I suspect that I might be guilty of perpetuating a false notion that the fastest downwind runs only come from huge “Victory at Sea” conditions. While big grey seas and steep drops do make dramatic footage (I again beseech the viewer not to try to read any real narrative or source of instruction other then mood into my videos), the truth is that there are a myriad of factors that influence the overall speed of a run and running wave size is just one. Big steep waves make for big drops, and big drops make for high top speeds BUT a series of fast drops does not necessarily make for a fast average.
Take the two attached videos as an example. “4 Days in September” was shot over a period of two weeks of consistent 25-35 mph NE winds last September. It was filmed over four runs on what I call the “Lessner Funnel Run.” Starting from about three miles offshore to the NE of Cape Henry, this run begins in some of the deepest water of the lower Chesapeake Bay and runs SW straight into the Lessner inlet. On a good NE (or even better) ENE blow, open ocean swell runs uninfluenced by bottom contour directly into the shoals outside Lessner inlet. A paddler that can break out under the cape to the North and line up the running wind swell can ride ocean rollers from 45'+ deep waters through to where they stand up on the shoals. If timed on the flood, a paddler will then be sucked right through Lessner inlet by a strong current. Sounds fast right? It is, and scary, and FUN!! The run also makes compelling video. BUT the pretty, gentle run in the second video is one of the fastest downwinds I have ever managed. A good 1.5 mph average faster, it was filmed on one run in 16 mph West wind and max ebb current going in exactly the opposite direction, that is, straight out to sea, from shallow to deep water and in my heaviest boat. In my personal experience, the biggest hazard of what I call the “Can Run” is the fact that I have found myself so engrossed in the boat speed I was maintaining OVER a 3' incoming ground swell that it wasn’t until I spotted the snorkel of a nuclear submarine that realized I had gone well past the "Green Can" that marks the beginning of the offshore environment, and I was going to have a loooonnng upwind/current paddle back to terra-firma.
Driving boat and board on open water is a very nuanced endeavor. My crew knows that I could ramble on forever about the reasons why one run or one craft is faster then another on any given day. I am hardly good enough at it to offer more then a reflections on my own personal journey.
All this is to say that It would be remiss of me to allow anybody out there to come away from watching one of these films with the impression that putting together a good run requires the fortitude of a crazed hellman when in fact what it really takes is informed analysis, a precision application of power and the stoked enthusiasm of that grommet with the 5'4” thruster getting up before dawn to try to teach himself to surf in chilly but empty Hatteras first groin waves.
The energy is out there, but it takes allot of vision to see it then ...GET...ON...IT!