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nomads away day to lepe - 24/6/2001

Having not sailed since our return from Dahab, the arrival of the Lepe away day was anticipated with excitement, some planning and an appropriate amount of time wasted assessing the weather forecast. As things turned out the forecasts were all surprisingly consistent and even more surprisingly, accurate - CALM. Not the type of forecast that is known for bringing Nomads flocking to away days.

Thankfully Neroli and I are not easily distracted from our quest for time on the water so dutifully headed off to the club night at the White Hart on Thursday evening. We quickly discovered that we had overlooked the navigation to the club night in our planning since no sooner had we turned onto the M49 we realised we couldn't get to Littleton Upon Severn from there, so had to pick up the M4 and head back to Bristol. We promptly managed to get ourselves stuck behind a wide load travelling very slowly up the motorway which we couldn't overtake so had a frustrating return to Bristol.

One would imagine that during this slow plod up the M4 we might have given some further thought to how to get to the White Hart from the M4/M5 interchange, however we clearly didn't as we soon followed the wide load onto the North bound carriage way of the M5 only to once again realise that we couldn't easily get to the White Hart from the first North junction of M5. Nevertheless, we had no choice but to continue up the M5 to the Dursley turn off where we then headed South again so that we eventually arrived at the White Hart - some 42 miles since setting off on our journey. On the bright side, when we arrived at the pub we discovered we weren't the only people that should know better who ended up taking scenic routes to the pub, but don't worry Keith, I won't say who else did.

Our attempt to arrive at the away day location was overall far more successful. We drove most of the way down on Saturday afternoon and stayed with some friends half an hours drive from Lepe. This strategy made for a civilised start on Sunday and got us the prime spot on the sea front around 9:30 ready to raise the flag and await the arrival of both the wind and the other Nomads. A coffee later and we got a phone call from Angela "Three ice-creams" Pitcher to announce that she and John were around an hour away.

While we were waiting for them to arrive the flag started to flutter with the early signs of a sea breeze and the day started to looking increasingly promising. Around an hour after Angela's phone call, Chris and Gerry arrived, closely followed by Heather Mulgrew. Where were Angela and John? Some two hours after the phone call Angela's car was spotted pulling into the car park. Apparently there had been some navigational issues - however after my attempts to get to the White Hart on the Thursday evening I'm not going to make any comment.

The wind continued to build through the morning so we all began to rig up and were quickly joined by Jackie and Adrian Johnson fresh from a week in West Wales and then Nigel Rudgeyard arrived shortly after we had started sailing. Alas not all of Nigel's boom arrived with him but that is another story, after a bit of scrounging around he also joined us on the water with slightly less outhaul on his sail than the recommended setting.

On the water the wind was strong enough to tempt us to rig early planing equipment rather than small sails for freestyle, with the wind blowing increasingly cross shore as it picked up. Initially sailing out from the beach was a close reach up wind and up current, however on the return it was possible to catch the swells, pump like a mad thing and ride the swell back in. This meant the trip out seemed to take forever and the return back to the beach was over just as you started to enjoy yourself but I guess I shouldn't be that surprised because I remember most upwind slogs followed by down wind reaches to be a pretty similar experience too.

Gradually the gusts started to fill in a bit and it started to become possible to get on the plane on the way out from the beach as well as the return, then Gerry started to show off and was consistently seen planing backwards and forwards effortlessly while the rest of us pumped like mad and occasionally got on the plane. We are going to have to do something about that Phoenix of his - its showing the rest of us up.

As the wind picked up more and more people started appearing on the water. Adrian clearly doesn't trust Jackie in the camper van on her own since he decided to lock and alarm it while she was still inside. Unfortunately despite her best attempts to stay as still as possible the alarm went off, much to the surprise of the couple sunbathing just in front of it.

Many of the Nomads out on the water were taking equipment out for only its second voyage - John was still getting to grips with the new F2 & rig, Adrian on his recent early planing course racer and Heather using an 8.0m sail. Heather probably gets the award for been the most diligent sailor out on the water, having missed the early part of the planing conditions because she was finishing off some work. We'll have to do something about her priorities, while she was being conscientious, Adrian took his passport, long board and headed off to the Isle of Wight, only to return a while later reporting that the natives weren't very friendly.

The wind blew strong enough for comfortable planing from around 1:00 till about 3:30. Plenty long enough for many trips out and back over the Solent chop; dodging the various boats heading in and out at a variety of speeds, some of them throwing up unfeasibly steep waves in their wake. I don't think I can ever remember finding myself in the trough of a wave before where I have been unable to lift the nose of a short board sufficiently high to allow it to ride over the next wave. I can safely say that it is a very unpleasant experience to watch the nose of the board disappear into a wave while you are travelling at planing speed, although now I can report that it doesn't end in the big catapult that might have been expected. The biggest shock occurs as the board passes through the wave to the point where the mast and foot of the sail reach the wave. The sudden impact of the wave on the base of the rig produces quite a shock which unsettles the board, just in time for the board to punch through the back of the wave and get airborne. This in turn leads to a suitably uncontrolled flight and even less controlled landing which thankfully I survived on the two occasions in happened. Not an experience I would recommend and one that I suspect I will never have a high survival rate with.

The conditions proved to be an ideal opportunity to try out other people's kit. I took advantage of Gerry's generousity and while he enjoyed a break I took the Phoenix with his 8.5m Retro out for a blast. After spending the majority of the afternoon on a short board it was quite a shock to change onto a much longer and flatter board. The lack of nose rocker on Gerry's board makes the shoulders of the board catch on the waves far more than a shorter, more rockered board and it was quite surprising how much I had to change my stance and concentrate in order to maintain the board speed over the chop.

Upon my return Adrian offered me the chance to have a go on his recent acquisition, the exact dimensions of which I can't quite remember, I think it was 289cm, 160lt and 69cm wide with all the width in the tail of the board compared to my Techno which has its maximum width much further forward and comes in significantly at the tail to help it go round the corners. The straight lines and sharp rails on Adrian's board suggest it is aimed at the more performance orientated end of the market and that is an impression that is borne out when sailing it. I didn't try pointing it down wind but am assured it planes comfortably on very broad reaches. From the short sail I had I found it loved to be pointed up wind but the high performance of the board comes at the price of comfort and I can't claim I felt relaxed while sailing it. The hairiest moments have to be when airborne over the chop because the board tends to drop away from you when not properly supported underneath because the footstraps are right on the very edge of the board. This feeling of losing the leeward rail of the board conjures up mental images of landing on the rails or worst still the fin and further adds to the feeling of tension while sailing the board. Needless to say after a few runs out and back in the dying winds I was more than happy to hand the board back to its rightful owner.

The wind started to fade around 3:30 and although a few die hards stayed out longer, most of us had enjoyed enough planing for one day and headed ashore for a leisurely derig, ice-cream (or three!) and chat before heading off home. All in all a very pleasant days sailing - having got accustomed to the nice warm waters in Dahab it was great to feel that the waters around the UK coastline have now warmed up and that I was able to get any remnants of Egyptian sand out of my shortie.

Ian Long

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