Interview - Chris Lockwood

Name: Chris Lockwood
Age: 34
Sponsors: KA Sail, Carbon Art
Profession: Design Engineer
Hometown: Perth, Western Australia
Favorite surfspots: Swan River, Sandy Pt (Vic)

What was your best surfsession of 2008?
That would have to be the day I tested the SP40 for the first time last year. We picked it up from the international freight depot- unpacking it in the carpark, and then went straight to the domestic airport to catch a flight to Melbourne. After a few hours sleep we drove for a few hours to Sandy Pt and we were on the water around 9am. There was one rain squall that came through delivering some powered up conditions for the 5.0m sail, and I got my fastest run ever. The chop was intense, 30cm high where I reached top speed, but at 49/50kts it’s like driving over corrugations. I knew at the time I was going faster than ever before, and that a crash would likely result in injury given the size and steepness of the chop. So I held on and rode it out until I slowed enough to pull up to the bank. The next day was also great fun- less wind but enough to get up to almost 48kts on my 5.8m. Then back to Melbourne for the flight home.

What conditions do you need for a new 500m worldrecord speed? sailingangle, curved or straight line, etc...
I think for the record to be taken by a windsurfer again, its going to take some very special conditions. Unlike with kites and larger boats, we have a relatively small amount of power available, due to the fixed mast base generating a torque that is balanced only by our body weight. The kite configuration can generate several times the power for the same rider, and it becomes a case of leg strength more than body leverage (height and weight) as the limiting factor. This results in a lower acceleration capability for windsurfers. So we need quite a long run-up before the start of the course. The course itself needs to be quite broad- I think 135-140 degrees is optimal since this reduces loading on the fin (which results in fin drag) and results in more of the sail force in a forward direction- giving greater acceleration and top speed potential. The problem with these two things is that the broad angle generates a rolling chop the further along the course you go. A curved course can assist by allowing a smooth acceleration at tighter angles without significantly increasing the chop. Chop on a course long enough for a windsurfer to break the record is inevitable, so the equipment MUST be capable of riding through this chop. Footage from the canal when Antoine broke the record shows a relatively small rolling chop, so its an excellent venue. I sailed there the day Finian broke 48kts in 2005, and remember the chop being small and broken- far smoother than the fast conditions I’ve encountered at Sandy Pt.

What is your favorite speedboard all time?
I have two favourites. I use my Carbon Art SP44 most of the time since the wind doesn’t often get stronger than 20-25kts where I live. I mostly use 6.6m and sometimes 7.5m sails with this board. I set my best 500m and 5x10second averages on the SP44, but this was before the SP40 existed. In more than 25kts and relatively flat water, I find the SP40 is a joy to sail. I’ve been using it with up to 6.6m comfortably. Unfortunately I haven’t had enough time on this board lately.

We know you use KA sails and perform really well, what is the secret of these sails, why do you like them?
I’ve been working on developing the KA sails for a few years now. The objectives I seek in a sail are that it should be very light in the hands (non-fatiguing) but powerful when required. The ’09 models are working very well. I’m looking forward to sailing them in some speed conditions, but the weather has not been obliging.

What is your favorite sail right now?
I’m using the 6.6m a lot with my SP44. Its got a lot of range, and great top end downwind. I’d rather be on smaller sails (5.8m powered up) but there hasn’t been enough wind.

On Karphatos I have seen (on internet) you on a Neilpryde RS:Racing 7.2, did you like it?
Yes, it felt comfortable and efficient upwind. One of the reasons for borrowing this sail was that the biggest I brought with me was 6.6m- and it wasn’t enough for some of the rounds.

What is the most underestimated fact in speedsurfing?
The first thing I suggest to newcomers to speed sailing is to go at deeper angles to the wind, and to keep going at that angle, even if you feel underpowered.

After research on the web I read you have made some extreme designs for speedsurfing, what is your most extreme design?
Chris Lockwood speedboard“Back in the day…” There was a time when I first became interested in applying technology to windsurfing. I’d been shaping boards for more than 10 years based on the “go by feel” method that most of the industry sticks to. I stuck to the usual rules and pushed them a bit from time to time to see what would happen if I did XYZ. So I came up with a few radical shapes and learnt from their limitations. Some of the ideas I was trying at the time appeared on popular production boards shortly afterwards. Then I got interested in speed sailing and started to think about the problem from an engineering perspective- trying to understand WHY things worked the way they did and apply them in a more rigorous way to design. By the time I designed the Carbon Art speed range I had a pretty good feel for what was important, and had spent some time correlating the theoretical aspects of design with the subjective side. I try to keep things as functional as possible- since the end goal is for the ultimate sailing experience. Gimmicks don’t help to achieve that. The boards below were developed in 2003/2004. Interesting times! The 58cm slalom board with the cutouts (and vent holes) on the left of the top photo did >42kts on GPS with a 7.6m sail in 2004…
Chris Lockwood speedboard

On we see you every year on top, is the competition getting stronger?
Of course! I think it’s fantastic to see the growth of speed sailing. So many people are getting into it now. It’s definitely helped to revive the sport in many locations. It’s hard to find good second hand slalom boards now. 3 years ago you couldn’t give them away. More guys are getting dedicated to speed and putting more effort into improving, so inevitably there is going to be an increase in competition on the GPS front. I have to say that competition at the top of the GPS ladder is as much creating and maximizing opportunity to go fast as it is sailing skill/equipment tuning. I’ve noticed a few guys investing a lot of time and effort into seeking the best conditions to maximize their chances of going really fast. This is great! I wouldn’t have been able to get my best speeds locally. I had to fly to our best speed venue which is 3800km away, with the risk that the forecasts wouldn’t hold up.

Your carbon 'custom' speedfins are now finally ready for production, could you describe the speedfins, and what customizing options do we have?
Chris Lockwood SpeedfinsI’m finalising a website that gives some background into the development of these designs. The fins will be available with two twist options- one of them suitable for lighter riders seeking a lower-area speed-slalom fin of a given length, and the other with less twist suitable for pure speed sailing with heavier riders. In the near future I’ll also be releasing a “standard” slalom model to deliver interchangeable performance with other fins on the market, but with lower drag and more stable behaviour.

Can you tell us more about Carbon Art board developments?
I’ve been developing the Speed range with James Dinnis for a few years now. They are based on design concepts I’ve been developing for the past 10 years or so. The goal is to maximize the freedom of the board in the widest range of conditions, without compromising the stability. We are constantly reviewing the designs, and so far there has been no need to change them significantly. We do not change things for the sake of change. I don’t believe I have found a speed limit with the boards yet. This is a nice position to be in!

On ISWC 2008 you ended 11th place, with just 2 out of 12 events participated, quite impressive. Are you happy with this performance, and do you have some improvements for 2009?
It didn’t go entirely to plan, but under the circumstances I’m happy with the outcome. I spent almost 2 weeks in Maui before the event and there wasn’t much wind (the locals were saying it was unheard of for summer). It was my first time there and I’d like to go back. I trashed my 6.6m when the wind dropped out completely at Sprecks on my speed board and I had to swim in over the reef. The hasty rebuild of the battens didn’t last. I raced a few rounds at Fuerte with broken battens and that was a big problem at the end of the course with the sail shape collapsing- killing all the power. I also had problems getting my boards in time, so I only had the SP47 and SP40 (which was unsuitable for the conditions). There was also a hole in my 47 which I didn’t notice until half way through the event, but by then it was weighing 9kg. Not ideal!

I used new asymmetric fin designs for the start of the contest and was struggling with control problems. In hindsight they were too big for the conditions- but since it was my first time at Fuerte there were a lot of variables to come to grips with so I was struggling to piece it together. Then I got sick. Toward the end of the contest after some relatively poor results, I had nothing to lose so went on a mission to fix things. I switched to my KA 23cm symmetric. I rebuilt the battens in my 6.6m, and straight away managed a 4th place in then next round. It was a very tough contest, but a great experience.

Karpathos was really nice. I was more consistent there, although I wasn’t 100% after being hospitalized the week before with a violent illness. My SP44 turned up, and I got a better understanding of my new asymmetric fins (going much smaller) and raced on those. On the day after the contest I tried the SP40 with my 6.6m and reached my best speeds by far (44kts on the GPS). I was very surprised how well this combination was working so at least I learnt something. Shame I didn’t discover this setup a few days earlier! In the end I was happy to finish 5th overall.

This year I’d like to do a couple more events and hopefully put last year’s experiences to good use, and step it up a notch!

I find it very useful to compete with the top professional riders on the same course. It removes a lot of the opportunity aspect which I think tends to dominate the GPS ranking. That said, I’m looking for the opportunity to go GPS fast again at Sandy Pt. Its been a very quiet year over there.

Thank you Chris for this interview!

Other articles about Chris Lockwood on speedsurfingblog:
-video 50knot run
-the 50knot board, carbon art speed 40

Erik Loots

Erik is windsurfer for 10+ years. In his daily life he is professional in construction dewatering, advisor, troubleshooter. Erik likes adventures, explore and to challenge himself. During his life he is trying to get the best out of it and have respect for the earth, nature and future generations. The modern world is about sharing, in this blog Erik shares his experiences, selfreflection and lessons learned.


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