Pics: Oli Lane-Peirce.
Foilshop UK’s Tez Plavenieks discussion the subject of big wing foiling wings.
In a previous article there’s been discussion about the fact a 4m wing – billed as the only wing foiling wing size you need a few months ago – isn’t exactly the case. A whole host of variables come into play; rider weight, rider skill, local conditions (wind consistency and water state for instance) and so on.
I’m 90kg dry so not exactly feather weight. I can foil, across various disciplines, and having been doing so for a few years now. With the best will in the world, however, when the wind’s flukey and light I need power to get up and wing. Even when using a big foil.
On paper any wing foiling wing 6m and above looks monster. And there’s a tendency to shy away, opting for a smaller type instead – even when it’s 15 knots or below. Yet as a heavier rider you’re just going to struggle to get it up (as it were). Yes, there’s an issue of wing tips catching – especially with a wing that has wider span. But you quickly learn to keep the wing high and away from the water when not foiling. In fact, the whole wingin’ thing is more about keeping your power source elevated – much more like a hang glider if you will.
But back to the original question…
Bigger wings give the power and lift needed when it’s super light. For me, at the weight I am, this means I fly in gnat’s fart airs. It also means I don’t have to expend as much energy with pumping and such to actually get foiling. Being worn out before having actually had a session isn’t ideal in my book. I’m very much about path of least resistance. Fun is a higher priority and I’m not having fun wallowing about.
So what of the diminishing returns element of using a 6m plus wing foiling wing?
What most are referring to with this is the increased drag affect of a big wing, impacting top speed and manoeuvrability. There’s no question that drag increases the bigger the equipment you use. But does that really matter? For me, no. I’m not looking to break world speed records, and actually, if I wanted to do that I wouldn’t be winging.
Wings are inefficient power sources at best because of their inflatable nature. This can be welcome when the wind speed ramps up as the depower is tangible. For light wind wing foiling, however, you’re never going to be lightning fast. (Forget what you see pros doing. I’m talking about real world riders in real world situations). So I’m just happy to be flying, hence why I don’t mind a bit of extra ‘sail cloth’.
Manoeuvrability is an issue I’ll acknowledge. A big wing foiling wing does make gybing tricker. There’s simply more gear to wield. I personally find tacking in sub-15 knot breeze is easier. But another rider may dial in their downwind turns better than I have…
Freedom of winging; as in, being able to launch anywhere with water and a blow, isn’t really of concern with bigger wings. The premise is still the same whether you’re on a 3m or a 9m wing. In theory, you can go anywhere so that argument doesn’t ring true. You may have to be a tad more careful if launching over rocks for instance, but you’ll sort it.
I love wingin’ on a 4m just as much as the next rider. But sometimes Momma Nature ain’t playing ball. I still want to get a session in the bag, however, so I’m quite happy to use what’s available – even if that means using a 6m, 7m or 8m wing. I don’t have an issue with it.
As wing designs improve, technology advances and the sport matures we’ll no doubt see more efficiency which’ll mean riders can use smaller than previous in lighter winds across practical, real world scenarios. If you’re a 70kg rider, who doesn’t need big gear, then great! If, however, you’re a bigger boned individual – wanting to get out as much as possible – then don’t be afraid to go large!
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