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Axbridge, Saturday July 24th, 2004

The previous Thursday’s social at the Old Barn, Nailsea didn’t yield a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the forthcoming event at Axbridge, with the forecast for the Saturday being only about 8 knots westerly, although sunny but it certainly wasn’t a write-off.

When I arrived I noticed Geoff Pook was already at the club, so I waited for a few minutes and then Keith arrived at the gate, followed by new member Graham Utteridge. No-one else had arrived by 10.55 so we drove in, and around to the club car-park. We stood and chatted for while about the wind strength and sail sizes etc, as you do. The wind was westerly, which is cross-shore from the launching area, and initially towards the top end of a force 3. We started rigging big sails, and soon after, Tony Low also appeared. As is often the case, having rigged up the wind then strengthened and Graham decided to change down to a 6.5m sail. Having taken the trouble to bring down and rig my old “pensioned off” big kit, I thought I should at least get it wet, so a short blast half way across and back confirmed the situation: yep, I was way overpowered!

Keith had rigged a 7.5m on the Cat, and Tony also a 7.5m on a Naish board (?). I changed down to a 7.0m on my JP105 and had a few runs across, still a bit overpowered at times. By this time Graham had joined us on the water on his Techno and seemed to be going well on it. I grabbed a sandwich and a banana then changed down to a 6.4m ready for the afternoon session.

At this point a small contingent from the new mountain biking section of the Nomads arrived (on bikes!), namely Ian, Steve and Viv, plus Neroli who had driven the “support van” (not cycling unfortunately due to a broken finger sustained falling off her bike a couple of days earlier). I would have joined them had there been zero wind forecast, but as I said in my piece in the last newsletter: “…but Axbridge often benefits in the summer from thermal breezes coming in off the Bristol Channel, so don’t despair if the general forecast seems light!” So I must say I wasn’t at all surprised at the wind strength. Oh and I then got a severe ribbing for not providing them with a cake! I handed round some biscuits (Hobnobs – of course!), which seemed to satisfy everyone. Actually Neroli had also brought some ginger cake.

I launched out again and not long after that the wind really kicked in and I was absolutely maxed out with the 6.4m. I noticed that Geoff was also using the same size sail, whilst later Keith changed down to a 7m sail on his Gecko. Tony persevered with the 7.5m although he was finding it a handful around the corners, with several “dunkings”. Later, whilst ashore for a brief break, I heard that Graham had suffered a big fall and lost his glasses, but managed to get back to shore OK, and fortunately he had brought a spare pair with him.

Just for a bit of variety, I tried heading right upwind and then did a very broad reach, bearing away as far as the apparent wind would allow whilst still sheeted in. This is commonly known as a “gun run” and it’s weird because the rig feels much lighter and everything seems to be quieter, but you are moving REALLY FAST!! You should try it sometime but be careful not to crash into anyone (as I did years ago on a race-board – very messy). We originally planned to kick off the Nomads training program at this event, but I guess we were all having such a good time blasting that the training seemed to get forgotten about. A similar story with the slalom racing I’m afraid, but if we’d had a few more people there… Perhaps we may have another try at the next event at Portland.

Towards the end of the afternoon the wind became slightly inconsistent and most of us called it a day. I was quite exhausted anyway but as I left, Graham was still out there and Keith was sailing his kit back upwind, having left it on the shore quite a long way down. I think that the few of us that sailed had an excellent time; windy from an ideal direction, sunny, warm and the water level was very high as well so no problems with weed.

p.s. I went back the next day for a second helping, and it was even windier. I was fully maxed out with a 5.5m sail and on a smaller board too. Incredible!

Al Donald

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