WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE DEAD IN DONEGAL
 
Well, not actually dead dead, but certainly dead-ish in that there wasn’t much wind.
 
It was bound to happen at some stage, but this year saw record numbers on the 2 Donegal courses, great planning by the Hobbits about how to link from the flatwater to the wave courses – and almost no wind. Bugger!
 
The troops started to mass on Friday, but they really burst forth on the Saturday and Sunday with over 20 sails on the water. Once more we had Phil and Danielle, aka  the Hobbits, from Getwindsurfing as our instructors and the wind built gradually over the 4 flat water days. Friday was very light with only the annoyingly small planing – great to get all those useful bits of theory and training drills done.
 
Flat course - surrounding a tandem!
 
Saturday saw the main video feedback session in the top room at the Harbour Bar  which was bunged with loads of helpful hints and feedback and not too much verbal abuse – that normally comes on the wave course.
 
It was great to see a good crowd coming over on the ferry to join us. And nice bunch they were too – with many of them women! Now, I do realise that most windsurfers don’t actually know what women are, or at least what female windsurfers are – so you really missed out on this course, especially on the many sunny days to come. Windsurfing windsurfers in bikinis – what’s not to like (at least compared to mincing Mings in bikinis)....
 
 
We had Ali and Kayleigh. Ali drove up from the south coast of England while Kayleigh persuaded the very willing Matt to drive up from the same place but via the frozen wastes of Scotland to pick her up and drive her over from Stranraer.
 
The ugly side of bikini wear
 
The then we had BBC-escapee Jackie who had a smashing time. I really mean this literally as on her first day she locked her keys in the car. One kind windsurfer smashed her window for her and so she drove around taped up with cardboard for a few days. Duct tape really is the answer to everything.
 
Duck tape and Volkswagen
 
As usual, the flat water course was in Downings.
 
The video feedback showed off what we used to call the kids very well. We can’t really use that term so much because some of them have grown up (unlike their parents) and are becoming rather good (if annoying) windsurfers. Adam Loughridge (Mini-Ming?) is now clearly a better windsurfer than his Emperor father. We witnessed ducks, heli tacks and loads of jumps. Mind you we also had on video one of the most amusing crashes ever. It’s hard to describe without showing the video but let me lay out the steps for you and you can use your imagination :
 
  • Sailing along normally, not trying to turn, flat water, no pressure
  • Somehow looses it and starts to catapult
  • Nose rises like a jump, Adam jumps at the other end of the board
  • Mid air running, almost Flintstone style – go on, make up your own sound effects
  • Adam nose dives into a perfect face plant (just like his Dad) into the sail
  • Nose of the board cracks
Definitely worth £200 on that awful TV programme. Mind the expensive look on his father’s face was pretty priceless too.
 
James - showing up everyone else

It was good to see Rory on the water, although with his glow in the dark hair he’s hard to miss. Also nice to be reminded about how much he cares about his toenails – as he seemed to spend most of his gybes inspecting them.
 
But prize for the best best facial expressions had, for the second year running, to go to Padraig. Give him any move to do and half way round he always seemed to be experiencing extreme constipation.
 

Since the wind was still pretty light, we saw a lot of pumping especially from that old camera hogger Chris. I don’t know if it was the huge sail, or just his naturally tendencies, but it did appear to us as rather suggestive pumping. After a few appearances on the video, people started to sing Night Fever as he did rather look like he was doing a John Travolta. I rather thought he was doing Debbie Does Dallas myself.

Whatever he was doing, he decided to emulate his son and so he too cracked the nose on one of his boards.

In fact, despite the low winds, it was turning out to a rather hard weekend for kit. First up our honorary French man Fred left his rigged sail to its own devices and it chose to jump across and impale itself on his roof rack. Ouch.

This inspired Francis to reach new heights. First off he bust a panel on his aid, then he did the same to one he’d borrowed from Chris. And then, and this is a first for our courses, he put his mast into his car and shut the tailgate so violently that the mast shot forward and cracked his windscreen. Double ouch!

Not wanting to be outdone by the French or the locals, Ali dropped her sail in the shore break and the under toe bust her panel.

Monday saw better wind and I rigged up a 7.5m and was flying on my slalom board across to Marble Hill and back. However we all knew that, with the exceptionally low tides, we had to watch out for a rogue rope near the harbour. Flying back at full tilt, I skilfully avoided the rope – only to hit the second (unknown to me) rope and crashed spectacularly. The nose of my 120 Firerace did remain on, but it gained a huge deep mast mark. The rig was ripped off and, thanks for asking, I suffered only a small cut in my ankle.

However the really painful thing was that I was wearing a Go Pro and recording at the time. So if you want to enjoy watching Lord suffer, you can look at :

 

Anyway, after all that smash and grab we got to take out our early Christmas present from the Hobbits – the tandem. They brought it over with them with a view to Newtownards Sailing Club buying it. So David Corkhill and I took it out and pretty soon had the hang of sailing it. Then Danielle took it out to give lessons to others – Danielle doing most of the work from the back while a much less experienced sailor hung onto a sail at the front.

Ming and Danielle double up

Then Ming,  as usual, went big. He left Danielle on the front with a 5m while he stepped up with around 8m on the back. That thing planes! In fact Ming liked it so much that he’s bought it and intends to play with it for a while before passing it on to the club.

Just to be different on the Sunday night 20 of us went to Ming’s Palace for dinner. Strictly speaking we bought excellent local steaks and in fact Ali barbequed them. And she did an excellent job while the rest of us got stuck into Ming’s wine. Actually, it wasn’t just Ming’s as Mallory is doing a wine tasting course and brought her ‘homework’ with her – so we drank that. I left before the singing started...

 

And so part one – the flat water course ended. But you want to see a near professionally edited drone video of this, David Corkhill had his toy with him and this is what he produced :

 
 
 
And so to Gortahork. Most of us stayed in the Loch Altan as usual where we jostled for space with the Peter Hart course – but there were enough Loch Altan burgers and pints to go round. Quite a few people had come up to sail Dooeys on the Monday. Andy and his minder Alan Yeates, Michael McLister and of course his hairyness the Wookie. But the forecasts were looking dire for the rest of the week.
 
Hobbit hair - you can get cream for this
 
Tuesday was actually 29th of September – virtually Autumn. So naturally we had 21 degrees and the sun cracked the stones and Ming’s head. We went to Dooeys and the morning provided some nice sail on SUP. But by the afternoon the wind had really died and we moved to paddles. It was beautiful, the bikinis were out and  the surf was actually quite good. I even reorganised my trailer. And for the first time this year, no kit was broken.
 
Phil vs Wookie...
 
We were joined again by our friends the Lesbians. Now, this might confuse some folks, as these are actually blokes and indeed at least one did not know he was a Lesbian. It’s all rather obscure but it harks back to an article in Boards many years ago when some of the team from the Share Centre joined us in Donegal and there was confusion about exactly what the Share Centre was. Some thought it sounded like a PC-run centre for disadvantaged people and lesbians. Honestly, you had to be there.
 
Anyway it was great to see Damien and Eoin join us, even if Damien was driving one of those RVs which jam up the narrow roads for the rest of us.
 
 
It turns out the Eoin is not just a Lesbian but a life saver. He abandoned us for a few days to celebrate his birthday with his girlfriend and along the way they visited the pier at Dungloe. And there was an unfortunate who had fallen in the water and people couldn’t get the life belt out to him. Undaunted, Eoin got some others to hold onto his feet so that he could hang down off the pier and grab the bloke and save him. So more than just a Lesbian - a live saving Lesbian!
 
That’s the good news about Eoin. The bad news is that he’s got a Nutella fetish. Turns out there is nothing in the world in his opinion that can’t be improved by adding Nutella. We’re not sure if this include Ming, but we suspect it would take more than just sticky chocolate to improve him.
 
 
And while I’m on  the Lesbians as it were, we have to mentiond Damien's feet which are the whitest we’ve ever seen. In a power cut all he’d have to do is take his socks off and we could all see our way around. He also tells me that the collective pronoun for a number of lesbians is a bashing. So I think I’d best not use the L word any more.
 
Certainly I did get my comeupence shortly after this when on the dirt track roads back from Dooeys, I met an elderly gentleman for whom the concept of reversing up was unknown. Eventually I had to pull my 4x4 and trailer so far over that I ended up stuck in a ditch. He just smiled and drove on. By the time I with the help of most of the Peter Hart team had got back on the road there was strong smell of burning clutch lining.
 
 
We did manage a new and interesting video session back at the Loch Altan. Phil had set up a board and rig in the members room and he showed examples of top class riders on the waves and then got some of us to copy what we’d seen on the board. It actually worked quite well, it’s just a pity that we couldn’t go out and try it out the next day (or week for that matter).

Another day of paddling SUPs in the waves ended up with us all sharing an Indian at the Hobbit House. Phil and Danielle had hired a fabulous house in Gortahork and most the English/Scots were bunked up there too. By the time we arrived they’d been there a few days and were complaining that they needed a dishwasher. However that domestic goddess Wookie simply walked into the kitchen, located the dishwasher – and then even found the tablets for it..... Problem solved.

By Thursday the best waves were to be found at Magheroarty. So a pattern was set of two SUP wave sessions each day when the tide was right. In between Phil ran some really excellent simulation sessions. It was great rigging up a 5m sail on the dunes at Magheroarty, it would just have been nice to have used them on the water. Still, by now the tans were coming along rightly.
 
 
We even managed some more kit damage when Damien’s straps worked loose. As he drove along he noticed the boards on his roof slipping down and forward. So, in panic, he braked and of course the 2 boards shot forward and hit the road. Damage wasn’t too great, so he was lucky.
 
As Wookie suddenly developed a (no wind) love for his family and left, Nigella appeared to  take his place. And the first thing he had to do was  to help pull the car wrecker Jackie from the mud after she decided to take the scenic route on the tracks at Magheroarty. Still, at least it didn’t damage the tape and cardboard window she had.

The evening session on the reef as the tide came in and darkness started to descend was really good. Andy, Ming, Nigel and Andy Murray had a ball.

By Friday and still with no wind it was Lesbians at dawn. That is to say that Damien and Eoin were on the reef at dawn – while the rest of us preferred the Loch Altan fry. Amazingly the Hobbits ran simulated loop training until we had a really great but very crowded surf session which only ended with near darkness. It was particularly nice to have some great sound effects provided by Ali and Keyleigh – I reckon the folks at the Loch Altan must have heard their squeals every time they got  on a wave. We ended a long and tanned day at the Hobbit House with more Indian and a video and photograph session.
 
Saturday came – and guess what, no wind. The morning wave SUP session was mostly at Magheroarty beach where the addition of a couple of Go Pros added to the fun. I had mine on my paddle so when I caught a wave I could use the paddle as a glorified selfie stick. But Ming got his stuck on the nose of his board and he got some really great shots of himself on waves.. At least the wave part of this looked very cool,
 
We do the Hukka - while Kayley does the Birdie Song
 
Ming and Andy did this session on the reef but it was very big so Andy didn’t stay there too long. Ming of course milked it to the end – the reef I mean, not Andy....

However the Saturday evening session was for most of us the best session of the week. Lovely waves, although we started just as the tide reached it and there were some frightening rocks still visible.

No wind loops

After our farewell dinner at the Loch Altan on Saturday, we finished on Sunday with another paddle SUP session on small waves at Dooeys. And guess what, the sun was out and we were roasted.

Everyone left except Minger - Mrs Ming being still away in Portugal - and finally, at long last, the wind came up. After we'd all gone home....

So that was the end of our 10 days of windsurfing – well, mostly SUPing if I’m honest. It was actually great fun and we suspect we learned a lot from it. Problem is that we might forget most of it before we get a chance to try it out on the water.

And for next year it will be all change, but also no change. The reason I say this is that we are handing the course over to the Hobbits to run. This makes a lot more sense, although of course we will still be very much involved – so there’s no escape. Many of you will be getting an e-mail from me to confirm that you are happy for your e-mail addresses to be handed over to Phil and Danielle.

So do book for next year. On the law of averages, it is bound to be a really windy course!