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Tips for driving in a slalom course


TallSkinnyGuy
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I have read a lot of comments about "good" driving in a slalom course and how some boats are much easier to drive in the course (I assume due to better tracking thus less movement from skier pulls). I also know about the adjustable sight thingy on the Centurion. I have a '97 Prostar 190, which I understand has better tracking than some boats but not as good as many others.

 

I now have most of the components of a portable course and plan to order the remaining parts from Ed this week. I and a number of my skier friends have little to no experience driving in a course (we will also all be skiing at 28 off or longer, which I assume should be easier to drive for than short-line skiers). I've done some searching on this forum and in other places and haven't found any good tips on driving in the course for newbies.

 

When you are breaking in a new driver, what do you tell them?

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I'd be curious too. I drive an 04 lxi in the course every once in a while and feel like I am jerking the boat all over the place. My father inlaw and brother inlaw say that the driving is fine, but I keep thinking that they are just being kind to their boat mechanic. 28 off is about as far into the rope as we go.
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@OB has listed the true keys for a "beginning" slalom driver. To further emphasize his point about looking a bit ahead, that should also lead to subtle correction, which is an important aspect of good driving. One other aspect of subtle correction is to react quickly: If you react quickly, only a small movement of the steering wheel is needed. If you wait then you'll find yourself making a larger adjustment and you'll kick off a cycle of over-correction.

 

That's also why good slalom boats are tuned with a slight "load" on the wheel, meaning that if you let go it would slowly turn. That gives you an immediate response to whatever you do, allowing that subtle correction I keep mentioning.

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Continuing this conversation further. How do you guys handle a skier that consistently pulls the boat out of line? Do you turn away early in anticipation, try to block as the skier hits you, correct after the hit, or what? The guy who owns our boat and course yanks me really hard on his offside to point where I can feel the whole boat twist and slide out of line and have to give a good quarter wheel turn just to stay inside the boat path. When I look at videos, I'm usually centered between the boat guides but there is a whole lot snaking going on between them.
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You can buy the "adjustable sight thingy" and install it on your boat for $38. http://www.h2oproshop.com/bullseye-fold-down-2unitkt.html I have them on my boat and they are a godsend when less than great drivers are behind the wheel. Much better than a strip of duct tape on the windshield, etc. Other very good drivers will line up a bow light with the opposite side boat guide. This technique is harder to do these days as some boats have bow lights installed below the horizon of the bow deck.

 

Drive hard pullers the same as any other skier. As the load is about to come on, turn the wheel just a hint in the direction the skier is headed. If he is going from one to two, as he is about to load at one, point the bow a hair toward the two ball left boat guide just as you think the line will come tight off the turn. You want to make the move before the line loads, but not so soon as to allow the skier to feel you make the adjustment. Correct again by steering to center (in the opposite direction of the skier) as the skier crosses behind the boat and releases. Repeat in the opposite direction when going from two to three, etc. The harder the puller, the greater the adjustment you need to make, but it should be subtle even with the hardest pullers.

 

I HAVE NOT described a weave. I am not advocating moving the boat from one side to the other of the center line of the boat guides. The point here is to allow for the load to come on while having just countered in the direction the skier is headed (and his load then creates a force in the opposite direction, thus keeping you straight), then counter back as the load is coming off, again keeping straight and in the middle. If you do it right and watch it on video, the boat looks like it is sitting still, and the skier feels no interference from the boat or driver, no tugging, no pulling the handle away, etc. At least that is how I try to do it.

Lpskier

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And as Lymann suggests, make sure the boat is balanced and level. This will make the job of driving much easier. Use body weight, or if no bodies are available, a weight bag or bar, a barbell, a can of gas (tied down) or an old gas can partially filled with sand. Move it around as needed.

Lpskier

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A couple other suggestions. Not sure of these are beginner or mid-level. As has been suggested "anticipate" the pull and "lean into it" by slightly turning the wheel. Be careful tho because done poorly will make ZO setting A1 feel like C3 to the skier. Likewise not done at all means you need to "correct" all the way to the next buoy which makes for a tough pull.

 

One good tip is with a properly balanced boat and properly tuned rudder only use your left hand on the wheel. Typically placed about "7 or 8 o'clock" on the steering wheel. Using two hands will generally make the boat feel like a semi truck to the skier. Movements are fiarly subtle. Done correctly it's like a dance with the skier.

 

Lastly, for safety and to help keep the line off the buoys, always keep the skier on the drivers side when you drop at the ends or pick up a fallen skier.

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@TallSkinnyGuy: it sounds like you are starting from scratch on driving the course, some great points above. Anticipation will be high to ski right off the bat, I would certainly invest some time in practice runs w/o a skier to gauge where you need to start / stop, how to even line up for the course (green 55m buoys?) and gauging sight markers just driving though the course. You can also have a passenger that can give you feedback on if you are centered as you drive through. Be as smooth as possible with the wheel, learn to anticipate your skier (it will happen over time and quicker with more experience), the goal is to keep the pylon centered not necessarily meaning the boat is always heading straight, some boats will pivot around the pylon. The other technique to learn is how to drop the skier so he can keep hold of the handle and converse back to you for any changes.
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Thanks to everyone for all the insight. My EZ-slalom compact course will be complete this Thursday (i.e. I will have all the components by then), and I'm really looking forward to getting some course time in. Now that school will be starting back up soon our public lake will be significantly less busy on weekdays, so hopefully my friends and I will all be able to get in some good course driving and skiing practice for a couple months before the weather starts to turn chilly.
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I found when I was learning to drive in the course that this was something that helped: keep my legs about shoulder-width apart, keep both hands on the wheel at about 8 & 4, and rest both forearms on my thighs. This basically allowed my legs to help hold the wheel in place, and it made it much easier to not allow myself to get pulled off center as the skier rounded each buoy.
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@footloose42 I tend to agree with @Bulldog and not recommend using two hands on the wheel. Propping your arm against your thigh is a good idea but two hands usually translates into a tougher ride. If you have your system down to a science, more power too you. I just wouldn't encourage a new driver to do it.
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