Friday, 29 May 2009

Sun sea and sand blasted

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

First blast

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

Wakeboard numpty

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

24th May 2009

Happy birthday Ali. Love and miss you.

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 :)”.

23rd May 2009

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

off to France

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 :)