David vs. Goliath
Kauli Seadi Interview
David vs. Goliath -
The truth behind bodyweight and windsurfing!
(David) & Andy
I’m sure we’ve all heard
or used the excuse “Its alright for you light
guys, but I’m too heavy to get planing out
It’s a commonly used phrase but if it is
true, why is it that 100kg Antoine Albeau frequently
wins light wind races (in as little as 8 knots) against
sailors of up to 30kg lighter than him? That’s
like most of us going windsurfing with a large sack
of potatoes strapped to our shoulders!
Conversely in Pozo, where the wind rarely drops
below a solid force 11, why is it that the stand
out sailor is local hotshot and top PWA wave star
Jonas Ceballos who weighs in around the 60kg mark?
We sent RYA windsurfing coach Clyde Waite to investigate
the factors that can turn light weights into solid
high wind performers and heavy weights into early
planing light wind masters!
There are 4 main factors that
are within our control and can make huge
differences to how well we sail in different conditions
and how much we enjoy it!
- Choosing the correct quiver of equipment for your size
- Equipment choice on the day
- Equipment Tuning
To help us investigate the importance of each of these
points we have examined several case studies from the UK
ANDY KING vs. JAMIE HANCOCK
In Ireland this spring, two of the most standout
and consistent windsurfers on the UK Tour, Andy king and
Jamie Hancock were sailing at Shitties in Brandon Bay in
a Force 6.
Jamie is a lightweight windsurfer. His
kit has to be less powerful and set up for a small
build. For him to be in control in these conditions
he needs the smallest, lightest kit possible, he
can then engage a rail with total commitment, and
control the highest of jumps and even carry it
to the waters edge by himself!
Andy is some 20 kg heavier than Jamie but he still
wants to be on the smallest kit possible to make
transitions snappier and jumps more controllable
in these testing conditions. However to do this he
still needs to be really powered up.
As you can see, Jamie and Andy vary massively in size
and therefore to sail to their full potential they have
to use a vastly different kit set up. The differences in
their kit choices are quite insightful and can be extrapolated
to every level of sailor.
Picture the scene, it’s 25knots, sometimes dropping
to 20, sometimes hitting 30, a typical good old south westerly
scenario. Kit choice is crucial for the boys so they can
achieve maximum fun and control in the conditions.
Jamie chooses the smallest wave
board in the Naish range – the Competition
wave, a 62 litre wave board (about 48-50cm wide),
something that Andy or many of us of a larger build
would rarely, if ever use. To a 65kg sailor this
is not small and he can control this board well
and it will not bounce out when he tries to engage
the rail to gybe or bottom turn.
Andy uses the Sean Ordonez Drops
board in a size that is now becoming the standard
sized wave board for his height and weight, around
75litres and about 52cm wide.
You will notice how much closer Jamies footstrap’s
are together. His stance is much narrower than
Andy’s and because the board is smaller and
the rails thinner he can still engage the rail
fully, but at the same time easily scissor the
board in transitions. Andys front straps are placed
further forward, allowing him to engage more rail
in the gybe/bottom turn, however his back footstrap
is set in the same place as Jamie’s relative
to the fin.
Jamie’s fin is also a good 2-3 cm smaller than
Andy’s, again dictated by height and weight.
Jamie chooses a Naish Session
3.7, a sail designed to be softer, more forward pulling
and forgiving than the other wave sail from Naish,
the Force. It also means that he can use a softer
more forgiving 370cm mast. This sail will go neutral
more quickly. This means when he takes his foot off
the accelerator, ie. depowers, it responds immediately
and will quickly release any excess power from a
gust that would otherwise over power young Jamie.
He also sets the sail with slightly more outhaul
again making it less powerful and more responsive.
Because he is shorter, so are his harness lines,
however he can still fit all his forearm in them
and they are still set very close together, to give
him good feel and promote early planing. His boom
is much lower in comparison, but is still at chin
Andy uses a Simmer Crossover 4.5,
only 0.8cm2 larger than Jamie’s but by nature
a more powerful sail that has constant power to keep
driving through moves and pull up onto the plane
quickly. It is also not set as flat as Jamie’s.
His harness lines are longer (28cm), but still set
close together. This allows the rider to hang off
the boom and get more feedback from the sail, letting
Andy automatically adjust it. Andy’s boom is
much higher in comparison to Jamie’s almost
at the top of the cut out. However for both their
heights they do have reasonably high booms!
This is where we can probably see the most difference
between the two sizes of sailor. planing a good, complimentary
quiver is vital to improving time on the water. Most brands
have ranges to cater for different weights and styles of
windsurfer and have been doing so for about 6 years now.
So it is not just about getting new kit, it is also about
planing what second hand kit you should try and fit into
I recently persuaded a friend who is just learning to
carve gybe, to change his entire sail range. At 75kg he
had problems getting going and was still improving his
technique to get through the lulls. His quiver was badly
planned, turning out to be what he could get at the best
price, sometimes a false economy.
It went something like this:
- 7.0 Tushingham Heckler (powerful sail)
- 6.0 Neil Pryde Supersonic (flat but fast)
- 5.3 Neil Pryde Zone (full on wave sail)
- 4.5 North Voodoo (another powerful wave sail)
- 4.0 Arrows Irokee (flat, high top end)
He found that when overpowered on the 7.0, he would not
necessarily get going on the 6.0. The 6.0 had a much better
top end than the 5.3 neutral – down the line – wave
sail Zone, yet the 4.5 Voodoo was stiff and powerful, for
bump and jump and had almost as much low end as the Zone,
yet if he wanted to change down, the 4.0 would be underpowered!!
All the sails are very good sails in their class, and for
what they were designed to do. The problem was that they
just didn’t ‘fit’ together. Someone light
on their feet would love the neutral flicky nature of the
zone and supersonic, but for him it just didn’t seem
to work. He now has all his sails from the same range,
he knows how to set them, and when changing sizes, the
characteristics do not change. He is a much happier chappie!
Jamie’s biggest sail is a Naish Boxer 5.4 (a small
but powerful sail), whereas Andy has a 6.8! The rest of
Jamie’s sails are all Naish Sessions in the sizes
5.0, 4.7, 4.5, 4.2, 3.7 and 3.2. Excessive maybe, but he
finds that a 0.3 – 0.2 of a metres change makes a
massive difference, especially for freestyle and wave sailing.
Sometimes if you cannot get a move, be it a tack to spock,
changing down, but at the same time remaining powered up
can make all the difference.
Jamie’s biggest board is something that a lot of
us would regard as our smallest board, an 85l Naish Supercross.
His next two boards are smaller than I would ever use,
a 69 and 62 litre wave board!
Andy’s sail quiver spreads over a bigger range,
with about 0.5 gap between sizes. Simmer Crossovers 6.8,
6.2, 5.7, 5.3, 5.0, 4.5, 4.0. If he was more inclined to
free riding then he would probably have an 8.0 or above
in there. His technique and ability means that he can get
going with a 6.8 in the lightest of airs. Andy sticks with
more traditional sizes of boards; all Drops ;75l wave board,
90litre freestyle wave, 105 litre all round freestyle,
and 115 litre large freestyle.
At the recent Irish Triple Crown, the final competition
was held in very fluky force 3 sub planing, to force 4.
Andy was on his biggest board (115 litres) and sail combination
(6.8m), where Jamie managed to get away with a 5.4 and
69 litre wave board!
All this highlights the fact that smaller people should
be using much smaller, more user friendly kit, and carefully
chosen at that. With the right kit, the heavyweights amongst
you will get planing earlier, and the lightweights will
be in more control.
Lucy Horwood and Dan Ellis
Our next case study is with Lucy Horwood and Dan Ellis.
Both are at the top of their field in Formula racing but
Dan weighs around 100 kg’s (depending upon how many
children he ate for breakfast) whereas Lucy is at least
30 Kg’s lighter at around 62kg. Here is what they
had to say:
recently been working on loosing weight so I manage
better in the light winds. I did register a
10m for my biggest sail but I soon decided to return
to the 11m, so I had the advantage in the light winds. Its
all about technique - I have done a lot of weight
training over the winter so even though I am lighter
I am strong. If you are small you have to lengthen
your harness lines and put all your weight through
your harness to keep the board down. It takes
a bit of getting used to but it works miracles. As
I am smaller I tend to have my mast track further
forward so that I have the weight of the sail helping
me to keep the board down. If you start lifting
and getting out of control its one of the first things
I think about changing. I have an 8.2m as my
smallest sail so I have to be able to use this up
to about 25 knots of wind.
I have recently found that as
a smaller sailor a softer mast is working really
power from the stiff masts is too much and I find
much more control and a higher wind range for my
sails with softer masts. With regards to
boom height, a general rule is as it gets windier the lower you put your boom,
this works with harness lines too - if you are overpowered lengthening your lines
is a safety net....also works well when bearing away downwind.”
Dan is a big chappie
(95kg) and very quick around a course. Dan Shares his kit
“It’s all about setting my kit up to be
as powerful as possible and thinking light light light!
There are a few tricks heavier guys can use that light
people can’t get away with.
To make the sail more powerful
it is only possible to let of so much downhaul before
the whole thing destabilises and the air can’t
exhaust. On most modern sails if you let of too much
downhaul (to the extent that the leach tightens up) the
sail will actually become LESS powerful.
Instead of releasing the downhaul the outhaul can be
released to power the sail up. Sometimes I release my outhaul
to the extent that the sail is wrapping around the boom.
This doubles the power and early planing ability without
adversely affecting the air release and stability of the
The board can also be tuned up by
simply moving the mast track back to be closer to
the fin which will give more lift. I also have a
super powerful fin that only works up to about 10kts
but even without that you can make a lot of difference
with the simple tricks above.
In high winds I can really
take advantage of my weight and strength. By moving
my mast track forward and my boom down a little I
can hold a bigger sail than lighter sailors and really
benefit from the extra power the sail generates
and turn it into speed.”
Jan is one of the heavier windsurfers on the wave tour,
he has this to say about mast choice.
“The Boxer 5.0 sets on a soft 370cm mast but I
use a stiffer Firestick 400cm. By using a stiffer mast
it increases the effective low end of the sail, and also
doesn’t twist so much, which is good for heavier
sailors like me”
Jem Hall is one of the worlds leading windsurf coaches
and as a Boards tester knows how important board and rig
“Having the right sails and
a quiver of boards is just so important to your improvement
and to maximizing your time on the water. Since owning a
big freestyle board my sailing time has tripled and the amount
I enjoy free sailing has quadrupled. Your equipment makes
For extra advice and tips, please feel free to contact
our technique guru Jem Hall:
So there we have it, the proof is out there….
Light sailors can be good in strong winds and heavy sailors
can excel in light winds. The trick is to spend a little
more time thinking about your quiver, setting up your equipment
and using the right kit for the conditions rather than worrying
about your god given physical size.
Here are the conclusions:
- Choose a quiver of equipment that suits YOU
and the way you sail
- Make sure that your quiver of equipment ‘fits’ together
and doesn’t have widely different characteristics
from size to size.
For early planing (and heavy sailors)
- Make sure that your equipment is big enough.
Modern equipment is much easier to use and you
will be surprised how much more fun you can have
on bigger boards and sails! Planing beats wallowing
- Try putting your boom higher which helps to ‘release’ the
board from the water.
- Bring your mast track back a little to help
you get more lift from the fin and get the board
planing earlier. (Although beware not to bring
it too far back or the tail will sink).
- Release outhaul to get more power from the sail
rather than letting too much downhaul off.
- We will be covering early planing and pumping
technique in future issues so stay tuned!
- If all else fails, try the slim-fast scheme!
For high wind control (and light sailors)
If all else fails, we recommend pie and chips!
- Make sure your equipment is small enough. Small
boards give you a lot more control when conditions
- When you start to lose control, try putting
your boom down an inch. This will help hold the
board on the water.
- Put your mast track further forward. This reduces
lift from the fin and holds the nose down preventing
- Apply a little more outhaul. This moves the
pull of the sail forward and reduces the power.