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cold knap - barry, june 98

I stuffed a tenner into my back pocket for the bridge toll and miscellaneous expenses and set off for me at the crack of dawn. I arrived at the Llandegfedd reservoir entrance at about 9.30. It was my first visit to the reservoir and I have to admit that it was smaller than I expected (Ed - It fills out at the far end so is deceptively large). It is however a very picturesque location surrounded by rolling hills and with trees to the east and west. The best sailing conditions are provided by wind from the north where there are fewer trees.

The reservoir was like a picture postcard, the mirror like reflection of the trees and sky was only occasionally broken by ripples caused by the fish feeding gently at the surface. Got the picture now? - No wind! The warden on duty at the gate informed me that the cost of day ticket for sailing was 7! Now you don't have to be a mathematician to work out that I had a problem. He was fortunately, a reasonable fellow and allowed me to drive to the car park to check if other Nomads had arrived before me.

I returned to the entrance having confirmed that I had broken the habit of a lifetime and arrived first. Ian and Neroli drove in soon after. As if by design other Nomads turned up at regular intervals - Jon White, John Allison, Dave Watson, Keith Shepherd and the Cranfield family. A conference ensued and the general opinion was that there was not going to be any wind that day - the warden concurred. Now I have never been to Barry Knap and this seemed an ideal opportunity to take a glance. The warden agreed to return Ian's money and to redirect other Nomads who might arrive late.

We then headed for the M4 and deeper into Wales. Now at this point in the report those Nomads who decided not to visit Barry should stop reading. Now I know you won't believe me when I tell you that I arrived first to find the seafront at Knap both wet and windy. There were half a dozen cars and vans in the car park with boards on top. One lone sailor was making his way out quite nicely on what I was informed by a local to be a 5.2m sail! Well I did warn those of you who turned back not to read on. Ian and Neroli arrived next followed by Dave and potential new member John.

The lone sailor returned and reported that the wind had dropped a few knots so a range of sails from 5.5 (Neroli) to 6.0 (Phil) up to 6.5 (Ian of course). For those of you who have not been to Cold Knap there is a car park behind the beach that is about mile long with "nose in" parking along its length. The beach is made up from large smooth pebbles. These boulders are stacked sharply at the high water mark line but become shallower towards the sand, which is exposed at low tide. Unlike Weston, which you can just about see across the channel, the safest sailing is at between mid and low tide for obvious reasons.

On this occasion we caught the tide by accident at mid point going out - perfect. The wind was a little fluky close in so we set sail on floaty short boards, reaching almost directly at 90 degrees to the beach. For the first hundred yards the water was fairly flat and clean looking. Beyond that in the main tidal flow the Severn turns the water Weston brown! Now with the wind blowing from the southwest and the tide flowing fast towards the southwest the water was somewhat confused. The further out we ventured the choppier it became. These conditions naturally caused many failed gybes but gave lots of water starting practice. It was easier to practice manoeuvres close to the shore on the flatter water.

At mid afternoon the tide became slack and the sea state changed. Small rollers, held back earlier by the ebbing tide, began to surge up the channel. Sailing became easier as the chop was reduced by the effect of the rollers. I was still not tempted to sail anything shorter as the wind remained inconsistent. By three thirty I was shattered from a good days blasting and left the water. The others followed soon after. As we de-rigged the wind dropped to almost still. Two sailors close to shore endeavoured to swim their boards in against the tide. They made little headway and Ian eventually went to their aid. Two hundred metres off shore we spotted a further sailor attempting to up haul - not an easy task in swell without wind. The sailor gave up trying to sail back and started to swim the board. We lost visual contact and were becoming increasingly concerned as time past. Fortunately some local lads were also aware of the situation and a rescue boat was called in. As the boat arrived the sailor was spotted nearing the beach having swam in diagonally and apparently against the tide. Having seen the safe landing and with great relief we finally left for home having had an unexpectedly good days sailing.

Phil Baker

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