iQFOIL TRAINING AND TUNING
From professional windsurf training to Olympic windsurfing training here's the low down on what I've learned so far about iQFOiL and my recommendations about training and tuning for those who are getting started on the iQFOiL path.
Training, of course, is training and no matter whether your end goal is an Olympic gold medal or a Worldcup trophy, I am a big believer in the magic of spending as many hours as possible on the water. Time on the water - that's the essence of success, but of course, many details will affect training efficiency. When it comes to classes where you have just 1 board, and one sail, the equipment needs to become something like an extension of your body, and tuning your equipment for different conditions becomes even more critical. While in slalom sailing I could just swap between bigger and smaller sails and boards according to conditions in iQFOiL I need to sail the exact same equipment whether it's 6 knots or 40 knots. Luckily, there are many trim options for the iQFOiL and the different racing formats, making it easier to handle the equipment in a vast wind range. It needs to be said that tuning and trim are really personal and depend a lot on your sailing style and weight, but I will give you a few general guidelines based on my own settings and what has worked for me so far.
While foiling, it's all about finding the perfect balance between having enough lift to fly comfortably while not having to struggle to keep the equipment down, even when speed increases. Controlling the lift of your foil is affected mainly by 3 key factors:
The back wing angle
The mast foot position
These will be the 3 factors of trim that I will focus on and disregard the trim of the sail to simplify for this article's purpose.
Trim and Tuning from 6-40 knots
6-11 Knots - These are designated slalom conditions. Sailing on a reaching course means you can fill your sail with maximum power allowing you to generate enough speed to fly even in the lighter winds. Depending on your weight I would recommend using 0 or +1 back wing and a centre to back mast foot position.
11-15 Knots - These are designated cross over conditions this means you could either sail on a slalom course or an upwind downwind course.
Ona a slalom course: As previously mentioned, the slalom course means you will have maximum power in the sail, and with up to 15 knots, you will start generating a lot of lift. Using 0, -0.5 to -1 back wing angles in those conditions will make sure you can handle this lift and increase your speed. Moving your footstraps back will allow you to use a smaller back wing angle, which could increase speed as long as you still have enough lift to fly through your jibes comfortably.
On an upwind downwind course, 11-15 knots can feel relatively light at times, especially while pushing to sail in extreme angles to the wind. Using 0 or even +1 back wing angles will help generate the lift you will need to go deeper or higher on the course. Your mast foot position will probably be back from centre.
15-20 Knots, except for the medal race format, we will be sailing on up and down courses. Finding the right setting here becomes more technical and will depend more on personal preference and the feeling you like to get from your foil. This means that you could, for example, choose to sail with a +1 angle but will probably have to put your footstraps all the way to the front or perhaps move your mast foot forward quite a bit to be able to create enough downward force. Or you could choose to sail as little as a -1 angle but would probably need to move back the straps and the mast foot position to still be able to generate enough lift.
20- 30 Knots this is probably the point most riders will choose to sail with maximum 0 back wing angle. Going down to -1 is definitely possible and will help increase speeds downwind without the risk of getting stuck. Again, each rider will need to find the right balance between the mast foot and footstrap positions. Especially in conditions with stronger gusts, it is good to move the mast foot more forward and the footstraps as well so that it becomes easier to apply more weight towards the front of the board to steer the foil down.
30-40 Knots these are the conditions where it will get increasingly difficult to close the sail. It is probably the moment to think about using angles all the way down to -2. Still, my sailing experience with the -2 angle so far is that even though it might feel really comfortable in the strong gusts, in bigger lulls you will have to push very hard on the back of your board to generate the lift you need. So using an extreme set up like the - 2 might mean that you will have to swap very quickly between pushing really hard on the back to make it go up to pushing really hard on the front to keep it down, making sailing more technical. You can remember that if your back leg is cramping up because you are fighting to keep the foil flying it is a good sign that you should probably change up the angle.
In general and as a rule of thumb you can remember that if you are having to work too hard to keep the board flying, it is a sign that you should either move your mast foot and footstraps back or alternatively adjust the back wing angle up. Changing the mast foot position is the first change that can often have a more significant effect than expected and it is also the most straightforward change to make first as we can easily implement a change here while we're on the water. I would therefore recommend starting playing with this setup first.
The footstraps can also be adjusted on the water if you are carrying a Torx-screwdriver. However, you need to take care of the screw windings when you are changing footstrap positions more frequently to always screw well into the existing screw winding to prevent them from getting worn over time.
Changing the back wing angle involves having a boat and a skilled enough driver to not drop your screws in the ocean while changing the back wing, or alternatively having to go back to the beach o make the change.
This is the part that is down to practice, practice, practice. But of course, there is ways to learn more efficiently. My first recommendation is to practice using video analysis and marks as much as possible. Mark rounding can be very different than just tacking or gybing in the open water. Rounding the leeward mark, you can gain valuable meters upwind or on the other hand, loose many places in a race if not rounding tight and with a right angle. The same counts for the windward mark, while slingshotting into an extreme downwind angle you can often gain a lot of metres on your competitors if the angle of attack is right.
In both instances, when you shoot through the wind, you need to be in total control as the sail fills up with wind generating a lot more lift than while going down or up.
When you are just starting jibing and tacking, I recommend starting in flat water to remove the added difficulty of adjusting flight height according to the swell or waves.
Hand and foot position is often key to good technique, so if you get stuck trying a particular move, I recommend changing your hand position on the boom to feel the effect this will have on your sailing technique. In general, while improving technique, like in tuning, it is essential to remember to make small changes to one factor and then pay attention to its effects. If you change your back wing angle, your foot position and mastfoot all at once, it will be challenging to know which factor led to which result. So whether it is moving your hand 10 cm back or changing your mast foot position, make sure you pay attention to only change one thing at the time. In this manner, over time, you will discover the best setups for yourself.
Strategy and Tactics
Strategy and Tactics are perhaps the newest part for me. Of course, there is some tactics and even some strategy to sailing on a slalom course with 8 other girls, but it's nothing compared to sailing on an upwind downwind course with 60 other girls. One of the first things I've learned while getting deeper into course racing was the difference between strategy and tactics. A simple way to express this difference is to say that strategy is the plan you make according to the wind, which side you think will be favoured and so on. While the Tactics are all about how you will implement your strategy while involving your fellow competitors. For example, this means you choose to sail against your preferred strategy while implementing the tactic of choosing to stay close to your competitors, or the majority of the field. The further a competition progresses, the more critical the tactics become. But with many players in the game, it is risky to start counting points or focusing too much on specific competitors early on in an event. Which strategies and tactics pay-off in different situations comes down to knowing the possible outcomes from experience. That's also why experienced racers often have a significant advantage over younger, less experienced sailors when it comes down to consistently making the right choices.
Finally, my number one recommendation to all aspiring Olympians out there is to put yourself in competition situations as often as possible. Find a good training group where you can simulate races, make sure you join all your local weekend regatta's and of course don't forget to enjoy the experience of sailing and the challenge of learning.