We all know that Ming the Merciless is a machine – but today he was renamed as Ming the Mastless. And it’s thanks to Wookie that he got back.

Chris Loughridge Sails Irish Channel

Actually Ming (that’s Chris Loughridge to lesser mortals) has been having a bad season. The last four times he sailed he :

  • ·        Broke his mast after sailing a 7m sail for less than 2 minutes
  • ·        Broke his thumb
  • ·        Broke his rib
  • ·        And today he broke another mast – way out

Not of course that we have any sympathy for him whatsoever…..

For most people there was no wind today, but Ming had tickets for the Ulster match at 3 so naturally he headed off to try and find some wind before this. I was watching the Newtownards Flying Club meter on line and knew there was 4-6 knots and so stayed in Moira.

However Wookie was at the gym and was persuaded to drop round to Cultra where Ming hoped to sail. Wookie normally tops up with coffee and reads his Tory Rag (the Telegraph) around this time, so he figured ‘I’d sit in my van in comfort and laugh at Minger floating about’. Little did he know.

Clearly there was some wind as Ming didn’t rig his biggest sail – he only rigged his 11m. Yes, he’s actually got a 12m too. He stuck this on a Formula board and headed out to try and do a bit of ferry dodging. To his surprise he got a bit of a gust and shot out to the shipping lanes. After his gybe his mast snapped. No drama, no big impact to cause it, it just snapped.

There are all sorts of theories about what you should do in this case. The break was below the boom so sailing in with the top half of the sail dangling wasn’t an option. The trick of taking the top part of the mast out, inverting it and jamming it into the remains of the bottom part isn’t really on with an 11m sail. So his only option was to roll up the sail and try to lie on it and paddle home surf style.

There were two problems with this. Firstly physically rolling up that size of sail while on the water isn’t easy. And when you do, it’s so full of water it weighs a ton. And then there is trying to surf paddle a board as wide as a Formula.

In wrestling with the sail he ditched the mast pieces but unfortunately the extension and deck plate rolled off to join the fishes too.

Then when he got the wet sail onto board it was so heavy that it sank the board – despite the high volume of a Formula board. So he had to jettison the sail too – do you know what an 11m sail costs?

Now all he had to do was lie on the board on the boom and paddle in. Now Ming’s a fit lad but with your arms sticking out to reach outside a Formula board, he found he made little progress and tired quickly.

So he paddled from buoy to buoy taking a rest at each. It was starting to look like a very long day and his Ulster tickets were not going to be required.

Now what about the coffee-drinking Wookie I hear you ask? He did in time notice the lack of Ming on the horizon and started to get worried. Not for Minger of course, but all that good windsurfing kit? So, naturally he rang me, but didn’t get me. So he was faced with a choice, call the RNLI or go out and search?

The wind had picked up a bit and of course Wookie is a very capable sailor, so he decided to pack a rope and hit the water. 7.8m on 114 and out he went in the direction Ming was last seen. It look him a while to find Ming, he was an awful long way out. But find him he did and just as well.

The first attempt at towing failed when the rope broke. But the second attempt worked and the long drag commenced. If you’ve towed someone (and I have) it’s damned hard work. Wookie got close to both boards planning but it still took an age to get Minger in. He wasn’t cold when he had been paddling but now he got very cold.

Frankly, very few sailors could have done that tow in.

Back on land, and having exchanged manly hugs of gratitude (at least that’s what they told me they were about), distraught wives were called and Ming even managed to get to the rugby. Ulster won, by the way.

The reason for passing this story on of course (well apart from having a good laugh at Ming’s expense) is that it could have happen to any of us. Ming sails on his own more than almost any other windsurfer I know, so this was an incident waiting to happen.

He swears now he’s going to get one of those emergency call systems and maybe also carry a mobile phone with him whenever he sails. But I doubt he’ll stop sailing on his own. And remember he’s fitter than many of us and a good sailor (but don’t tell him I said this last bit). He is also experienced enough to know most of the self-rescue tricks.

So you might want to rethink your own safety strategy. It just might save you featuring in a story like this.

 Would you trust your life to this Wookie?

And as for Saint Wookie? He went back out and had a bit of sail – and a good laugh of course. Looks like Princess Leia wasn’t right when she said ‘Sure he’s only a dumb Wookie’ ….