The growth of wing foil racing is growing exponentially. We share with you a few top tips from our experience to help you out on the water.
Firstly, there are two types of wing foil racing. 1) Windward to Leewards and 2) Slalom Racing.
Windward to Leewards
The name of “Windward to Leewards” is just a fancy way of saying: sail up wind and down wind around a course, similar to Sail GP or the Americas Cup. This is more of a technical race and the skilled and more experienced riders on the latest equipment will typically end up crossing the line first. The start line can be set perpendicular (below schematic) or parallel to wind directions.
The below video is an example of Windward to Leeward racing from Manly, New Zealand. Thanks FOIL Tycoon for the great footage and editing.
Slalom Course Racing
The start line is typically parallel to the wind direction, and you race across wind to a bouy, turn around and slightly bear off the wind to go around another bouy that is further downwind. The race requires no tacking, all turns are gybes. There are typically 3 or more buoys.
The below footage is from the European 2021 final. Thanks GWA for the great footage.
The below footage is from San Fransico USA. It is raw footage and shows how fun wing foil racing can be. Thanks Jamy Donaldson for the great footage.
Here are 11 top tips on how to race with wing foils
- You don’t have to be a seasoned professional to race. If you can wing foil, then you can enter a race. If you are in the back of the pack, it’s very rewarding to race against yourself.
- To go upwind, you will be faster if you tack during each turn. BUT, you can also go upwind and gybe for each time that you change direction. Sure… you will be slower, but please don’t make this reason why you have not entered a Windward to Leeward race. Go out and get amongst it and enjoy your self!
- Start on time on the line. In the perfect world, you start off on the line exactly on time. But it can get very busy and the chances of hitting another rider is high. Consider your options before the race starts. Its not the end of the world if you are behind the front pack.
- A key sailing rule always applies: Starboard riders (right arm forward) have right of way compared to Portside riders (left arm forward). This is especially important for the start line with Windward to Leeward racing.
- If you fall off the foil, or fall into the water. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. It’s important to stay focused on getting back up and foiling as smoothly as possible. A day of racing isn’t all based on a single race. So, learn from your mistake and work on ways to eliminate them in the next race. The final overall points from the day are based on many races, so it comes down to your average overall ability to race. A DNF (did not finish) will cost you in the overall points table.
- Learn to ride heel side going in both directions. We all know that going heel side will result in charging upwind faster. This is because whilst riding heel side, you can lean into the wind and load up the hand wing, and the foil. This extra effort results in extra energy that you can use to sail faster and point at a higher angle to the top mark. That said, if you are better riding heel and toe side, stick to it.
- If you want to be competitive, consider wearing a harness. This is more important for racing Windward to Leewards. Even seasoned professionals find it hard going without a harness. The exception would be for Slalom Racing which is downwind racing.
- Practice your riding in many conditions. Go out for a wing foil by yourself and set a dummy course if you don’t have any markers to turn around.
- Choose the right gear for the day. This means knowing the wind and conditions for the day. Don’t be the guy or girl at the end of the day saying “I would have found it better with my insert equipment here.” Remember that it’s most important that you can pump up out of the hole to foil, before you can go fast. In other words, you cant go fast if you are not foiling!
- Consider riding a larger volume board than you would typically if it means you can pump up out the hole faster.
- Know your gear. Know your gear, know your gear. Practice on the gear that you want to race with. Small changes to foils and wings will result in a change in handling behavior that may slip you up at those critical moments during the race. Get to know what feels right for you and feel comfortable with the kit that you have turned up on the start line with.
Do you have any top tips about wing foil racing to share with the Foil Pro community? Leave a comment below!