Monday, 27 July 2009

I'm sitting in Barcalona airport waiting for Ali and the girls to arrive.

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

i've had a mare!

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've got an internet connection which will stay with me for more than 5 mins

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

Went out yesterday (9th july) at Port la Nouvelle. Slightly less wind and square. So i tried the age old bearing off into the chop. Little did i know the wash from a big fishing boat was making a bee line for me. I hit it at a strange angle and when trying to recover i caught the nose of the board in the water and catapaulted. I didnt care about anything but the kit this time. If it was broken i was in deep shit. Happily it was all in one piece.

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.

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This is a video from a yesterday. sorry about the angles but the camera need a wider angle. any suggestions on mounting it on the boom would be apreciated.

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.

8th July

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 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 for the advice. He has had a 41 knot v-max here so it cant be too shabby a spot.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

01 July (pinch punch) bay of Roses

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”?

“Three heroes”.....

“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.