Need for speed


2012 has certainly hit Europe’s shore in the biggest style possible, with a massive storm track hitting Ireland and the UK with 40-80 knot winds over a period of 3 days. If you are a wavesailor in this situation, you dust off your 3.0m and tiniest multifin board to go find some cross off joy. However if you are a speed sailor… you steal all the roofing lead you can find… rig up something considerably bigger, and then go and find out what the true meaning of ‘overpowered’ really is !

K4 Fins guru Steve Thorp takes up the story about THAT week, and tells us about THAT day where he may have become the fastest windsurfer in the World :

Video courtesy of Graham Clegg

“The run up to a speed day will usually start about 7 days before -when it appears on the forecast charts. I probably check three or four weather sites several times a day to try and figure out which days I might need off work and where I’ll be heading. Of course usually the forecasts fizzle out, especially the big ones, and the good days quite often appear only a couple of days in advance. At least with speedsailing there are only really two options, West Kirby and Southend. Usually a quick check of the tides at Southend rules that one out. Kirby is much easier to predict and you usually get what’s forecast with perhaps just the exact wind direction changing. This is getting more critical now that we’re aiming for faster speeds with West being best, 10 degrees further South and the course will be too square, too much North and the dreaded death chop appears. Southend is still a mystery to me but I seem to get lucky on picking the right days, sometimes as little as 23mph can produce a 45knot day.

For the 50knot Kirby day I knew it was going to be a windy week but wasn’t quite sure which day would be best. I stayed home at the weekend to get some brownie points (having wave sailed on 4 days during the week as it was xmas), and then went into work on Monday, which was actually a bank holiday. To be honest not much work was done! Tuesday looked to be the best day and a pretty special forecast. I probably checked every weather site 5 times, consulted our resident weather guru Howie Rowson, touched base with Farrel to check he was going, Facebooked to see where everyone else was heading and sorted out any kit issues. Every now and then I’ll give the bottom of my board a polish with car wax, sand any nicks out of my fin and repair any damage to the sails. Speed days are pretty hard on kit as it gets shaken about and sand blasted on the beach so there’s usually a bit of TLC needed.

I’m currently using just one board; a Moo custom 40 wide, 4.6/5.0/5.5 Simmer SCR sails, one boom, a couple of K4fins and 12kgs of lead. The fins are 17 and 20 and were layed up in Carbon by Jon Kennet of Moo using the moulds I’d made myself. The 17 now stays in the board -I’ve found it gives me more than enough grip on the fast days, perhaps more than the 20 as it lets the board ride through the chop without tipping it about. It’s only the square days when the 20’s needed and a slightly more upright fin helps too.

The night before a big day, I’ll leave the gps units on charge by the front door and try and get a decent meal and an early night. As it happens this time we got glued to watching the 3rd Bourne film until 1am whilst eating curry and drinking a beer or two, so maybe that’s the way!. Usually I’ll be up at 4 or 5 am and at the beach before first light even on the extremely cold winter days, rigged and ready to go before I can see the wall. Sounds over the top, but there’s nothing worse that getting on the water at 9am knowing that some-ones already done a time better than you’ll get all day -it’s happened a lot in the past, as has going home early to find the wind squalled through half an hour before dark. Plus you can beat the man on the gate and avoid the £13 charge. That’s probably my golden rule for speed, be there for the whole day and don’t believe the forecast or the peak wind timing.

So I arrived on the day a bit later than usual, but luckily the wind was really light first thing and there was no real rush to get out there. It actually started off pretty square and this is where the Dutch guys always seem to fly, they go almost as quick as when it’s broad and windy. I’d only managed to post a few 44 maxes early on, whilst Hans Kreisel already had a 46knot average! I think perhaps my height and weight has something to do with this and also why I do better at peaks than 10 second runs; I find it difficult to lock and drive when fully lit and sailing closer to the wind. My fast times are when I bear right off, the sail becomes lighter and I’m almost being just blown along, or on the really fast runs, blasted along letting the board and fin run free. Higher winds and smaller sails also seem to help my cause, as does the death chop so I perhaps like it more than most.
Luckily the conditions changed through out the day giving everyone a couple of hours that suited them. Hans’ sparring partner Jacques van der Hout found his form and managed to post the best ‘5 times 10 second’ average of the day and there was a big surprise from Jurjen van der Noord who came in second on his first trip to WK. Particularly impressive was how he powered around all day barely stopping except to queue up for his next run.
Farrel is usually right up there too, but perhaps spent too much time testing and changing kit – whilst I was doing my fastest times he was in the car park re-rigging.

It was about midday when the wind really started to nuke and I’d already changed down to my 5.0. The runs started to get quicker and I had a string of 49 peaks. It was then that I managed to score the dream run. Most had gone in to change down leaving only 3 of us out, the other two had just gone down the course, and I waited for a gust. When it came, it also came with a veer to a better broader direction (this happens quite a lot, but it’s hard to be patient) so I knew I was on for a good run. Struggling to hold everything down I clawed as high upwind as I could into the top-top corner, then started to bare away and into as good a sling shot as possible parallel to the wall. Just as everything started to settle down, I got really lucky and was hit by an extra mega gust, the sort that sends a white haze into the air. I bore of even more to let it accelerate me, whilst being shot blast by sand blown of the beach, I couldn’t believe my luck, it felt stupid fast and much quicker than anything previous. Almost instantly I was having to deal with the chop having blasted away from the wall but managed to stay on until I’d scrubbed off half my speed, I almost fell in then with excitement and needing to look at my gps. I couldn’t believe it said 54knots on the display!! Well I almost did believe it until I checked the other unit, which said 50.6, and brought me back down to earth – I was gutted! Still, almost unquestionably the 50knot + two second max I’d been dreaming of.

Steve’s GPS Results

I’m still not sure of my exact results as the tech guys are checking my tracks, but it looks as though I’ll have the highest 2 second max ever for a windsurf (? -certainly on gpsspeedsurfing..) whilst only finishing 4th in the ranking for the day! That’s the level!! A 46knot average on the 3rd day on the year and I’m only lying 4th for 2012!

It was a great day though, fantastic that so many people are getting into speed and travelling from all over Europe chasing faster times, and that this run of weather means we’re pushing ourselves almost every week. The atmosphere is always really good with everyone helping each other, improving their sailing and scoring new P.B’s.

I can’t wait for the next day!


Photos courtesy of Alan Jones except the speed highway.





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