Imagine stepping on your windsurf board knowing that until this time tomorrow you will be windsurfing a 1.5km stretch back and forth with no sleep, just ten minutes rest and no one else to push you along the whole way. This is exactly how Dennis Klaaijsen spent a day of his life last week. There was one aim, to beat the current world record, a record already held by him. This is his story, in his words.
Physically I was still on my board but mentally I had left the water a while ago
A weather window opened up for the 10th of August, finally, the first good one this season. A 24 hour attempt is ideally planned around the 22nd of June, this being the day with the most hours of daylight and only 6 hours of darkness. Doing a record attempt now meant that I had a total of 8 hours of darkness in which your skills and concentration are pushed to their highest level. It was full moon that night and sufficient clearing skies were forecast to trigger my interest.
At 16.00 my family and two colleagues and surf buddies arrived at Zonnemaire NL, to get the equipment ready. We had a Zodiac with an outboard engine which was used to attach two lights to all the buoys that I might encounter during the night. On a cut off boom head attached to the mast, two lights were attached to allow me to see the first few meters of water in front of me and a mast head light was installed on top of the sail so I would be visible from the shore side. On my head I would wear a head lamp and in my crash vest a hand held flare as well a a strobe light, in case I would run into danger. During the whole time I had a watertight VHF radio with me so I could call the crew on the shore side if I needed something. A phone in a watertight container served as back up. The rescue brigade in Vlissingen lent us three survival suits so the crew were well protected in case they had to come out and look for me.
My hands looked like Freddy Gruger, I counted 26 blisters all together
The weather forecast showed that the remains of hurricane Bertha would pass around 19.00 after which the wind would veer to the favourable west south west direction force 6 gusting to 33 knots, force 7. A normal pattern is that during sunset the wind drops so I knew I had to rig just about everything I had in the surf trailer. Luckily the trailer is filled with equipment sponsored by VERTIGO Sports in Kamperland so I had everything I needed.
Five complete sets were ready to go by 19.00:
8.6 m2 Neil Pryde RS Racing EVO 6 with Tabou Manta 81 with 46 Boss custom S- fin
7.8 m2 Neil Pryde RS Racing EVO 6 with Tabou Manta 71 with 38 Z finns S-
7.0 m2 Neil Pryde RS Racing EVO 6 with Tabou Manta 66 with 36 Z finns S-
6.4 m2 Neil Pryde RS Racing EVO 6 with Tabou Manta 59 with 34 Boss custom S
5.8 m2 Neil Pryde RS Racing EVO 6 with F2 SX XS 80 with 30 Boss Custom S
Equipped with 3 x GT 31 GPS devices, a crash vest filled with energy gels, power bars and a camel bag on my back, I hit the water at 19.30 with the 6.4m2 and the Tabou Manta 59.
The Race Was On
...it was full moon which was a big help and when not obstructed by clouds it was magnificent to sail
The wind was perfect and the first 100 kilometres were completed in just under two and a half hours.
A helicopter came over to make some aerial footage and some great shots were made when Neil Pryde Marketing Manager Benelux Jacques van der Hout and myself were sailing side by side.
Around sunset the same drill as last year, the wind started to drop! and I changed to 7.0 followed by the 7.8m2 and even 8.6m2. Around midnight the wind filled up again and with 7.8 m2 I sailed through the night. Unfortunately the wind backed by 20 degrees during the dark hours, to 225 degrees south west, so I could not sail the intended course close to the dams at the shore side. Crossing the lake in some low chop is more tiring and reduces the speed, however it was full moon which was a big help and when not obstructed by clouds it was magnificent to sail. For about one hour during the night the wind wasn't strong enough to plane and during a wind dip at 05.15 I decided this was the time to come ashore for the first time.
The GPS reading was 285 kilometres so I was still on track to beat my current 630km world record. I loaded myself up with Pasta and after a ten minute rest on a stretcher I got myself ready to go back on the board at 05.45 just before sunrise. The wind had veered to west south west so with the sunshine smiling at me I managed to clock some good distance.
At 07.30, twelve hours after the start the display was reading 340 kilometre. Knowing that the 8 hours in the dark was the most difficult part wind wise, I was confidant and kept on going. By this time the first blisters that formed on my hands started to open up and the hold on the boom became more painful by the minute. I started to use some lifting straps during the night to slightly ease the pressure on my hands and that did give me some comfort but the continuous pull on the boom really started to take it's toll on the hands.
I continued with the 7.0 m2 and just after 12.00 lunchtime I passed the 500 kilometre mark. For the afternoon some isolated rain showers were forecast and small showers came over which backed the wind to south west again and also meant that the wind subsided from time to time. Frustrated by the irregularity and the exhaustion, sailing became increasingly difficult. At 14.00 I passed Craig Hollins, my nearest competition, and his 550 kilometre distance and around 16.30 I passed the 630 mark. With 3 hours to spare I just had to keep going. Last year my aim was to get over the 700 kilometre mark (the wind denied me the opportunity) and even-though conditions weren't perfect I couldn't quit now. Too much effort was put in and the crew on the shore and all my sailing buddies on the water cheered me on and pushed me to keep on going.
The Final Push
At 17.00 when I was at the middle of the lake, the wind swung around to west south west again and increased till a steady 6 Beaufort. That was just what I needed to finish the last two and a half hours. At that point the 6.4m2 would have been relaxing to sail but I did not want to take the risk of having a smaller set if the wind would drop again so I kept on going full throttle. Physically I was still on my board but mentally I had left the water a while ago. It felt like I was in a complete trance and probably in some form of shock as well. The stretches with the flattest water were about 1.5 kilometres long and that's where I stayed till the clock finally showed 19.30.
The GPS showed 742 when I finally made it back to the shore. The distance I sailed before and after 19.30 needs to be subtracted so that made the clock stop at 728 kilometres.
Back On Dry Land
Shivering, I made it home and during the course of the night I woke up numerous times shaking and sweating
My colleague and good friend Sjoerd carried the set back to shore, where friends and family gathered to welcome me back on solid ground. My hands looked like Freddy Gruger, I counted 26 blisters all together. A couple of blisters on my feet where they went in the foot straps, and two black toe nails complete the physical list...
My friends de-rigged the equipment while I finally took of my wetsuit. The champagne was opened and after a huge bowl of chilly and rice the whole convoy went home. Luckily I could sit in the passenger seat since I was in no fit state to drive home for one hour. During the trip back utter exhaustion struck. Shivering, I made it home and during the course of the night I woke up numerous times shaking and sweating.
The gybe analysis showed 395 turns of which I fell in 5 times
The day after I felt remarkable good. A couple of sport massages to relax the muscles and some good sleep helped me with the recovery, however it's already a week ago and I'm still not back to war strength. I've made a short session on the board but the hands still don't agree with holding a boom. Vaseline and lavender oil are their biggest friends at the moment.
When uploading the data from a GPS into the computer, a so called doppler filter needs to be applied, to take the spikes out of the data. The corrected data will be around 700 kilometres. The data from from two of the three GPS units I had did not show the full sailed distance on the display. This worried me and I've extracted all data from all three GPS units and sent it to the record committee of GPS speed surfing. A formal ratification hasn't happened yet and hopefully the data provided will be sufficient to become to a valid claim, both for GPS speed surfing, as well as for Guinness World Records. The gybe analysis showed 395 turns of which I fell in 5 times.
[Video in Dutch only]
This year a North Sea crossing from Lowestoft, England to IJmuiden, Holland is still on the to do list. To draw the attention for a sea going profession and volunteers for the rescue services in Holland, sponsored by the Dutch rescue service KNRM, and the Dutch pilot organisation has already been arranged. With the equipment from VERTIGO sports the waiting games starts again. A southerly wind is needed to complete the near 200 kilometre crossing, my aim is to do it in under 6 hours.
National news station SBS will come to make a report of the North Sea crossing preparation, so I hope the conditions come soon.