Blow’n Smoke here in the Gorge means that the wind is blowing the tops of the waves horizontally up river. It happens when the wind speeds are averaging near 40 with gusts to 50+. Few places in our windsurfing world provide sailors an opportunity to test their skills and equipment in these conditions, but isn’t that why sailors come here in the summer? It can be a rewarding and humbling experience at the same time.
This past weekend, as a cold front approached the Oregon coast from the Pacific Ocean, low marine clouds filled the valleys west of the Cascade Mountains. Saturday the wind was centered in Hood River and moved east late in the day. But Sunday with temperatures in the high 90’s over the east side deserts, the pressure gradient was off the charts. Savvy sailors headed east of Hood River on Sunday for an expected epic day…no one was disappointed. From Doug’s to 3 Mile Canyon the winds started the day in the low 20’s and steadily increased all day…by 5 pm Arlington was averaging 45.
Sail selection for the demo at Doug’s was simple; just rig the 4 smallest sails Ezzy makes. It was the perfect day for sailors to test the 2.9, 3.3, 3.5; and the 3.7 Panther was never off the beach after noon. The answer to the most asked question of the afternoon: “sorry Ezzy doesn’t make a 2.5″. Shelley (see the last blog post) from Hood River brought out her new quiver of small “Creamy Smooth” Panthers, and rigged one sail for the day: 2.9. She’s a quick study and had it rigged perfectly in just a few minutes. She told me that one thing she’s noticed after sailing them is that she’s more relaxed and comfortable on the water, which has increased the length of her sessions.
Eric doesn’t have a chance to use a 3.3 in Minnesota very often.
I had a chance to reconnect with Eric a long time customer from our days at Windance Rentals. He lives in Minnesota and spends most of every July sailing the Gorge. He took out the 3.3 Panther for a long session and returned to enthusiastically report that, “I was perfectly powered on a 3.3…and that has never happened before. In the past sailing a small sail has always been a struggle…not very relaxing and fun.” Another sailor to try a small Panther for the first time was George from Utah. He took out the 2.9 and joined Eric for a late afternoon session in the huge swells and blowing smoke. By 5 pm the crowds had thinned and in typical “Doug’s fashion”, the wind jumped to the peak of the day. Half a dozen hard core sailors shared the swells and ramps of a classic Gorge evening. Eric’s impression of the 2.9 Panther, “This is the first time I haven’t been thrown over the bars on such a small sail…it was so controlled and nice!” What can I say; it was an interesting and truthful assessment. There are a couple of things that I would like to pass on about rigging the Panthers for Gorge conditions. I’m finding that most sailors like the downhaul rigged more towards the high wind setting, then set the outhaul between the middle and longest string (depending on wind strength). A couple times sailors have come back after the first run and told me the sail felt a little heavy…which it shouldn’t. But by adding just a 1/4″ to 1/2″ seems to always make the sail feel balanced again. Adding a little outhaul can make a big difference in performance and give you a balanced feel (David’s goal).
Utah sailors can rip. George puts the hammer down with the 2.9.
Great sailing, see ya on the beach soon, Gary