It’s been a very windy new year over here in the UK, but it’s always worth remembering that things might not go to plan. Winds can drop, shift, swirl around or pick up at any given moment.
Before you head out for your next storm session, take a minute to read about Clyde Waite’s recent ‘swim, swim, drift, swim’ session and take it as a gentle reminder to always be prepared for anything the British weather could throw at you!
I knew I should have rigged a bigger sail. My sister and her family were on the way down from Essex for the new year meaning I had to be back by 1pm, it was stormy and lashing with rain in the morning. I had studied the forecast and aimed to time my sail just as the weather changed to get the best of it and be back home in time to be polite. At about 11pm it was to clear, go more westerly, stop raining, become sunny and also cooincide with the biggest blip of swell. This should mean I could get a good hour in before all the flood water rushed out of England through the Avon and Stour during the spring low.
Charlie Willard was rigging a 5.3, but to me this looked way to big, the whitewater spray was still filling the sky it still looked really windy. I knew what I actually needed was a 5.0 Black Tip and the Quantum 95. But it looked too windy. Ollie had gone 5.0 and 78, I went 4.5 and 85 Flywave. The proof was in the pudding really, it was too light to launch and had swung even more offshore. I just couldn’t take the obvious hint, I could see Charlie ripping up some half mast waves on the outside sandbar and wanted to get out there on my Flywave 85. I perservered, got out past the brown sludge of 10knot river water and was powered.
Taking two decent sized waves, I thought I had made the right choice. However, and that is a big however, I soon stopped planing, the wind went more offshore, dropped, and the tide and river started to really rip out.
I think at this point myself and Ollie both realised the dropping forecast was coming through and we caught a decent sized swell to try and get in, the only thing is that as soon as the wave met the river it was game over. balancing a 4.5 on an 85 is not so easy in no wind, perhaps I lasted 5 mins, but all I could see was that the shore was moving sideways and fast becoming a distant memory.
In my mind, I always think that if you stay calm you will get in somewhere. with this current the where was becoming a question. I uphauled a couple of times with the mast, but there was really nothing. The best I could hope for is paddling in with the kit, to try and limit the drift. I think we were in the water drifting for up to an hour, I’m not so sure, it certainly felt a long time. We were now going past Highcliff.
At this point, after a very long time in the water, maybe 45 mins, a fortuitous second wind came along and with the coast wrapping around it was less offshore. enough to waterstart and then pump like my life depended on it to grab some swells and surf in. Ollie saw I had got up and he managed to do the same. Once on a wave I was pretty happy and cold but couldnt resist a last wave ride. Looking over at Ollie I saw him pick off an even better one and the three full turns.
Now for the biggest walk of shame of my life. Ollie reckoned his other half, Caroline Radway (now Whittaker) , would pick us up at Steamer point, so we only had to get to there.
On the way back, the conditions looked pretty decent and we toyed with going back out between Highcliff and streamer point (mental note made to sail here in a westerly), however someone had called the RNLI out, so we thought we should really commit to the walk of shame and take it like a man.
I do have mixed feelings about becoming a stat, because we did not actually need rescuing, it was just a case of being patient. Maybe if the wind hadn’t come in it would have been different. We did discuss at what point would you ditch the rig… I’m not sure i would? Just in case you are wondering, I do donate to the RNLI and have done every month for 15 years now!