Mastfoot Position

Mastfoot position
Interviews with Youp Schmit (Freestyle),
Ricardo Campello (Wave) and
Antoine Albeau (Race)

Text: Axel Reese, reemedia

For many, there is always an excuse as to why you found it hard to get planning or why your buddies were faster on the water. Let’s face it, the excuse of the mast foot position is probably one of the most common used. Tackling this topic head on, Axel Reese asked three big names in the sport for their input on it.

Almost every windsurfer has their own preferences, and all boards and sails have their own strengths and weaknesses. So it requires a bit of joy and passion to find out the optimal trim for maximum achievement and enjoyment on the water. More than a few windsurfers have trouble finding out the optimum mastfoot position.

In many cases, the mastfoot has to be in the middle position for light and medium winds and further back for strong winds. But finding the right setting is well worth it, because well-trimmed equipment has a major impact on driving performance and fun on the water.

“The mastfoot position is important to optimally trim the board and to achieve a good posture. The optimum mast base position allows me to hold an upright posture, both legs are equally loaded and the board ‘fly’s’ freely across the water” says PWA rider Karin Jaggi.

The optimum mast base position is dependant on several factors:

  • Sail type, brand, and size, i.e. a slalom or wave sail? Where is the centre of effort in the sail?
  • How much weight and body size?
  • Foot-strap position
  • Boom position
  • Wind and water conditions

Overpowered wind

If you are already overpowered on a free-ride board and a 6.0 sail so you can just move the mastfoot 1-3cm further forward. The board will become calmer and you feel much more in control.

What happens if you position the mast base further back?

Generally a decrease in the ability to get planning and sailing upwind becomes harder. As ever though there is no rule without exception. In a larger swell, the mast base should be a ‘bit’ (1-2cm) further back so that the nose of the board can be free, meaning that the board holds a better planning position. However, the positioning is still dependant on ones own style. Sailing upwind does become a little trickier but there will always be some compromise.


Normal wind

A clear indication that the chosen mastfoot position is too far back is the fact that it is not possible for me to put down the sail on the board during a full downwind ride.
If I push the mast foot about 1-3cm forward, the so-called “Close the Gap” is easier, the gap between the sail and board is now decreased. It’s easy to find out if the mast is too far back as the nose of the board is too free, and the board begins to feel lose.

The other way around; if the mastfoot is to far forwards the bottom batten is grinding on the board. If I now slide the mastfoot more to the back, this will stop it from happening and feel more natural. So the position is only than optimal if you feel completely relaxed on your board.

What happens when the mast base is positioned further forward?

  • Better upwind abilities.
  • Generally faster. In the upper wind range this mast base position brings better controllability, resulting in these higher speeds.
  • ‘closing the gap’ becomes better facilitated.

Wave Special

Which variables of mast-foot positioning are important during wave riding?
Karin Jaggi said: ‘Mostly, and above all is your own surfing style. However, in big waves there are basically two variants:

  • Elongated (long) turns: Often with an aggressive bottom turn where the sail is almost on the water (similar to a lay done carve gybe). The body and sail are leaning heavily towards the front. The board carves almost exclusively over the edge. So to obtain the optimum pressure and the speed for that bottom turn, it helps to place the mast-foot a little bit further forward.
  • Narrow, flat-driven turns: The windsurfer is more upright in the bottom turn and rotates the board mostly on the fins. As a result the mast-foot should be more to the back. Anyone who windsurfs like this often uses an extremely wide stance and will gain a lot more of their control and steering from back foot pressure. Therefore the sail plays a less significant role.

Pressure point of the sails and body size

The ideal position of the mast on the board is dependent on several factors. The pressure point of the sail plays a main role. New styles and variations of sail design ensure that this can change year on year. As a rule of thumb: the further behind the pressure point of the sail is, the further forward the mast must be.

Another significant factor is the body size: smaller windsurfers ride the mast usually 2-3 centimetres further back than larger windsurfers.

We have asked PWA pros, what is important about their settings and they gave us a few exclusive tips for you to try out on your next session.

Youp Schmit, 16year old PWA freestyle

Photographed board: JP-Australia Freestyle 88l

What do you find are your most important points about your mast-foot position?

For me it will always depend how the conditions are and also what board you are using. I use the JP freestyle board, which is a very short. I always look at how windy it is and what the waves/chop is like. As well as what sail size and what board size I am using.

Do you change the mast-foot position when changing the sail size?

It depends on what sail size I have been on and what sail size I will take. If I have had one of my big sails like 5.3 and the wind becomes a bit stronger so I can take my 4.9 or even 4.5, I would move the mast-foot position more to the back because this brings the nose a bit more out of the water and makes me more comfortable on my board while doing the tricks. For every sail size down I would take the mast foot 1cm further back.

Do you change the mast-foot position for different spots (e.g Bonaire, Fuerte, Sylt)?

Of course, these spots have all very different conditions, like Bonaire is nice flat water, Fuerte is choppy and Sylt is more choppy and even some waves.
On Bonaire, I would have my mast-foot more to the front of the board because the board doesn’t catch on so much chop.
On Fuerte, I would have the mast foot a bit further to the back to get over the chop a little better, and to sail in really strong winds. 
On Sylt, I would move the mast foot almost as far as possible to the back, especially if I would have to use one of my smaller sails. If I were to use one of my bigger sails I would move the mast foot a bit more to the front but no further than the middle of the box.

Do you change the mast-foot position sometimes between the freestyle heats?

No, I don’t really change the mast-foot position between heats. I have several boards ready to go with different size sails on them with the mast-foot position set for each one.
Or if I am not comfortable with my mast-foot position that I have used, if I feel my weight is too much on the nose, I would move it a little further back, and if my weight is too much on the tail I would move it more to the front. This I would do before the heats start.

How important is the mast-foot position placement?

Yes, it is very important that all you gear is rigged up right and that all these small adjustments are right. It will help a lot in all your freestyle tricks and will help you land them for sure.

Do you have any tips (regarding the mast-foot positioning) for our readers? 

Set your equipment up right, exactly how you like it and feel comfortable on it.
If you feel your weight is too much on the nose try to move the mast foot more back, and if you feel your weight is too much on the tail try moving it more to the front.

Ricardo Campello, Vice Worldchampion PWA Wave 2011

Photographed board: JP Single Thruster 93

What is important when positioning your mast-foot for wave riding?

To have a certain balance between you and the sail, sometimes you make a turn and the whole nose of the boards dives in the water, so it’s really important to have that balance! For jumping it becomes even more important as no one can really say they are in complete control all the time.

Do you change the mast-foot position when changing sail size?

This depends on the conditions, but normally if I am comfortable I keep it in the same position. 

Do you change the mast-foot position depending for different spots (Maui, Indonesia, Sylt)?

Probably it all depends on everything: Water conditions (is it choppy or clean waves), wind conditions, wind direction.

Do you change the mast-foot position between wave heats?

No never!

Do you have any tips (regarding the mast-foot position) for our readers?

Just try to keep it in a comfortable position; half of a cm makes a lot of difference.

Antoine Albeau, Vice World Champion PWA Slalom 2011

What is important when positioning your mast-foot for a slalom race?

It can give you more nose lift or which makes the board sit better on the water.

Do you change the mast-foot position when changing the sail size?

Normally I only change it if the water conditions change a lot, I can move it 1cm max.

Do different sail brands affect the mast-foot position?

I don’t think it changes a lot, the only change can be if the sailor uses the boom really low on the sail. At this point he will have to put the mast foot further back!

Do you change the mast-foot position for different spots (Alacati/Sylt/Fuerte)?

Yes I am in the back position in Alacati because it is really flat water and I put it in the max-forward position in Fuerte as it is very choppy!

Do you change the mast-foot position sometimes between the slalom heats?

Normally never except if the chop increases or decreases, this can be see on sea level (so from low tide to high tide and from high tide to low tide).

Do you have any tips (regarding the mast-foot positioning) for our readers?

Yes don’t put it too much to the back, try to put the boom higher than you normally use and move the mast foot a bit further forwards, it will give you a lot of stability.





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