Long distance windsurfing: speed is not everything

Long distance windsurfing marathons are a test to the sailors' overall fitness level. Speed is not everything.

When you're trying to win a long distance windsurfing race, you must be comfortable upwind, in order to sail for one hour.

In these challenges, you cannot prepare yourself and gear for reaching the highest top speed through the 50 kilometers. It's all about having the best average top speed, with a trim that allows you not to be exhausted after one race.

"It's not about going at 120%, as in the PWA for few minutes, but about going at 90% of the top speed you will need for one hour. Some of you are thinking one hour is nothing. I sail for three hours. Yes, but never 15/20 minutes on one side," explains Andrea Cucchi, Point-7 team manager and pro windsurfer.

Therefore, you need comfort and power for going upwind. Unfortunately, sometimes you also need to go downwind, so you also need to tune up for having control in that direction. Here's what you should do:

1. Footstraps: usually, in Slalom you keep them a bit wider so that if the wind picks up, or you need to go more downwind, you can push your feet more inside the strap, towards the centre of the board and gain control. In long distance windsurfing marathons, you want them to be tight so that your foot feels the footstrap all the time. It allows, especially for the front foot, to pull up in the strap to go more upwind. If it is too wide, then you have to force your foot up even more to feel the strap, to pull upwind, and this will kill your legs. Calibrate your footstraps so that your feet fit in nicely, and not only the toes, so that you feel the strap tight on top of your foot.

2. Fin: for going upwind you need a bigger fin. In a competition like Defi Wind, you do not. The water is flat, so there is no need to push upwind with power. Also, if you use a too big fin, it will give you less control when sailing downwind, or during stronger gusts.

3. Mast Track: we usually have it balanced to get the most power, speed, and control. In a long distance race, your normal position will not work. Put your mast track 2/3 centimeters further forward than your regular setup. It will allow the weight and profile of your rig to keep the board down, so you get less tired in keeping the board on the water when gusts or waves hit the gear. You might be a little slower, but it's better than being halfway through the race and having to slow down 50% of your potential, as you are too tired.

4. Boom: to go upwind you normally keep your boom higher to get more power out of the fin but, in Defi Wind, the upwind is done over a long distance, so you don't need so much power. Having the boom too high will get you tired. Lower the boom from your normal position. A couple of centimeters will not hurt your performance over 50 kilometers.

5. Harness Lines: normally in overpowered condition and waves, you tend to have longer harness lines, and in light wind or flat water, you tend to shorten them. At Defi Wind, the water is flat or choppy. The best is to have shorter harness lines than usual. Use them a size shorter than what you would normally use.

6. Adjustable Outhaul System: if you feel that you have too much power or you are getting tired, just pull the adjustable outhaul, flatten the profile, depower the sail, and get some energy back. Or if you see that the wind is dropping, you are losing speed, and you have energy to take advantage from more power, then release the adjustable outhaul, and gain some speed.

"Plan a comfortable trimming for the whole race. When you're on the water, you don't have time to switch anything," adds Cucchi.