help keep the board level. But that position is too unstable for you to control the rig, so you get hauled off the front. Move the back foot back so it’s just in front of the back strap. You’re then not only more stable but with the back foot over a thinner section of rail, you have far more control of the carve. More gems from the guru’s guru next month. To get more info about Harty’s ever popular clinics, go to www.peter-hart.com or follow him on his Peter Hart Masterclass Facebook page. To subscribe to his newsletter, email him on firstname.lastname@example.org
A run of consecutive windy days, usually on holiday, brings the all-too-rare opportunity to really improve. If you don’t, what is happening?...