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Winter sailing skills don't match my summer skills
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Joined: 11 Mar 2013
Posts: 56
Location: Burlington Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 12:08 am    Post subject: Winter sailing skills don't match my summer skills Reply with quote

I have extended my season with a 6/5/4, 6mm booties and gloves. I find that now when I go out I'm not as good as when I go out in the summer.

Now I am often sailing solo in near freezing temps and 46F water. I don't have the confidence that I have in the summer. When it's warm and there are other guys out I feel so much more confident and really go for stuff. Now I find myself really focussing on safety and survival first and then thinking about planing next.

Also, with my new wetsuit and booties (and lower body temp) I really feel as if I lose my agility, feel for the board and athleticism. When I tack I'm a lot slower going around the mast, when in the summer I fly around it. If I wear my gloves my forearms blow up and I don't last as long.

I also find the wind is so much stronger and the gusts are so much higher. When I'm sailing in the summer the gusts typically are about 5-7kts above the average wind speed. Today when I went out it was probably 17kts gusting to the high 20's. So it makes it hard to get my settings right.

Also today, when I de-rigged and was rolling up my sail - I was like "Whattt is all over my hands" and then realized it was ice all over the sail.

Does anyone else experience this? Will it come with time on the water, or do most feel as if they aren't as skilled in the cold weather. I used to ride a motorcycle and the first year I had it I would ride until November and start in April. After a few years I'd only go out once it was totally warm. Starting to think windsurfing is the same.
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Joined: 02 Dec 2012
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 3:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Ghost1
I would suggest the link between your winter windsurfing and motor cycling problems are in fact your hands.
The open palm mittens rely on a layer of material between the fingers and the boom which causes you to over grip and make our arm tired. Plus all the time you know that if you fall in it is a disaster for the hands which are probably unhappy anyway.
Both problems- cold hands and aching arm/disturbed grip have been completely solved. This is not a partial relief to the problem, it is a complete solution. The only variable is how often you have to breath into the system and that is not much, it is a slight tweak to what you do to maintain a comfortable warm balance.
This forum has confirmed this.
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Joined: 30 Dec 2009
Posts: 2487

PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to winter reality Ghost.

You are right that in winter (snow/ice/cold water) survival takes total precedence over performance. The secret to stating warm is layering, and THICKNESS of neoprene. I wear, from inside to out, a thick thermal (Damart) long sleeved vest, a 3mm sleeveless and legless shorty, a 7mm (repeat 7mm) all over wetsuit, made to measure to own spec, with front zip and hood attached. (Made by a diving suit firm, from genuine diving suit 7mm thickness neoprene which, as all North Sea divers know is the minimum thickness for winter protection. To be clear, it is NOT a diving suit,it is just made from their thickness neoprene, which is a far cry from commertial windsurfing so called 6mm suits.)

All this layering is topped off by wearing double foot wear (3mm neoprene socks beneath 5mm neoprene boots), and full 5 fingered 4mm neoprene gloves, The secret with wearing gloves is that the MUST be snug fitting with NO play, especially over the palms to prevent hand sliding inside them, and loss of boom grip. It takes a couple of weeks for muscles to adapt, but by the end of winter, gloves just feel normal wear.

In all this gear, there is SOME restriction to performance, but I can stay out on, or in (surfing) mid winter seas for as long as I wish, without feeling cold. It works!

The proof to me is that I've been in the sea EVERY winter since 1973 Surfing then windsurfing, not to mention kayaking) and still am at 77 years old (birthday last week), and ENJOYING it.

My 'excessive'layering allows for the safety of having to swim in through surf if necessary, without fear of getting into trouble. THAT'S what matters!
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Joined: 30 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

P.S. To explain the caution.

In winter 1973 I was kayak surfing in a legless thin neoprene shorty (no need for legs in a boat) and came out. Within a short time of trying to swim back in (a fair way out, over a reef) I lost all feeling and became hypothermic. I still vivdly remember that hopeless feeling of despair. on realising that it was all over, (what a waste etc) before slipping into 'give up' mode.

Thankfully I was plucked out, and only vaguely remember the ambulance, and the ride to hospital. The next conscious moment was briefly coming to while laying on a table (I think it was)with wetsuit stripped off, and being furiously pummelled and rubbed by doctors and nurses. The nurse at my l3eg ends said 'look at the colour of this. It's dead.' 'This bloody end isn't' I blurted out between chattering teeth, and was conscious long enough to hear the round of laughter, before going out again.

I'm thankful it all happened, because trial and error experience is the worlds greqatest teacher. No talk, or safety instruction (we always slightly ignore) could have had such an impact on future precaution. I thank my lucky stars!
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Joined: 10 Apr 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are a few things that can impair your performance.

It will help if your booties are not shoes. If they are flexible, you will still feel the board, but obviously not as well as bare footed.

Thick gloves don't work for me. I am compelled to grip too hard with those. I use Dakine thin palm mitts with success. The first pair I had was a bit too small and it felt very bad too. It was forcing me to sail with fingers together and I felt out of control that way. I'm sure ianovated solution is also good.

Finally some people use their ears a lot too orient themselves to the wind. Having a thick hood impairs this sense. Little holes over the ears can help. I personally wear a kayak beanie under my helmet and it's good enough. I sail inland in Montreal, so I get out in cold weather. I don't go out if it's cold enough to have ice forming on you equipment.

A good trick is to bring a cooler of very warm water. If you go out and feel you have cold hands, come back to warm them up. Strangely, you need to do that only once, and blood won't leave your fingers again. The water can also be used for your feet if required, and to help derig if some line is covered in ice. I test the water when I prepare it to make sure I can leave my hand in it without burning myself. I wouldn't want to leave a numb hand too long in too hot water.
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Joined: 23 Aug 2001
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When switching to winter gear, I always feel a bit like an alien. Happens when I have to switch from thin boots to 5 mm, from 5 mm to 7 mm, and when I have to use the hood for the first time. Even just switching from a short-arm suit to long arms had a negative effect.

It also used to happen when I needed to switch to gloves. That's not the case anymore, thanks to the Ianovated suit with the hand warming tubes. Even though my hands get cold a lot faster than normal hands (I have Raynaud's), I can sail with open-palm mitts all winter long. Sore forearms in winter are a thing of the past for me.

Another great thing about the "tube suit" is that it is cut wide. Unlike many other suits, it does not restrict blood flow in the arms at all. It also makes getting in and out really easy, and leaves space to put on another neoprene layer underneath when it gets cold.

Confidence is a big thing in windsurfing. If your confidence goes down, you will screw up more, and have less fun. Than can turn into a negative feedback loop quickly. Knowing that you'll stay warm, and that your hands and forearms will be fine, can boost your confidence a lot.

Just two ago, I had a 2 1/2 hour session in 40F air. It was cloudy, and even rained a bit at the start. I still had a great time, playing with little waves, and even trying Shove-Its. I'm usually a back-and-forth flat water sailor, so that says something about my level of fun and confidence there. Such a session would not have been possible before I discovered the Ianovated suit. The suit has totally changed cold-weather windsurfing for me. I am now looking forward to the colder, less crowded days. Thanks again for creating the suit , Iain!

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Joined: 12 Dec 1999
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Add the following factors, common to Gorge winters, to your accurate comments, Ghost, and you'll see why I gave up winter WSing long ago and haven't looked back:
U.S. winter winds (especially Gorge westerlies) are very often gusty, brief crap necessitating rigging in advance and hoping often in vain for a whole hour of wind.
They often include precipitation, which at 35 degrees F sucks.
Their ripslog nature and strength risks injury, the impact of which grows exponentially in cold water.
I WS for fun, not bragging rights and what Im referring to is a bud who used to drive 70 miles, rig in icy conditions, sail out 100 meters and back, derig, and drive another 70 miles home just to support his claims of WSing every month of every year.
I know several WSers who enjoy blizzard sailing in Gorge westerlies. I just shake my head when I look at the scenario they encounter VERY often: A HUGE gust as the front passes lures them into a 40 or 75 mile drive. They arrive to nothing and go home or worse they rig for it and THEN it shuts off and they go home. MUCH worse, they get one reach out of it before it drops instantly from 30 mph to 3 mph, then work their ragged butts back to shore then go home.
One of them sails downwind even in January, and refuses to wear a hood. Well lose him some day.
My feet do OK bare in 46-degree water*, but my hands in the same water hurt worse than passing kidney stones (and, yes, Ive done both). What fun is crying, screaming, and cursing for the entire 5-10 minutes my hands are warming? That cooler full of warm water feels like hydrochloric acid.
* Until the next 5-7 days, when urticaria leads to extremely intense itching 24/7, far worse than the near-whole-body poison oak/ivy rashes I grew up with.

 Rooster Rock's flat water doesnt even warrant 100 degree August easterlies there for me.
Winter motorcycling/skiing/snowboarding/snowmobiling below 0 F is no problem for one simple reason: (almost*) any water we encounter is solid.
* The almost: I once broke through the ice covering a creek in the Utah mountains in the dead of winter. The last thing Dick saw of me was my back knobby tire disappearing into the water. Then several seconds later, my MX boots arose from the surface. The next half hour was pretty chilly, but it beats the kid who stopped in the desert at 5 degrees F, complained of some pain in his crotchal area, dropped trou, and discovered a peckercicle in his pants.
Neoprene hoods kill my balance. I cut 3 ear holes out of my hoods or used fleece hoods before I got older and wiser and stopped subjecting myself to $#!+ like that altogether. There are too many dry sports where heat loss by exposed skin is reduced by 96%.

Not even all that fun is compensated by an hour like you accurately describe.

Now winter means a comfortable (55-60 degrees) gym and zero forecast angst. Fudheddaboutit. Cold turkey. Simple. Just (Dont) Do It. Then when the water hits 46 again and the air is 50, I and my body are ready to go for it.

I occasionally ask myself, What am I missing?. You answered that pretty well. Thanks for reminding me why I'm close to ending another season of forecast anxiety.
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Joined: 08 Jan 2012
Posts: 665

PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 8:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah it's all real . Heavy, tight rubber; body can't relax because of the cold; denser air makes wind feel like it's stronger-all conspires in winter to make our life more difficult Sad At least you can still sail-we in the Midwest got all ready hit by an early arctic blast, the smaller ponds and rivers froze and it looks like season is over. Damn is too early Crying or Very sad
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those who can do. Those who can't preach! (As expected. Rolling Eyes )

P.S. Winter surfing is not compulsory. Many of us actually thrive on it, and ENJOY it! (Despite silly claims that it is a useless endeavor, and a waste of good time!)
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Joined: 17 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, i enjoy sailing in cold weather and dont do it for bragging rights. I find Sailing when the temps are around freezing isnt so bad but it takes time to get used to it. My sailing started to improve after being stuck at the same stuff for a long time when i finally started sailing in winter.

I try to stick to temps in the 0-4c 32-40F(both air and water) but sometimes sail in temps a little colder, had a wonderful hour of freestyle the other day in 26F.

My setup is a 6/5/4 wesuit, but it is really important to find a really good one, the mm do not say it all. So chest zip, welded seams, thick chest panel and a hood that covers all of the forehead, chin and some of the face. then just a pair of dakine cold weather mittens and im all good. Then just sit on the board when the fingers start getting cold and shake them warm. with this setup i can sail for 2-3 hours and and still be warm when im out of the water. Most of my winter sessions are shorter though just to be safe, so probably sail for about 60-90min but with a clear goal of what it is that i want to do. Actually i think i improve more during winter because of this.

Here are a couple of recent sessions, air around 0-2c but water still not at it its coldes so around 5c i think.
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