Buzz of the Long Distance Race
Many of us own a race board and we love the thrill of racing against our peers, but occasionally when I'm racing I look out to a distant point and think how I would love to crank the sail back and head off into the unknown.
It has been highlighted in recent years by Jono Dunnett and his adventures just how capable race boards are as long distance machines. So it is great to see on the windsurfing calendar three events that can go a long way to satisfy that urge to wanderlust.
The first event is the Round Mersea on 23rd August, yes it's a Wednesday, but then that's what bunking off from work on a sicky is all about! It's probably the least known of the events, tucked away on the Essex coast and at about 13 miles the shortest of the three. The SeaVets will be in attendance, Wednesdays being the same as the weekend for the retired but with less traffic, and they will stop at an appropriate pub for lunch halfway round. The full circumnavigation requires a short walk carrying your kit over the causeway that floods at high tide.
The Round Mersea is just the warm up though because it is followed by the Round Sheppey on 9th September, the longest and most physically demanding of the three. It totals about forty miles and you have to make some careful preparations before undertaking this one. Buoyancy, sun cream, food, water, a phone and some taxi money if it goes wrong are a must. This is a "self rescue" event, so you have to be capable of recovering yourself to the shore if things go South! That said it is the most rewarding event with a real sense of adventure as you negotiate the channels around the back of the island. Seals sometimes come to check you out and the occasional dredger needs to be avoided. No kit carrying is required but depending on the tide you may have to walk your way under the bridge.
2016 saw the first presentation of the David Clay Windsurfing Memorial Challenge Trophy - presented to the first windsurfer and named in honour of David Clay who holds the record time on a windsurfer of 2hr 42mins but who sadly passed away last year. Your author received this honour and throws down the gauntlet to beat me or the record this year to take home this fabulous trophy.
The long distance trio is completed by the Round Hayling Marathon (RHM). In years gone by this event would attract hundreds of sailors and be held over 2 days. Today the entry is more modest but is bolstered by SUPs and dragon boats. At more like 21 miles as the crow flies this event is no sprint but given a decent wind from a good direction the course can be completed in around an hour. Competitors are given a GPS to wear and are tracked live on a big screen in the club house or on the net.
The RHM starts at the Hayling Island Sailing Club. The incoming tide sweeps you up Chichester harbour where you have to navigate a controlled drift under the bridge without getting your rig wedged by the force of the tide. If you're too quick you still have the incoming tide to contend with going up Langstone harbour and through the narrows at the Ferry Boat. With a good South/South Westerly a cracking reach can be had along the seafront which on more than one occasion has presented a challenging rolling swell.
A tight hook to the left at the end of the sea front sees a short sprint to the finish line at Sandy point but don't over egg it and go out into the channel because by the time you reach this point the tide will have changed and comes racing out, stick near the beach to avoid going backwards against the flow.
So here are three events not at all like course racing, a different mind-set and preparation are required but all are very rewarding. I thoroughly recommend all three events and hope you will consider trying at least one.