Garvaghy Rhodes

ORANGEMEN MARCH IN SUNNY RHODES

 

What happened when 15 Ulstermen marched to Rhodes.

 

You can take the man out of Ulster, but you can't take Ulster out of the man. And so it was that were treated to the sight of several windsurfers flying about on the waters of Prasonisi, Rhodes, wearing very large orange rash vests. Indeed, with such crowded waters and high speed whizzing, the carnage at times really did remind you of the worst times at the Garvaghy Road.

The simple facts are that 15 of us, mostly club members but not exclusively, spent a week in Rhodes. We had arranged top instructor and Windsurf Magazine technical guru Jim Collis to provide professional coaching - and we got wind!

 

For those of you who don't know Prasonisi and who may contemplate going, it's a very small village at the very bottom of Rhodes, about 90 minutes drive from the airport.There are 3 windsurfing centres on the beach, 2 restaurants and a shop plus some low rise apartments. And that's it. It's appeal is that everything is compact, within a few minutes walk. The apartments are clean, better than basic and run by people who understand windsurfing (they don't mind sand everywhere, there are places to hang out your kit and they don't mind smelly men and wetsuits). It turned out that some apartments had air-conditioning, satellite TV and a kitchen, some didn't. This caused a bit of muttering between the haves and have-nots, it was a bit reminiscent of that year on Big Brother when they had the rich and the poor side - fortunately we didn't have to put up with Davina's inane ravings, so we survived (as you can you guess I was one of those with air con - well, they don't call me the Lord for nothing).



The food is good and not expensive. A typical meal, 2 courses and an ample supply of beer was E20-30. Lunch can be had on the beach from a sort of souped up icecream van for E2.5 including a drink. However if it's very windy the proprietor's wife has to stay in the van too, otherwise it would blow over.

If you are thinking of bringing your nearest and dearest (that's a wife Wookie, not your new RRD wave board), it's fine if she likes sand. It's hot and windy and the beaches are lovely. But there isn't an awful lot else to do. Trevor Gabbie brought his wife and 1 year old son with him. It seemed to work out very well, apart from the belt on the ear he got for tying to go out on the water once too often. There is a 'normal tourist area' with loungers and shades and Avaline spent a lot of time there. The restaurants were well set up to look after young Michael, who seemed to be suffering no ill effects from my previous announcement that he was a girl. Clearly I was confused by his father who is well known as a big girl. High chairs, baby food and bottle warming was all provided - and when Trevor was sorted out, his son was well looked after too.

Lord about to die at the wave beach F8!

 

There are 2 beaches at Pras. The main one is flat water and very safe with cross on winds and a swimmers area to head for if you get blown down wind. There are watch towers, to spot people in trouble, not unfortunately fitted with machine guns to strafe passing kiters. Rescue cover is fast and efficient, although fortunately the only person in our group who needed rescuing was Colin for a broken UJ. The beach is nice sand, not that horrible stuff that hurts your feet although it can slope down fairly quickly in places. The water is free of rocks and other hazards and very clean - or at least it was until we arrived and got into it. However it is crowded and there are a lot of people on fast kit going very quickly. One of us regularly counted over 100 sails on the water - you may wonder what sort of a sad-o would sit and count sails, but honestly Mr Yeates is a really nice guy.

The starboard rule doesn't appear to apply, instead there is a pecking order :
 
1st - Wookie, no-one gets in his way
2nd - the Germans who would have put their towels on down on the water if they could
3rd - the Poles, it's interesting to hear swearing in another language
4th - normal windsurfers
5th - beginners


 
It wasn't too bad, but you did have to keep your eyes open and wits about you. But at least it got less crowded on the outside.
 
The kiters were an issue. They have their own centre at the upwind part of the beach, in a sensible position which minimised the cross traffic with the windsurfers. Mostly the good kiters kept up there, but inevitably the less good would end up downwind amongst the windsurfers and then it could get quite scary. Clearly the beach needs to be better organised and there were safety issues here. It was quite common to find a kiter sailing beside or across you - and those lines are scary, especially at full planing speeds. I witnessed one kiter lose it and land his kite from a great height only feet from a windsurfers head - I learned some new and useful German swear words. The rescue boats were of course busy picking up lost kiters, but their methods seemed crazy to us. They seemed to work on the principle of stretching out the lines between the kite and the handle like some giant trip wire - and then hauling it all in (slowly) no doubt to stop it all snagging. But to us this was a death trap. Chris Loughridge scored a magnificent forward loop, sadly without the board, after hitting the wires. He lost his sunglasses and hat, so some good did come out of it. Thomas, in between doing the most beautiful carves, hit wires and broke a set of harness and holed a sail. And I haven't even mentioned yet the seriously mentally impaired kiters who are good enough to sail where they want - and yet actually choose to launch and sail amongst the windsurfers! Just who won the war anyway? I'm sorry to say that someone is going to going to be badly hurt unless some clear rules are set and enforced.
 
Funnily enough the only potentially serious incident we suffered was when a Polish intermediate rammed one of us in the back. Our man was incensed and shook the offender warmly by the neck before holding him down, buoyancy aid not withstanding, under the water. Twice. While this wasn't the brightest thing to do (and nearly caused a diplomatic incident when the German windsurfing centre intervened), it does show up the whole safety issue. But I don't want to give the wrong impression, most people most of the time took care and looked out for others. And the normal camaraderie you expect from windsurfers was always present. And it was so common to see someone crawling off the water exhausted, but with a huge smile of satisfaction on their face.

Ming sown up by Shipman

 

We were not without our own self inflicted wounds of course. Chris Loughride was mostly made of titanium before this trip, but he will need a few spare bits made up after it. His hands got so sore he would wake up screaming in the night (or so we are told, we don't of course know first hand). His feet were cut almost to the bone (joys of windsurfing for a week with no booties) and then he crashed a gybe in spectacular fashion - and on video! Despite wearing a helmet, we have the slow motion documentary evidence to show how he still managed to headbutt the boom and gash his face. In fact we also enjoyed the action replay on video - quite a few times. Good old Tony rushed to the rescue (of Chris, not the kit) and stitched him up and then stuck a lot of needles in him. So now he can proudly boast he's stitched up a lawyer and a dentist, hope he hasn't got a to do list which includes an engineer.... Doctor's orders were not to go on the water for an hour - normal people would have retired to bar for the day. But 59 minutes later Chris was back out there and not slowing down 1 bit. Mind you, he did have to up his drug intake for the rest of the week. Bet the salt water hurt in that cut.
 
I gave the general punters a bit of a slagging earlier on, but I have to say that when Chris was on the shore sporting a real shiner, a German saw his hideous face and came up, examined him and offered to help. We thought he meant euthanasia, but in fact he was a doctor and was kindly offering to stitch Chris up - until he saw that he'd already been professionally done. So the spirit of windsurfing is alive and well as that was a really nice thing to do. Come to think of it, we should have asked if he was a cosmetic surgeon, maybe he saw Chris's face as an interesting challenge?

Ming mid duck - will he make it?



Quack quack oops!
 
While we're on Chris (yes, it is fun isn't it), did you know that he is now known as Ming the Merciless. Remember the film Flash Gordon, the tall, bald and hideous ugly emperor Ming? Dead ringer - and even better because Chris hasn't seen the film - yet..... I will sadly in the interests of balance also have to say that Chris' windsurfing was nothing short of excellent. A little coaching, some abuse from your friends and a get up and go (and get killed) attitude goes a long way. In Ming's case that ran to piles of roaring planing out gybes and a whole load of class high speed ducks, many caught on film. Titanium knows no fear.

 

I mentioned that there were 2 beaches. I've described the main one, but there is also a wave beach. The shore of the main beach runs out to a headland which in turns forms a the point of a triangle with a beach on each side of it. Thus you could sail upwind to near the point. Drag your board 100 yards across sand and you are on the next beach - with waves. On the windier days quite a few of us headed over there and were rewarded with half to mast high waves and only slightly lower winds. And they were 'nice' waves, not bone crushers as you might get in Magheroarty. So if you lost it you might have a swim for your kit but at least you didn't get the rinse cycle and wonder if you were ever going to breathe again. It's a fabulous location, safe beach with good blasting and yet nice waves just a short distance away.
 
So what wind did we get? Each day followed a pattern, lighter in the morning, slight dip around lunch, building in the afternoon and windiest until 6-7pm. The slope of the wind graph stayed the same, but the height of the graph varied. In non mathematical terms, this means that some days started light and built up to F4/5. Others started higher and ended higher. And one day started at F5 and ended up at F8! It worked in our favour as the lighter days were at the beginning of the week, so we could benefit massively from Jim's basic coaching. While he covered the basics like vision, opposing etc etc, we all felt he is an excellent coach. It wasn't quite the same as we'd heard before, OK the fundamentals were, but I guess he was just better at explaining and demonstrating it. And each evening he'd edited his video footage down to a nice manageable length and we'd sit with 15 pints of beer (in total, not each) and watch, listen and learn. His methods of explaining gybes were especially good and also he spent a lot of time sailing with each person to work on their issues.

 

The results were clear. Day by day you could see huge improvements. Gybes improved, a lot of people got ducks - including quite a few who lost their ducking virginity (at least that's what I think they said). Tacks especially were improved, short board ones more so. OK 7 days on the water helped, but we really felt that the coaching had made a huge difference. If something like this is arranged again, I don't care how good you think you are - take the coaching!

 

And then we got up 1 morning and it was already F5. The day started on 5m and less. And then it got windier. By 2pm the windsurfing centre was closing as they said it was unsafe for their rescue boats. But Jim persuaded them to allow most of us to stay out (at his responsibility) and on the wave beach. 4m sails, mast high waves the centre wind meter showing gusts of 45 knots! The footage shows a role of honour of those who managed to sail in the waves and lived to tell the tail. It was big stuff, but great fun.

 

I mentioned ducks and the like. What I need to explain is that the natural sailing course was slightly upwind and away from the beach, gybe and then run back down what was in effect a speed strip down the beach. The beach shelves very quickly so you could sail fast within feet of the shore - where your so-called friends would be standing - and then gybe or duck or crash. We were mostly on the beach and I went to go out on a 5.5m - so Andy announced (without asking me) that I was going to do a duck gybe. So everyone else sat tight, started up the abuse and waited to be entertained. No pressure at all. First run I came roaring in, negotiated the traffic, huge loud abuse was hurled at me - and I crashed the gybe. Next run in - and even more determined/scared - a beginner pulled out in front of me, I quickly changed course only to be confronted with 2 kayaks side by side in front of me. I was determined to get my duck attempt and there (honestly) did look like there was enough room between them. Apparently they didn't think so because as I rocketed between them they each dived out of their canoes in an attempt not to be smashed. Now to roars of laughter, guess what I crashed the duck. I am glad (amazed) to say that on my third run I made a duck - and the roar that went up from the gallery was heard right up at the bar. Pity none of the buggers thought to video it....

Fanta Duck Pants

 

Kit was an issue. Jem Hall had a course - and kept running round with a whistle, he sounded like Thomas the Tank Engine - and there was a course of Germans. So, despite a well stocked centre, it could be hard to get the best board/rig for a given day. Naturally we weren't the first down each day - and naturally the Germans were. However Andy brought a couple of boards and sails from Wookiewindsurfing and this helped a lot. It was interesting to see that all of the travel arrangements worked fairly well, Andy had negotiated these in advance and in writing before he left.

 

So what was a typical day like. Breakfast at the bar/restaurant and down to the water about 9:30. Normally lighter winds, but usually planing to start. A session with Jim, followed by him working with people on the water. Windsurf all morning, with breaks for water, abuse, rests and to compare injuries. Most people wore either a rash vest (bright orange of course) or nothing. I have to say in this respect that there was quite a lot of competition in the 70s porn star, too tight, speedo, trunks variety. Most people thought I was way out in the lead here, but then Alan Yeates unleashed his porno specials and took the lead - until Guy took his shorts off and then there was really no competition. A bright pocket handkerchief under a large overhanging cliff....

 

Lunch was usually from the van, E2.50 for a Panini and can. And then the afternoon was solid windsurfing with more wind. We'd usually leave the water about 6ish, later if it was windy (the centre were flexible on this) and then meet for beers to unwind. After (in the case of some people clearly optional) showers, the video feedback was held over more beers and then a meal, usually but not always at Pras.
 
There wasn't too much night life and of course many of us just wanted to retire and drink our cocoa. But the Andys led a charge to a night club one night. I'm not allowed to say too much about this, except to say that most people came home at 3 AM. And that it wasn't a good idea to even consider trying to utilise an ambulance as a means of getting home (fortunately this plan never got past the idea)  and that some people windsurf remarkably well on 2 hours sleep.
 
Now to the people. Here's a few brief bits about the highlights and lowlight for each person.

 

Thomas       
 
It's not often you hear Andy raving about someone else's gybes, but Thomas's were so good we were even prepared to forgive him those awful green dangly shorts he wore and the oh so cool shades. His ducks were just as good and he mastered the body drags where others failed (in the case of the others mainly due to not having too much of a body to drag)

 

 


Thomas Immaculate Gybe


Robby
 
Thomas's father and a man whose gybes improved visibly each day. Robby had a great time while entertaining us with his usual dry wit. The only man who can windsurf  and look like Osama bin Laden at the same time. Now known as Robbi bin Laden.

Robbie Bin Laden
 
Alan Yeates   
 
Got his first ducks - and they weren't wobbly ones either. Alan was brown/orange before he arrived and wore almost no clothes for the week. Clearly his wives were refusing to do his washing.

Yeates lean to


Minging Duck
 
Chris
 
3 stitches, needle holes everywhere, bloody feet and hands - and he gets to be called Ming the Merciless. If it wasn't for his excellent high speed gybes and ducks this man might have a (titanium) chip on his shoulder. When it came to guitar time, he knows the words of every song from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Is there no end to this man's talents?

 
Tony
 
Had 1 not so good day - and then came out fighting and had a fantastic day. Got so many planing out gybes that it became boring and got his first ducks too. A happy bunny - and he got to stitch up Chris. Currently working on the video edit - be very scared...

 


Little boys

Andy Tease   
 
Had such a relaxed time he almost forgot to windsurf at times. Then the wind got up and so did he. 360s to dream about and enjoyed himself on and off the water.

Andy Warwick Gybe
 
Andy Warwick 
 
Worked hard at his gybes and the results were there for all to see towards the end. Sacrificed himself to keep Andy company in the dead of the night(club).

 

 

Wookie 
 
Boringly good, ducks, planing out, planing tacks, 360s - whatever and whoever he felt like doing. He almost smiled on one occasion. His highlight was taking part in a financially very important meeting by mobile phone from the back of one of our vans. And he won the contract! Clearly lack of video helped.

Speedo King and the terrorist
 
Guy
 
Apart from those shorts he fitted in very well. Or at least so Mark said in connection with the porn video they were allegedly shooting together each night in their apartment. Sailed, gybed and drank to his heart's content, but not necessarily in that order. Seemed to spend a lot of time photographing odd places at odd times. Then we noticed that there were always women passing at the time.

 

Mark Heron   

Sailed immaculately, even gybed in the waves in 40 knots plus. Kept his end up in the video and provided a good support for the photography.


Trevor got away from the family long enough to gybe!

 

Trevor       
 
Managed the windsurfing, wife and baby with relatively few incidents. Clearly has thick ears. Sailed well of course.

Don't stop til you get enough

 

Michael Jackson   
 
Yes, honestly. And worse, he's an excellent guitar player as we proved the night we borrowed the guitar. Michael sailed hard and got some excellent gybes. Most of all he really enjoyed himself for 7 days.

 

Colin Kelly   
 
Was caught on video while taking sneaky photos of girls bikinis (no they weren't being worn by Guy at the time). His sailing improved consistently each day and he had a ball. He is also an excellent singer and knows almost as many words as Chris. We wonder if he's on the same drugs?

Andy lends a hand...

 

Lord       
 
My gybes and especially my tacks improved gradually over the week - the sorer my feet got, the better my gybes. My highlight was a planing exit from a slalom gybe, I suspect my low point was singing the Sick Man Blues after 4 pints (note singing it, not acting it out).
And so what were we left with? Well, sore feet for a start. When you're not used to sailing barefoot, your feet swell and you get cut and bruised. We compared 14 swollen plates of meat in the hotel on the way home and it was not a pretty sight. But then it wasn't particularly when we set off anyway.
Chris ended up in hospital a few days later. It looked serious, but turned out not to be fortunately. A reaction to the pain killers is suspected. Will it stop Ming? We doubt it.

After a hard day at the office

We also had various limps, bruises in places you'd rather not know about. About 3 sails trashed too - but that's OK, we were insured.

And we have a pile of photos and video. This is being worked into a tour video, no doubt intercut with Orange marches and gay porn - I'm sure we can't wait until the official reunion.
 
And we have a huge debt of thanks to Wookie who really made it all happen. The poor soul was worried when after the first few days the wind was ordinary, he was concerned we might not enjoy ourselves. See, he has a heart (actually I believe Wookies have 2). He was simply brilliant!
 
Would we go back - you bet. Should you? Definitely - but bring plenty of cream for the feet....