Most people say they want to forget 2020 and who can blame them. However, despite everything, there was a lot of good windsurfing done.

Few people had holidays, at least to the sun, the Morocco windsurfing trip got cancelled but at least the Hobbit's Donegal courses did run, even if the wind was largely absent.

So this is more of a summary of the way things were in 2020, rather than the usual specific incidents and humiliations we usually write about.


Apart from a few trips to Donegal and the Carlingford area, the mains sites to sail were as ever :

Newtownards Sailing Club for the wise and the nearby carpark for the miserable and the mean. Good place to sail, especially for the less experienced, and at times a refuge for those who couldn't or wouldn't face being murdered in the waves at Kearney, Minerstown and the like. Sailed in most directions apart from easterly but at times of high tide launching, or more importantly returning could be interesting. In Covid times the club was mostly open but for long periods the changing rooms and more importantly the showers were not available.

Paddy - fully in control!

Paddy and David C.

Wookie's House - Whiterock is a fabulous place to sail especially when there's a bit of east in it. Lots of islands to explore and these can create wind funnels for great speed or shelter if the wind is too high. In the early lockdown it became super busy and the police at times turned people away. One lucky Wookie of course could rig in his garden and walk 100 yards to sail for his daily exercise, something the police actively encouraged. However there are some nutcases in the area and at times you need to be careful who you talk to....

 The last windsurfing before Lockdown 1

Changing room at Whiterock.. Who says Wookie's can't do sultry!

Cultra - is a relative newcomer but has become an established favourite mainly due to Ming who regards it as his personal spot. Access is down a supposedly private road to a very restricted car park which the evidence shows is well used by the locals at night. For ages Minger claimed it got a couple of extra knots of wind compared to Ards, but we took this as his usual exaggeration - ie to be divided by root two like any other figure he says. Turned out he was right! Now it's a regular spot and great in anything without too much south in it. And with ferries to dodge, what's not to like!

Dave C hands over the keys for the new windsurfer taxi service to the first satisfied customer. One William Revels who had to be taxied back at Cultra. It can happen to any of us (wind drop) but it's all the more satisfying when it happens to a  Wookie!


Ballyholme - AKA  Ballyturd - although the water seems a lot cleaner these days..... Good in northerlies and a nice toilet to hang around in or whatever you like to do in there.

Minerstown/Tyrella - has become very popular for waves in the last few years. The two beaches are at slightly different angles but SE or SW can be good. The difficulties are that Tyrella will try and charge for entry in the summer (unless your name is Big Robert) and Minerstown has some serious rocks so you need to view it at low tide first.

Raptor mid loop at Minerstown - and yes, he got it!


Kearney - The go-to spot for a spot of backside and the second home of Andy - rather fittingly.

Oxford Island - sailing on non salt water like this on Lough Neagh is different. Your board is less floaty and the chop is different, but this is a good spot when there's some north in it. The so called second bay also gives an option when the wind is in the south but in the summer it gets filled with weed and can be a real pain for a big fin or a foil. This year the area has another infestation - Dunkers. These all year round swimmers are fine and mostly thoughtful but their record on parking is dire and is putting some windsurfers off. For lock down 1, Oxford Island was closed off but the council have taken a more enlighted attitude since.

Rush hour at Oxford Island.

While not tidal, it can get high on Lough Neagh.

In the good old days you could go into the cafe and get a coffee....


Bartin's Bay/Busted Marina sits on the west shore of Lough Neagh within sailing distance of Oxford Island. Bartins is good in NW but can be wind shadowed otherwise. Derrymore was newly 'discovered' this year since it used to be tree lined, but the trees have vanished! The launch is slightly tricky due to some semi-submerged barges and the remains of what looks like a Morris Marina - hence the name Busted Marina. But it works well in westerlies and was used a lot this year to minimise 'essential travel'.

Take a look at this 360 in action at Busted


Cranfield is near the mouth of Carlingford Lough and can be good but also suffers from very strong currents.


Cloughy/Millisle remain the best spots on the east coast.



You can divide the sailors largely into 3 camps - Ards, Waves and Lough. But there is a lot of crossover.

One of the most regular sailors was, as ever, Ming. He's now reduced his work pattern so that he's free all day Mondays as well as his previous Wednesday afternoons. And when I say he's free, I mean he will sail. His main spots are Ards, including Cultra, and the wave locations. This year he made it his goal to spend more on windsurfing kit than anyone else and so has got fully into foiling (we've lost count of the number of foils and dedicated boards he's got) and now blanket waving (winging). During lockdown he had special dispensation so that all the normal rules didn't apply to him and, with his surgery closed, spent all the time at Cultra. Despite being chased by the coastguard, he was never caught.....


It has to be said that his foil sailing is now very good, but don't tell him I said that. In fact, take a look for yourself - Ming Fooling


The wave people were largely led by Raptor. We were delighted, although slightly suprised, that he found time between sessions to get married. Quite a difficult thing to do in Covid times when his dates and venues got moved a number of times. I don't know what it says about his marriage, but he seems to be sailing even more as a married man.

Most sessions on the south coast were attended by Michael, always with his trusty camera, Bedford, Wookie, Andy (when not working ie anytime it was windy), Philip and Mark amongst others.

The Lough crew are mostly based around Lough Neagh and tended to stay there a lot during the restrictions. We were very pleased when Ciaran got a Go Pro 360 as the quality of this videos is so good. If you haven't seen these, it films all around but the simple editing afterwards allows him to select what is displayed. The effect is like having a personal cameraman on board, see for yourself on these two!

This is Ciaran on his foil racing Sasha and myself on big slalom kit. I'm the one starting way back but catching up.

And, now in the lee of an island my slalom is much faster.

The other regulars are Jarlath (that's the former dentist Jarlath), Paddy, Barry, Sasha, Charlie and me. There are some seriously good sailors in the bunch (and then there's me) and Ciaran and Barry have both got foils. The effect of lockdown was to provide a lot of free time so there's been a lot of sailing done.

Their other most preferred spot is Cranfield. However it all went wrong one mental day in November when it blew up and some of them got caught in the current. Jarlath is a very strong swimmer and managed to swim his board out of the current (it took an hour) before he could sail it in. One other sailor, who'd come out to look for him, wasn't able to do this and had to be rescued by the RNLA aided by a helicopter. A salutory reminder to all of us to always be safey minded. All was well and no harm done. And here's the proof from a newsfeed :


Missing' Carlingford Lough windsurfers make it to safety following cross border operation

All LMFM News

Sunday, November 15th, 2020 10:32am

By Ruth O'Connell

One of the men managed to make it to shore but the other was brought to Kilkeel harbour in Co. Down

A cross border rescue operation was launched yesterday, following reports of two windsurfers missing on Carlingford Lough.

Kilkeel coastguard and RNLI, the Greenore Coast Guard unit, Coastguard helicopter Rescue 116 and Clogherhead RNLI responded after the alarm was raised after 3pm.

One wind surfer made his own way ashore and the other was spotted by Kilkeel Coastguard Rescue Team who directed Kilkeel RNLI to him.

He was assessed and brought into Kilkeel harbour where no further assistance was required.

The incident was coordinated by the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre in Dublin and the Coastguard Operations Centre in Belfast.





 Ciaran and Sasha splashing about together - a still from the 360.




There were a few highlights in the year :

Wookie having to take a taxi when the wind dropped.

Ming busting yet another boom and having to swim a mile to get in - all tracked on his GPS device, not his fastest ever.

Barry smashing a number of sails (but improving vastly as he did).

Charlie and the helicopter.

The Downings event actually happened and Ciaran became Irish Foil Champion (tin foil is that?)

Jarleth on his surf board in no-wind Donegal.

Ali chop-hopping his way to a properly broken ankle - 6 months off the water.

Mr Whippy arrived and served up excellent lessons and no 99s.


So roll on 2021....