With PWA Alacati on and the wind a little light what more could we do then probe one of the most coveted windsurfers of all time about how she puts the pedal to the metal and consistently pushes the top ranks in the slalom scene, amongst other disciplines. What's more she, alongside Patrik Diethelm, broke away from the traditional windsurf brands and formed her own team and constructed her own machines to put even the best to the test. That's right Karin Jaggi is extremely well known in the windsurfing world and hugely respected for her speed and dynamic as well as taking titles in all the other disciplines, so what top tips could we extract from her...
Basically you want to sail just this little tick away from the complete catastrophic catapult but never actually do it.
Top Tips for going fast in open ocean swell
I love to do those open ocean races like for example the Lancelin Ocean Classic in Western Australia – 30km super downwind course and even when it's rather light and we are on a 7.8 you hardly can see the others anymore between the long big ocean swell. I usually do very well in those races and the main reason is that I choose a good path. You need to ride that swell correctly to go fast. It's easy to accelerate down a wave face but then when you reach the bottom and need to cross the next swell from behind most sailors slow down a lot and loose all their speed. The trick is to zig-zag down and up the waves – means head downwind (but not dead downwind) while running down the wave and then turn more cross or even upwind to climb the next wave again. This let's you accelerate maximum on the wave but guarantees you enough pressure in the sail to keep the speed going up the next wave again. As soon as you pass the peak head full downwind again to pick up speed and then before hitting the lowest point between the waves turn more crosswind again and so on…
Top Tips for going fast in 'close' chop (between 1-3ft)
If I put normal ear plugs it all goes quite and the whole scene feels suddenly like slow motion, and then you will go full power..
It's all about control. When you sail fast in close chop your board is more in the air than on the water. That often brings you close to a catapult and the fear of it will slow you down. So don't worry about top speed anymore, just think about maximum control and once you do feel safe on your equipment you will go much faster than before because you go again full power and don't hold back. Maximum control can be reached with very different tricks, mine are:
- Wide stance: move the back foot strap all the way back and the front one all the way forward – like this I can balance my board easier by being able to put more weight forward or more backward if needed and at the same time brings my body leverage point further down which also helps with control.
- Long harness lines: the further away you can get your body from the sail the more control you have. You can see the pros sticking out theirs asses – just not touching the water – then you know we sail really overpowered and try to gain maximum control.
- Boom lower and mast foot forward: both will help to keep the nose of your board down and save you from flying away. The 'lower boom' I do quite often but the mast foot too much forward I personally don't like too much as when I hit a sudden lull in the wind then I am really "glued" to the water and have a hard time to keep my speed. But that's just a personal choice – definitely both tricks work well.
- Smaller fin: if you don't have a smaller board to take anymore try to change the fin to a smaller size and your board will feel completely different. The fin is too small again if you spinout a lot or your board starts going a bit sideways. But you can easily go 3-4 cm smaller than the standard recommended fin for a board. Stiff fins normally also help with control as they create less lift and therefore track better through the close chop.
- And the very special tip - ear plugs: Half of the time it's your mind that freaks you out and lets you slow down. Especially those high noise wind whistles disturb me a lot. If I put normal ear plugs it all goes quite and the whole scene feels suddenly like slow motion, and then you will go full power again!
Top tips for going fast in small lake chop with gusty winds
Try to read the gusts. The small chop is no big problem as you can not ride or use those waves really. You just need to make sure your board is riding flat all the time and because the small chop can sometimes disturb you doing this perfectly try to ride it a little bit over the leeward (downwind) side. Flat is best – but when you drop your windward (upwind) side rail of the board then you break down a lot – so to avoid this for sure ride flat or a little bit on the leeward side. Then simply read the gusts. On lakes you can really see them coming and you can also see if they shift. Try to turn this annoying gusts into an advantage: go more cross wind in the "lulls" and use the gusts to accelerate maximum on a slight downwind course. Your body might have to move with those gusts as well. In the lows you want your body weight maximum over the board so sail really upright. If the gust hits you and it's hard to control then lower your body weight over the side of the board and hang into the harness lines to transfer the maximum pressure over the mast foot onto the board.
Top tips for going fast in perfect 'Namibia like' conditions
I was there when Antoine did his first world record in the channel from Stes Maries... he crashed 5 times destroying everything
No conditions are perfect! I have not been to Namibia but heard all about it. Hard to start in hardly no wind, nearly need to head upwind into that channel, bear off like hell while accelerating maximum at the beginning of the run, no wind in the middle of the run and a strong gust by the end of the channel when all you really want is stopping before hitting the end of it. I have the feeling a lot of sailors think at the moment Namibia is easy and perfect so everybody can go fast there. But reality is those riders present were all really good sailors and they simply did a great job in that ditch.
So what does it need to go fast in Namibia? Loads of preparation – equipment, body and especially mind! The equipment would be endless to talk through – it mainly has to fit to the person using it, the conditions in Namibia and naturally be affordable as well. Somebody like Patrik is not going fast because he is tall or heavy or the best sailor in the world – but because he is definitely thinking the most and able to transfer this into custom boards, booms, sails, fins,…
Then you have to be fit to go there – heavy is good and fast but you also need the skills to use your body weight and make the most out of it without getting hurt and then last but not least it's really a mind game. I was there when Antoine did his first world record in the channel from Stes Maries. He was so determined that this would be it – he crashed 5 times destroying everything but would always go back and do another run. That's tough. Even without being there in Namibia last year I think Zara had the same attitude. That's why she succeeded.
Fastest possible kit setup
Micah wears his teeth protection because he grinds his teeth so badly during a race that they started breaking off
The fastest kit is the kit you think you might fly away any second with but at the same time have the confidence that you got it all under control. It's a lot about your sailing position as well. And there it's exactly the same feeling. Did you ever see how Antoine or Björn can just simply explode in a straight line? That's because they push it constantly to the edge – if you feel too comfortable you're not making the most of it. Basically you want to sail just this little tick away from the complete catastrophic catapult but never actually do it. And don't think it's a relaxed sailing position for us! Micah wears his teeth protection because he grinds his teeth so badly during a race that they started breaking off.
What is the most important piece of kit for going fast
You really can do a lot with the kit you already have
There is not one single piece. It's much more the total of it. And it's not so important that you always have the newest gear. Just take what you got but try to trim it perfectly. There are so many factors that it's actually bad to get new gear every year because it usually takes you a full season to figure out what works well where. So take what you have and start researching. Perfect sail trim, downhaul and outhaul trims, different masts, different boom height, length of harness lines, mast foot position, strap position, fin choice… You really can do a lot with the kit you already have.
In a race is there a specific point where you can say the race is really won and lost
In PWA we race "no rules" - so there is only really one rule for you: try the best but do everything to avoid a crash
This part is SO important. At least 50% of a slalom race is the start. You get a sick start then there is hardly nothing the others can do to catch you up. On the other hand if you miss the start by 1 second you don't even need to race anymore. But then again never give up before the finishing line! Straight line speed is important and gives you good confidence but it's hardly never the part that is crucial to win the race. Jibes are very important especially when you arrive with a lot of people together. In PWA we race "no rules" - so there is only really one rule for you: try the best but do everything to avoid a crash. Easy when you are leading but much more difficult in the back of a fleet. I often take it wide – especially when it's difficult to jibe. Getting tangled up in the middle of a crash around the marks is definitely the end of your good result.
Photos - PWA World Tour/Carter