Monday, 27 July 2009
In the main i will will running away from the wind as i want the clan to have as much fun as possible. If i get any sessions in i will post about it.
So what do i think about south of France....---
Great people. More than happy to help if asked. They are very happy in the knowledge that they are in one of the best playgrounds in the world.
Windsurfing. For general windsurfing bump and jump / freestyle i have to give it a 10 out of 10. The wind is never far away and the temperatures are not too hot either. If your'e sailing on one of the many lakes, bring a weed fin. It's a must for these locations. without one youre in for a shed load of frustration. With my slalom fins the weed just stuck to them and this totally fucked up the board directional.
Speed sailing. With a van like mine it's hard to get to the places that are fast. My favorite sessions were at St maries. The long reaches were heaven. Gruissan is also an excellent location. However the wind is usualy on the beam so it's a case of bearing off into the chop. Dont get me wrong i'm not critisising but i was trying to find somewhere like southend or maybe st johns lake. There are places like this as peoples sessions have testified. But the area is sooooo vast that it's easy to miss the best spots.
Mountain here biking is heavenly. for the last few days i've been riding in the PLN area in the hills. the trails consist of fast downhills, technical rock gardens and steep gruelling climbs that are a case of keeping the front wheel down and stopping wheel spin. Some of the trails are a solid 9 miles long on the gps before i hit a road. Then it goes on for another 9 miles. I have been totally bitten by the MTB bug. Since i've been here i've clocked 1000 miles on the gps odemeter. No wonder i've lost weight!
A warning to other camper van users. The north beach at PLN is accesable for vans like mine. However if the wind veers to a F4+ onshore the beach totally floods. When the beach was dry i considered parking there overnight but decided against it as there was a free camp site very close. I went there next day and it was a huge lake. A couple of vans were marooned in the distance. They must have had a big shock when they woke up in the morning.
I've spoken to Adam Gustaffson and we have decided that as i'm at college for the next year we will be able to try and get to the speed strips in Holland during our holidays. (He's a teacher) And what with the UK USMs being held during the year there will be plenty to talk about. So i'm hoping to keep this blog going with news on whats happening with the UK speed scene.
Many thanks to anyone thats been bored enough to read my ramblings. To be able to put my thoughts and views down in these posts has been good for me. Thanks for the support!!
Monday, 20 July 2009
Went to PLN with a solid 40 knots blowing dead square. Went out with the North ram and the Warp speed. The ram handle the uber strong winds well, but the warp speed was too big and the nose kept flying in the air. What with the crashes into the sand bank i kept a little offshore and the chop made it very demanding.
So i decided to walk back and get the missile xs with the 24 C3 venom. Only i saw diesel dripping out of the bottom of the van. If it went tits up i was stuffed for picking Ali and the girls up so i packed up and made my way into Narbonne. As it was a Friday and was getting late i knew that i would have to get there toot sweet. All the garages i tried said i had to go to a fiat garage. So i had to drive another 40 mile to a garage found on my sat nav.
When i got there it had just closed(!!) So i stayed the night and found out it was closed for the weekend. So i made my way back to PLN to find that the angle was around 120 degrees and about 35 knots. rigged the 5.4 again with the missile xs. Trotting my way a mile up and down the beach was certainly getting a sweat up. Got to the waters edge and i could see it was dropping. Walked another mile up the beach to see if there was more wind and had just enough to get me planing. So i got a free ride back to my launch spot.
This pretty much my last chance to try PLN in anger. But never mind i've had a ball and i weighed myself yesterday and i now weigh 93.5 kg this is the lightest i have been in a long while. i still have a fat arse though.
For the record so i dont forget. i did 32 miles on my bike yesterday and averaged 14mph. So i'm getting fitter.
I've sorted the van now no i'm happy that things are looking good for picking Ali and the girls up next week.
McDonalds meals in France taste just as shit as the UK McDonalds btw but they have good wifi.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
I'm using an aire de service which has a wifi aerial beside it. The trouble is it's 7 euro to park overnight and i'm not doing that. So i park as near as possible to get the wifi. A few people are doing this so the police were called to send us away with our tails between out legs. Anyhow the aire is closed for dinner so i'm in my covert parking space again.
I didnt go to Roses as there was cloud forecasted. This means no wind so i will stay in a more camper friendly area.
Thanks to Boogie for the suggestion for the camera mount. I threw the boom away.... yeppers what a numpty. So i have been to the supermarket and bought a long handle brush. I'm hoping to fashion a camera mount out of this.
I went out yesterday at teliski lake. The SE wind was coming from the sea and was bunching up the cloud against the mountains which was a weird sight. Weirder still was the way it flattened out and blotted out the sun when the wind dropped.
The wind was gusty but again was fun to race against the other slaom guys. The weed was still an issue but i'm getting used to this. As predicted by the locals the wind got gustier by 4 oclock and dropped by 6. Nice blast just wearing my shorts which was a real treat.
The tramontana is kicking in on Friday again with 22 knots forecasted on windfinder. Last they forecasted this it was blowing 40 plus knots. If it does blow this hard i know where i'm going to be. With decent film footage i hope.
Friday, 10 July 2009
After this get off i went for one more bear off to keep the brave part of my brain from shrinking away. The wind got gustier so i went in. Fun day.
Stayed again in PLN as the wind was looking good for the next day. The wind was light in the morning so i got some food then made my way to the speed strip. The wind was gusting strong than preious days. So i threw caution to the wind and went for the Demon 6.0 C3 26 Venom and warp speed. With everything tied together i made my way to the beach to rig up. Getting to the waters edge, i realised i forgot my mast extension......DOH! Walk back to the van and get it. Walk back to the waters edge and it looked like the wind had dropped. My patience is wearing thin now. I wait 10 minutes small gusts come through but nothing to get the warp speed going. I'm beat, i make my way back to the van with my kit. As i'm walking back a chap stopped me and suggested going into town and sail from there as the walk would be a lot shorter. So with this advice i pack the kit up (wind has picked up again grrrrr) and make my way to PLN centre. No Camper vans allowed. Jeez i cant win here.
So i end up at weed estury but had a fun sail. i took more video but it's still pretty poor. The wind has eased now so there will be a wind drought for the next few days. Again i'm looking towards Roses as it looks sunny so there may be wind. I will decide tomorrow.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
After writing yesterdays blog I got a sail in near La Franqui. 7.5 Demon with the C3 Venom 38. Again the water is so warm no wetsuit is needed. But there is still a problem with weed. A total pain in the arse. A fun sail though with forked lightning in the distance. Having a 5 metre lightning rod sticking out the water was interesting.
Today (7th july) I made the trip to Port La Nouvelle which is the west end of Gruissan beach as it was forecasting F4 and increasing. With hope ever eternal I rigged the Demon 6.8 C4 and a C4 Venom with the Manta 59. Surprisingly cold today so I put on my summer suit.
It was blowing west so was pretty much bang on square. The conditions are very similar to Saint Marie so it's top quality. As Gereld said the part of the beach in front of the lake is windier which it needed to be as the wind was quite moderate. I measured the beach length and the strip is around 3 miles long and more after a sea wall jutting out into the sea.
No sand banks to send you over the top as far as I can tell. The beach is so huge there has to be a section where you can tuck really close to the bank.
I made my footstraps smaller so my feet are wrapping around the rail as I sail. This gained me ½ a knot on my 10 seconds. Also there is no point pulling the track all the way back on the Manta. Mid track and it works great. As I think mentioned before... the Manta is a great board in chop / overpowered conditions. However I think the top end speed is slower than the Falcon.
As I write this it feels like the wind is picking up again. The forecast for tomorrow is to increase slightly so it may be good. NW would be very nice.
Stayed overnight at Port LA Nouvelle. There was wind forecasted and with the tour de France going through Leucate I would have been stuck till midday. Got up at 7am as I could hear the wind blowing so made my way to the coords I gave you in a previous post. Parked at the height barrier and rode to the beach. It was blowing 20 knots NW with an angle of around 110. The question was 6.0 and warp speed or 6.8 with the Manta. I didn't want to make the wrong choice as the walk was too long to mess up on sail size. I went with the 6.8 as I would rather go and change down than having to change up. Anyway it was the right choice.
Boogie made a comment / suggestion on building a makeshift trailer for my mountain bike. I did think of putting my kit on the bike and rolling it to the beach. But I was worried the bike would get nicked while I was on the water. A small trailer is the way to go though. What I did for transport was tie my sail, mast etc to the boom and slung that over my shoulder. Then with my other arm I carried the board.
With the Demon 6.8 and C3 32 Venom in the Manta 59 all set I made my way on the water and the wind dropped.... With the hope of more wind further up the beach I walked about a mile and it started to fill in again. Other sailors were making there way up the beach and were starting to rig. It's a very popular place. I would say by midday there were 20 sailors out.
Gusts were hitting 20 knots and maybe a little more now and again. I must say I felt more confident about going further offshore than Saint Marie. When I sailed there I was mainly on my own so if I broke any kit I would be stuffed. Not with Port LA Nouvelle. In the bigger gusts I went right off the wind and stayed like that for 500 plus metres. The fin just hung in there. The further offshore the nastier the chop got and it.... just hung in there. Top end technology .I've said this before but I'm sure Boogie sprinkles magic dust on the fins before he dispatches them. In these type of conditions I have got an excellent set for the Demon C4 as well. Soft when needed but still accelerates hard in the gusts.
With things going well I decided to beat 2 miles up the beach and go hard for a decent nautical mile time. I achieved 34 knots at Saint Marie and was sure I could better that. As I started the run it was a little up and down. So I decided to go closer to the beach so the speed would decay less in the smaller chop during the lulls. Things were going good when I gust hit and I sheeted slightly out so I could accelerate a bit harder and keep good board trim. BANG I hit a sand bank. It happened so quick that I didnt have time to blink. I heard a snap. (bone!) then my face went into the sail and legs following over the top. My neck was bending back at an alarming angle. When I gathered my bearing I check to see if my gps was ok. (priority!) Then I moved my head in a circular movement and all was ok. Looking down my beloved carbon X9 boom was in 5 pieces. Looking at the gps I was just shy of 36 knots. I may have been less when I hit the sand bank but I wasnt hanging about. The boom had snapped about 8 inchs either side of the harness lines. It also broke on both sided of the back end. The sail was fine. There are slight dents where my eye balls and beak hit the window but apart from that fine. I will miss my X9. When going at full chatt it made a noise like a didgeridoo. None of my other booms do this. A couple of guys went up to me asking if I was ok. One was laughing the other looked quite concerned for me. It takes all sorts :)
So I walked about 2 miles back to the van to get my spare boom and when I got back the wind dropped. To be honest I wasn't too pissed off about it as my back was a little sore as well.
I did notice a chap in trouble about 2 km offshore. I alerted one of the locals to his trouble and he called the sea rescue. After the rescue was called he started making his way back to the beach so i've just cost the French tax payer about 5000 euros..... When the helicopter arrived I quickly scanned the horizon for any other sailors in distress. Not a jot....
On a serious note the locals are fighting a battle at the moment. The beach may be closed to windsurfing as the nature lovers think it's damaging to the environment. Please go to http://pln.windsurf.free.fr to give your support. To close this spot to windsurfers would be a travesty and should not be allowed.
Monday, 6 July 2009
No wind when i got up which was a pain.
Made the trip to the speed strip and if it blows it will be a great place to sail. it's huge! However there is a height limit bar at the entrance to the car park. Soooo i'm fooked for getting onto the beach. i took a ride and it's about half a mile walk to the end of the speed strip in front of the lake. The wind as advised is around 5 knots on top of the average wind. It was west with a hint of north today and was pretty square.
If the wind comes through i will certainly sail here as it looks to have excellent potential.
With the recomended speed strip well explored i went into Gruissan (the other end of the beach) which was an 18 mile trip. Again the size of my van which isnt huge stumped my efforts to get to the beach. The only option was to swim across the canal that cuts through the old town. Anything sub T4 size would have no problems with getting into the car parks. Drive a camper van and youre stuffed.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
It's all been about passing time . There has been bugger all wind. So its been a case of riding and exploring. After riding with Marc Trayter i've gone and bought myself some lycra shorts and top. The shorts are obscene and i'm sure i will get arrested between me and the bike, or accosted! However I've found out it's the only thing to wear in these very hot conditions. The sodden sweaty cotton t-shirts are a thing of the past. It doesnt feel like i'm sweating at all now. So I'm pleased with the purchase.
I'm back in Leucate as Roses was cloudy so no wind and the forecast is looking good for Gruissan.
Back to the wind.... It's blowing hard outside at the mo. About 30 knots i would say. I have been advised on a new spot that i didnt know about. There is a story here.... As my Demon 5.3 is damaged i went around the shops checking out the shops to see if they had a small slalom sail available that will fit on my Tushingham 4 metre mast. There were 2 options a Simmer or a North. I left it a few days and the Simmer was sold so I went with a North Ram 5.4. Nice looking sail but i've broken a cam on it already!!! The shop owner is a speed sailor himself and recommended a spot he showed me on google earth. The launch spot is around 5 miles from Gruissan and a lake is behind the speed strip. The wind is around 5 knots stonger at this spot and in a NW tramontine is at about 130 – 140 degrees.It's looking like a WNW tomorrow so it will be a little tighter but the run is on starboard. Even if its 15 knots tomorrow i'm gonna have a ball. If it's blowing hard it may be quick. I went to Gruissan today and there were now waves at all so it bodes well for a decent session if the wind blows. The coords for the launch spot are 43° 1'18.15"N 3° 3'35.24"E
Many thanks to Gereld at windsurfleucate.com for the advice. He has had a 41 knot v-max here so it cant be too shabby a spot.
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
The wind has done a bunk on me guvna! Thunder clouds from the mountains are suppressing the thermal winds. So it's a case of riding the bike and chilling.
The mountain / big hill with the house on the top was still in my sights so I set off in it's direction. The footpaths kept taking me the wrong way so I had to keep double backing to try another route to get there. I went past a tourism office and decided that they would know how to get to the the house on the hill.
The chap was very helpful. The house on the hill was impossible to get to with a bike unless you wanted to carry it on your back. So that put the stoppers on that. On the plus side he gave me a map that was around 15 miles long that took me to the hills and a stunning view at the top. I took the map with thanks and stared at it for 5 minutes and went back in the tourism office for more info on how to get on the route. The chap suggested he went and got his own mountain bike and take me on the route himself. The monetary negotiations began.
“How much for the tour”? I say.
“Three heroes”. He says.
“No. How much”?
“Not how long. How much will it cost”?
The cost for 3 hours of tour guiding must be expensive I thought.
“Three heroes is all it costs. It is a tourism benefit”.
The penny dropped.
“Ahhh 3 euros for the tour. Wow thats excellent value”.
I went and got my van and parked it in the tourism office car park and the chap was waiting for me with all the gear on. His bike was carbon fibre dripping with the best bits you can buy. I'm not a mountain biking aficionado by a long chalk but this guy looked like he knew what he was doing. His name is Marc Trayter and he said the route would take around 90 minutes to complete.
As he led the way I noticed his calves were made from granite. I think this guy will be going at half steam so I can keep up with him.
As we chatted I found out he is an ex world cup mountain biker. He still races and still wins in top fields. His last 4 hour race he was the first Spaniard across the line. The bike he was using is a €6000 hard tail that weighs only 9kg. All his kit is supplied free of charge and his biking skills are obviously superb. On the back wheel going up very steep hills and still negotiating around boulders or branches. This guy is not your communal garden tour guide he is the the full vindaloo mountain bike racer. He has even had training sessions with Lance Armstrong. Talk about hitting the bullseye! I wander into the tourism office to get info on stuff I can do and get to ride with a pro mountain bike rider. Not once did he big himself up. He does all his talking on the race track.
As we made our way up the steep slope with requests to look at the view now and again (for rest really) The views were stunning. Riding in the 35C heat was demanding but as I was with such a top rider I tried my hardest to make a good effort. Two thirds of the way through the route I had got through 3 litres of water that I was carrying in my camelbak. I think he drunk about half a litre. At the top he gave me a high five for the achievement and then we had the fun downhill bit. Marc was hitting ramps at speed and kicking out the rear wheel with ease. I however was just trying to keep the bike on the track. Excellent grin factor though.
The route ended up being around 20 miles and I was totally shagged at the end of it. But it will be something that I will always remember.
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Hot and sultry. In a few words. My temp gauge is showing 32 outside and 37 inside!! No point in being inside the van it's just too hot. Until I came up with an ingenious idea. Soak some towels and hang them in the toilet compartment. Put the extractor fan on blow and I have cool air blowing through the van. A real treat in the uber heat.
Went for a bike ride at the start of the day. I could only manage 15 miles as the heat was sapping my energy. Came back and went to the supermarket. How cheap is stuff here compared to France. It's a shame that Spain does not cater so well for camper vans and suchlike it really would be a top place to visit. I've taken to what most people do when camping in Spain. Number ones in the bushes, number twos in the bog. The toilet emptying is more spaced that way.
I am also acclimatising to the way of life here. Moving slightly out of my lane on a roundabout the usual volley of car horns blare out to let you know that you are being a road hog. Instantly I gave him the middle finger with no sense of decorum for being in a foreign country. I am becoming a localised.
Had a bit of a sunbath in the afternoon and when it clouded over I went for another ride. This time beside the river that goes through San Pierre Pescador. The river is teaming with fish. Trout or bream I really dont know or care but it's fantastic to see wildlife thriving like that. I also saw a huge bright green lizard nearly the length of my arm bolt across the path. I nearly squashed his tail. Another cool thing to see.
Since I was here last they have erected a life guard hut. The bonus being that they have also installed a tap, so I wont die of thirst.
It's kite surf central here. You're pretty much guaranteed session. As there is always a 10 knot sea breeze in the afternoon at this time of year. I will rig as soon as I get up tomorrow as it looks like a hot day so the breeze should kick in quite strong in I hope.
30th june bay of Roses
I lied I didn't rig up first thing and i'm glad I didn't. Burning hot so before the beach beckoned I had a job to do for Ali. Go to the dive centre and see if they do the PADI course. (don't ask I don't know) Anyway they knew what I was talking about but didn't do any course until September. While in town I noticed a set of scales in the chemists so had a go to see if I lost any weight during my stay here. I was 103kg when I left. I know fat bastard and I was (am). 99Kg was the reading!! how can I lose such a little amount of weight, when I've eaten no chocolate or any croisants or cake or biscuits. Maybe the demi crème mile is not semi skimmed but extra cream with lard and butter on top. I'm at a loss. Looking on the bright side I dont need a weight jacket.
Back to the beach for a toasting session mulling over my non weight loss. In the distance is a big hill / mountain with a hut on top. So I decided to walk to it. That will burn some belly. The beach was 2.5 miles long on the gps so my trek was looking like I should be bringing my tent. Another 3 miles and the hut still looked like pimple on a pigs arse. So I decided to call it quits as it was starting to thunder and rain slightly. (great excuse).
Anyway i'm back from my 11 mile walk and my feet are killing me. So I will try and conquer the hill / mountain tomorrow if there's no wind again. The sky is looking dark so i'm hoping for a decent thunder storm. Better than tv.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Just got off the water after a bread and butter sail. Blowing sub 15 knots but constant and above all fun. Pulled off a couple of 360s which was nice. I forgot I had a version 1 Venom 38. So I stuck that on the Manta and I think it felt better. I say think as the weed in the water was a pain in the arse. The board sometimes just gradually went sideways. Checking out the tail as I was going along revealed 7 or 8 strands of weed clinging on to the fin. Instead of stopping I tried chop hops to get rid of it which worked now and again.
Along with the weed there were big jellyfish in the water. About the size of a bowler hat. Not knowing if they were the stinging variety it made making all my gybes paramount.
The water was luke warm so all I wore was a vest which was ample. Loads of kite surfers out. I saw two incidents that made me cringe. A young lady rigged her 12 metre and as she launched her kite she got dragged through the bushes. I think she had a safety thingy attached to it as she de-powered pretty sharpish. The second one was some numpty hooking his mate into a kite. It looked like he never held one before. Numpy bloke was holding the handle on the harness when a gust hit and dragged both of them across the car park. The kite caught up in a fence and de-powered. Very close to hurting his mate badly.
The lake is more of a kite than a windsurf venue. Probably because of the weed. Lots of sailors were using very raked back weed fins.
If there is no wind tomorrow the bay of roses will beckon. This area is tops for camping though. Nice clean beaches. No chavs in the car parks doing doughnuts and not bad value on the cost of living. I will certainly bring Ali and the girls here for a while. Gemma and Daisy are looking forward to trying out aqua park. So am I :)
Friday, 26 June 2009
I've had a couple of texts berating me on the lack of blog posts. To be honest I don't know if a lot of people are reading it. Anyway I will make more of an effort.
Camping tips number 2:---- Honey dew melon left to its own devices smells like gone off milk. The cure is to eat it. I felt slightly pissed after eating it so it may have fermented. Mosquito's are a big issue. My legs are like bubble wrap. The little bleeders have declared war on me and i'm fighting back with an ingenious device that has a tiny fan that blows the opposite to a pheromone for the dainty blood sucking gits. The result is promising so far.
Today I went for a bike ride from Bacarres to Rivesalts. All round about 24 miles. My foretrex gave an average 12 mph which aint bad for a fat pig. During the ride a huge snake slithered across my path. This monster was a solid 4 foot long. I love this sort of thing so I start looking into the bamboo to see if I could see it again. A French chap walks past I look at him wide eyed. “A fucking huge snake” I say. He pauses “Comon”? I start gyrating my arm in a snake like fashion. He gets the drift. Mad Englishman has never seen a snake before.
Yesterday I visited le fort de salses. Built by the Catalans in the 15th century to keep the French at bay. It was taken by the French and as part of the treaty of the Pyranees with the Spanish the border was re-drawn and the French claimed it Very interesting.
I will check the forecast for the next few days and see if the Tramontana will kick in. if not I will go to Roses again as i'm guaranteed a bit of a breeze. I spoke to Boogie from C3 on Skype and he suggested going to Tarifa. I checked it on the sat nav and its around 850 miles to get there. I'm tempted to be honest but it will be a lot of money and 2 days travelling. Saying that I might just do it. Speaking of Boogie.... I have been on his forum recomending too small a fins to people. After much deliberation, testing, experimentation....... oh bollocks I was wrong.... Listen to Boogie and you wont go wrong. The Manta 67 needs a Venom 40 fin (as he recommended to me i went for a 36) and the 32 works fin with my 6.8. The warp speed works well with a 26. the Missile xs works with either the Venom 24 or the Strike 20.
I Also spoke to Weymouth speed guru Pete Young, I gleaned info on Gruissan. Where he was doing the Defi wind. It seems I was on the wrong side of town for where the speed sailors go. I had to go through the old part of town to get there. Being a numpty I didn't Anyway I will make my way there if it starts kicking in again.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
No wind, speed sailing conditions, internet and being lazy has put the stoppers on the blog for a while.
I went to the bay of roses for a few days and am planning on going back there. The beach is wonderful and there is a nice parking area about 50 metres from the beach. The downside is Spain is not geared towards wild camping so the options are limited. The upside is food is a lot cheap than the south of France and if it's sunny you're guaranteed at least a force 4 to have a play in. Conditions are more geared towards bump and jump. But is still fun on a slalom board. I had one day on the C4 6.8 the Manta 59 with the C3 32 and had a total blast with this set-up. For info I cant see a better fin for the 59 other than the C3 Venom 32. Upwind or downwind it just did its job in the very choppy conditions. Out of the Manta 67 and 59, the 59 is a sweet board for choppy conditions. I have to say they are fragile though. Be gentle or witness marks will be obvious.
With my gas running out and Spanish petrol stations having no lpg filling facilities unless I went to Barcelona, I decided to go to Hyeres as there was wind forcasted there and I could sample the delights of the Almanarre speed strip. A couple of problems on the way. I had a flat tyre for some reason and I had the wrong adaptor for filling lpg in France. The numpty who fitted my gas gave me the wrong adaptor. So after a phone call to said numpty he posted the adaptor to the post office in Hyeres. Postage cost was £35. I nearly had kittens at the price. Oh and my sat nav went tits up as well. So I had to buy a new one of those as well.
Hyeres is lovely. It a little peninsula that works in any wind direction. The water is warmer than Leaucate, so swimming was good to go for a woos like me. With no wind turning up it was a lot of biking. Around 20 miles a day so i'm feeling a lot fitter than when I arrived in France. When the wind did turn up Almanare had onshore winds blowing around 20 knots the first day it arrived. I rigged the 7.5 C4 with the manta 67 and a C3 Venom 36. I had great fun racing the slalom dudes on their slalom kit across the bay. Length of the reaches were around 1 ½ miles. Excellent for the concentration on board and sail trim. I had no issues with the fin. No spin out or directional when fully powered. However with hindsight I would go for a 40cm Venom with this board. It just needs a little more little to get it going initially. The next day was blowing a lot harder onshore and the tide was low. So small waves were breaking. I rigged the 6.8 Demon C4 with the Venom 32 and the Manta 59. As I started towards the waters edge I noticed someone on a 4.2. So I was suspicious that I had over rigged slightly! After an hour of excitement I changed to the 6.0 and was a little more comfy to say the least.
Hyeres is quite expensive so I decided to make my way back to Leaucate and sample the hills on my mountain bike. One thing I love with France is the way bikes are catered for. Cycle routes are an integral part of the road system here. If the cycle route is not on the road there is a seperate pathway for bikes. It is cycling heaven. I went on one ride where I rode for 12 miles without once being on a road and it was all flat. Soap box time!!! Why the hell cant we do that in this country?? I used to ride 15 miles to work and had to run the gauntlet of riding on a bypass that had cars blasting past me at 80 mph. Why could they integrate a cycle path into the bypass??? Anyone from Cornwall can see this as a no brainer.... Have a cycle path from Penzance to Truro at the very least. Oh I forgot that would be too obvious.
During my stay at Leaucate I literaly stumbled upon a place that reminds us the horrible things humans do to each other. The camp de Rivesaltes used to be an interment camp for Jewish people in WW2. It was used because it was close to the main railway line that took these poor people to Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camps. The hundreds of buildings lay empty a silent reminder of atrocities that happened during that time. A very sad place.
After few days mountain biking in the hills. The Tramontana was forecast to hit Leaucate in the next couple of days. So I decided to try the teliski lagoon and see if I could tuck under the bank that looked so good on google earth. This was to be made harder as there was weed in the water that wrapped around the fin. So that put a stop to that. I did find out that I could hang on to the 6.8 Demon in shed loads of wind though. I noticed that most people were on 4 to 4.5s. I did have one wipeout when the board flew into the air and caught a rail and I stopped myself with a shin into the opposite rail. Ouch...
With Leaucate getting lower in my speed sailing estimation I emailed Martin van Meurs from gps-speedsurfing.com and asking him wether the Trench at Saint Marie De la Mare would be sailable. He said it may be silted up so would be un-sailable. I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the 100 mile trip. While driving there were so many lakes and banks that looked promising for a speed strip. Without a doubt there is a bank that would be as good a the Ray or Sandy point. As I drove through the town it seemed like I was driving through Spain instead of France. Images of bulls and horses were everywhere. I started up a sandy lane. And then a barrier, €8 to stay the night by the beach. Mildred my sat nav voice said I had a mile to go to the lat and long coords that I entered into it. My mouth was getting dry. Not from the heat but from getting near speed sailing central. Not carved by nature like the Ray or Sandy point. Carved by man with one goal in mind. To break the world speed sailing record. The lane got narrower. Usually I start to worry that I will get stuck in a dune or there is a huge ditch that I will fall in. Then I will have to hire a crane to lift the van out etcetera etcetera.... Not this time. I'm on a mission and no sand dune or ditch will dare get in the way.
“You have reached your destination”. Mildred said. I got out of the van and started my way towards where I though the holy place would be. There was a muddy salt encrusted expanse in front of me. Hoof and footprint were dotted here and there. As I made my way across I disturbed the flys that were sunning themselves in the burning relentless sunlight. As I got to the other side small puddles of salt water were quietly melting away in the heat. Careful not to get my flipflops wet I skirted deftly around them and promptly slipped on my arse. Clean shorts on today and muddy hands and legs. I carried on hoping no one saw my un-graceful fall. Then I saw it.
1000 metres of sand dredged out of the ground to form the perfect speed sailing course. Dug at an angle so it would be perfect for the huge Tramontana and Mistral winds that blow through here. Standing there in awe at the place. I thought of the videos of Finian, Antoine, Whitey and Oshea. All achieving records at this wonderful place. Martin van Meurs was right. The trench was half full. I surveyed the full length and the north end was fuller than the south end. I may have a chance to sail on the grail. Tomorrow will be the day.
Back to the van and check out the area. I could see that there were people rigging up in the distance so headed for there. The wind was blowing around 15 knots so rigged the C4 7.5 and the Manta 67 with the Venom 36. Little did I know that I was in slalom heaven. The wind was blowing offshore at about 100 degrees. The beach however is 6 kilometres long with hardly any lulls in the wind. So its up to you how far you want to go. I cant emphasise how good this place is. It is the best sailing experience I have ever had. Fully powered reaching that doesn't reach an end. All you have to concentrate on is board and sail trim. This place is not just a record breaking venue it's an epic venue for anyone who wants the bread and butter windsurfing that puts a huge grin on your face.
I met some top blokes as well. Among others Evan from seaclone.boards.free.fr and his friend Framck. They gave me their excellent local knowledge and tales on the trench. They all are well into their speed sailing. Both had speed slaom boards and were sailing the full length of the beach like yoyos. Neither had gps units but Evan borrowed one of mine and I will mail him his track and hopefully he will post his session. I'm hoping they will spread the word on the gps front as this place has huge potential in a Tramontana. The angle will be perfect in a NW wind.
The session where i had my fastest 10 second was my most painful. beating back up the course i hit the sand and went through my sail. to go through a Demon sail you have to hit it pretty hard. i have the bruises to coming up now.
The next day I tried the trench but the water was just too low. The bank broke the wind up too much so I had to go back to what is a windsurfing mecca. If the mistral blows there again I will certainly be back. One word of warning though. When the wind drops. Millions of tiny flys come out to harvest on your bodily fluids. That was when I made a hasty exit.
Friday, 29 May 2009
29th May 2009
Camping tip. Dont put camembert cheese in the fridge. It stinks the place out.
After the fun at Leaucate I decided to drive up to Gruissan and check out the conditions there. The sat nav asked whether I wanted to go on the toll roads. Trying to save a bit of money I said no. Big mistake. Trying to negotiate the van through the narrow roads was demanding to say the least. The icing
on the cake was a rickety bridge that I had to cross. I could hear it groaning under the weight of the van. So the journey back will be on the toll road.
The wind at Gruissan was some the strongest i've ever experienced. I estimate solid gusts of 50 knots as I arrived. Not knowing where to go, I went to the tourist information centre. They were very helpful as they were in Leaucate. Goostaff also gave me some coords to go to. The beach is huge. With this uber gusty and strong wind banging offshore. This wasnt an option to go out in. Eventualy I found Etang De Matelle. There is a windsurf / kite centre there. But it was totally deserted. It was around midday so I guessed they were having their dinner.
The next problem was getting my kit off the van. With such strong wind. There was a good chance the boards would get blown off the roof. I need my Missile xs and it was on the bottom of the pile which was a pain. So I went back into town to find a high building that could shelter the van from the wind. After a lot of searching I found a house that would do the job.
With the board inside the van I went back to the lake. There were a couple of Germ an guys rigging up a 3.2. (!) It looked like it was dropping to me until a gust came through that nearly lifted me off my feet. So I rigged my new 4.6 C4 speed with my new C3 Venom 24.
As I got on the water I realised that it was not going to be a good session. I was right in the wind dropping kind of. The viscious gusts that were charging through. Were getting less frequent. So I would be up to my tits in water then I would be hanging on for dear life. I only had three short runs that were unsettled to say the least. A gust would hit then disappear then another gust would hit. I was wondering if my van would have all the paint blasted off by the sand when i got back.
On the plus side the sail and fin felt good even though I was getting battered by the on off wind and the fin didnt let go on me once.
The forecast was for the wind to drop the next day so I went back to Leaucate to sail on the teleski lake. After sorting out some bits and bobs I was on the water for around midday. I rigged my 6.8 C4 with the Venom 32 on the Manta 59. At the moment this is my favorite board, sail, fin combo. I could push as hard I liked with no of it becoming unsettled. The wind dropped after about half an hour so I kept the 6.8 up and used the Manta 67 instead. A good days sailing.
The forecast for Leaucate was for no wind for the coming week. So with Matthew at Demon sails advice I have made the trip down to the Bay of Roses. The wind here is thermal so i'm hoping to get a few sessions in
the open sea. Fingers crossed!
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
26th May 2009
As I was falling asleep I could hear the wind slowly starting to fill in. I went outside and the warm wind was not making my attempts for sleep. As this would be my first outing since I have arrived in Leaucate.
As soon as I woke up I was out of my bed filling my belly with alpen and tea. Matthew had texted saying it would be around 20 knots. This would be good for a first outing. I was on what I will call the teleski lagoon. I don't know what its called but it's a big lake. I was blowing around 15 to 20 knots. Temperature was around 70. So things were looking good after a few days of no wind.
I took a couple of pics of a guy going well on a Gaastra sail. It looks to be around the 4.5 4.7 size. I decided to drive around the different locations to see if the bank I mentioned in an earlier blog post. Sadly it was way too broad. So it was a case of going back to teliski lagoon. The wind was increasing all the time. It was now around the 25 knot mark, So I was wondering what kit to rig up. With the advice from a chap from the UK I went to the teliski centre again. This was located at the windward bank of the lagoon.
A French chap luckily spoke better English than my French. He advised me to rig a 4.7 for my size. (he was on a 4.1) Looking at the conditions. I said I was thinking of rigging my 6.0. He shook his head and said. “This is not possible”. I said I was on slalom kit and he still said non!
Being the kind of bloke that takes advice I rigged my 6.0 C4 speed sail, my Manta 59 with a C3 28 Venom fin. As I was getting my kit off the roof. A German guy pulled up and rigged his Pryde 5.8 with and RRD slalom board. I felt better with my decision. As he was using a trailer he was quicker to rig than me and was on the water where he got blown away. After this I was brimming with confidence on my sail choice. (not)
All suited up I made my way to the water. The first run out was fully power, but to try and prove a point to my French friend I bore off onto a beam reach. It was just too windy and choppy to go for a full broad reach. Pleased with the way the set-up was handling in such extreme conditions. (gusts of 30 knots plus) I went for a broad reach going towards where I rigged. This was the only flattish area and I caught a lucky gust. The French chap went to the waters edge and asked how fast I went. 36 knots I replied. He nodded and said good good. This was my fastest run of the day. I just could tuck under the bank after that so it was a case of just hanging on in the gusts on a beam reach. Very demanding conditions for sure.
The Trevantine (hope i spelt it right) wind is inherently very gusty. Going from 10 knots to 30 plus in an instant. But the gusts are sustained. It's just a case of waiting for them. The 6.0 was the choice as I needed the extra sail area to get off and in shore.
The C4 Demon worked excellent in the gusty conditions. Not once was I struggling sail control. Even when over powered. The C3 Venom 28 was the size to have in these extreme conditions with the 6.0. When fully powered it tracked superbly. The Manta 59 gives a feeling of confidence that I haven't felt with ant other slalom board. I can almost feel the V on the double concave biting into the water giving you more confidence to push it harder. I dont know wether this bottom shape is as fast as say the isonic but it certainly gives more confidence in chop. Almost wave board like.
As I finished the wind went foooking crazy. For sure the gusts were hitting 45 knots. My wetsuit box full of kit was blowing down the car park. If this wind keeps up tomorrow I will drive up to Gruissan Plage to try the speed strip there. From the pics I have seen of the place it could be very special.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
25th May 2009
No wind. So I decided to have a go at the teleski centre. 18 euros gives you and hour of being towed around on either a knee board, skis, or the holy grail of the wakeboard.
The instructor suggest as I haven't done this sort of thing before I should go with a knee board. So with the instructions hang on tight to the handle and to lean well forward and get ready for a big pull. Well not a pull a bloody great yank. With the experience of the speed sailing sling shot I could just about keep it together. I however forgot the instruction to go through the gates as you went round the corner and I lost tension in the rope. This ended in a face plant into the water.
Second go I made it all the way round. So I had a couple of more goes. But they insisted that I should lean forward instead of back. This I ignored as I felt more comfy like this. I then went onto the skis and pulled this off first go. I'm getting quite cocky now. So I went for the
With lots of instruction that I could take in I went for my first wakeboard experience. I'll show these dudes how easy it is. As soon as it yanked me, I caught the rail and face planted into the water again. With grim determination I tried to recover from an un-recoverable position. While doing so I nearly ripped my already weak should (old injury) from its socket. With that it was game over for my wakeboard career.
Although good fun at first. I'm pretty sure I would get bored with it. Being tethered to something and having to go wh
ere ever the boat or teleski is taking you is just too much of a constrained enviroment.
Here are some pics of wakeboarders that know what they are doing. Also a pic of my view as I'm just about to f
all asleep. Blissful.
Monday, 25 May 2009
Matthews new coords for the sat nav have turned up trumps. I have found an aire and it's 2.50 to top up your water and empty your poo. Result!
On the way there I had a scary moment. Coming up to a round about two gendarmes are sitting by their bikes with a speed camera. (not only in the UK) My sat nav bird in her clipped tones commanded me to take the 3rd exit at the roundabout. While performing this command I am rubber necking the gendarmes. I entered the 3rd exit to find a low bridge in front of me with 3.5 metres written on it. I've measured the height of my van at 3.4 metres. By the look at the chunks missing and scrapes on the roof. They may have measured it wrong and if they did, a Gaelic shrug would happen with the comment ce live. A cool attitude if it wasn't your van. I looked in my wing mirrors. A line of cars were waiting for me to proceed under the bridge. I made the decision to back out of the exit. I got out and went to every car and said “pardon Monsieur. Les auto tres grand. This was my best shot for can you back up mate. The gendarmes saw the jam so came over to see what was wrong. Thankfully they skilfully backed everyone up so I could reverse. I wave to each driver as I passed. All I got was a volley of thousand yard stares. Note to one self. Don't rubber neck.
As I write this, my wifi icon is blinking at me saying there is a connection. It's is secured.... So near yet so far.
A very hot day. I rationed my sunbathing as I didn't want to get a dose of prickly heat. If I over-do it before I turn brown, I'm scratching all over and screaming why me!!
I drove past a promising looking bank. So after parking up at the aire I decided to ride over there and see if it has proper potential. On the way there I saw a row of restaurants beside the fish market selling nothing but oysters. Diners were sitting at the outside tables with plates piled with the fishy crustacean. I gave this a miss as I have to disagree with the saying. 'Oysters taste of the sea'. They taste more like gritty bags of shit as far as I'm concerned.
The bank may be too high for speed sailing and depth is an issue as well. It has a rough north – south orientation. So could work in a NE travertine (I prolly spelt the local wind that occurs here wrong) Only time will tell.
After the ride I was famished so had crackers, cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Washed down with orange juice.
After I let my food go down I decided have a walk on the beach. (life is just too tough) The beach was too hot to walk on in bare feet so I meandered down to the waters edge to have a paddle. I had a huge shock. Lots of women were topless. No problem as far as I'm concerned. I love tits. Anyhow this woman had pulled the front of her bikini bottoms to one side and was sunbathing her beaver!! To compound this she was about 80 going on 90! Maybe it was a mistake. I hope so...
Matthew has cunningly avoided going to a wedding mid summer holiday. Kirsty his wife and two girls Ellie and Megan (who are brides maids) will fly down later to join him. He sent me a text. “I will probably be down your way the end of July. If you let me know where you are I will know where to avoid :)”.
I replied “Yes good idea :)”.
My 3rd morning in Leaucate. This post (and others maybe) will be posted late as my wifi spot has disappeared. The bloke must have realised some oik was stealing his bandwidth and put a stop to it.
My brand new IKEA kettle broke today, after only 3 weeks of use. I now have to grab to kettle with a tea towel as I have no handle on it. Last time I trust their kitchen goods.
As there was no wind my main aim for today was to find somewhere to empty my poo tank and find some water. This was easier said than done. I downloaded a list of aires on my beloved tomtom sat nav. Well the guy who created this points of interest addon has a funny sense of humour. One was a building site, another was a spar shop and to cap it all another was a swimming pool.
With the thought of having sewage overflow I decided to pay for a camp site. 14 euros including electric (eeek) I made my way to any plot I wanted. Bliss.
With all my ablutions all sorted I went for a bike ride. Leaucate is a superb place to visit. Really nice cafes and shops to nose around in. As I rode on to the end of the wooden walkway I saw casino Lydia. This was an impressive site and if I was the gambling type. I would be putting my hand into my pocket to hit the tables. Luckily I'm not. As I rode around I sat and watched people play in the boules area. People of all ages were playing. It looks like a fun game. I will look on the internet. Amazingly the tree I was under had this raspberry type fruit growing off if. I wouldn't have known but for the players going up to it and having a feed. They tasted lovely. Really sweet.
Matthew Burridge from Demon sails kindly sent me a text with the lat and long coords of a local aire. So I could empty my poo pot. Unfortunately he sent me some weird shit that turned out to be 70 miles away. I let him know this very politely and he curtly replied. “Well what do you ducking want”! I didn't even ask about ducks.
With the sunshine out I decided to ride to the beach and try and get a bit of a tan. The lilly white Brit sticks out like a sore thumb so I'm trying to blend in. On the way there a guy was selling melons. So I ended up on the beach getting a tan and eating the sweetest melon I've ever tasted. Life feels good for sure.
Friday, 22 May 2009
Woke up this morning feeling like shit. (there's a song in there somewhere) No reason why. I think I'm a little dehydrated. So I'm making a mental note to drink more. Before I came out to France I purchased a couple of camelbaks. One for sailing and a larger one for cycling. They are fantastic pieces of kit. I'm so impressed I bought the girls one each. They love them.
Went on a search for places to sail as there was no wind today. There are a lot of lagoons dotted around with low lying banks that may be worth a shot when it's breezy. I'm not too fussed about speed strips at the mo. All I want to do is get out sailing and have some fun.
At the beginning of the year I suffered a bout of depression. Which knocked the shit out of me. I lost enjoyment in everything. With the support of my family I got through it. But it shook me up to say the least. I'm not going to wax lyrical about it. But mental illness is truly horrible. Something like a broken leg can be seen and the sympathy's or piss take can be given. So many people suffer from this horrible condition in silence because it's considered easy to brush it aside and get on with life. I wish it was that easy. Nuff said!!
After the scouting session I went for a bike ride to check out port Leaucate. What a lovely place. Nice and clean with lots of shops to have a nose around. I made my way to one of the lagoons and got chatting with a local windsurfer. He seemed doubtful about speed strips around the area. But he sailed freestyle so it wasn't a big interest for him.
I had my first proper meal tonight. Fried jambon, oeufs and erm la rice (I bought that in the UK). It tasted too salty so most of it ended up in the bin. Alpen came to the rescue.
The hot spot I'm using is certainly the tiniest of hot spots. I move 5 feet and my wifi connection is lost. I would like to know who the owner is so I can complain to him. :) I'm at a loss as to where it's coming from as I'm not near any houses or factories.
Anyhow that's my day today and I'm hoping the weather comes through on monday as forecasted!
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Being an un-organised sack of poo. I was rushing around the last day building IKEA units for the kitchen and trying to shift some weight off the van. After a trip the my local weigh bridge i only had 100kg to play with so i decided to shed some weight. Sadly i couldnt get it off my arse straigh away so had to look at shedding weight off the van. The board bags were holding rain water so were adding at least 30 kg to the weight of the van. So i purchased some surfboard socks. They give bugger all protection but protect the boards from the sun. If i want to take so much kit this is a price that has to be paid. After shedding bits and bobs i got the weight down well and felt confident that the van weight would stay within its limits.
I said goodbye to my lovely girls. Thats a pic of my wife Ali with my daughters Gemma on the right and Daisy on the left. They have been great support for me through some rough times since christmas and it's with their encouragment that i'm taking the leap and doing this trip. They will be hooking up with me in Croatia in 2 months i hope. (i may be somwhere else if it looks good for them)
The ferry from Plymouth had top notch food onboard and was affordable. I opted for the reclijning chair for my sleeping arrangments and regretted it from the start. I ended up on the floor with only 3 or 4 hours sleep.
Disembarking from the ferry the customs officer stood in front of my van and motioned me to stop. With my passport at the ready i gave my first bonjour. "where are you going and for how long"? he said This curve ball of a question (in my mind) made me go blank. errrrrr ummmm one sec..... Leaucate! yes Leaucate!! for 3 months to go windsurfing. It's great sailing there.
Hs eyes narrowed. "Do you have any guns or drugs onboard"? With this question i gave an instant answer for fear of the stretchy glove. "OK". He said. "Enjoy your stay". He didnt even look at my passport. I must have an honest face.
After my last trip down to Leaucate. I chose to use the toll roads all the way down. This cost around €100. So to try and budjet my travel i went the non toll route. After 6 hours of slog i relented and went back on the toll roads as these are so much quicker and i probaly save a tank of fuel with the extra time it takes.
The wonderful thing about France is the way it caters for all things camping. The “Aires” that are placed at regular intervals and are free. They are so clean and well kept. In the UK we are lucky to have a bench to sit on let alone showers, waste water facilities and loads of seating for picnics. One Aire I stopped at had a Gothic church that had been restored and was free to view. Very interesting and again very well kept.
The windmills are massive. They dwarf the windmills that are dotted around Cornwall. They are so big that the warning lights that flash on top can be easily seen from miles away even in bright sunlight. They must be taking half of the windmills energy just to run them.
As I arrived at Leaucate the turn off for Le Franqui was blocked. I could see the main parking area for the lagoon was chocker with vans, so that will be hard to get into until next week. Looking at the forecast I dont think there will be any wind until then anyway so it's play time on my bike.
I've just parked in a lay-by and have been very lucky in finding a non secure wifi connection. Many thanks to whoever owns the bandwidth!
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
It took longer than i thought it would. I am at last ready to leave for France tonight.
With a van loaded with a selection of slalom / speed sails by Demon design. Fins are provided by C3 and a selection of slalom and speed boards from Tabou, Exocet and F2.
The breakdown is---->
Demon design C4 speed sails. 8.2 - 7.5 - 6.8 - 6.0 - 5.3 - 4.6
C3 Venom slalom fins. 38 - 36 - 32 - 28 - 26 - 24. And a asymmetric Strike 20 (starboard tack)
Tabou Manta 67 and 59
Exocet Warp speed
F2 missile xs.
With all this kit i'm aiming to get the fastest speeds on each board on gps-speedsurfing. The Manta's will be quite easy to achieve this. But the envolope will be pushed hard for the other boards.
I will give my thoughts on the kit i'm using and the experiences i have while traveling around chasing the wind.
Now where did i put my suitcase :)