Simon Bornhoft examines how we can use our body most effectively to create controlled acceleration and make better use of the rig’s power in marginal situations.
So, here we go – time to get active, very specific and become as effective as our body, age, fitness and aspirations will allow. This BodyWise series looks purely at body position, angulation, flex and weight distribution. This feature is related to early marginal situations such as getting going, trying to plane out of gybes, busting through lulls and heading upwind underpowered.
Having a clear objective and better understanding of how our body works on the water plays a massive role in our success. As I’ve said before, our stance is very much like gears on a bike; we need to ‘change gear’ to adapt to different situations. Sometimes it’s big obvious movements, but many times it’s subtle details that are hard to spot, overlooked or deemed insignificant. I want to encourage you to make informed, purposeful and effective movements. Try it just a few times in a half-hearted fashion and you’ll feel nothing. Experiment, accentuate and repeat and you’ll genuinely get a great result. Remember, as humans we often think we are doing something, but in fact we’re just not. So I’ve given a few practical demonstrations to illustrate each point.
Q: How do I create forward drive when I’m out of the harness in marginal situations?
A: Get the head and hips angled behind your feet. This means the rig’s power is directed through you and then forward.
n.b. Point the front foot forward (next to or even in front of the mastbase) and ‘push’ approximately 60-70% of your weight through the toes.
If the front foot is angled across the board it pushes it sideways and you’ll be more prone to breaking at the waist.
Super-7 Drop & Push
Use: Exiting tacks, planing and non-planing gybes, finishing beach / waterstarts, catching a wave, or simply getting planing again quickly.
Vision: Head up and look forwards.
Trim: Until fully planing, place front foot right next to mastbase and back foot just in front or behind front strap.
Balance: Accentuate opposition – i.e. massively extend front arm to allow body to lean back.
Power: Position boom high enough so you’re pulling down, both in and out of the harness.
The front arm is extended and the back hand sheets the boom in, back and down. If you want to pump, whip the back hand in, back and then forwards again ready for the next pump, keeping the rest of the body still. Pull down on the boom to crucially flex the rear knee to approximately 90°:
Standing too upright, too close to the rig and pulling the boom with both arms is undynamic and pushes the board down and sideways!
Q: How can I understand it and practice it?
A: If you stand upright and directly over your front foot, your forces are directed straight down, so you can’t push the foot, board (or, in this case, flip-flop) forwards.If you lean back over your rear foot, it drives the flip-flop / board forward. Really simple, but you need to accentuate it.
Q: How far back and low should I go?
A: Get that front leg as horizontal as possible. Go grab a chair now and ask yourself, “Am I this low, is my back leg bent at nearly 90°, and can I see my front foot right out in front of me when I’m trying to get planing?”
If the rear knee won’t flex that much or the wind is very light, compensate by moving both feet even further forward to enhance that reverse lean. If you go over the front, it means you’re bearing away too much.
Q: Why do I lose speed when I hook in or get into the straps?
A: Now it’s time to quickly and emphatically change your body’s forces by popping the hips up into a ‘Straight-7 stance’.
Don’t just stand there!
As the board accelerates the intuitive feeling is to pull on the boom and shuffle into the straps. This often induces a hunched, excessive gripping stance that instantly absorbs the rig’s power through the body. Whilst ‘hunching’ has to occur momentarily when going for the straps, we need to quickly switch gear by straightening the body and tightening the torso.
This is an action, not a position, and accentuating the detail takes effort!:
1.Push the rig away, but extend the arms and narrow the spread
2.Straighten, stiffen, tighten, lift and lock that torso – a lot!
3.Drive most of your weight through the front leg in very light winds, pushing through the toes of the front foot:
Simple Practical Summary
Q: How do I know I’ve got it?
A: This is very hard to do on your own. Next time you’re with a bunch of mates try this. Lift someone with their body straight and torso held tight. Then ask them to hunch, sag and sink in a rather annoyed fashion, just as if the wind had dropped! Heavier?
Marginal Wind = Narrow Grip!
If there is not enough wind to happily lean back to windward against the rig, change the opposition immediately! Rake the rig back and lean the body forward! However, this is when a very subtle but major body mechanic tip can increase your chances of busting through lulls, staying upwind or just trying to speed up in marginal winds.
Q: Why does narrowing the arms spread make such a difference in marginal winds?
A: Here’s why…
If you narrow your grip (within shoulder width) and extend the arms it helps prevent pulling the rig over to windward as you rake it back. Plus, bringing both hands closer together on the boom enables you to still stay sheeted in, but get the body going forward so the board stays flatter and sails faster.
Keep the hips directly opposite the sail and ‘hinge’ at the waist to lean forward. If the hips twist or ‘open’ forward too much, you tend to sheet out, spin out or overweight the back foot!
Another Top Body Mechanics Tip
If you lean forward with your front foot flat on the deck, the front knee instantly flexes, losing precious forward drive.
Rolling over the leading edge of your front foot makes it physically easier to lean forward and keep a relatively straight front leg to drive the board forward. This is a subtle but incredibly effective technique, especially when under-finned. I’m not saying you won’t flex the front knee in extreme cases, but a subtle roll of the leading edge gives you the edge too!
Hips Not Hands
Q: How can I teach myself to stop pulling so much on the arms?
A: This a great exercise to minimise power absorption and save those hands. Hook in and try to get planing, but hold the boom as gently as possible by using only three fingers. Let your hips do all the work! Give it a few goes and you’ll soon realise the arms should and can do very little work:
BodyWise Simple Summary
Some of this might seem obvious or trivial, but I recently had a client who’d been trying to plane out of their gybes for ages and it came down to pointing the front foot forward, extending the front leg and flexing the rear leg more.
To test what you’ve learnt try filling in the gaps, and most importantly try it on the water and let me know how you get on! Next month we look at containing power in dynamic situations.
To promote marginal wind planing and create a dynamic Super-7 stance I will:
a) Point my front foot_______________________________________________________
b) Get my______________ behind my______________ with both feet out in front of me.
As the board accelerates I will adopt a Straight-7 stance hook in and then:
c) Narrow my____________, straighten my____________, and tighten my____________
d) I’ll then rake the rig____________________ and lean the body____________________
e) To accentuate the lean I can roll over the leading edge of my______________________
f) I must also try to reduce the amount of_________________ on my_________________