Thursday, 19 September 2013

The DREAM Sabbatical, Great Sessions and A Close Call...

6 weeks to go! And it should be the best 6 weeks of the season. I love Autumn, the weather, fresh but sunny with a chill, Autumn red leaves and best of all wind and swell. Its time for hats and slippers, and I kind of like the fact we have distinguished seasons in the UK, even though it is frustrating that when the good conditions come the light fades. I am not sure Autumn has kicked in properly yet, we haven't had a proper low pressure in the South West yet bringing good swell with over a 11 or 12 second period. With a rather lame Summer for windsurfing, but nice weather I might add, there was more wakeboarding, spearfishing and Crossfit than windsurfing and surfing unfortunately.

So the big trip is coming...Boards published an interview with Stef and I here: Planning the Dream Sabbatical check it out! We still have lots to do, I haven't booked a car for Chile yet and there are things such as cancelling car insurance and phone contracts etc to do too, the more boring side but important if I am not earning any money!

Luckily, there has been more wind recently, and I have had a few sessions. A couple were at Whitsands, one really unexpected quite light wind and small wave session which was fun as we didn't expect much at all. Another was Gwithian last weekend with SW winds, slightly onshore but I really enjoyed it, (see pictures below), and the last at Bigbury which ended badly...

Here are the pictures from Gwithian, taken kindly by Paul Monnington -thank you! I was using Stef's 78l Goya here as I am currently waiting for my new Simmer 69l. It took a while to get used to the bigger board, but once I had I really enjoyed using it. I still prefer my 69l for riding and jumping but it makes it easier sometimes to use a bigger board, especially in mushy waves!

Bigbury is a funny place to sail, I would say it is the most frequently disappointing place I sail unfortunately, but we keep going back! The wind is often flukey, not helped by the big island, and the waves very soft, especially with little swell. But it can occasionally be awesome. Below are some pictures taken by Julia Slack on a really good day last Winter. These aren't me, I missed this day unfortunately but did have an amazing session at Pendower in Cornwall instead.

Anyway, Tuesday wasn't so awesome, it was cross shore wind with good potential for jumping, but it wasn't windy enough. It was fun for a while until the wind died. We were all down wind at Bantham so had a long sail back up. If you know Bigbury it has a river, which on this session was ripping out, but luckily on neaps. Most of the windsurfers made it in time before the wind completely turned off, but I didn't. I was in the middle still trying to get in. I spent quite a while trying to water start, up haul, paddle on my front and swim, but wasn't going anywhere. I wasn't too worried, I was fit and wasn't cold or tired, but I wasn't getting any nearer to the beach and I was about 500m off Bigbury, maybe more.

I decided not to go straight back into the river to head down wind to Bantham as that would be directly against the rip, instead trying to go more across to the island to Bigbury. After maybe half an hour, Stef swam out to me to help me swim in, but as he did a gust came and he told me to sail back in, which I did. I got back to the beach eventually, but then got pretty worried that I had left Stef swimming, who wasn't visible at all! While all this was happening, someone had called the Coastguard as there was a kiter in trouble too, his kite had gone down and he seemed to be ripping out the bay and round the corner. Stef swam all the way in eventually, he knew the risks and his abilities, but it didn't come without a lot of worry from me! I assume and hope the Coastguard found the kiter too. It was a stark reminder of how dangerous Bigbury can be, even in tiny conditions (which I guess probably didn't help as there was no swell to surf in on). It also reminded me how lucky we are to have a Coastguard and the importance of sailing with friends, its certainly something I will consider whilst sailing away from the UK. With hindsight and advice I now know to sail directly downwind into Bantham to get to land and then have to walk up and around the rocks and swim the river, rather than trying to travel the very tempting short looking distance to Bigbury!

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