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roadford lake - june, 2000

I set off to Devon at about 8.30 on Saturday morning with no wind and rain in the air, stopping for some beer and burgers for the BBQ, where I received some funny looks from the shop assistance and comments along the lines of "nice breakfast!" When I drove up to Clifton Suspension bridge only to find it closed for repairs for the first time in 12 months I started to wonder whether this weekend was jinxed. By the time I reached Roadford rain had arrived and I doubted if my burgers would ever reach the BBQ.

Anyway enough of the scene setting. I turned up a couple of minutes after Keith Shepherd and discovered Mike and Pierrette already set up in their motor home. After a cup of tea and some fun putting our tent up in the rain (at least the tent pegs went in easily the ground was so wet), we went for a walk down to the lake.

Roadford is a nice spot and, surrounded by low rolling hills, at 386 acres there is plenty of room for manoeuvre. The rigging area is grassy and you can park close to the waters edge. With excellent changing rooms, hot showers and a soft launch site this is very civilised sailing. Launch fees are 6 per day for nomads including use of facilities, and the camping was 2.50 per night.

The wind was refusing to fill in, however after a bit of lunch and watching the dinghies moving out on the lake, including one containing Mike and Pierrete which they had hired for a play, we decided to don our wetsuits and go for a sail. This was a good move as it was great to get out on the water and although not spectacular there was more breeze on the water than was apparent from shore.

Ian and Neroli and Steve and Viv then arrived and the rest of the afternoon was spent cruising around and practising those flare gybes. Keith's race board was put to good use going upwind but despite some determined and textbook pumping technique there was just not enough wind to keep it on the plane - it was good to watch though. The wind was up to its usual tricks of changing direction and strength. At one stage we watched as Steve sailed away on a cross-shore reaching the far side of the lake just as the wind changed to offshore and dropped - after much tacking practice and a little light-hearted banter from the crowd lazing on the far bank he made it back.

Anyway onto the BBQ - I have now realised that you can tell as much about the experience of a sailor by their contribution to the BBQ as you can by their sailing. While I arrived with my trusty burgers, the pros turned up with lamb chops, chicken, potato wedges wrapped in foil, rice, and salads and Keith even bought Pringles! Luckily it was thrown all together so I got to sample some of the goodies as well. Ian donned the white hat and BBQ forks and was head "Griller" - doing a sterling job with the sausages. After this we were all driven to the Tally Ho pub by Neroli (thanks), which was er.. 10 Powell minutes (read 30 mins!) away. There was debate over the qualities of Tarka's Tipple but the Madness received universal acclaim and made the journey more than worth the effort - a good night all round.

The pints of Madness made the night in the tent less daunting, and I went to sleep dreaming of strong winds… but alas it was not meant to be! There was less on the Sunday morning than the Saturday. Neil Bass had arrived early on Sunday morning and informed us he had had the best of the wind which was dropping just as we arrived down at the water. As a result we mulled around coming up with excuses not to put our wetsuits on. When these had run out we all grabbed our boards without our sails and paddled out into the lake and mucked around doing balancing acts, tail walks, and general ballerina impressions while trying unsuccessfully to keep dry - good fun and very entertaining.

By early afternoon the wind picked up slightly and so we all paddled ashore and grabbed a sail for a bit of light wind practice- dare I even call it Freestyle!

Ian swapped his board mid mid-lake for a go with a brand new Lazer dinghy, whose owner was also a windsurfer and wanted to try Ian's Techno. I know who got the best deal - my lasting impression was of Ian lounging across the boat, hands behind his head, feet on the opposite rail, drifting along - all he needed was a hamlet to complete the picture of contentment. The other chap got very wet!

In a noble and valiant self-sacrifice to encourage the wind to blow Mike and Pierrette de-rigged and set off for home, but the wind failed to blow with any power, so by 4.30 the rest of us did the same, except for Ian. This was obviously enough for the wind gods as at 4.31 with all our gear packed away, the wind picked up, Ian headed for the water, and promptly got planing. There's a lesson in there somewhere!

Still, driving up the M5 looking at what appeared to be really nice conditions I attempted to avoid getting too depressed by reflecting on the comments made on someone's T-shirt which said "Better a Bad day on the Water than a Good day at the Office". It had been a good couple of days despite the lack of real wind and the eight nomads who made it on Saturday and nine on Sunday had made the most of the conditions and enjoyed themselves. Thanks to all involved for a good weekend but especially Keith for a share of his tent, and Mike for feeding half of us with breakfast on Sunday when I had run out of burgers!

Pete Kilner

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