Big Wednesday had already started in my mind two evenings before when Pascal and I looked at the forecast together. Wow I thought. This would be the day.
Stronger wind than the previous Sunday session and a broader course, just what the doctor ordered. The forecast held when I checked it the day before and I knew it was on. Erik and I were sharing a van so we prepared together at the home-base in SM.
The morning arrived with a bang. It was hard to sleep already as my mind was racing at a million miles an hour just thinking of Yellow Pages and how I was going to try and sail past her into the history books. Sandra and I awoke at 6am to the sounds of the wind beating like drums against the porch windows of our apartment. It was on.
We were at the home-base by 7am and it was already clear that there was 35 solid knots blowing ESE, just what we wanted. Loading the van was already tough even though it was parked to within a meter of the sail storage. The excitement was running through us all as a few more of the guys showed up.
Straight to the beach amidst vast flooding from the three days of torrential rain on the entrance road. I was praying that the Canal was ok and not broken at the ´fuse´ where she had given way on Halloween. The course was fine and we drove to the E end to set-up. Christophe (canal manager/TC) and Fabrice (deputy time-keeper) got the timing together quickly and we were open at 9am.
I remember looking out and thinking that the wind was not very strong. The forecast on every TV and Internet channel was calling for much stronger wind in the afternoon (40-50kts) in our region, the Bouches du Rhone, so there was no hurry for all intents and purposes. I made my way to the Canal, sat down for a short time in my mud seat and saw that the run looked good, really good.
The very short boards plane early so I popped up out of the water and got situated for the run. What happened next I will never forget. As soon as I sheeted in, there was an enormous rush through my whole body. I must have accelerated to 44 knots in about 3-4 seconds and I entered the run with speed. Lots of speed. Right out of bed and straight into this. Crazy. I got a big 40 knot puff in the middle and another towards the end. It felt as though I was still accelerating when I crossed the finish and I almost went straight into the bank at the end. I looked back and deciphered '45.8kts' from the scoreboard. Wow, the windsurfing record on my first run. I ran and almost fell over twice trying to get to the van as quickly as possible. I got back to the start (takes roughly 11-15 min.) and got to see Erik´s crash. He was alright but was wobbly from hitting his head. I felt bad because this was for sure his best looking run of the MOS and maybe a UK record. The rest of his day was tough mentally so he focused his energy towards me and gave me some valuable advice.
My next two runs (44.96,43.90) were not windy as the wind had backed off just a touch. At about 10am, the wind started to look promissing again. I missed the gust on run 4 and posted a 44.12. It was run 5 that I will never forget. I timed the wind right this time as there are little cycles that come through that are maybe 3-5 knots more. I entered the start with massive speed and was holding on tight. It felt like I wasn't touching the water at all and Thierry´s caddy told me afterwards that the run was 'hot' meaning fast I guess. About 125 meters from the finish I unexpectedly spun out, completely letting go the fin. I managed to pull it back in, re-accelerate and went through the finsh. I looked back in horror to see '44.57 knots'. My God. That was maybe Yellow Pages right there. Maybe I reached 'super-cavitation'?.
With re-newed energy, it was straight back to the start. These runs take a lot of energy. The forces working against you one can feel through every part of the body. You can't hide from the force of the wind.
Run 6 was a 45.01. I missed the cycle again. It is not easy at all to see what is happening on the course from the starting end. Unlike the tropics, the gusts are invisable with the brownish haze on top of the Canal water. So, Pascal took it upon himself when I was back to the start to kick us into action. He shouted that David had just done a 45 and the wind was good on the course.
I immediately reacted before the others and went for it. To be honest, this run did not feel the fastest but it was the smoothest from start to finish. The wind was consistent in it's force down the entire course. I got a little wind shadow at the finish but I was ecstatic to break 46kts and post a 46.24. Now this was getting serious. I was in the zone and was ready to break the outright record on my next run. Going up in the van, Sandra fed me bananas and water to stop the slight cramping I was experiencing.
The next run will be stuck in my mind for a while. I took off and was so powered on my 5.5 and big board (the combination of all the previous runs). All the way down the course, I was thinking of nothing but keeping it all together. This one was a fast one and I knew it. Faster than the previous run. About 100m from the finish, I got what I can only describe as a 'speed wobble'. My board lifted, rounded up into the wind slightly and I was forced to sheet out. At this moment my board whipped back around and somehow didn't spin-out getting back on track for the finish. I almost hit the end again and I looked back to see '45.6'.
That one was it if you consider we are talking less than half a second difference to the record. I then watched David come down the course with committment and super speed in great conditions. It was a clean run and he posted a 45.5 to break the French record. He was very happy and sailed very well. Hats off to him.
After that, I finally switched to my medium 34 board/medium 22 fin but it was too late. The rain came in and it came hard. I did one run right in the middle of the white squall and posted a 44.34 with my face underneath my arm in order to see anything. This board felt great and I was already regretting not taking her in the record setting moments from just before. Erik had told me to switch as soon as I plateau with the times but this was already afterwards. Next time.
The wind never came back. Although being over the moon about what had already been accomplished, I was disappointed in the two runs that were not clean that could definitely have been better than the fastest one of the day.
Maybe it is a lesson that YP will not be broken so easily.