On Friday the 29th of March I did one of the coldest things I have ever experienced. I sailed round Hayling Island as part of Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC)’s round the island race. With a northeast wind and temperatures not forecast to exceed three or four degrees I decided that safety was a major priority. So, a week before the big day the hunt was on for a something with a dagger board.
I knew that Southampton Uni Windsurfing Club have some old race boards in the lockup. Now, I was expecting to find old boards, a bit battered but serviceable nonetheless. That wasn’t quite what greeted me. There were three to choose from.
Choice one; jammed mast track, a jammed dagger board, most of the foot straps were in half and one of them pulled a two inch circle of the deck out with it.
Choice two; jammed mast track and mostly broken foot straps, multiple holes along the rails.
Choice three; a huge hole in the plastic on the underside up by nose, but a functioning mast track and dagger board, dodgy but intact straps. We had a winner.
The following week was spent in the dining room cutting away flapping plastic, removing the mud hidden beneath, sanding, epoxying, more sanding. It still looked like it had been left in a hedge for several years but it was ready for action.
The race itself was considerably harder than I anticipated. Things didn’t get off to great start for me. I was a couple of minutes late for the start and the dagger board casing broke, this prevented the dagger board from retracting fully. Every time I hit a gust and started to plane the board railed up on it’s side and sent me in a few times. I made it under the bridge with no problems.
One of the unexpected side effects of passing through the lee of the island in Langstone harbour was my hands warming up. This gave me some pretty painful hand burn as the feeling came back. However the most disheartening moment was yet to come. As I left Langstone harbour and headed out onto the seafront I was feeling good, making good time and I had just caught up with Dan Lytton who I know from the SWA this year.
We must have got caught in a rip or something coming out of the harbour as we were beating hard for at least half a mile out to sea, but on the way back discovered that we had only made about 100m upwind. This shattering realization made the seafront seem like an impossible obstacle. But there was no way I was going to quit and give Dan eternal bragging rights. So on we went.
We got out of the rip and progress was much easier but it still took the best part of an hour and a half to beat the rest of the way back to HISC. By the time I made my last tack at Chimet my hands were so far gone it was like tacking with fists. On top of this I had full body shivers and was pretty close to my limits of cold endurance. I made it back in 2hours 32 minutes.
After swapping places with Dan the entire way along the seafront he eventually beat me by just a minute. Big respect to Robert Kent for winning and beating me by a solid hour. I was more than happy just to make it on my dodgy old one design! It’s clearly a very tactical race with knowledge and usage or currents being pivotal. As cold as it was I am very glad I did it and will be back for sure next year.