Sunday, like Saturday, started with rain. When I arrived at Bird Island near noon, black clouds hung on the horizon. Distant thunder rumbled ominously. But where I stood the sun peeked through the clouds and the winds hovered around 10 MPH.
I rented a board, the F2 Stoke 155 again. This time I got a 6 meter sail. I spent a couple of hours practicing tacks, beach starts, and trying to sail fast.
I'm starting to feel good about my fast tacks. Turning the board the final distance through the wind still trips me up occasionally, but not often. I found that it helps to tilt the sail out before moving it forward again. This speeds the rotation of the nose through the wind. Putting the mass of the rig over the water gives something to pull the nose against.
While practicing lots of quick tacks in shallow water I ran into Olivier teaching a class. He complimented my improving sailing ability (go me!) and said I should start using the harness. He suggested that I spend some time practicing hooking in and out.
Up to this point I admit I have been a bit afraid of the harness. I had taken a harness class, but I was still a bit worried about getting carried away to Mexico or catapulted.
Actually, I'm still not sure exactly what a catapult entails. The texts seem fuzzy on the definition. I imagine medieval siege engines, boulders sailing over walls. But perhaps it just means getting pulled down with the sail -- not so bad.
Anyhow, at this point I was feeling better about performing tacks and more in control of the board. Even if the harness pulled me to the straights of Florida, I'd be able to turn the board around and get back.
I rented a harness and followed Olivier's advice. I hooked in and out of the harness repeatedly. Gradually I became used to the process and my fears subsided. I ended up hooking in for longer runs and catching some gusts. A several times I even got up on plane for a moment.
Much to my amazement, I only got pulled down by the harness a two or three times. It didn't hurt, although one time it did take four tries to unhook the harness from the fallen rig. Each time I pulled the harness line out of the hook, it sprang right back in before I could roll off the sail.
I learned a few things about harness sailing. First, dumping the wind means twisting the sail. You can't just let go with your back hand while wearing a harness. That path leads to imbalance. No, instead it seems to work better to rotate the sail so the mast turns windward. Pull with the front hand, push with the back. This quickly reduces the force on the sail. Of course, you'll never go fast dodging every gust.
Second, with good wind you can put a lot of weight in the harness. I found it a bit difficult at first to rely on the harness to hold the force of the sail. I had to fight the urge to wrestle the boom with my arms. Despite my reluctance, putting weight on the harness seems fine. If the wind dies, recovering a stable standing position requires only a quick yank on the boom.
Still, I have many areas for improvement. I had a difficult time keeping the board pointed windward while hooked in. A beam reach seemed like the easiest position to sail while harnessed. I think this may have something to do with my positioning on the board, but I'm not sure.
I also still need some guidance on getting and staying on plane. Planing really excites the heck out of me, but my limited steering control makes it feel like riding an acme rocket. Perhaps practice will reveal a solution.
I headed in around 5:30 as Worldwinds threw a little party. Don cooked up some excellent sausage wraps and other yummy food. Having spent most of the day sailing, the food hit the spot. I chatted with some of the other sailors and ate like a pig.
I returned to the hotel, desalinated, and watched another big thunder storm move through the city. I retired with blistery hands, sunburned shoulders, and a smile.