Power to Weight: Your Stance vs Antoine’s
(Thanks to CarbonSugar for this awesome article about the perfect formula stance)
After the Antoine Albeau domination of the 2007 FW Worlds in Brazil, a great post was written by Andreas Macke posing some ideas on how one man could dominate an event so much. One thing to consider is that Antoine is around 100kg whereas 2nd placed Steve Allen was 82kg at the event. Power-to-weight plays a very important role in your speed around the course, so let’s have a look at it more closely and see how you can improve your stance to get the most out of your gear. We will begin with some ideas from the master of theory himself, Frank Bethwaite and then move on to look at the techniques of the top FW sailors.
Frank Bethwaite was at the forefront of development of the 18ft Skiffs from the 1970’s through to the 1990’s. He suggested that the performance of boats that sail with the apparent wind forward of the beam at all times (as does a FW board) is governed by the ratio of the sail carrying power versus the total weight.
(See the above picture and read the full chapter, “The Quest for Speed”; pg 164 -High Performance Sailing)
This chapter was written about 18ft Skiffs. A modern FW’er emulates the performance of an 18ft Skiff. A good comparison was the Ronstan Bridge-to-Bridge race in San Francisco. Micah Buzianis (USA-34) and Kevin Pritchard (USA-3) competed against many top 18ft Skiff boats from Australia (including the World Champion from England) as well as the best of the best in kitesurfing. Micah narrowly beat the 18ft Skiff in this race highlighting their similarity in boatspeed:
The “sail carrying power/total weight” ratio for a sailor like Antoine Albeau on FW gear is in the vicinity of 55% compared with 61% that Bethwaite identifies for a modern 18ft Skiff. The total equipment weight of FW gear is around 26kg (unless you have the new Exocet board!). With the hydrodynamic lift that a FW board generates when planing, the “sail carrying power” is perhaps a better determining factor in going fast, rather than Bethwaite’s sail carrying power/total weight ratio.
SAIL CARRYING POWER =
Righting Moment / Distance between the centre of effort of the sail and the combined lateral resistance of the hull and fin.
Antoine, at 100kg has a sail carrying power which is 20% more than someone like Steve Allen at 82kg. With the development of the FW class, raceboards have become wider (up to 100.5cm now) and in the last two seasons, even wider in the tail. This allows for more sail carrying power which has been helped by the stability and handling of the newer wide-luff race sails.
All that being said, there’s more to winning a race than simply eating a few too many meat-pies before you go sailing, which is proved by a guy like Steve Allen coming 2nd overall at a relatively light weight of 82kg. So let’s focus less on what you can do physiologically and look at some things you can “actually” do to help you go faster around the course at whatever weight you are…
Have a look at this photo from the racing in Silvaplana, 2007. The lead boat is Alberto Menegatti (ITA-456), behind him Markus Bouman (NED-6) and 3rd in the line is myself (AUS-120). Notice our distinctly different techniques. With Alberto on the uphaul rope he can get his body much further hiked and still have the sail quite upright. Markus gets out a little further than me but isn’t sheeted in too well in this picture. I believe I am too upright in the photo and have since worked on my technique to improve my stance.