Friday, March 21, 2008

Top Tips - Turning In The Wind

Now there about 100 caveats and quid-pro-quos to this subject. Boat design, paddle length, wind strengh, wave conditions. . . the idea is to introduce some concepts for exploration. Don't go out to practice this is a screaming gale! Find a day when you have just enough wind to be challenging, and see if you can't get the upper hand. When practicing, pay attention to wind direction and speed as neither is completely constant and even minor changes may effect your performance.

Before going out on the water consider your boat's 'trim' which is essentially concerned how weight is distributed from front to back. If the boat is out of balance, for instance if all your gear in the front hatch and the back is empty, your kayak could be wildly 'out of trim. All that extra weight in the front will act as an anchor and the boat is likely to do unusual things in wind and waves - one such phenomena is weathercocking (diagram 1) as the wind is be able to 'push round' the lighter end (in this case the stern of the boat). So remember to think about that when you load your boat. Not a mistake to discover whilst out in the middle of a crossing struggling in rough conditions.

Diagram 1 - Weathercocking (Doug Alderson).

Its also worth noting that trim can also be effected by the position of your seat within the boat. To far back and the boat will leecock (turn down wind) so weight the front. Too far forward and it will weathercock (turn into wind) so weight the back or use the skeg (if fitted).

Turning from a headwind to a crosswind can be accomplished through maintaining good speed, wide sweeping forward strokes and edge control. Adjusting your posture in the boat can help unlock the hull and combined with tilting the boat into wind will bring about an affective turn.

Going from crosswind to downwind can be achieved by adopting an active posture (leaning slightly back) and a positive outside edge. Along with this good boat momentum will assist a stern rudder that moves into a broad reverse sweep and then forward stroke (diagram 2) to shape a downwind course.

Diagram 2 - Downwind Turn (Doug Alderson)

When moving from a following sea to a beam sea or cross wind there are some similarities with the above, good boat speed being one and stern rudder into a supporting sweep being another. However, the difference here is that you might lean into the wave, apply an inside edge and rotate the body to look where you are going.

Lastly, an option to consider when moving from a beam sea back upwind is the use of a bow rudder (diagram 3). The essentials still apply, good boat speed and an active posture (leaning slightly forward). The rudder provides a dynamic pivot point around which you might try an outside edge. Though if swell is present these conditions maybe enough to release the boat hull thus bringing about a quick turn.

Diagram 3 - Upwind Turn (Doug Alderson)

As you know we all have our own little methods. Personally when I'm in any kind of rougher conditions I pay attention to getting my paddle as low with the blades locked in the water. This will keep the wind from grabbing my paddle and forces a wider sweep. Occasionally I'll brake a cardinal rule and slide my hands along the shaft and extend the paddle out much further which gives me a stronger sweep thus requiring less strokes to turn the kayak. Remember, you need to do what works for you and everything I said here can be counter argued by others!

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