Power to Weight: Your Stance vs Antoine’s

By February 13, 2008Racing, Technique, Tutorial

After the Antoine Albeau domination of the 2007 FW Worlds in Brazil, a great post was written by Andreas Macke posing some ideas on how one man could dominate an event so much. One thing to consider is that Antoine is around 100kg whereas 2nd placed Steve Allen was 82kg at the event. Power-to-weight plays a very important role in your speed around the course, so let’s have a look at it more closely and see how you can improve your stance to get the most out of your gear. We will begin with some ideas from the master of theory himself, Frank Bethwaite and then move on to look at the techniques of the top FW sailors.

Sail Carrying Power - RatioFrank Bethwaite was at the forefront of development of the 18ft Skiffs from the 1970’s through to the 1990’s. He suggested that the performance of boats that sail with the apparent wind forward of the beam at all times (as does a FW board) is governed by the ratio of the sail carrying power versus the total weight.

(See the above picture and read the full chapter, “The Quest for Speed”; pg 164 -High Performance Sailing)

This chapter was written about 18ft Skiffs. A modern FW’er emulates the performance of an 18ft Skiff. A good comparison was the Ronstan Bridge-to-Bridge race in San Francisco. Micah Buzianis (USA-34) and Kevin Pritchard (USA-3) competed against many top 18ft Skiff boats from Australia (including the World Champion from England) as well as the best of the best in kitesurfing. Micah narrowly beat the 18ft Skiff in this race highlighting their similarity in boatspeed:

The “sail carrying power/total weight” ratio for a sailor like Antoine Albeau on FW gear is in the vicinity of 55% compared with 61% that Bethwaite identifies for a modern 18ft Skiff. The total equipment weight of FW gear is around 26kg (unless you have the new Exocet board!). With the hydrodynamic lift that a FW board generates when planing, the “sail carrying power” is perhaps a better determining factor in going fast, rather than Bethwaite’s sail carrying power/total weight ratio.

SAIL CARRYING POWER =
Righting Moment / Distance between the centre of effort of the sail and the combined lateral resistance of the hull and fin.

Antoine, at 100kg has a sail carrying power which is 20% more than someone like Steve Allen at 82kg. With the development of the FW class, raceboards have become wider (up to 100.5cm now) and in the last two seasons, even wider in the tail. This allows for more sail carrying power which has been helped by the stability and handling of the newer wide-luff race sails.

All that being said, there’s more to winning a race than simply eating a few too many meat-pies before you go sailing, which is proved by a guy like Steve Allen coming 2nd overall at a relatively light weight of 82kg. So let’s focus less on what you can do physiologically and look at some things you can “actually” do to help you go faster around the course at whatever weight you are…

Silvaplana 2007Have a look at this photo from the racing in Silvaplana, 2007. The lead boat is Alberto Menegatti (ITA-456), behind him Markus Bouman (NED-6) and 3rd in the line is myself (AUS-120). Notice our distinctly different techniques. With Alberto on the uphaul rope he can get his body much further hiked and still have the sail quite upright. Markus gets out a little further than me but isn’t sheeted in too well in this picture. I believe I am too upright in the photo and have since worked on my technique to improve my stance.

Now have a look at this photo gallery here; a few photos of some of the top guys in FW going to windward. Notice everyone’s technique is slightly different but most of them have the sail very upright and are very hiked out, getting their body as far from the sail as possible. My favourite is the photo of Kevin Pritchard (USA-3) from the 2002 FW Worlds in Germany. His sail could be a little more upright but check out how far hiked he is! No wonder he won two Worlds in a row!

It is hard to get the sail upright and keep sheeted in at the same time. The two things seem to contradict each other when you try it. Work on getting your body hiked and away from the sail first, as it’s the easiest to correct. When you do, you will most likely be sailing with the rig too far on top of yourself. Once you start to drag the sail on top of you, the lift forces you are generating from the fin begin to decrease, so the second part of your training should be to work on ways of getting the sail more upright whilst still keeping your body hiked out. Here’s some tips to get you started…

Feet:

Feet are VERY important in railing the board and positioning your body for a good stance. Make sure you are on the balls of your feet. In lighter winds you can use your front foot to pull up on the front strap and help rail the board – in the extremes you can even do this with your back foot. Keep light on the board as heavy pressure will only dig the winward rail in (that’s slow!). Keep light on your feet; think like a ballerina.

Legs:

The best technique involves having a straighter front leg than your back leg. It shouldn’t be dead straight, but just a slight bend to allow you to absorb chop with your legs (by bending them slightly over the swells) and be comfortable when you sail. The concept should be to apply more weight to your back leg and lifting your front foot to rail the board, which allows you to power the fin and still rail the board. Practice will help with this…

Arms:

There’s no right or wrong here but I personally believe you can get further away from the rig with a pronated grip (both hands over the boom, as opposed to having your front hand under the boom). Everyone has a personal preference and once you have a good technique down-pat, you can do it with either grip – but to help learn this technique quickly I would suggest trying the pronated grip. A pronated grip allows you to roll your shoulders forward and effectively lengthen your arms a few cm.

Body:

Try to avoid twisting your body to windward. The best sailors have a relatively straight stance if you look at them from directly upwind. Have a look at the photo in the gallery of Wojtek Brzozowski (POL-10), he stands very straight on the board which means he can keep the sail very upright and still hike out. Twisting your shoulder forward as some people do when they are overpowered can lead to dragging the sail on top of you more.

Breathing:

Believe it or not, breathing is important with this technique. When you breathe deeper, you open your diaphragm up and can relax your shoulders more to get them rolling forward to lengthen your armspan. Probably, it’s hard to remember your breathing in 25 knots, but give it a thought on that 10 knot day when you next go sailing.

Equipment:

Equipment plays a big role in helping you hike. Your boom height, harness lines, mast-track position and fin will change the way the sail feels in your hands and the pressures it allows you to apply to the fin. This is all personal preference. Try it all. Get a friend with a camera to take some photos of you sailing and see what setup helps you to get more hiked.

Uphaul Rope:

The jury is still out on this one. Many top sailors use it in light winds, many go the same speed without it. My personal opinion is that the theory behind it is good, because the guys using the uphaul are hiked out incredibly far whilst still having the sail upright. There are plenty of guys who can get their bodies out that far without the uphaul rope, so whatever works for you – works for you.

Take some time next time you race to have a look at the stance of the guy’s winning the races. If the fleet is at a decent level, then chances are the guys winning will have a great stance keeping the rig upright and hiking out far from their board to generate maximum lift. That is why they beat you around the course without forking out so much money for a new fin like you did. Now, imagine you’ve worked on your stance AS WELL as buying that new fin …

Join the discussion 27 Comments

  • Sean OBrien says:

    I had trouble finding a good picture of Antoine to showcase his stance (which probably would’ve gone well considering what this article is about).

    If anyone has a good picture they know of, clearly showing his stance upwind, please send it to me or post the link to where it is as a comment. Cheers!

  • steve bodner says:

    Sean-
    Take a look at the upwind stances from the worlds last fall: http://stevebodner.blogspot.com/2007/12/worlds-day-4.html

    Good job elaborating on the practice and theory of formula efficiency.
    Steve

  • pat O'Connell says:

    I am only new to windsurfing so sorry if its a stupid question but how do you use the uphaul rope to sail faster?
    Love reading all the technical info. Keep up the great work.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Pat O’Connell – some guys are using the uphaul rope to help them get their body further from the sail but still keep the sail upright.

    Its like having arms that are another 30cm longer as you can lean out very far whilst your back hand is still on the boom trimming for power. It also helps load the fin.

    All you need to do is hold onto the uphaul with your front hand instead of hanging on to the boom. It’s a little technical to get to work well and requires a lot of practice and some experimenation with uphaul rope lengths. I also think that some fins lend themselves to this while other’s don’t. Powerful fins that don’t spin out (like an R13) would most likely suit this style of sailing whereas a thinner foil (like an R16/17) which is a faster/slippery’er fin might make this technique more difficult.

    I personally don’t use the uphaul technique as I think it’s a waste of the efficient leading edge of a wide-luff race sail to have a thick knotted piece of baggy rope hanging down the front… lol.

  • NK says:

    Great reading. The pro’s really know their stuff when it comes to technique. The gallery loads a little slow for me though…

  • JW says:

    Hello Sean,
    Gallery loads very slow for me too. It must have something to do with the used code I guess cause on the formulawindsurfing.org site the gallery’s are pretty fast and a joy to flip through as where the gallery’s from your websites loads a little slow.
    Maybe you can do something about it, would be great cause the galler’s themselves are awesome.

    succes.

  • Mantas says:

    Hi Sean?

    How do the harness length affect the ability of sailor to be more away from sail, or to keep sail more upright. Few years ago many top used short harness,and nowadays they using long ones. Maybe thats the reason?

  • Jie says:

    Great Article on FW Stance. Found another old article here which says almost the same .

    http://www.bluefinz.com/jm/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=34&Itemid=10001

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ NK / JW – Thanks guys. I realise the galleries are loading a little slow…

    They are a little slow for me here in Australia, so I imagine it would be even worse from Europe (although you have faster internet than us by a longshot). Its actually to do with the server this site is hosted on … (the script for the galleries is only 12kb)

    Unfortunately, as this is just a side project of mine, I have it hosted on a relatively cheap server here in Australia to keep the costs down. I am going to move it sometime in the next 2 weeks to another server in Sydney which is faster; but of course, more expensive.

    The site is already receiving around 10,000 unique visiters a week (which is a lot more than I expected considering how specific the target audience would be… must be a cold winter in Europe huh?) so I think if the traffic keeps coming I could justify spending more money on the website and hosting it on faster/better/more-reliable server down the track … we’ll see …

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Jie – Great article!

    Sukhdev really knows his stuff. There is a great example/photo of how to roll your shoulders in there.

    When I get a bit more time over the weekend I will link that article into my article a little more (for the people who don’t bother to scroll down this far).

    Ps. How’s that photo of KP right at the bottom?? Man, those Nitro IV’s were sooooooooo FLAT!! haha.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    Ok, we are now on the new server!

    Try the gallery now, it should “hopefully” be a lot faster.

    (bare with me if there’s a few minor glitches with the site at the moment while I’m trying to remember how to get all the same settings re-uploaded)

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Mantas – Yes, harness lines make a big difference.

    How the different harness line length will effect you is a lot more to do with personal preference, and your particular stance I believe.

    When I began changing my technique a few years back to get the sail more upright, I went to shorter lines (24-26in) which allowed me to get the sail very upright – but at the expense of not hiking out very far.

    I’ve now gone to 26in and 28in when its a little windier which helps me hike out more. Everyone has a different way of hiking out, so its hard to know whether to recommend shorter/longer lines and to what affect it will have.

    I would suggest getting some adjustable lines and trying a different length. Its amazing what it does for your sailing, always trying new positions/settings etc rather than just staying comfortable in one length for 10 years. You get a great appreciation of what each aspect of your settings is doing for your speed/technique when you change it.

  • wsurfn says:

    Explain to me why Antoine is so competitive in even lighter conditions…

    Why doesn’t Steve crush him in lighter conditions?

  • JW says:

    Antoine is a very very very good competitor. Only in the lightest winds Steve may ‘crush’ Antoine, cause Antoine holds down a 12.5 NP longer then any other. So only when the 12,5 becomes light in the hands of Antoine Steve his lighter weight comes into play a role. Just check Calema Midwinters now, Gonzo, beiing lighter then Antoine (as is Jesper) took the victory.
    Off course it is not that simple a weight thing but as soon as the 12.5 of Antoine gets him really going he is a very tough competitor to beat. They (steve and Antoine) both are great sailors and it is in smal things to win so I do not think it is easy to crush one or the other.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ wsurfn – My personal theory is that Antoine’s extra weight is actually HELPING him in light wind.

    For the same reasons as mentioned in this article. Once planing, Antoine’s extra weight combined with his great stance – levering out to windward with his body and using a 12.5m (bigger sail than 95% of the fleet) must put far greater pressure on the fin than someone like Steve at 83kg with a 12m. That extra pressure is creating more lift, and probably keeping him planing through the lulls.

    Now, the reason why “any” 100kg rider doesn’t go fast in lightwinds comes down to Antoine’s incredible technique, pumping ability and tactics. For sure it is MUCH harder for a heavy guy to get up to speed out of the corners (tacking etc), so Antoine is definitely at a disadvantage there, but he seems to do well in lightwind regattas regardless (whereas other heavyweights, eg, Micah, Ben Van Der Steen, etc traditionally haven’t done so well in super light wind regattas) most likely just because of his sheer skill and experience.

    One thing to consider is how differently Antoine sails in lightwind. At the 2006 FW Worlds in Korea, on the <8 knot day, I followed Antoine out of the startline a couple of times and was suprised to see him pointing very low and going for maximum speed out of the starts. He was obviously just trying to get into clear air and forgetting about pointing, but then when he would tack, he could change gears and go into ‘point mode’ in the clear air and pull away from everyone. A top sailor will be able to sail in these different “gears”, utilising good tactics to get good results in lightwinds. Sure, if he doesn’t get planing off the line he will for sure get PUNISHED, cause a 70kg rider will always get on the plane quicker if they’re both good at pumping.

    A few years ago when I was sailing with 10.7m as my biggest sail, I could never get a standard R13 to work for lightwinds, yet it was considered the best fin for lightwinds in the Starboard boards and nearly everyone was riding one. I had to go and get cutdown 73/70 R13’s to get the same height as the heavier guys upwind (I was 72kg at the time). Now that I’m around 82kg, I’ve used an R13 successfully all season. This leads me to think that a lighter sailor simply isn’t heavy enough to pressure the fin to create the same lift that a heavier sailor can and has to resort to using bigger fins for lightwind. Of course, this is just an example, everyone has a different style and fin choice etc… just something I had noticed in the past few seasons of sailing.

  • Frank Peebles says:

    How do you figure the drops between sail sizes for different weights? I am 175@55 years old and find that I am over powered in what most regattas call racing conditions. I currently have 11.5 , 9.8 ,and 8.3 nitro 4kp. My board is a f147 Starboard and am fine upwind but get thrown off the from going downwind in windly conditions. Where we sail there is wind blown chop very close together that causes the board to bounce until I loose my ballance. The chicken strap helps but not the total answer.

    thanks
    Frank

  • JW says:

    Hello Frank,

    Sorry to say but the F147 isn’t the best downwind board. Off course the downwind in chop like you describe is a though challenge on most formula gear but the 147 doesn’t help a lot here. Does it need to change? Well mayby not maybe yes, it is not my call.

    What I’m curious about is the windstrenght you refer to when going boucing form one side to the other?? It is somewhat hard to imagine but a too flat or small sail is not helping also. Maybe you are not going full focus downwind? Just let us know a bit more, please.

    Jan

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Frank – I agree with JW, it might be a gear issue.

    After the 147, the 158/159 got a little wider in the tail and then the 160/161/162 got even wider again. This extra width means you are standing even further away from the fin and can get more leverage against the rig. More leverage means you can hold on to a bigger fin and more often than not, hold a bigger sail in more wind (simple physics).

    Over the 5 years or so of board development the boards have definitely got friendlier and you will most likely find (if you step on a newer board) that a lot of the issues you are having will sort themselves out.

    There are other things to consider however; what fin are you using? Back in the 147 days people were using stiffer fins (thank KP for that one!). Today, nearly everyone is using ultra soft fins which are a lot more comfortable downwind as most of them have enough “twist” to de-power a little downwind and stop the board feeling uncomfortable.

    The other factor is sails. Despite Barry Spanier raving about how fast thin luff-sleeves were I believe in the early days he missed the point that it wasn’t the extra “speed” the wide-sleeves were getting, it was the extra “stability”. Suddenly, people went from having 3 rigs to only using a 10.7m in all conditions. The extra stability in a wide luff sail (especially compared to the flatter 4KP models) will certainly help you increase your windrange and the even newer sails (this year’s and last year’s models) are again another leap in stability, ease of use; not to mention ease of RIGGING!

    My first recommendation would be to investigate an update in gear (doesn’t have to be brand new, just something made in the last 3 seasons) but also your strength plays a HUGE roll in your ability to hold sails down in big winds. Doing RSX for 2 seasons I went and worked with specialised strength and conditioning coaches from our sailing association after years of dabbling in the gym on my own. I reckon I’m about 60% stronger than I was before and now I notice on the formula circuit in Australia I can plane earlier than most (pumping is stronger) and I hold down my 11m longer than most (pure strength). While you probably don’t want to be smashing the gym 4 nights a week at your age I would suggest maybe picking up some other pastime that would help with arm strength that ISN’T windsurfing … suggestions anyone??

  • Frank says:

    Thanks for all the advice. From ya’lls comments probably the best thing for me to do is move back to long board riding. Not having time to train is a big deal and a race board and sail would be ridden more often. Thanks again

    Frank from Texas

  • i am a 140kg windsurfer, most of the stuff i read here came to me naturally. I think my wight positively contributes in planning conditions but when the wind drops below 15knots its pure hell for me to ride a 120l board (F2 SX L, 7.2 NP) I marked 36 knots in 32 knot wind (gusts) but i believe with the right equipment i could go much much faster.

  • saba fazeli says:

    Sean-
    You talk about using the balls of your feet to “rail” the board to leeward (while sailing upwind). I went out yesterday, and a sailing buddy told me that i’m sailing the board too flat. Do you have any tips/ examples of how this is done?
    I was having some success lifting the windward rail by pushing through the balls of my feet more, but in the SF bay chop, it’s hard to maintain control going upwind with the board flying all over that place. Any ideas?
    Saba

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Saba – What I mean is you shouldn’t ever really be flat-footed on the board, you need to always be on the balls of your feet. If you aren’t, your heels usually contribute to pushing down the board.

    As the wind gets stronger and the fin powers up more, it’s easier and easier to rail a board. If you’re talking about SF bay chop and issues with a flying board, I’m thinking you’re talking about windy conditions?!

    Could you tell me what board and what fin you are running, because when the wind is consistently over 20 knots, you don’t really need to concentrate on railing, the gear should do it automatically. When it is not railing in these winds, there may be a feature of your setup like the fin, or the track too far forward or the boom too low or something that is preventing the board from railing.

    Also I ask about your board because some boards just ride ‘flat’ regardless. The Starboard 162 is an example; it has a very long flat rocker and the board doesn’t rail high compared to others so it might give the illusion that a sailor isn’t railing if you compared it to a Starboard 160 for example…

    • saba fazeli says:

      I ride a mike’s lab L8, and I run a 67 ifju with my 10 in conditions ranging from 12-25 kts. yesterday the conditions were exactly like this, jumping from nothing to nuking. I was focusing on railing the board during the light wind time of the day, as when overpowered (i’m 15 years old and 72 kg, 6′ 1″) i wasn’t thinking about railing at all, and when i was, the board seemed to want to take me to the moon – confirming what you were saying about the fin powering up more. Therefore, I guess what i’m confused about is just how much i need to be flying the board up onto the leeward rail. i.e., should it be a constant thing, or should I try to be rocking the board up and down from being railed to flat.
      Thanks for the advice-
      Saba

  • Sean OBrien says:

    Hi Saba,

    Gear sounds like a good setup. Don’t try to rock the board from rail to rail, the railing should be a constant thing.

    Don’t focus on the actual ‘railing’ either. Focus on trying to get constant loading on your fin. You do this by making sure your body is locked and keeping the sail sheeted in on the centre line at all times. Sheeting is really critical; letting it out a few cm (inches) here and there although doesn’t feel like much is actually taking the load off the fin. Once you are happy that you are sheeting constantly then try raising the arcs of your feet in your straps – that is the top of your feet – to push them against the strap and lift the board upwards. If you are loading the fin well enough the board should rail by itself and even more with a bit more lift created by pushing your feet up in the straps.

    For your setup, I run my back straps quite loose so I can get deep in them downwind, but upwind you don’t really use the back straps so make your front strap VERY tight, as this is what controls the trim of the board. With a tight front strap you can have the setup of ‘pulling’ up with your front foot (either by the arch of your foot or even just curling your toes up a bit a literally pulling the foot up!) and then pushing hard with your back foot on the fin. This is a nice way to get the board to rail.

    Also make sure your boom is at a good height. At eye-height as a minimum, and experiment with even higher. I use my boom almost above my head!

    • saba fazeli says:

      Thanks Sean,
      The footstrap setup you suggest is EXACTLY how i run the board, and how i feel while i’m sailing. toes curled up in the front, with almost all my focus on the back foot. I try to maintain that pressure while keeping my body centered.
      The last few days out have been really fantastic, I’ve started to really get a feel for my optimal VMG.
      Thanks,
      Saba

  • Jill says:

    Does anyone know where I can find a blank 120 Form to fill out?

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