”Windpower with passion!” – that’s the slogan Feodor uses at his work, but it fits the sailing as well. Someone, who makes his living by working at wind turbines in the places most of us would rather stay out is telling his thoughts about iceboards and sailing them.
You say, you are among the best sailors on the ice. That’s quite a lot to say, isn’t it?
There are many guys better than me! Alexandrs Leonjevs, Jeff Brown and Arto Ravander go down to the very last detail in the sleds they make and certainly know how to use them. Then there are also athlets like Paulius Voverius, Janis Preiss and Dani Blinnikka who maximize any sleds they get. I am a generalist, what I can not patch with my physical skills I cover with the advantages of the sleds I sail. My best skill is that I sail in nearly any conditions, ice and snow.
Well, do you like more to sail on ice or a snow?
Actually I do not care… Getting the sail into full speed (and even that is related to wind speed, it feels better to sail 45 km/h in 3 m/s than 90 km/h in 12), having full control of the situation and making moves with a mare thought is all I need.
Do you use someone’s sleds or make your own?
At the moment we (that’s TalviSurf.fi, company that teaches windsurfing in winter and races as much as possible) use two slalom sleds made by Leontjevs, several Hibernas and at least one derivative of Russian wide sled. The rest are my own : )
What are your own sleds like?
I use a lot of carbon and try to make durable and light decks which flex in the direction I want them to. Iceboard skates I allign to something like 0,2 – 0,3 mm in parallel. With skis it is not as precise, but there surface and waxing are very important. Presently I make wide ski sleds called ”WIIMA”, compact slalom board ”TLH” , then there are these three skated monsters and something new I am planning to bring to WISSA2016.
WIIMA is developed further from Vadim Volotskoi’s wide sled. When Russians came to WISSA 2011 everyone was first joking about ”tables” they brought with them. They wiped the tables with rest of us – up till then all ski sleds where 30 to 40 cms wide. Every new guy made his sled 50 or 60 cm and ended up nowhere. By using formula-like dimensioning Vadim took full advantage of larger sails and also allowed to use their lift to enlighten the skis in the deep snow. Going downwind on a narrow sled was also a bit of acrobatic performance, wide one makes it easy. I first tried with Russian system using threaded rods to hold everything together, then made couple of very rigid decks and finally started to make them semi-flexible. Folded shape was invented in Kalajoki, my own input is strengthening rear part allowing front to flex and using carbon in a proper way. Other sleds may weight even 15 kgs, mine only about 7 or so. Later on I changed single chicken strap to a double making downwind even easier. WIIMA goes in anything – soft, hard, wet snow, dunes, even icy patches. Great!
TLH I ended up making first for my wife who hates carrying big heavy things. Sled is about 7 kgs and it does turn ”on a spot”. That forces to use more upward stance and makes it less stable in higher speeds. It is more for freeride than racing.
Three skated sleds are coming from Poland. They are the most scary things I have sailed on, and also the fastest. They work with big sails (actually not very good with small ones). DN skates are heavy as hell, but stay in speeds close to 100 km/h. On WIIMA front foot takes a lot of weight, but here most of the weight is on rear foot. There’s actually only one sailing position – like an RPG, you aim it and launch it. At the turns you take the power from the sail and start turning. Bar is used to guide the sled through the most critical part of the turn. The rest is done by sail and your body as a counter weight. I still remember sailing in WISSA 2014 45 km/h in something like 1,7 – 3,0 m/s of a wind!
Iceboard – Why do you us carbon?
It is rigid, light and when properly made also looking good. I use wet lamination with vacuum compression since molding would require higher production numbers. UV protecting clear top coat lives the beauty of the fibers. By using UD and 45/45 biax I can also affect flex and stiffness in the way I like. Timewise it is also relatively fast way of making a sled.
Is it expensive?
A little bit. One checks the price of fabric (20 – 40 €/m2) but easily forgets the rest: epoxy, peel ply, sack, tightners, gloves, rolls etc. These materials cost about the same as carbon that goes into the final product. There’s also some manual work needed. In general I offer quality, low price and fast delivery, but only two are possible at the same time. Customer can get some money saved by making time consuming works (polishing, aligning trucks etc) by himself.
Generally I would say from 1.000 € and up. Price depends on material, amount of work, finish quality and machining I have to order from the workshops.
Would you like to describe different conditions and how to sail best? Black ice? Course, freeride, speed or slalom?!
For course with large distances I’d go with triangle. A bit heavy to start they are so fast on the upwind, then there’s this moment of getting around the upper mark and shooting down a lot faster than you would feel safe and comfortable and of course preparing to round the downwind mark as well.
Freeride would go with anything, but especially HiBoards will give the feeling of flow. You just think of a turn and then you have already done it. After a while you do not even think of wind direction or which side of the sailing area you move on, you just do whatever you like. That’s probably the only place I would use a sail without cambers.
Speed on triangle does not work for me as small sails are needed. Jeff Brown has written a lot about his experiences and also Leontjevs has made great sleds. Steering by feet gives you the control of small changes you always have to make due to ice or wind. At 80+ km/h you have to be VERY fast making them.
For slalom it is more about feeling the race, making good start and keeping your position at marks. Anything that accelerates well and allows to lay down the marks is good. Hiberna, Leontjevs’ boards, also Swedish ”Mårdboard” are good there. With any sled you have to practice. A lot.
Snow on the ice?
In 2011 Riga we got snow that was sticking to skates. During the lunch break several of us took butter and started to smear the skates with it : ) Snow slows down. If you can align your skates to run along the same line and use thinner blades, you save a lot. I use 3 mm skates and larger sail size in these conditions. We also make higher skates keeping Hibernas out form the snow. They change the geometry a bit, but make life easier otherwise.
Hard packed snow may be dangerous. The only time I broke something was with a tiny looking belt of hard packed snow at some 65 km/h.
Snow sled on Soft snow?
Jumping skis. Wide sled and jumping skis. Make the angle as flat as you dare without spinning, take large sail and lean all the way back. I love snow storming in 10+ m/s wind making dunes of soft snow. It’s like windsurfing on rough sea with perfect sized sail. Only the visibility may get to 100 meters, and GPS may be the only way to find back home. I have tried that too.
Snow sled on Wet snow?
Fluoride waxing on skis. Big sails take a lot of power especially when you start. After gliding speed is there, it becomes easier. Last year I went over 80 km/h on wet snow with skis without even trying really hard. The worst part is when you smack yourself into wet snow at full speed and end up with all the water flying into the collar and sleeves.
Snow sled on Hard snow?
That’s great! In March and April we get positive temperatures in daytime and cold nights. That gives superb surface on lakes or even fields. Smooth dunes are beautiful. It is easy to pick up speeds over 60 km/h and I also love evening sailing with almost no wind. I stop and really have to use my sail to figure out, where the wind comes from, but once there is some laminar flow along the sail, speed goes to 30 – 40 km/h. Very nice gliding!
Also very nice. Strong wind drives snow along the surface, visibility is close to zero and dunes make you jump as if you would go on rough water. With good sled you can really enjoy it. In Kalajoki 2013 we had last racing day with 4.6 – 5.0 sails fighting upwind through the dunes and then hitting downwind with speeds over 70 km/h. We couldn’t see the surface through the snow flying first meter from the ground. Above it was sun shine and sails at the top speed. Probably my best sailing experience ever!
Hiberna is not only a sled, it’s a movement! Liepins brothers (Richards and Edgars) have created something that is more than just a sailing equipment. It is a social group, racing discipline and also very easy entrance into our beautiful sport for those, who are not born with torx key in their hands. I got the very first Hiberna to Finland (delivered by helicopter!) prior to organizing first WWEC event ever and still use it sometimes.
But you are not competing on it? Why?
I raced it for three seasons and then picked up better speed and curve control with other board. Hiberna developed their board further, but I had no time to change the board once again and also ended up building something myself. However I do recommend to racers with summer experience to use Hiberna as their first sled. It’s like Porsche 911 – for sure there are supercars faster, lighter etc, but you certainly know, what you get. We are also teaching most of our clients on Hiberna’s basic sleds.
You haven’t mentioned anything about Swedish designs. What do you think of them?
So far I have had chance to see sleds built by Stefan Söderlund, Tobias Bodin and Henrik Mård. I especially like Mårdboard – it has some extreme potential and with some minor changes can be better than any four skated sled. Tobias has made something very light and Stefan created own kind of soft sled with standardized components. All three are doing beautiful jibes and bring new people to the ice. I guess the reason for never loosing to them so far is either skates not perfect for the conditions we had or lack of heavy competition in Swedish races. You seem to be quite nice to each others : )
How do you make your runners for the ice, raw or medium?
Skates have to fit the conditions – ice temperature, radius of turns and speeds used. They also have to be parallel and also aligned front-rear way. I have no flex at the bridges as that would make skates not parallel and ruin the speed. I am still struggling with good trucks. There are two ways – either the board is self centering and gets easier with the speed or trucks have to be stiff. I hate wobbling at top speeds or bad control in curves. I keep only minimum of anti-slip rubber on the deck – that allows me to kick any wet snow flying there away. I use foot straps, but make them ”fused”, I rather have the screws torn out than my own ankle. For the mast foot I have two or three M8 threads with some 4 – 5 cm distance in between. I change position with discipline (slalom vs. upwind-downwind) and sail size. I also have some spare skates with me in case of collision, damage on blades or for instance ice getting suddenly soft.
What´s in the pipeline?
Getting two new types ready and tested, possibly making one more sled for fellow competitor and then WISSA 2016 in Estonia. In 2007 it was a great venue and now there are very many great riders coming and races to be sailed. Let’s hope the wind will be there and slalom track large enough. It would be nice to have ice also for course race, but if not, you guys have to start practicing on ski sleds!