An e-mail from the RYA to our recognised centre reminding us of National Windsurfing week lead to me surfing the links to find myself reading about an event at Hayling Island; Sunrise Sunset 2009, the inaugral event of “Windsurfing for Cancer Research”. The concept caught my imagination and a few words to fellow windsurfers later I was committed! I signed up our venue, roped in Jo, with whom I coach the Windermere Rufwinds - a T15 team and set about seeking some sponsorship.
And so it was that my alarm sounded at the ungodly hour of 4am on Sunday 3rd May. Somehow I managed to get myself, board and car to Windermere without crashing, put up the posters and balloons Jo and I had prepared the night before and rigged up (5.5 - it was as still as only 5 in the morning can be but battling a huge rig with 15 hours of sailing ahead of me seemed unwise!). As the sky lightened and the birds began to go crackers Jo arrived and we laughed at how surreal it was to be preparing to windsurf, stuck on our sail stickers and streamers and carried our kit across the field to the water’s edge. We giggled and shsssed! each other as we realised our exuburance at being awake so early possibly wouldn’t be shared by the occupants of a houseboat moored close by but the honking of geese echoing across the water to join the dawn chorus was far louder than us as we launched into the cold, mirror calm of Windermere. We were a few minutes late for our 5:36 target (sunrise at Hayling apparently!) but no sign of the sun yet in the pink, purple and grey of a cloudy sky. A few ripples could be seen towards the far shore (unless it was just optimistic imagination!) and we set off to hunt them down!
The wind gods must’ve been pleasantly surprised at seeing windsurfers out so early and soon started to smile with those ripples becoming wavelets and the sound of birds being joined by the bubbling of a wake. We decided to go for a long upwind journey whilst the lake was quiet and started on wide shore to shore tacks. Reaching the west shore for the second time Jo shouted “Sun!” and sure enough, breaking through the clouds over the Eastern hills was our first glimpse of gold sparkling on water and sail - magic! The sun soon went back into hiding but not the wind... as we continued to tack up the lake the northwesterly strengthened to a good force 3. We were hit by our first shower but it was with the reward of clear sky behind it and a huge rainbow to try and sail through! The joy of cruising over the water, in the early sunshine, surrounded by the hills I love, the only sounds being birds and water... and Jo... After asking me if I ever sang to myself on my board (yes...), she cruelly told me that she always sang S-Club 7... Thanks Jo! Doomed to 14 hours of “Reach for the Stars” stuck in my head!
It took us about 2 hours to reach Wray Bay where we had a quick shore break for me to sort out some rigging issues and for Jo to dance in the woods (an attempt to get circulation back to numb hands!). The wind had, of course, dropped a little again but, still, it was pretty amazing to have several miles of downwind and gybing to play with; when was the last time you sailed upwind for 2 hours?! And back at the centre we found the real hero of the day, our marshall and chief caterer (and Jo’s dad!) had hot soup and bacon rolls on the go! As the centre and the lake stated to come to life we windsurfed a little closer to home and were joined by Team 15 stalwarts 10 year old Alex and big brother John (taking a break from French GCSE revision!). Our fleet sailed ‘follow my leader” up to the Troutbeck rivermouth and back and had a “transition clinic” (i.e. we had to make lots and lots of turns in order to keep out of the way of the highly competitive flying fifteen racing fleet!). I also entertained myself with a cross lake laps playing “dodge the dinghy”, “flying fifteen verses matrix” and “how many boat trip tourists wave back” during which time we were hit by a monster squall... Those who have sailed on Windermere will understand my amazement at the fact my board took off and I planed consistently all the way across the lake, gybed and planed all the way back - at least 3 minutes! As it blew through and calmed I sailed with a broad grin through the flattened dinghy lesson who hadn’t enjoyed the experience quite as much!
Another short pit stop (for those that were wondering, no we didn’t pee in our wetsuits, we decided pure wetsuits were more important than purist notions of staying on a board 15 hours straight!) and we added another two of our Team 15 regulars to the fleet. Eve and Molly were on the water for the first time this season and what a reintroduction! It was blowing hard again and shifting between North and West as we did our own “round the island” event; Rough Holme rather than Hayling, often affectionately known as “Bird Poo Island” due to the quantity of geese, swans, oystercatchers and gulls that call it home in nesting season. It was a bit of an battle back as wind shifts seemed to do their best to head us wherever we tacked but we made it (in time for burgers and sausage sarnies from the barbeque master!).
As lessons, races, hire boats, ferries and fishermen started to drift off home we were once again two lone sails on the lake. The wind continued to blow so we decided our last trip of the day would be another favorite island, Thompson (Tommy) Holme. We enjoyed a companionable reaching cruise the mile or so there but, both knowing too well Windermere’s tendency to sudden wind changes and the likelihood of an evening calm, didn’t land and headed back to Millerground to complete our epic day within paddling distance of shore! Jo switched down to play with manoeuvres whilst I went for laps round two of the racing marks. I was cold to the point of teeth chatter, my hands were swollen and sore and my eyelids were heavy with fatigue but, after the bustle of the day to be back just board, sail, wind and me and the sun sinking towards the eastern shore was magic. Sinking? Well it was supposed to be! It was well past 8pm but every time I looked up I could swear the sun was getting higher again! Eventually I saw Jo step ashore and unplug her sail and I sailed in to join her. We’d watched the sun all the way from East to West horizon and it was time to go home.
Too tired to think of much else but getting de-rigged, out of the wetsuit and into bed that night it was a great feeling to come back to the hastily cleared away sponsor forms and donation envelopes and add up that, as well as experiencing
an amazing day, we’d, between us raised over £200 for Windsurfing for Cancer Research.
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