Hot Sand and Hobbits

RNLI Chases Ming

Pier 36 GPS Challenge - End of Season Windsurfing Night out

Donegal Waves - Full but Extra Days Added!

The Usual Stuff at the End




It's a hard life in Egypt.





Isn't it strange. 6 of you go off to Egypt to windsurf and you find yourself in Middle Earth being royally looked after by a bunch of Hobbits. You couldn't make it up really!

El-Tur was the destination at the start of September and it turned out to be an excellent call by Mr Wookie. We got wind, we got waves, we got a spectacular injury and we got probably the best windsurfing holiday we've ever had.



Lord and Wookie battle it out

So what did we get? Well, planing wind every day for all 6 days for a start. 1 lightish day, but even then we had a good 1 hour session of hard planing at the end.

The centre is excellently placed right beside the best hotel in El Tur, I didn't say it was good, but it is the best. From our rooms to the centre was perhaps 100m and from the centre to the water was the same again. The main sailing area is flat, no wind shadow and 2 photographic towers to make use of. Sandy bottom and no need for boots. The wind tended to kick in around 11am and start to die about 3pm, but there were exceptions and one day it didn't arrive properly until 4pm.

Downwind a short way is small break which mostly generates swell. We visited it a few times and it was fun and a nice change from the flat main area. There's also a separate wave beach, but more on that later.

The Ocean Source Centre, aka Middle Earth was great. The gear was a bit last year, but considering the centre is up for sale this wasn't surprising. Nor was it a problem as it was all in great nick and there was plenty of it.

Right beside the centre was the beach bar which dispensed pizza, burgers and cool, cool beer which you enjoy on rugs outdoors but under some shade. Truly a great place to hang out.



Relaxing at the beach bar ...


The hotel was lovely. When I say 'was' I mean was because today it's falling apart a lot. We had nice rooms with noisy but effective air conditioning. However if you turned on the hot water system, jets of water flew out of all of the holes in the pipes. Fortunately the cold was warm enough that no-one really needed hot water so it didn't matter. Nothing worked, but the excellent staff were willing to fix anything and do it quickly. They didn't seem to mind fixing it again when it broke the next day. They would even fill the 2 swimming pools with water on demand!

Hygiene was good, but don't tell Mr Wookie that as he got a bad tummy and spent most of 1 day growling at anyone who passed from his personal hammock in the windsurfing centre. The rest of us ate the buffet food without incident - so maybe it's a Wookie thing. After that he lived on crips and chips so as to avoid the hotel food.

I mentioned that nothing worked. To give an example, Wookie and Lorraine shared a room and found their room door wouldn't lock. Several times it was fixed and then it would go again, it appeared to lock but 2 jiggles and you were in. One night Mr Wookie came back after a few beers and went to the wrong room. The door was locked and so he jiggled it twice and walked in.  He was greeted by a Russian woman running from her bathroom with a towel (allegedly) around her screaming in Russian - probably the Russian for 'there's a damned Wookie in the room'. Her husband didn't seem too amused either - maybe he's never seen Star Wars? Wookie retreated in horror - but we still don't know who was more scared, Wookie or the woman.

And then there were the cockroaches. Some rooms had them, some didn't. Wookie spent a happy hour firing shoes at the ceiling to get one. Pat and Shipman used towels and dirty underware to do the same job. Fortunately no photographs exist as we don't know what they were wearing at the time.



Middle earth with Frodo pointing out the bent arms


Now I've got to say that the staff at Ocean Source were first class. The whole attitude was help you, do things for you and just to ensure you had a great holiday. They provided video coaching, which was also to a very high standard. Mind you it needed to be as the first day revealed widespread use the bent front arm in the gybe. Must be a Newtownards thing. Trust me, by the time we left our arms were straighter than a Nazi salute and our gybes were shooting out faster than Wookie to the toilet as a result.

The Hobbit thing started with Phil, the centre manager. It was Phil who provided the excellent coaching and he's a great free-styler, but we won't hold his Vulcans against him. He's not the tallest of guys, with a permanent smile on his face and feet like, well a Hobbit. No doubt great for gripping the board in the middle of a push willi wonka or whatever. And it turned out his nick name is Frodo - if you haven't seen Lord of the Rings, you'd better give up now. Once we found this out, then very quickly Dan (another great freestyler but with a mullet - and that's the kind description of his hair) became Sam (Frodo's fat friend). And the whole bunch became the Hobbits. Well, perhaps you had to be there, but it did just sort of fit.




The small matter of moving everything and everyone to the wave beach.



Look for the Ugly Wookie in the bottom right hand corner ...


I mentioned the wave beach and this turned out to an epic journey (twice) and some lovely conditions. The hotel and centre are on a peninsula and the wave beach is on the other side, but it's about a mile away. So on the 2 days when the wind was really good, around 10 windsurfers and all of the kit they could possibly need was loaded onto, and I do mean onto, 2 taxis and driven in the usual Egyptian hairy driving fashion to this desolate beach. I should explain that these taxis were pickups but you should see the pictures of say 10 boards, 10 sails, booms and 5 sailors on top about to be rattled and bashed along the roads to the wave beach. But it was worth it, we had 2 great days there. I was on a 5.2 and very well powered, Wookie on 4.5 sailing with his usual distain. Colin sailed well until he took off on a jump - all his jumps were massive - but pulled his foot out of the strap on the tuck up. We all know that horrible feeling when it's going to be gonads or groin. In his case it was groin as he did a massive split and felt so sore he didn't sail for the rest of the day.



Wave beach. Mr Wookie looks cool on the water, less on land as NSC comes to Egypt


The one thing the Hobbits said was don't go too near the reef and to be fair I didn't think I was. The conditions were very like Magheroarty on a nice (rather than epic) day and there was some good wave catching and gybing on wave faces going down. The waves of course were biggest (well over mast high) near the reef. I lost a gybe and next thing I know there are rocks under my (bare) feet and I'm being pounded into the reef by a series of waves. Oops! Fortunately I water started after only 4 poundings and sailed out of it. Suffice to say I didn't go so close again. The problem at the wave beach is that there's no rescue cover. On our second day one of the Leathermen (UK south coast sailors) hit the reef, lost his skeg and had to carry his kit in onto the reef. Not pretty!



Colin enjoys the waves while the Lord proves he can carve in the white stuff




Wookie launches one - fortunately this time it's on the water and not in the toilet. Lordie looks like he's going to do the same!



Whatever happend to the toilet stance? Lord on the waves.


We took the option to sail back rather than risk the taxis. It's about 3 miles mostly down wind and a bit scary as you don't really know your way and it all looks very different from the water. Once again the Hobbits were brilliant with Phil and Dan leading and staying with the tail - Paddy did eventually make it back - about 2 days later.



By now Thomas has remembered how to windsurf and is showing us up. On the right Pat skims at speed


What about sail sizes, I hear you ask. Well first day I started at the centre on 6.5m but over lunch went down the point on 5.5m on 100 ltr FSW. Wookie was on 5m. The next day was similar. The windiest day at the centre saw Pat make an epic 32.3 knots by buying his Stair Way to Heaven from Dan ie hiring his Manta. We were on 5.5m but he rode 7m! Many days the wind would tail off in the late afternoon and so I'd often end up on 7-7.5m to soak up the best of it. The Hobbits were great and changing sail was never too much trouble.

Well so much for the set up - now what about the people and those mind numbing moments when we all disgraced ourselves? Well top of the tree comes the good doctor Shipman with a horrifying tale of why you should never use Ezzy sails (most of my mine are Ezzy). Day 3 he's bombing along on the water having a ball. The photographs show just how well he's been sailing, some really excellent gybes and indeed 3 really good ducks and 29.1 knots on the GPS. So there he is flying along and he loses it and catapults - as you do. He sticks out his hand to save himself and hits the sail. 9 sails out of 10 he'd make a big hole in it - but not on an Ezzy. Clunk and out goes his shoulder! Fortunately he's in his depth and 30 minutes later he's in casualty in El Tur. Egyptian hospitals I hear you shudder. Well, think again. Within 1 hour he's had 2 X-rays, the shoulder is back in and he's got a good sling and is back at the centre! And all for £50. Naturally he's off the water for the rest of the holiday and indeed for 3 months, but it could have been so much worse!




Before his little trip to A+E Shipman shows he can gybe!


To make use of his now ample spare time Tony ran doctor's surgeries most morning. With continuous planing and no boots there was a long queue of hole in the hand/foot windsurfers every morning. Tony and Pat, who were clearly playing doctors and nurses in their room anyway, moved to doctor and receptionist. A big thanks to both of them who kept the rest of us on the road. Especially me with a big cut on my foot on day 1 - I spent the week limping, but it never affected my sailing once, not even when I was on the reef at the wave beach!



Doctors and nurses - the Lord wants repaired but Pat is more interested in putting him out of our misery. Morning surgery...


Wookie of course sailed with ease, even on the wave beach he was always looking comfortable, nay even serene. Can Wookies be serene? His gybes and ducks were smooth and his only issue was 1 night of severe stomach cramps - we thought he was perhaps having a sympathetic pregnancy, but didn't see any little fur-balls running round the next day. Wookies tend to get up early, probably a primeval instinct to get up to hunt and kill something. Ours took the SUP out most mornings and on one memorable trip found himself paddling with dolphins.



Wookie can be annoyingly good at times - when he's not on the toilet.


Pat as usual spent the whole time smiling - and cracking Hobbit jokes. His best moment was ordering lunch and clearly not speaking clearly enough as he got the new gastronomic delight of spaghetti mayonnaise!

Thomas Bin Laden was with us and we were amazed to see on the first day that his gybes were only human. In Pras he'd blown us away with his super gybes. It turned out that he'd not sailed for ages and by day 2 it was business as usual. He then added 29 knots, immaculate duck gybes and some serious body drags to his repertoire. If that wasn't enough to make you hate him, he then did some kite surfing too.



Thomas can be a drag at times. Still, better than his father who can be in drag at times.


Colin enjoyed himself and got some amazing jumps at the wav beach. He took a while to get the right kit dialed but once he did we was away.  And he's fast - 28.9 knots is a pretty good speed to make.



Great jump by Colin 'Lorraine' Kelly!


Apart from my limping foot, my greatest mistake was to carry on a Skype conversation with my wife within earshot of the others. Internet connections were variable and so we resorted to wireless procedure including the use of 'over' when each of us had finished. That night at dinner, the other nice windsurfers kept putting the word 'over' into the conversation as much as they could - which naturally I didn't pick up on until I saw some of them having to leave the room in near pant wetting states. Over.



Alan 'Lord' shows speed and then how to sail wrong side mid carve tack. No Photoshop - honest!




More of the Lord. Sometimes shouting at the rig!


I also managed to be misheard taking about electronic stimulation in connection with my wife. The fact that that's not what I said was never going to make any difference and so there was much banter about electric stimulation - including for Hobbits - for most of the week. As I've said, you can't get the staff these days, much less get the servants...



The return of the Lord


Actually the Hobbits coped very well with our various nicknames. Remember that they in effect had to learn 2 names for each of us. We knew they'd cracked it when someone was talking to Sahid (Hobbit) who suddenly leapt up and said 'I must go, the Lord is coming'. Given that it was Ramadan when we were there it all seemed very appropriate.

I have to say that my sailing ended up as excellent. I have to say that of course because none of the others wil say it for me! Some great coaching from Frodo and then some subtle reinforcement from Wookie - 'you bent your arm you stupid t***, how long have we been coaching you, go back out right now and do it right' - helped enormously. I got 1 duck, piles of planing out gybes and lots of great gybes in the waves.





The standard of photography was another big plus point on this trip. For once most of us took turns with the cameras, but the blonde Hobbit, Dannielle does this semi professionally. She bravely stood in the water with her camera and invited us to buzz her. In fact we nearly killed her! And she was on hand at the wave beach with a long lens and tripod. Added to this we had the Leathermen - a bunch of nice blokes from the UK south coast who sailed brilliantly and seemed to spend every off the water minute in the sun. They weren't brown, these guys were seriously black! Tom had a great camera and an even  greater girlfriend Sue who donated many excellent shots to us.

The result is a collection of fabulous shots to die for. Some are on the MyLyst site - trust me the rest will be on our bedroom walls, screen savers and PC wall paper.



Thomas tried to sit on Wookies board - at least I think that's what I heard him say? More toilet stance needed.


I have to give a mention to Graham, the son of friend of Tony's, who joined us and bravely put up with us for a week. Graham just quietly sailed and got in with things, while no doubt trying to gently give the impression that he wasn't with us. He stuck the main sailing area where he sailed fast and tacked brilliantly.

One other person I must mention is Christian from Switzerland. He stumbled into our group and because a good friend - he could even understand most of our Ulster humour jokes. We look forward to seeing him and the Hobbits sailing in some real-man conditions in Donegal with us before too long.

Would we recommend you go to El Tur. Clearly yes, although of course the future of the Ocean Source centre and the excellent Middle Earth staff there is up in the air. It's a great spot for all types of sailing, provided you have a good stomach and excellent aim with a shoe for the cockroaches. It's not a family destination, but great for windsurfers, brown men and of course Gandolf. Over




We are all indebted to the RNLI and the excellent job they do, but sometimes it can have amusing consequences. A couple of weeks ago Ming the Merciless was out on the usual medical Wednesday sail at the club. The quacks and the driller killers usually go out on this day, so be warned it's not a good day to be ill in N Ireland! Ming of course owns half of all the windsurfing kit in NI and so even if it's only a few knots he can go out on his 12m stuff - no doubt providing a hazard to passing airplanes.

This day it didn't look good so Ming rigged the big stuff and out he went. Naturally once he was well out, the wind picked up to nigh on 30 mph and the Merciless was prostrated in the water waiting for it to pass. We're not sure the 30 minutes he spent cursing and hanging onto his footstraps caused the fun or if it was the broken boom. Because when he got back, he rigged an 8m, zoomed across the Lough and promptly broke his boom. He may own half the kit in NI, but clearly he doesn't own the best half. With the aid of some string (we all carry a piece for emergencies when we're out sailing don't we?) he repaired the front end and sailed. 200m later it sprang apart again and so began a slow progression home in 200m sections with much Blue Peter work and swearing along the way. When he got back to the club he was greeted by the dreaded flashing blue light. Someone had called 999 - for which they are of course to be commended. So as he chatted to the police the RNLI rocked up in their rib. They were of course pleased, not annoyed 'we'd rather speak to you on the shore Your Highness, rather than carry you back in a body bag'. However the sharp-eyed Ming had also noticed 2 relative beginners who'd gone out and been blown really far downwind in the squall. So he suggested the RNLI go and drag them back. As they went Ming sat and chatted to the police and then a message came over the radio - one of the windsurfers (who was miles down wind) was refusing help and wanted to sail back alone. Ming got on the radio and gave him a blast pointing out it would take him until dark and the boys in the boat shouted this across to him. Still the guy insisted on not being rescued.

At this point is gets scary as who appears next but the windsurfer's mother. So they give her the radio and she says - in the words only a mother can use - that he'd better get back PDQ as she didn't want to be kept waiting. At this point the errant windsurfer immediately accepted the offer and was duly dragged back to the carpark.


It does beg the question - who is more scary, an irate mother or Ming the Merciless.....




Following the El Tur trip the leader board has changed a lot.


Ming 34 knots

NZ Tim 32.8

Pat Lyner 32.3

Shipman 29.1

Lorraine 28.9

The conditions at El Tur were good but not excellent for speed. Tony, Pat and Lorraine did a lot of speed but never quite challenged the Merciless One. There was an X-Fire there which got good use, but Pat even went as far as hiring the personal board of one of the Hobbits (Manta), but never quite got the strong day he needed. So Ming still rules with only a month to go.

And then there's the other Egyptian hero - Mr Trevor 'bang on the head' Gabbie. By coincidence he was out at Dahab and did a remarkable score. He got - and he's got documentary proof of this - 37.39 knots! Seriously fast! But on the other hand, he hadn't got 2 club members as witnesses. So the jury is out on whether this one will count. In the meantime Ming is lobbying the club committee members with his drill in his hand



No messing around, put it in your diary now. The prize giving and usual windsurfing entertainment will be at Pier 36 on Friday 23rd October. Bring your wives, girlfriends and Freestyle Waves - whichever is dearest to your heart. There's a meal, fantastic craic and no doubt very humiliating entertainment.

7:30 is the time £20 is the price. Let Pat Lyner know if you want to come.

I'll provide more details later, but you know it'll be good and there are some great prizes this year.



The bad news is that we're totally full for the Donegal wave clinic. The good news is that we've managed to squeeze an extra day of Jim Collis into the week. So Mr Duracell will be there from lunch time on Tuesday 13th October and leaving at lunch time on Friday 16th. That's 3 days of training spread over 4 days. Can't be bad - and there's no extra cost for those who've already paid!

If you want to be put on the waiting list in case anyone else dislocates a shoulder, just let me know.