Defi Wind 2014……….. in 50knots!!

June 9, 2014 8:15 am Published by Leave your thoughts

P1030792  So as most would be aware I took a trip for a second year down to Gruissan, near Narbonne, France to compete for the second year in the worlds longest endurance race Defi Wind. Last year I went down but fell ill after race 1 and had to return to the UK. This year I was going down with Paul Perry but he sadly passed away from cancer earlier this year. So it made me even more resolute that I would go down and enter this extraordinary event in his name and compete once again in the 40km offshore slalom race in winds up to 60knots. IMG_4433I was going on my own this year as sara my wife elected to stay at home so I chose to take the QSW Team bus making keeping equipment safe a whole lot easier and I could put my scooter in the back making travel once there much easier. The trip down took 2 days using the Dover-Calais ferry ( £124 both ways) and taking advantage of the Autoroute system which is makes journeys much quicker although the cost was £100 in tolls each way for the Tri-Axle Team bus (cars/vans are cheaper). I rocked up the Saturday before the event which started the following Thursday as I knew getting a good camping spot meant getting there early. What I didn’t know was that a Kite event is held the weekend before but only 160ish competitors enter this event compared to 100 entries into the windsurf event.IMG_4444 My set up was really good with the Team Bus providing excellent facilities to live in and super easy rigging as the wind changed, as it does rapidly there as its a offshore Tramontana wind – one minute 20knots, the next 45knots!   I got some great practice on the race strip which runs for 5 miles to the right of Gruissan giving flat water blasting to die for. As you sail further down the coast the wind gets stronger as you get closer to the centre of the ‘funnel effect’ the Tramontana produces. First day was a Severne  6.2 Blade on my Fanatic Freewave 96 Textreme. This was great and the five batten Severne Blade evens out the gusts really well for a no-cam sail. The Fanatic was my choice as it has Tri-Fins which allowed me to get right up close to the beach getting the silky flat water without grounding out.IMG_4478IMG_4501By Race Day 1 my UK BSA friend Tim Frampton had arrived with some mates donned with the latest Slalom kit ready to really compete for the UK. The races centre around a ‘Rabbit Start’ and the first lap consisting of a 6 mile blast slightly upwind down the coastline with the wind increasing as you go. A Gybe around 2 buoys and then the blast back towards Gruissan along the beach on the broad reach back to the second  Gybe marker, a boat moored 100 meters off the beach. It then repeated ending with a a sprint through 2 gates where your vest number is noted. every level of windsurfer can enter provided you are water start competent, and a stirly heart!   IMG_4454A full compliment of 1000 windsurfers entered in 2014 which set the scene for carnage at the start line and gybe marks. I rigged a Severne S-1 5.0 and my Fanatic Freewave 96 Textreme and had my Severne S-1 5.6 and Freewave 86 Textreme in reserve on the beach. As the start boat ran the ‘rabbit’ I hung back to let the clogg of windsurfers at the start line and let the carnage clear as I crossed the line. The wind was very light with my Severne  S-1 5.0 but as I got to the 4km stage the wind was filling in nicely. I made up a number of places to around 700th as I blasted down the beach to the gybe mark. I rounded the mark without a problem and then totally lost the wind!…..Arhhhhhh…..all the saiors I passed whipped past me on the return run as I floundered for over 4 kms. I battled back to the start beach, ran in and changed my sail for the Severne S-1 5.6 and got back on the water. My second lap was much better planing most of the time but by then I was way down the fleet – by it didn’t matter. As I blasted back to the line my thoughts went to Paul Perry, my buddy I was supposed be at Defi Wind with, and I really did feel he was with me in spirit – a great feeling believe me when you cross the line completing the longest windsurf race in the world. Day 2 I took a day off to relax and prepare for day 3 which was forecast to pretty windy. I woke up Day 3 to winds which were simply ‘nuclear’. The sailors brief at 10AM was based around the conditions which were simply ‘mind blowingly windy’. The water was boiling off shore and a real ‘nervous buzz’ engulfed the race site as 45-60 knots were announced on the course from the 42 rescue boats already in position to mop up any storm struck sailors. I rigged my Severne S-1 4.0 with Fanatic Freewave 86 and a belly full of nerves……. I was right to be. The run down the coast was the most hardcore sailing of my life, with 6ft waves facing you every 30 yards as you tried to get upwind towards the beach. Jump after jump precluded with one horribly overpowered jump morphing into a forward loop at 45knots. I battled to the first buoy, dropped my gybe but recovered quickly and started my return run. Boy oh boy it was windy. I could barely hold the sail and knuckled down as the front runners already had completed both laps and were back on the beach. I got back to the start line and retired happy that I was one of probably 300 sailors who actually got 1 lap completed!IMG_4505 The evenings at Defi Wind are legendary. Live music, great bars and a happy, chilled atmosphere takes over the Defi site.  The next 2 days I didn’t race choosing to pleasure sail and watch the real pro’s do their stuff. To give you some idea I completed the race in 1hr 35mins…………… The winner took just 38 minutes! Me and the other UK sailors enjoyed a Saturday night drink and the BBQ the Defi organisers had put on for FREE for all competitors…….. well a few of the guys ended up at a local nightclub at 3.30AM as drunk as skunks…….. bad boys! So I returned back on Sunday night in the Team bus happy in the knowledge I kept my promise to Paul to complete Defi Wind and experience something every windsurfer must add to their bucket list. Defi Wind will be on next year and I invite you to join us in a trip of a lifetime – it really is something you must do at least once in your life.

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This post was written by James Connor

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