Finally it’s time to drive down to the competition. I have been waiting for this for 4 months since I made the decision to compete again. I have put in the hours to get back into shape and now there is no more I can do to prepare.
The tour bus went on a ferry from Guernsey to St Malo, France on Saturday and I jumped on an Aurigny Trilander this morning to Dinard airport, caught a taxi to the docks and picked up the van. On the road at 10.30 well ahead of schedule.
I have to pick up some sails from Surf Avenue Surf shop just outside of St Malo which is where I have started writing. The shop doesn’t open till 12 which will put me behind schedule. I have an estimated 13 hour drive down to Port St Louis and I want to break the back of it today. The forecast looks really good for a windy contest.
It’s been quite a journey just getting to where I am. 6 day weeks in the gym and sailing whenever there has been wind (not a lot). I have shed 28 pounds in the process and feel in good shape. The lack of water time is an issue and I will only find out how much when we start competing. I’m surprised how the butterflies have kicked in already this morning, it’s been 10 years since I last competed and I don’t really know what to expect. I asked my children this morning what they thought would be a good result, Jacques my oldest reckoned 25th would be good however he predicts last spot ( nice to know he has confidence in me ) Luke is looking for anywhere in the prize money. I think my wife is just glad to see me 2 stone lighter. I have been out too long to predict what position I could make, this trip is more about learning what I need to do to get back to the top however I can say that it will have 110 percent commitment.
The sun is out, my sunnies on and we’re back on tour. It don’t get much better!!
I arrived late last night and had a couple of hours sleep in the back of the van, it was too late to book into the Hotel however by the morning I have learnt something already, I am past the age of sleeping in the back of a van.
It has been blowing approximately 30 knots today with forecast to drop slightly then pick up even stronger for Sunday.
Down on the beach the competitors have started to arrive, Anders Bringdal, Fabien Pendle, Pascal Boulanger, Olivier Auge, the Moussilmani brothers, it was good to catch up with some old friends after all this time. They also live in the area so it’s good to get the local knowledge on the spot.
Anders Bringdal has a big team down here sailing his AB+ boards, although he says it’s just the boys. They all live around this area and sail in the Mistral winds all year round.
The French sailors are always difficult to beat on their own patch and their history in speed sailing is second to none with Pascal Maka. Thierry Bielek and Antoine Albeau dominating the speed circuit and world records for the past 25 years. To the best of my knowledge there has only been Finian Maynard and Eric Beale who have held world records and not been French in that time, Eric sailed for Great Britain but is half French.
The course is how I expected it, quite choppy. The wind blows about 110 degrees to the shore line and today was swinging to 120 for small 5 minute periods. If you catch it at the right time your speed will soar compared to the rest.
There is a rigging area with large truck containers to leave your kit in however with everyone cramming their gear in with no regard for yours I think it will be easier to rig 3 sails a day, probably 6, 6.6 & 7.3 every day and if the wind blows as forecast sail with my Starboard Isonic W54 at first to get some times in then start experimenting with the W49.
First impressions of my accommodation Hotel Tarmaris is that it will be adequate but as the week goes on it proves to be more than adequate. The owners are very friendly and the restaurant serves beautiful food, the Salade Nicoise and Moules Frites were fantastic.
It would have been nice to have a long soak in the bath after sailing however my room’s bath is one of the smallest I have ever seen. I am 6’7” tall, the bath is 3’6” long!!
Registration is at 8am tomorrow with a possible start at 10am.
No more news today, it all kicks off tomorrow.
Registration was from 8am – 10 am, at 8.45 you start to wonder if you have the correct spot, 9 am registration starts. The French haven’t changed since last time I competed. Why start registration when you are supposed to when the wind hasn’t picked up enough to race anyway.
The wind is almost straight off shore blowing about 12 knots. People are sailing but it’s not a good wind strength for the course and its starting to swing to the west then back to the east i.e. 1 run you would be sailing on port tack the next starboard tack. Obviously this couldn’t work. The start times are being pushed back and back. 2 pm and at the skippers meeting it is announced that the wind has stabilised to the west and strengthened slightly. They will have to change the course around but we may be able to start at 3.15.
It’s light winds, most competitors are sailing with 7.0m sails on slalom boards, I opt for my 8.0m Hotsails and my Starboard Isonic 94.
The course is extremely bumpy. This is a day for the dedicated slalom guys. I have seen it plenty of times before, they sail slalom boards and big sails all the time and have them tuned to perfection.
The course had to be run in the opposite direction to how it was set up due to the wind swinging to the west which means that we won’t have the score board at the end of the run to see how we are doing with speed time and position. They decide to have a time keeper writing down the speeds so that you can come ashore and check times. In theory this sound good however with so many sailors coming through it ends up all too much. When I checked my speed was 31.5 knots. I new that I had a fastest run in the bag and seeing the top speeds going through at mostly 32 knots, added to this my GPS telling me I had a top speed of 35.31 knots and a 10 second average of 33.82, it made me think I was in contention.
The results aren’t out until tomorrow so it will be a long agonising wait to see if we have done well or more adjustments need to be done.
The results are out and it’s a bit of a shocker for me 25th place. During the session I was thinking about changing to the 7.3m sail but thinking my times were in contention I carried on with the 8.0m. It may of helped however there is no point crying over spilt mik.
We have woken up to 10 knots of Mistral wind blowing straight off shore. The problem with the Mistral is it could anything. I tweaked a muscle in my back yesterday while rigging up so I could do with a day off.
The wind has strengthened and we’re reading to go. The course is to be sailed on starboard tack which means we will be able to see the results at the end of the run. It’s blowing great 7.3m weather on the Isonic speed 53. First run down the course and I’m in 10th place, happy days we’re back on track and something to build on. As I am sailing back up wind I can feel the wind decreasing and sure enough I can’t make another run on the speed 53. I change to my Isonic 94 with the 7.3 and make another run but the wind is dying all the time, back out with the 8.0m and make a couple more runs but its not looking good, we have guys out who weigh between 80 – 85 kg and are cruising around on 49cm wide speed boards and 7.0m sails, I’m 112kg and just about getting in runs on a mid size slalom board and 8.0m. As soon as I am on my 53cm speed board and 7.3 it seems I can compete but at the moment it’s too light. The results won’t be out until tomorrow as they have had a problem with the timing, I don’t hold out much hope of a good result.
The results are out and I have moved up to 23rd position.
No wind today. The forecast is to have a Mistral wind on Sunday, the last day, and stronger than we have had so far. The lack of water time for me has proved a major factor however there wasn’t much I could do about that given that the wind didn’t blow at home. The pulled muscle stiffens up when I am sat down for any lengthof time, I keep popping the pain killers which seem to help.
If we have three rounds of competition we have a discard day. What I have to hope for is two good rounds on Sunday and pull myself up into the top 20. I think a top 20 given the extremely light conditions would be a success at this stage.
The day finishes with no sailing and a forecast of light to medium onshore winds tomorrow.
Woken up early by the sound of the wind.
Down at the beach it’s blowing approximately 20 knots straight onshore. The sea has confused waves all the way down the course.
I have sailed a speed contest in onshore winds before in St Marie de la Mer however there we had a path through and in-between the waves, today we haven’t. Also with a forecast of rain I don’t see how they can run the leg with the speed cameras pointing into the wind being pelted with rain.
If I was a betting man I would probably bet that they will run the leg. Nightmare!!
The day’s sailing has been cancelled. The forecast for tomorrow is so good they hope to run two legs in the one day.
Down at the beach early and its overcast and blowing approximately 10 knots. The forecast is for a strong Mistral wind but it’s not happening yet. Everybody is saying that the Mistral won’t blow strong until the clouds depart and the sun comes out. At the moment it is drizzling
Last possible start is at 3.30. All day we are looking at the water saying yes it’s picked up, no it’s dropped.
At 3.15 the race director blows the starting horn. We’re off.
Its light winds again 8.0m and slalom board for me. I have added as much down haul as I can for this leg and it seems to be working, two runs down the course and I am in second place. I know I am on borrowed time here however, not having had a great “water time” preparation for the event I will probably get 10 runs in at the most, where as sailors such as the Moussilmani brothers will make 20. The law of averages tells me they will get a better chance of good runs in that time.
As the leg runs on slowly I am falling back in the pack, 13th place now. The wind has strengthened and I swap to my 7.3m sail and 53cm wide speed board, there must only be about 15 minutes left. It’s a lot more comfortable making the run but it’s not fast, I have slipped to 16th which is understandable with the time involved with changing equipment.
As I set off back up wind the mast pops through the top of the sail. The sail tip has broken. I didn’t check that the sail tip insert was properly located in the top of the mast and that means at least a 1.5 km walk with gear to the rigging area. That is the end of my sailing there will not be time to fix and get back out.
The leg finishes and I am 18th, bringing me up to 22nd overall.
It is only when you start to compete that you learn so much about what you have to do to go faster. The amount I have learnt is incredible and it will only put me in a better position for the next event.
I couldn’t have wished for a more warm welcome from the French. As usual they made me feel at home and were great company. Particular thanks goes out to Anders for translating a lot of the skippers meeting for me, he must have thought I was a pain in the arse for asking all the time.
I ended up with a GPS max speed of 36.69 knots using an 8.0m sail on a slalom board and a mountain of knowledge.
I have written an event report for Windsurf Magazine and got some good pictures of the event.
I know what needs to be done for the next event. I am still too heavy and need to loose another 7kg. When I look at the results it is clear to see that in the light winds the 85kg guys make it through the lulls to secure good times, being 112kg when a lull comes along if I am on a small board I sink which is as much of a problem going back up the course as making a run. The outcome is that you are struggling all the time which in turn tires you out more.
Anders is just over 100kg and just about kept up with the lighter sailors. During the speed tour you have to be able to sail in all conditions.
In stronger winds the percentage that the wind dies in the lulls is far smaller. i.e. If I am racing in 18 knots of wind and the it dies to 13 knots I stop and sink, if I am racing in 30 knots of wind and it dies to 25 knots you keep sailing through the lulls.
It looks like it’s back on the tread mill when I get back and time to get on the water a lot more.
I will keep you informed.