I hate to jinx things, but it’s been sunny and the wind has been unbelievably consistent day-to-day these last couple weeks at about 17 to 20 knots each day. New guests seem to be making great strides. Young Noah (pictured below) came here having sailed very few times before and started on a big Starboard Start but progressed quickly down through the new JP-Australia Explorers and into the JP-Australia Young Gun... and after a few days he was into the harness and planing with feet next to, but not quite in, the footstraps.
Two couples from North and South Dakota (do they have water there?) started out paddle boarding but after one windsurfing lesson were hooked on the sport, sailing back and forth, tacking and staying both upwind and dry – and with big smiles! My last discussion with them was on buying windsurf-capable SUPs to use on their local waters. Many tourists have been using the new paddleboards to explore the shoreline.
The local windsurfing club held slalom racing this weekend out at the Blue Highway. It was great to see the participation and high level of slalom skills. Daan, a windsurfer/instructor from Holland who is helping part time at Vela for a few months actually finished first in the ‘Big Boys’ division after Wouter (could have been first?) had a sail downhaul break loose and had to miss a couple of heats.
In January, Sarah Quita Offringa was finally added to the local ‘Wall of Fame’ recognizing some of Aruba’s most accomplished athletes. Of note were her 5 consecutive PWA Freestyle championships, slalom titles, and being the youngest woman world champion.
I’ve been having fun sailing most every day and trying different gear. The carbon Starboard Kode has been great fun for a lively ride, jibing and old school freestyle. The carbon JP-Australia All Ride 116 is surprisingly fast with easy jibing. The new Starboard Carves are making a great addition to the Vela fleet as an easy, progressive freeride as a slightly wider option to the more traditional JP Excite Rides.
Last week we rigged a new NeilPryde Wizard 5.7. I was pretty excited to try this sail as for 2013 the Wizard replaces the Firefly in a lighter 4-batten (up to 5.7) design. Both Daan and I sailed the Wizard on Kode and Freestyle Wave boards and enjoyed the sail. It is a different approach, the four batten Wizard actually having a longer luff and boom lengths than last year’s 5 batten Firefly 5.7. We rigged the new Wizard on X65 SDM and sailed in medium winds. We first noticed a light, easy to use sail with smooth power, more than last year’s Firefly with a little higher draft. The bottom batten was hard to rotate (tried changing downhaul and uphaul) so the next step is to rig it on a RDM. The 5.1 Wizard, rigged on an RDM, rotated fine.
The Christmas and New Year holiday season were very busy, but activity, as usual, has tapered off for a couple of weeks. The Vela staff has taken advantage of the time by better organizing boards, putting on new foot straps, rigging additional 2013 sails, cleaning up the beach and huts, and generally getting ready for things to pick up by the end of the month. We just received a shipment of more 2013 sails! Guests have been blessed by good winds up until the last couple days when either big sail/board (7.2 to 8.2) were needed for consistent planing… or we just went out to work on light wind tricks. The 10-foot SUPs have been working great with a 5.0-meter range sail for light wind fun or for some small wave sailing.
Setup of the new location has started. Last Saturday we hired a tow truck and moved the Vela container from the current site up to the new spot north of the Ritz Hotel.
Planning and material acquisition is being finalized for a roof/sun structure extending from the container toward the beach, and hangers for sails to be stored there. This location will initially be used as an easy-access location with better winds near the beach for leaving gear during lunch or a break and a spot for switching sails. The great sailing mural done by Brian McCann on our container looks really cool at the new site.
I’ve taken advantage of some sailing time to check out the new 2013 Neil Pryde H2 7.2 paired with the Starboard iSonic 117 carbon. The H2 has definitely been upgraded this year with a medium depth race-like luff sleeve with a fairly deep profile near the boom in a user-friendly 2-cam configuration. Sure, it’s heavier than a no-cam freeride sail, but offers good acceleration and a very good top end. Control through gusts is really smooth with little backhand pressure, and jibing is again easy for a performance sail, and has easy cam rotation. The sail matches really well with the performance characteristics of our carbon iSonics speeding out on the blue highway. Pierre, one of our regular guests and speed sailors from Canada, reached a top speed of 37.5 mph on the H2/iSonic combo.
One of the most fun days I’ve had so far this year was blasting fully powered on the new JP FreestyleWave 111 with a NP Atlas 5.8. The board was fast and really smooth through the chop, with a very comfortable stance, but to me the best feeling was its ‘knife through butter’ jibing ability. It was really cool to look for and accelerate into a gust and immediately roll into a jibe, oversheet the sail and feel the board rip through the chop and plane out! Changing the arc mid-turn was very easy. Come down and try all the new gear out!
Looking for a change of pace? New on Aruba this year is Red Sail Sports’ Jet Lev. A jet-ski type, no rider water craft directs water under pressure through a large hose-like tube into a ‘jet pack’-style back pack (remember James Bond???). The rider straps on the back pack and controllable pressure nozzles on the back lift you out of the water and provide steering. Jet Lev advertises the ability to fly ‘up to 30 feet in the air or hover and walk on water. Our friend Walt from Delaware gave it a try and had a blast. The staff (Ozzy) was very professional, and did a great job of explaining and controlling the entire process.
CLICK HERE for more information on all Vela Windsurfing Resorts!
Willy Nelson got it right when he sang ‘You Are Always On My Mind’… and I like to believe that he was thinking about Aruba – boy, is it good to be back. Yes things change, the Ritz Carlton Hotel is up and the windsurfing area has moved, but it’s still great to be out speeding along the blue highway with its clear water and smooth flat jibing. The wind has been really good since we arrived in December and we’ve had Vela guests planing every day but a couple (after all, every once in a while it’s good to work on light wind freestyle). Over the holiday season the center was busy with old friends Mac and Enry out doing lessons and helping the guests.
Once again at Vela, Christmas came early with new sails and boards. Some 2013 sails are already rigged so most of our quiver is 2012 & 2013 Neil Pryde sails. The new sails look great and are built really well, and the ones I’ve used so far have been sweet on the water. I’m especially excited about the new Neil Pryde H2 Racing 7.2 sail I rigged the other day. This year Neil Pryde dropped the RS:Slalom and upgraded the H2 with more performance in a user-friendly package. Feedback from the guests has been real positive, especially when matched up with our freerace carbon boards.
Around 40 new 2013, JP and Starboard boards arrived and are all setup and ready for rental. All the old JP X-Cite Rides (158 to 122) have been replaced, most in lighter Full Wood construction. We now have a new line of Starboard Carves (111 – 151), that seem to fit well between the X-Cite Rides and racier Futura/Super Sport lines and have expanded the Futura line with some new 2013 boards. I can’t wait to try the new JP FreetsyleWave Pro edition boards we have in sizes 111 to 84. Finally, for the really light days or really big guys we have a new Starboard Carbon iSonic 127 and a new JP Super Lightwind Pro 90. Our 12 new JP paddleboards have been getting lots of use from both Vela guests and tourists. The new boards are lighter and livelier than our old ones and feedback has been really good.
As I get more sailing in, I’ll give more feedback on the new gear.
I ran into Sarah-Quita Offringa and her brother Quincy out sailing together, nice to see their ‘family activities’ includes sailing together. Congratulations to SQ on her 5th straight freestyle title.
Now the less-than-stellar news: Yes, a Ritz Carlton is being built and it has created a big wind shadow close to the beach. We now have to walk out a little way (to near where the Oasis used to be moored) to start sailing. The other option is sail straight out at where the wind funnels between the Mariott and Ritz and then head towards the red flag to start sailing. We have moved the Oasis (our on-water refreshment cooler) over to the reef, near where the red flag was, for better access and sailing. Again, sailing at the ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Blue Highway’ are still as good as ever.
The good news: Vela just got written approval from the government to move just North of the Ritz, near the Fisherman’s Huts. This will give us cleaner wind and better launch access. Stay tuned as we finalize details as lots of other plans are in discussion. Or even better come join us for an amazing Vela Windsurfing vacation here in Aruba. —Tom Lepak
Josh, great to meet you and welcome to Aruba. Congratulations on your 9th place finish in PWA Slalom on Angulo boards, your move to Point-7 sails, and especially making it through your first Boston winter. At least we made it an easy one for you!
What brings you back to Aruba?
I basically came down for some training in an environment that I knew would lend to being able to get some hours on the water and some repitition. Although we can sail in Boston right now it's not quite as user friendly as Boston ;)
What factors made you choose Aruba?
My friends Phil, Jennifer, Max, Jake and Zee have a lovely home that they hosted me at and they are all full-on water people so they are completley tuned into what I was trying to accomplish and assisted me greatly in creating a comfortable, relaxed and supportive envornment. I also knew that there's a high level of local talent in Aruba namely in Mack and Ryan, but including plenty others that allowed for some great sparring and motivaional sessions.
How have the conditions been so far?
Cranked the whoke time I was there. Smallest sail I took was a 7.2 and I got beat up pretty bad two of the days. I really wasn't expecting that much wind. But It made me work that much harder around the buoys.
How has Vela support been so far?
Mike from Vela's super cool and laid back , but has his act together. The location is perfect and the whole team just made the whole experience and easy and fun. The boys helped set up some buoys and do some mock races. The whole vibe was full-speed and supportive. Definitely can't wait to go back and next time I'll definitely get Noah out there and I Know it's one of those spots that my wife Claudia will want to windsurf again, so it's perfrect for the whole family
What changes have you made to your slalom line for 2012?
My boards are the same as 2011. I couldn't find anything I wanted to change. I'm feeling some things that I will test for 2013, but won't make any changes until I can really figure out if it's better or not.
They look great, but what are your impressions of the Point-7 sails based on testing?
Psyched... the acceleration is exciting. I've never had that before. That's probaby the greatest confident booster for me and also the sails are locked in and don't feel like thay are maxing out on the top end. I think you can just give em more and more speed.
How is it going with the US distribution of Angulo? Point-7 plans?
My windsurf distribution pretty much sucks. Probably because I've been doing it and I'm a pretty poor distributor. But I've just rethought the whole thing and just not gonna worry about numbers or volume at all. I'll work with people that are cool and have a good vibe and actively seek clients one at a time and just do my best to make them excited. I've turned my focus to the product and want to reinstill what my dad founded the business on, way back when.... quality and top designs and graphics. Now that I've pretty much stopped worrying about distribution, I am more excited than ever about just making a top-notch product and being excited about windsurfing and having fun doing it. I was missing the basic motivation for a while and glad that it's back. As far as Point 7 , I'm sure I can give them some tips based on my learning experience, but currently 2 Rad in Montreal has Point 7 sails and can send all over North America so I will just try and be a good support for them .
What would be your main suggestions for ‘Joe Average’ windsurfers to improve on slalom sailing? (other than Angulo boards and Point-7 sails!)
Gotta tune..... Easier said then done. You really need to weed out your quiver of "collected" gear and just try and whittle it down to less stuff, but good stuff that can be reasonably tuned..... and bend your knees in the jibes.... in an exagerated manner!
Josh, great to meet you, thanks for bringing a little extra excitement down here to Vela Aruba, and best of luck on the upcoming PWA season.
Wind report for the last 2 weeks, medium (15– 20 knots). Our regular guests from Canad-eh, Massachusetts and Minnesota returned for their annual 2-week vacation and were happy to have planed every day, using sail sizes from 5.7 up to 8.7 (Henry, aka Mister Big, was always on one meter bigger than the rest of the crew), and enjoying our new gear. The new smaller Futuras as well as the carbon boards were being put to use out on the blue highway.
On one lighter wind day we supplemented the morning planing with an afternoon of fun race for all interested guests. Everyone had to use a Hi Fly Primo board around our windward/leeward course. Mac shared upwind/downwind sailing and starting ‘strategies’ with the group and went through the starting sequence and then coached all around the course. Once again Henry was allowed to use the bigger sail but was mainly helped by intimidating all with his mean-looking, low drag, speed enhancing flaming dew-rag. After 3 races the winners were:
- Dave from Maryland
- Henry (from ‘Wild Hogs’?) from Massachusetts
- Judd from Minnesota.
On one of the lighter wind days Doug and Viola from Ottawa, Canada tried their hand(s) at our new Starboard Gemini tandem board. After a few attempts at ‘dual water starting’, moving into uphauling, finally getting coordinated and into the harness and foot straps they were planing across the water and tacking with ease. While getting back to the beach was a big success, coming back smiling and still married was their biggest accomplishment. The new tandem is quite a beast – 399 centimeters long, 100.5 centimeters wide, with 384 liters of volume!!!
Quincy Offringa (see photo below) was home visiting family (aka going to Carnival) and Kiri Thode was visiting Aruba to sail (aka also for Carnival) and put on a great show for guests and the locals as well. It’s good to see the new generations of local kids starting to take over the water performing Spocks and Flakas up through Konos, Burners, and more. The Wind Racers Club Aruba is now holding freestyle competitions at Barcadera as well as at Palm Beach.
Guest Board Feedback of the week:
Henry was absolutely thrilled with the planing, speed, and all-around fun he had on the JP All Rice 116 Carbon. It was fun to see the big guy blasting around on it with sails up to our H2 8.7. I think his wife was getting jealous and we had to keep an eye on his last day as everyone thought he was going to take it home with him. While it is not as fast as the iSonics we have, I did see Henry pass a couple on the water!
Tom’s pick has to be the 113/103 carbon Starboard Kodes. While the Starboard iSonics are definitely faster, I have been having an absolute blast on the Kodes. While REALLY fun to sail, the carbon versions have the extra liveliness, acceleration, and planing that add to the fun of turning, jibing, jumping and blasting.
Vela Aruba GPS Challenge – Thanks to a friend of mine, I have a Locosys GT-31 GPS unit in Aruba for our guests and Vela team to try. I have setup the unit to record the max speed and max 10 second average speed for the sailor. Anyone who comes to Vela can see me and sign up for a 2 hour interval to use the GPS. At the end of the session I will record the top speed for the guest and the equipment used, and will report the top speeds in my bi-monthly blogs.
While setting up and testing the GPS and process, one of our instructors recorded the best time:
Max Speed 36.88 MPH
Max 10 Sec 34.98 MPH
(Using a Starboard iSonic 107 and Neil Pryde RS Slalom 7.8)