Where: Gruissan, France
When: 14-17 May.
Distance sailed: 120km
Distance driven to and from event site: 2400km
Baguettes eaten: Too many.
Amount of sand carried back in my afro: A lot.
Wauw! I just survived the most windy experience of my life.
Translated to english, Le Défi means “the challenge”. It was one in every sense.
-First of all sailing 40km’s is not a walk in the park.
-Then, imagine 1199 other sailors, Sails and boards in all shapes and colors, as far as the eye can see -Let’s not forget the 2 guys on a tandem in zebra print suit, there for their own entertainment, including mine-
Now, positioning yourself at the starting line becomes really tricky.
-Finally add 50-60 knots of wind and we have the definition of a “Défi”.
As I arrived at the beach I was straight away greeted by windsurfers from all over the world and I really felt the excitement of this event. What a great concept. It’s great to be so many sailors from all levels on the water just enjoying the sport.
Where a windsurfing event is often cursed to have no wind, the Défi wind was blessed with relentless wind for the whole event. With windspeeds of up to 60 knots you start questioning whether or not it’s a blessing though!
After the first race, pretty much any aspiration of finishing on the podium was gone with the wind. Pun intended. I went out on my 4,2 wizard and 86l Isonic. And it was the toughest 40 minutes I’ve sailed in my life. Even worse was that I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was constantly battling to keep my kit and I from being lifted in the air. Halfway I was going to quit. But every meter brought me closer to the finishline and in the end I did succeed. There were only about 380 people that finished the first race out of 1100 who started. My goal turned into finishing each race as they came and just having fun.
Just when I thought I had survived some tough conditions, The next day came.
Believe it or not, it was even stronger.
This time I grabbed a 87 l Kode and even though it was quite a bit stronger the ride was much smoother and I had a good time! Read: sailing as close to the beach as possible so there was nobody upwind from me and trying to avoid collisions. The real guy having fun was Jason Polakow. What an incredible windsurfer. Jason polakow blasted past me sailing with a shoulder recovering from an injury and a go pro in his other hand hooting and shouting. What a legend!
For the rest of the event I held on to a 4,2 and the Koster Kode. The other girls were amazing and I really respect them for it. I sure have a lot to learn when it comes to racing in really windy conditions. Freestyling in really strong wind is different because you just need to sheet in fo 10 seconds before each move and then you relax again. Fo racing you need to keep your sail sheeted in the whole way and need extreme focus on balancing your board on the verge of being in control and being out of control.
Anyway, I have already gained this experience.
So on to the next windy experience.
After some intense racing I had the pleasure of freestyling with the locals for a bit. Quite special to sail so close to the beach and sail such flat water! No wonder those Frenchies are good freestylers!
1200 windsurfers on the water.
What a record. Big congrats to the organization for keeping us all safe.
Next Défi coming up for SQ…. ICELAND.