key to being fast around the
course in lighter conditions is to
get onto the plane quickly and to
do everything you can to stay on a
plane. That means you simply
must become good at pumping to
launch the plane, and to get the
most out of a dying plane.
Yacht sailors are not allowed to
pump (they call it kinetics) but
windsurfers really need good
pumping skills to get going in
lighter winds and if, after a jibe
or tack, he or she falls off
plane. Plus, if you can pump
onto a plane when everyone else is
bobbing along, how cool is that?
There are at least two kinds of
pumping. Before you start to
plane, you will need to be pretty
dramatic in how you pump.
Wait for a little increase in wind
then back up on the board and put
your rear foot along the center
line just in front of the rear
straps. Your front foot can
be in the front strap if you do
not put weight on it. Use
whole body pumps in which you try
to bounce the board into the air,
pulling up on the front strap as
you pull down on the sail.
This takes rhythm and strength.
You want to pop the board out of
the water and bounce it onto a
plane. You should expect to
pump several times with increasing
amplitude as you pull the sail in
and raise your knees up using your
entire body. If you can get
into the back strap, you can make
even better pumps and board lifts
so try to get both feet strapped.
As you come down, use your legs to
push the board forward and against
the fin, as if you are trying to
squirt a watermelon seed between
two fingers. Your board will
finally slip onto a slow plane if
there is enough wind, but you may
not be accelerated up to full
speed - hence the second form of
The second form of pumping is used
to get more speed. First you
hook in and push the sail away
from you. The harness
provides a fulcrum point around
which you want to alternate a
rapid pull in and push out with
the back hand while alternating
pushing away and forward with your
front hand. It is as if you
are using your arms like two
opposing pistons. As one arm pulls
in the other pushes away and then
you alternate so the in and out
motion repeats several times. Try
to speed up the pumping to a
really fast tempo and the board
will accelerate rapidly.
Then get into your fully powered
position and let it rip.
This form of pumping mimics what
birds do when they flap their
winds past a normal angle of
attack all the way to a critical
point where a stall would happen.
The sail is quickly over sheeted
creating the first signs of stall
at the luff. When you shove
the clew back away from you into
the disturbed air, you can catch
the little whirlwinds near the
clew and get a form of something
like reattachment. Some
estimates are that one can get
about 15 percent more lift out of
your sail doing this if you do it
perfectly. That sounds good
and I read that some where - maybe
it is correct. All I know
for sure is it works.
If you notice a little slowing
down, bear off the wind a bit and
pump using the second form to
regain speed. If the wind is
dying and you are going to fall
off plane, revert back to the
first mode of pumping and try to
get an extra 10 meters of planing
out of the dying breeze.
Remember, an extra 10 meters here
and there around the course will
add up to a lot of ground that
only the better pumpers will get.
There are lots of styles of
pumping and these two seem to work
well for me and for a number of
TeamUSA sailors. Just
remember, pumping takes time to
learn. You will not be a
good pumper your first few tries.
You have to learn the timing and
best body positions. Plus,
no matter how big a pump you make,
there are sailors who are making
bigger ones and they have learned
to balance their bodies and rigs
in order to optimize their motions.
Try it and discover, a good pumper
will launch the plane and keep it
going when others are complaining
about slogging along.