For more years than any of us care to mention, Andy, Wookie and I have organised the autumn Donegal trips. We've brought over various professional instructors like Jim Collis, Guy Cribb and more recently Phil and Danielle aka the Hobbits. But at the end of last year, we gratefully handed the courses over to Phil and Danielle to run themselves.

It made a lot of sense and, when we see the huge success of this year, we know we made the right decision.

This year, as well as their now normal July beginners courses, they managed to run not just one but two weekend courses for improvers. I only arrived up in the middle of the Saturday ie the 2nd day of the 4 day long weekend. Around 15 sails on the water at Downings and a lot of serious improving going on. And some people ended up in Minger's hot tub afterwards, but we'll not go into the gory details - especially of Mr Wookie barefaced changing behind the lid of the (outdoor) hot tub while the Hobbits innocently frolicked in the water....


Winds for the next few days were light. Mr Yeates, Wookie and I headed off to Carrickfinn and got a fine day of SUPs on waves. The sun shone, the daily aircraft landed and flew off again from Donegal airport and it was all very lovely.

The main wave course ran from Tuesday to Sunday as per previous days. Some of us stayed faithful to the Loch Altan which remained the centre point of activities - not to mention that term which strikes fear into the heart of all right-thinking men - line dancing. But the Hobbits hired a large house in the area and filled it up with about half the course. This made a lot of sense since literally half the course now drives over from England and shacking up in the house is cheaper, so making up for the cost of getting here.

It also made for a great evening half way through when we all ordered Indian and had a party there. An awful lot windsurfing bollox was talked that night I can tell you...

So we had a very full course with a mixture of the usual suspects and a bunch of new and mostly younger people from England over to see what real waves are like instead of those mushy pea ones they get on the south coast of England.

Another change was in the way Phil had planned the course. We had far fewer of the somewhat long video feedback sessions aka the Ming the Merciless on yet another wave show. There was a definite plan with lots of examples taken from Phil's extensive video library to show us what to do. So you could :

  • Have a Guinness
  • See the video
  • Have a Guinness
  • Visualise
  • Have a Guinness
  • Figure out what you needed to concentrate on for the next day
  • Have a Guinness
  • After that, who gives a fart....


The week started off at Rosapenna with some mostly light winds and small waves. I was on a SUP with a 6.3m sail at first, but graduated to proper board (115 in my case) as it got windier. The sun shone, we had wind (but not too much) and we had waves (but not too much). Ideal to learn from.

Then we moved for a couple of days to Dooeys aka Lettermacaward. Waves can be pretty mean there, but were nice ie not too big and munchy. 5.5m was where I ended up on either a 104 quad or the 115. Again it all made for some very good learning.

It also made for a lot less kit carnage than some previous years. Apart from an old Ezzy which finally gave up the ghost, the most annoying collateral damage for me was losing my Go Pro and its mount. One minute it was securely on the top of my mast and the next it was fish food in the Atlantic. Don't worry, my loving family will buy me a replacement - and a cheaper brand at that - for Christmas. Or else .....

It was beginning to look like the first Donegal where we wouldn't sail Magheroarty due to wind direction when it finally came round a bit and we finished the week there. On the last day the big wind had come through in the night and since no-one was going to get up early, everyone thought they'd missed it.

Sergeant Major Phil was trying his best to persuade everyone to get something relatively small rigged up and get out, but everyone thought it was about to die. Taking pity on him, I stuck a 6.3 on my 115 and dragged the kit down the dunes and hit the water. The others laughed. At least they did until they saw me take off well powered and gybing. A rigging frenzy followed and most people got around 2 hours good sailing before it did indeed drop off.

One big change this year, and I must emphasize the word big here, was Fanta Pants appearing in an RV. He didn't appear for the first few days - the rumour is that it took him that long causing road carnage to get here from Bangor. Of course we were embarrassed to be seen with him - well, even more than we usually are due to his red hair. But he kept his distance at Magheroarty, mainly because there was no way that monstrosity would have made it to the sand dunes of the beach.

Mind you, one person who clearly was not embarrassed to be seen near the RV was Andy. In fact I don't know what it was about the superbly comfortable swing seats, wall to wall media, comfy double bed (don't ask) or endless supplies of free coffee and buns, but our Andy seemed to spend more time cuddling up with FP than on the water. Well, each to his own, or in this case someone else's....

As the photos show, we had a good time. Wookie sailed with his customary grace, style and scowl. When Andy could be parted from FP's luxury spa he had a good sail, especially at Dooeys. Ming pushed himself, was on every wave and when knackered then went off to the reef at Magheroarty for some near night time surfing.

Despite his duties as a personal slave and masseur for Andy, Fanta Pants got come great waves. And Cormac had some great sails despite not having the wind to try and challenge any passing Easyjet planes. He also risked taking his new race sail out at Magheroarty. This sail costs more than most people's boards and takes a team of 4 engineers with complex measuring equipment to rig - but it got a lot of admiring looks even when it was just laid out on the grass.

The less skilled wave protagonists like Michael and me both improved a lot. Backside I can do, but front side was starting to come and I found myself on quite a few waves and doing passable (rather than laughable) top and bottom turns. Loads of room for improvement though!

Lord goes frontside

So no drama, not so much need for factor 50 and no dashes to A&E, but it was a really good course and we're all really looking forward to next year's which Phil and Danielle are already planning.


The Hobbits will announce the course on Getwindsurfing and I'll echo the invitation out there.

So do join us! And please don't come in an RV....