The Need for Speed:

Losing weight on the board

by: Marc A. Lefebvre

So you want to go fast. Well who doesn't! Since the beginning of time man has had the yearning to go fast, from the first wheel to super sonic jets of today. Well windsurfing falls somewhere in between these extremes of the speed spectrum when its done right. The current world speed record for sailing on a windsurfer is 45.34 knots (84.01 kph/52.21 mph) set in San Marie de la Mar, France by Thierry Bielak on April, 14, 1993. This may not sound very fast when your typical cars top speed can be between 100-150 mph, but when its just you, your board and your rig ripping across the water at 52 mph it feels like you are going 200 mph. It is much more of an intimate experience with the elements than when you are strapped into a hulking giant of a rocket.

There are two sides to the speed equation, displacing and planing. In the displacing situation your increased wetted surface area will increase your speed. That is why course boards of higher volume and longer length will be faster in sub-planing or displacing conditions. On the flip side when you are in planing conditions the less you have in the water the better, henceforth you want to decrease your wetted surface area as much as you can. Of the two conditions it is probably apparent that planing conditions are faster than displacing conditions by virtue of less drag. The tips in this article are intended for when you are planing. They, however, may help you get planing as well as go fast.

With the science of it out of the way you are probably wondering, "Well, how do I go fast?" Well I'll tell ya! Here are ten tips which I read about and have put to practice with outstanding results. I have gained about 20% in speed and want to pass them on to you so that you too can enjoy the need for speed.

  1. Keep your board flat by pointing your toes.

    Many people keep a lot of their weight on their heels when they are learning. This may, however, keep you going up wind it doesn't help your speed because when the board is railed that increases your drag, therefore, slowing you down. A flat board is a fast board. So point your toes, keep the board flat, and sail upwind by sailing off the fin like a dagger board, not your rail.

  2. Press against your fin laterally.

    Once you are planing, start pressing with your rear foot laterally against your fin. This pressure produces lift and increases your speed. It is a lot like when you are water skiing outside of the wake and you catch up with the boat by pressing against the flow of the water causing you to be projected forward. The same applies to windsurfing, so press hard and you'll go much faster.

  3. Hang farther from the rig by straightening your arms and rolling your shoulders.

    By doing this you reduce the amount of weight on the board, committing more weight to the rig and this reduces the drag on the board. You might even want to roll your boom to your finger tips to get that extra extension you need.

  4. Keep your hands about shoulder width apart.

    This relates to point #3 because this allows you to get more extended from the rig and you become more sensitive to the load on the rig. If you have a super wide grip you will be dogging it and going slow.

  5. Sheet in using your body, not your arms.

    Rather than just pulling in your sail with your back arm, let the sail hold you up by lying out over the water. Don't sit out over the water, lie back. This also gets your weight away from the board.

  6. Don't pull the rig too far to windward.

    Once you have gotten more confident in getting your weight out over the water there is a tendency to over do it and the rig starts to lean to windward. This has the effect of choking off your power. You want to keep the rig vertical as much as you can. You can accomplish this by extending your hips toward the sail by bending your knees.

  7. Shorten your harness lines.

    If your lines are too long you end up sitting down and not lying back into your harness. When you sit you start re-applying that weight you lost by getting into the harness to the board again. By lying back the wind takes the load of your butt. You should be on your tippy toes to get into your harness not bending your knees. So shorten them up and go faster.

  8. Sail quietly.

    A quiet sailor is a fast sailor. Basically stop adjusting your weight, sheeting angle, and direction every ten seconds. Once your heading in the direction you want to go, get into a stance and lock it in keeping your upper body stiff. Let your knees absorb the bounce in the board.

  9. Close the gap.

    When closing the gap you will notice the biggest change in your speed next to getting your weight off the board and into the harness. You get the aerodynamic benefit of "end-plating". This tip goes with tip #5, when using your body to sheet in you will also be able to rake the rig back to close the gap the foot of the sail makes with your board. This has the effect of producing incredible lift in your board.

  10. Lift up in your foot straps.

    This is very important once you are in the straps and is the ultimate in getting your weight off the board. If you can lift the front of the board, there is almost no weight on the board so therefore you are going fast. While you are leaning out in the harness, and in the straps, lift upward with your front foot and your board will feel like it is getting unglued from the water and you should be cranking.

Well there you have it. Just about everything you ever wanted to know about going fast but were afraid to ask. Going fast is not as simple as it might sound just by reading these tips. Notice, though, that every tip relates in some way to the basic idea of getting your weight off the board. You have to be really conscious of the conditions and make changes in your stance and setup to reflect these changes. Of course having the right equipment rigged for the conditions wouldn't hurt either. So, get out there and practice these tips, lose that excess baggage on your board and I guarantee that you will be smoking your buddies at the beach the next time on the water.

Marc A. Lefebvre (