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bnwc holiday to jasmine beach, hurghada- Feb '98

Friday 13th.

Early - very early. It wasn't even light yet!

Arrived at Gatwick - no sign of the others. Waited in the departure lounge for the flight to Hurghada - no sign of the others. Boarded the plane - still no sign of the others.

Once in the air I was served an absolutely salivatingly delicious dinner from toy town tupperware on a tiny tray that was just large enough to be jammed between my chest and the seat in front. This meant that my normal length arms and prehensile wrists (designed to hang from slalom booms) had little chance of getting the food from plastic to plate. But those cunning people at Britannia Airways had equipped us with extremely flexible cutlery enabling a swift and relatively trouble-free transfer of the afore mentioned nosh. Business class it was not - in fact Helen Mirren was conspicuous by her absence. So were the other Nomads.

So after a couple of hours gazing at the brilliant landscape unfolding beneath me, I felt I needed to know - was I the sole Nomadic windsurfer on this flight? Well I was very pleased to find Ian and Neroli, Geoff Pook, Martin Farrimond and Jon White, 20 or so rows behind me.

I returned to my seat a little later and watched transfixed as the terrain changed from a wintery alpine scene with huge mountain ranges to low flatish agricultural and industrial land eventually leading to the Greek Islands. In the bright sunlight and the beautiful blue sea they looked fabulous with snow capped mountains in the distance. This gave way to hazy cloud then a thick layer of cloud about 4-5 miles below us which completely blotted out the ground (or sea).

I felt a tiredness peak coming on due to excessive partying the night before. Sometime later I noticed that the cloud had become a dirty pale brown colour which I thought was a bit unusual. It took me some while to realise this was actual desert.

The pilot took us on a magical mystery tour as we flew down the Red Sea coast. We could clearly see the coastline from the left side of the plane (fortunately that's where I was seated). Whenever there appeared to be any sign of civilisation he swooped towards it. The sea was a stunning greeny turquoise close to the shore changing to a beautiful dark blue further out. This posed the question - why is it called the Red Sea?

We landed at Hurghada airport and made the 150yd journey from the plane to the arrivals lounge by coach. The driver just got into 2nd gear before he had to slow down and swing around to the left to let us off. Perhaps this is where they train Cairo bus drivers. We met our rep (Fowuoooood) - howl like a wolf for the pronunciation.Photo of Faoud

 

After 10 minute coach ride we turned into a drive with a huge gate way and arrived in front of a beautiful marble hotel. Our accommodation turned out to be single storey buildings set in lush tropical surroundings. We ate and checked out the beach and sailing facilities, had a couple of beers and games of pool in Abuls bar before turning in hoping for good wind the next day.

Saturday:

So Saturday morning after a good breakfast we met Davide the Italian with shortish blonde dreds who ran the F2 centre. There wasn't much wind so most of us played around on floaty 285's or 295's and 7m sails. I personally got bored very quickly and decided to catch a few rays while Ian pulled off lots of helitacks.

photo of tommy friedl centre photo of board storage photo of the beach by jasmine

The Tommy Friedl Surf Centre in Hurghada.

photo of tony & davide
Myself & Davide

In the evening I checked out the disco which was showcasing some typical Egyptian entertainment - yawn. Geoff, Martin and I went to Abuls for more pool and beer. We were the only customers there, yet they were not at all friendly and tried to rip us off. So we decided that Mr Abuls could have the place to himself after that. We broke out the duty free Smirnoff and Famous Grouse and had some very interesting conversations until 3 a.m.

Sunday:

We arose on Sunday morning to find it bright, sunny and a bit windier. I used a Neil Pryde 6.6m MFP and a F2 277 Ride. The wind blew all day but was up and down and quite shifty. It took me quite a while to sort out the 277 as my boards are conventional slaloms rather than no-nose design. My boards can be thrown into a gybe and learnt very early but I kept tripping the rail on the Ride - you have to foot steer in gently first then tighten the turn as you go round but in gusty wind I didn't get this together very well. Ian used the same board with a 6.3m and in his own words "survived some duck gybes". He later switched to the 262 Axxis keeping the 6.3,. Ian certainly has his early planing thing sorted and was flying while most of us where having a bit of a wallow interspersed with some good planing runs. John was having (I think) his first short board outing and was having fun trying to keep it off the wind.

In the evening I went to the disco to watch four gorgeous Russian girls put on a hour long dance cabaret. The were very good and wore several amazing costumes. The other played cards. The disco closed at midnight and I was still very awake so I decided to take a walk down to the beach.

I wandered around discovering several beach side bars, a large open air swimming pool and a huge hydrofoil photo of "non-salvageable" hydrofoilthat had been crashed on to the rocks at the base of the jetty. It looked a bit like typical Egyptian parking to me. (No offence to any Egyptian Nomads).

I got quite a fright on a couple of occasions when an Arabian - dressed sentry appeared out of the shadows. One passed by without a word, the other who appeared several minutes later thought I was Russian. The only word he said was "FIRE". Once I realised I wasn't about to be shot I lit his cigarette and toddled off for some more exploring.

I was already a bit nervous about being in Egypt with the Iraq situation and fundamentalists targeting Western tourists so these encounters really set my mind racing. Were they going to grab me and which me off to be part of Sadam's human shield? I suddenly realised that my T-shirt had "Take Me To Cairo" emblazoned on the back. Panic began to set in so I decided that I would return chez moi. I then became completely lost, "Just what I needed" I thought. I suddenly stumbled upon the F2 centre. "It shouldn't be here" I thought. It looked quite different in the dark. I eventually found my way home and calmed my frayed nerves with a large Smirnoff. (Any excuse).

Monday:

On Monday morning Geoff, Martin and I took out long boards for a cruise up the coast. Geoff had a 340 Comet and a 6.6m MFP. Martin and I had 340 Phoenixes and a 7m VS and 6.6m MFP respectively. The F2 staff were completely dumbfounded by Geoff's request to get the mast tracks working so that we could adjust them while sailing. The Egyptian sail caddiy had no concept of this but with persistence he got them sorted. I haven't sailed a long board for years so the idea of sliding the mast up and down the board while sailing didn't appeal to me at all.

Geoff led out closely followed by Martin, with me a little way back. The wind was from the usual direction (cross on from the left looking out) but not very strong and we seemed to head out for ages. I was getting bored sailing on the same tack for so long so when Geoff and Martin tacked by one of the reefs (more on these later) I gave a little cheer and tacked as well. I was about 100ms behind Geoff which meant that on this leg I had to drop below a reef that the other two went up wind of.

The beautiful turquoise water was crystal clear and I could see right to the bottom (about 20 feet or more). Suddenly I saw a purple jelly fish about the size of a small football swimming underneath me. "Phew only one" I thought. NOT. A swarm of about 2000 (or was it 2000) were throbbing and pulsating menacingly just in front of me led by two huge white jellyfish. As I sailed towards them my hands seemed to be crushing the boom. Suddenly I realised that the two big ones were infact plastic carrier bags, my grip relaxed slightly, but I still found myself saying that favourite wind surfing phase of "what the hell am I doing out here?

There were however, benefits in being a couple hundred metres inshore of Geoff and Martin. There was a lot more wind so I made the most of it and worked the 340 up onto the plane. I was going a lot faster so I soon caught and passed them. I noticed that they were coming in shore but were still 2-300m behind. The coast was curving to the right so as we were on starboard I would either have to tack, or go ashore. Martin and Geoff were sailing towards the same spot on the beach as me so I though I would stop for a little break. I realised it was getting quite shallow and there was the start of a sand bank just below the surface to my right which meant I couldn't tack even if I wanted. Geoff and Martin were sailing on the other side of it so I kept going hoping for a break to allow me to escape back to sea. But I reached the shallows by the shore with no sign of one so I had no alternative but to cross the knee deep sand bank on foot.

Geoff and Martin were waiting on the seaward side for me so after a brief chat (yeah they'd seen the purple jelly type things as well), we set off on port tack back out to sea. The wind was picking up a bit and Geoff demonstrated his long board prowess by zooming off, adjusting harness lines and mast track as he disappeared. Martin and I sailed of in hot (well warmish) pursuit. With Geoff ripping off at seemly impossible angles to the wind I decided I would stay with Martin so I shadowed his every move. Geoff was pulling off some nice gybes but as I couldn't match his upwind performance I opted for some wobbly tacks. After years on short boards these floaty long boards are weird! We headed further up the coast enjoying the freshening wind.

Martin said he needed to adjust his equipment, I wasn't sure if it was his board or wetsuit that was causing the problem but I followed him on a fast beam reach on starboard towards the shore. As we approached it he realised it was protected by very shallow coral and he had two options:- crash into it or turn very quickly. About a second later I had two options:- crash into the coral or crash into Martin who was now turning. Amazing isn't it? A huge area of sea with only three people sailing and two of them want the same bit of water at the same time. With some deft manoevering and some well chosen words of advice we avoided the sound of mangled monofilm and fracturing fibreglass.

Geoff was now some way upwind of us and heading out but upwind. Martin took off on a broad reach on port tack out to sea so I chased after him. He gybed and headed back towards the shore, I was enjoying the blast so I went further out to join Geoff. Martin was now a speck heading towards a very plush white hotel complex so we decided to follow him. Geoff was off first - adjusting bits and pieces and pulling away from me. I'd noticed on the last few reaches that I wasn't really comfortable in the straps as the mast was too far forward, so I stamped on the peddle and pulled hard back - nothing. I stamped and pulled several times but the mast refused to budge. So I powered the board up, hooked in and blasted with just my front foot in the strap.

I was upwind of Geoff and catching him. Martin was already on the beach which was sheltered by a little harbour with a jetty on either side. As I charged towards the beach I reckoned I would pass Geoff about 20-30 yards out. I was driving the board as hard as I could. My adrenaline fuelled brain had already run through me passing Geoff and shooting up the beach to rapturous applause from the horizontal sun worshippers.

I noticed a very large metal buoy in the middle of the harbour. Geoff was lining up to pass just downwind of it and I would pass a bit upwind. Reality returned with alarm bells ringing as I realised that there was a very thick rope attached to the top of the buoy stretching across my side of the harbour to a boat moored at the quayside. I bore away onto a very broad reach aiming to go through right behind Geoff, overtaking downwind of him, then carve back upwind to the beach. I was already well powered up and going broad increasing this and as I accelerated, the mast track decided to operate, and the mast shot to the front of the track.

I'm sure the resulting catapult was spectacular but it was hardly at the top of my "Things to do in Egypt" list. As I faffed about trying to uphaul (not easy with the rig at the front of the track) I was being blown towards the rickety wooden scaffold surrounding the partially built jetty on the left. It didn't look very inviting at all. I got going and discovered a bloody great rope in the water in front of me which immediately grabbed my skeg and I was off again. I eventually untangled myself and joined the other two on the beach. My dreams of flying in on the plane just a distant memory.

We had landed at Hotel Albatross which was populated by lots of rather well-off looking Germans in beautiful bikinis. Fat men do look silly in bikinis but the women were rather tasty. Naturally after sailing for a couple of hours we all agreed to have a break right here. From the beach we could see that all the loungers were in neat precise rows, not one was even an inch (sorry - centimetre) out of line - very Teutonic. We fixed my mast track (I decided to set it locked in the middle) and lined up for a mass beach start. The wind had picked up even more now and the sea was a sea (what else?) of white horses.

We wanted to race for the harbour entrance but we obviously couldn't sail windward side of the buoy because of the rope attached to the boat at the jetty, and downwind was a rope attached to the bottom of the buoy stretching loosely to the other jetty. (This was the one that I tangled with). So the only gap was to leeward of the buoy between it and the point at which the rope surfaced - about 2ft wide. A mass blast at this gap was bound to end in disaster so we sailed out line astern trying to avoid two snorkelers in the harbour mouth.

The wind was much stronger outside and we peeled away on a broad reach on port tack heading back down the coast towards Jasmine. These long boards are a bit of a handful in a big sea when you are well powered up with the mast too far forward and your harness lines too long. By now we were about a mile offshore and charging through swells and rolling chop. This was great fun. I was watching the coast hoping to recognise something but the view through well used and abused monofilm was similar to my channel 5 picture.

Martin who was about 200m in front suddenly gybed and headed across me towards the coast. As I gybed I could see our beach and realised that I had turned a bit early and I now had a very broad reach to avoid turning again. As we headed towards the beach we ran into a gaggle of sailors - one whom screamed (literally) right behind me on a much closer reach. Of course it was Ian. The others were all out playing on short boards now that the wind had picked up. They seemed like a welcome committee.

We stopped for lunch then rejoined the others on short boards for more fun in the afternoon. Ian had been using the Xantos 310 with 7m but changed to a Ride 282. He didn't like the Ride much. The single footstrap was soon changed to a double to give him more drive. Of course the wind dropped a little. Ian managed to keep the 282 planing while Martin and I on Xantos 310 and 295 respectively kept going on and off the plane.

I found it difficult to stay up wind and had several excursions up the channel on the downwind side of the jetty protecting our beach. On one occasion Geoff was photographing from the end so I pumped it up on the plane and surfed down the wave right past him. He told me later that he refrained from snapping me to save my embarrassment. But I can see no embarrassment in riding a wave in a 15ft wide channel with a 10ft high bridge just in front of you!

One particular fast run out, the wind dropped off and I had drifted downwind. When the wind returned I gybed and drove hard off the fin to gain some speed before heading upwind in order to clear the same jetty. The board was planing fast and I was totally committed when I heard a felt a slight grounch from the back of the board swiftly followed by another, then another much louder and sharper that stopped the board dead. I'd hit a coral reef (one that was supposedly deep enough to sail over). I was catapulted onto the razor sharp coral landing on my front foot. I must have leapt off immediately as I finished up on the rig still hooked in. I looked at the water by my foot expecting to see it red with blood - but there was nothing - not even a cut in my sailing shoes - a lucky escape. This really put me off and after that I seemed to be dodging around all the other reefs that were probably several feet below the surface.

During a lull I ended up downwind in the next bay so decided to have a break on the shore and await the wind. I discovered a rope with lots of floaty buoys about 29m out, presumably designed to stop windsurfers landing there. By now I was close to a sense of humour failure so I sat on the board and pulled by myself upwind along the rope. This was great until one of the small buoys caught between the mast/boom and back strap. I flailed about and managed to clear it only for the next one to snag.. "Aaaaaaarghh. Are we having fun yet?" No I was not. I eventually worked my way back to the sanctuary of out beach and decided enough was enough. So I practised a bit of freestyle to end the day. Jon was improving all the time and Neroli was sailing well.

Our evenings had developed a routine by now. Leave the beach at around 5 p.m. and walk 200m back to our flats, photo of dining roomshower, then head for the dining room at 6 p.m. "Dining Room" gives the impression of a school hall but this dining room was very plush and multi-levelled. It had a sentry just inside the marble and glass entrance. We had our own table for 6 on the higher of the two levels enabling us to look down on the huge array of food near the semi-eliptical servery. Most of us began with a starter but I later abandoned that in favour of a main course, partially because I was SO hungry but also I didn't want to waste valuable stomach space on soup and bread.

The food was brilliant with large range of Western and Egyptian dishes. We all tried various combinations of unknown delicacies most of which turned out to be surprisingly yummy. My main course usually consisted of rice or potatoes (sautéed of course) with vegetables (generally sautéed again) with chicken or fish or sometimes both. By about 6.45 p.m. the faster and more piggy sailors (especially Ian) were ready for pudding. There were a huge choice of sticky wobbly shiny fruity chocolatey goodies, but I'd forgo these culinary pleasures for a plateful of pasta beautifully cooked by a hugely fat Italian. A few days later he was missing and we were informed that he had fallen in the bath and hurt his back. I'm surprised he didn't get wedged between the sides. Anyway he'd apparently gone to Cairo to get if fixed (his back not the bath) so I suppose he must have gone to see a 'Cairopractor'.

By about 8 p.m. I'd generally find room for another slightly smaller plate of pasta and sometime later some sick chocolaty things. This was great - there was little else to do here except stay in the dining room and consume as much fuel as possible. Before we'd leave - at about 10 p.m. - we had all made several trips to check out the food recommended by the very genial chefs whose command of English was surprisingly good. The waiters were very friendly and efficient, removing empty plates and glasses within seconds (and sometimes before) we'd finished with them. We spent many enjoyable hours stuffing ourselves and watching other guests coming and going. Some tables had three different sets of diners during our marathon feasts. This was so nice - very continental and such a change from rushing home in England, throwing down some grub and then rushing out again, and gave us all a chance to share and laugh at our experiences of the day.

On this particular evening we decided to check out the various beach bars etc., that I had found the night before. Apart from a couple of Egyptians fishing from the hydrofoil jetty, we were completely alone. It was a warm clear evening and the astronomers amongst us (Geoff and Martin and maybe Ian) were searching the sky for unusual star systems not usually seen in England.

None of the bars were open except one that was lit and staffed. Despite the fact that their takings must have been way down due to the collapse of tourism in Egypt, even the rustling of crisp (well rather floppy really) Egyptian pound notes changed nothing and they absolutely could NOT serve us. Egyptian bureaucracy seems to invade everything, and a huge amount of paperwork accompanies every transaction which must be signed and countersigned. If they make a mistake or have to change anything, the system grinds to a halt and managers are phoned for advice. We explored a bit more then wandered home for a night-cap (or three).

Tuesday.

After a hearty breakfast we filled our pockets/bum bags with rolls and bananas to take to the beach as usual. I sunbathed and tried to get my head around those bloody coral reefs. Ian and Martin went out with 6.6m sails and Xantos 285's but later changed down to 5.5m and 262 Axxis and 5.7m and 272 Axxis respectively. Ian had an excellent afternoon surviving numerous duck gybes.

Eventually I went out with a 5.0m V6 and a 272 Axxis. I had lost all confidence after hitting the reef yesterday and although I was having great fun blasting about, I kept bearing away to go around them which meant I had difficult getting back to the beach. After a while, I got so fed up with this that I played in the shallowish water just off our beach, practising slam gybes and helitacks hoping to regain a smidgen of confidence. I really like the 272 Axxis as it feels similar to my 260 Tiga Slalom so I was much more at home than with the 277 Ride the other day. Conversely Ian likes the 272 Axxis but prefers the 277 Ride. Geoff tried the 282 Freeride banana but (in his own words) without much success. Neroli as usual chose smaller rigs than the rest of us and was sailing well. She didn't seen to be at all intimidated by the conditions (or the reefs) and pulled off gybe after gybe. Jon put in lots of effort and was steadily improving and feeling more confident despite a couple of visits to the next bay.

Wednesday:

Geoff and Ian took the F2 tandem out. They launched straight away, went far out to sea and gybed at the first attempt. Everybody on the beach was most impressed. The wind filled in a bit but although it felt strong and there were lots of white horses, it didn't seem to have much power and 7m sails were required to plane with any speed. Ian was out on a 310 Xantos in the morning and using a 278 Axxis in the afternoon. I had got my head sorted and using a Xantos 285 and 7m VS had a good time blasting back and forth.

Photo of Geoff & Ian on the tandem Another photo of Geoff & Ian on the tandem
Geoff (front) & Ian on the F2 Tandem.

On one occasion I blasted back close to the jetty where Ian was sat wearing his sports photographers hat using what looked more like a missile launcher than a camera. As I sped by with my tongue out, my fin caught the submerged rope anchoring the line of buoys keeping us away from the rocks. This resulted in an emergency stop any driving instructor would have been proud of.

Jon made a very close inspection (less than two foot) of the wrecked hydrofoil in the next bay bur managed to extricate himself and return safely to our little beach. Martin however, was not feeling himself (for once he didn't have his hands in his trouser pockets) and discovered that you either drink bottled water or stay close to the apartment. The wind dropped off so John and I played in the shallows practising various turns and freestyle dismounts. I stayed on the water till 4.45pm. For me, the best days sailing so far.

Martin had taken to his sick bed during the afternoon and at about 8:30pm he attempted to join us for dinner. But he was equipped with neither the room key nor the room card (which I had!) and despite the fact that we were the only English people there and the sentry knew us by now, he was refused entry. He went to reception and after 25 minutes of discussion and phone calls the manager accompanied him to the dining room and managed to get him in. Once again, Egyptian bureaucracy gone mad.

Thursday:

Ian was sailing by about 10a.m. using a 310 Xantos and 7m. The rest of us were out by 10.30 a.m. I was using the trusty Xantos 285 and 7m VS. It blew strongly. Jon was going to follow me out for footstrap practise but I muffed my beach start so he got away first. I picked up a gust and went by him only for the wind to pick up even more so I blasted out very, very powered up for about a mile.

As it was early and had only just started blowing there was very little chop and I screamed across the mildly undulating swell. I gybed around expecting Jon to be right behind me but I was completely alone. With that the wind dropped right off and I wallowed/drifted a long way downwind. It picked up and dropped off several times so I made the most of it and blasted back and forth/wallowed and drifted about half a mile down wind of our beach. I could see no-one else so I presumed that they'd all stopped to wait for the wind to return. It duly did and was now onshore. "Great" I though as I flew back parallel to the shore with a fast broad reach into the beach. Then it dropped a little and backed cross-on and picked up. Talk about keeping you on your toes!

We all blasted for a couple of hours, Ian used the Axxis 272 and a 6.2m sail. I stayed with the Xantos 285 and 7m preferring to be a bit overpowered at times but have enough if it dropped. Ian successfully helitacked the 272, Jon checked out a couple of the other beaches downwind again and Geoff seemed to be enjoying himself. The wind dropped then picked up a little so I practised freestyle in the shallows. Ian took John off or some more footstrap practice which ended in another long walk for Jon, but full marks to him for his persistence and effort.

During a fast blast out, the sea suddenly started to boil around me and hundreds of fish - some about a foot long - leapt out and seemed to run across the surface before disappearing only to jump out again a yard or so further on. I thought this was great but I did wonder what might be chasing them!! I reported this back at the beach and virtually everyone had experienced the same thing and one them (Neroli I think) had had a fish land on the board.

Friday:

Ian took the Xantos 310 and 7m out while the rest of us caught the last rays of the holiday, before getting on the plane for the last time, - to start our journey back to sunny Gatwick.

photo of pook & yours truly

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Hurghada despite some interesting times on and off the board. Still it was never boring and with Eurosport on the T.V.'s in our rooms we even caught some of the winter Olympics. I have been a Nomad for 6-7 years but rarely attend any of the events so one of the nicest things was getting to know my fellow sailors, and what a nice bunch of intelligent interesting people they turned out to be. I just hope they all enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs.

Thanks Guys and Gal and especially Geoff for the loan of some harness lines.

Tony Cane.

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