Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hammerheads and Vultures

I just arrived back to the UK after a windy and eventful trip to fuerteventura for the Sotavento Grand Slam Kite and Windsurf World Cup 2008. The event is one of the biggest in numbers as windsurfers from freestyle, speed and course racing all turn up closely followed by the same fleets of kitesurfers.

Sotavento is one of the windiest tour stops in the year offering something similar to what Tarifa does in a lavante and this year. The wind did fluctuate over the days and even dropped to 15 knots one day. but most of the time it was 30 knots and above. For one full day of competition the wind averaged a gusty 35 – 45 knots of wind. It was truly crazy. Riders were using their smallest kites and the girls were fun fighting to borrow Karolina Winkowski’s 4m Naish Torch of which there is only 2 in the world that I’m aware of.

Fortunately for me I had the chance to use it in my heats rather then be drilled on my 6m!

This is the first time I have ever used a kite so small in 5 years of competing. It has always been my philosophy in life that if I cant keep down a 6m then its not worth kiting, but this day has proved me wrong. I was expecting the 4m to be a liability despite Karolina insisting it was a good kite, but she was right. It was such a solid kite that the only time that a doubt came into my head that it wasn’t in fact a 6m was when I slammed it hard into the water and it looked as likely to relaunch as a plastic bag. However it did relaunch and I bravely/stupidly attempted to take Bruna Kajyia out of the competition with the visualised immense heat of perfection which I was certain I could do in those winds, but as it turned out I couldn’t but it wasn’t the kite that held me back! Trust me when I say I put every ounce of effort in as I possibly could. I tried my best for which I am pretty happy but Bruna Kajya continued on her rampage to be on the podium at each event and took me down.

The highlight of this competition was being mistaken for a hammerhead shark. I crashed my kite in the last minute of my heat against Angela Peral and my kite deflated on me. I was stuck right out back by the marker bouy and somehow it went unnoticed that there was only one competitor left coming into the beach rather than 2. Instead a hammerhead shark was cruising the area because there had been 3 spotted earlier that day. Now even if I was a hammerhead shark cruising the area I would be hopeful that the competition might in fact be postponed for at least long enough for the hammerhead shark to swim in and re-pump up its kite, but no no! Competition as normal and try not to land on it!! Either way with an army of rescue and a lifeguard on tower I am massively disappointed for 1. not to be rescued – I’m glad I wasn’t injured and 2. to not be safe in the knowledge that a PKRA event does not get postponed despite a human eating shark passing through the competition area!

Once I had swam in and ranted at the organisers while sprinting by to organise myself for my next heat (in 30 seconds time) they did give me 7 minutes to compose myself, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough and I didn’t land much against Susi Mai. I was disappointed because I felt my second chance at beating her for a podium position was taken away, but to be fair I really enjoyed a highly adrenalin charged competition and I came away with 4th position! I’m pretty happy and more determined to do better next time.

The Journey Home

Next up was the challenge of the journey home. I’ll try to keep it brief but bright and not early enough on a Sunday morning a friend and I rushed to the airport in my 4x4 izusi after sleeping in an additional hour and a half after the closing ceremony. My worst nightmare for the trip came true.

I had a blow out of one tire absolutely in the middle of nowhere. Having slept in I thought it better that my friend thumbed a lift down to get to the airport for which he was already late for his flight. Me on the otherhand (probably still half cut from the night before) volunteered to sort the situation out myself and decided that despite the fact that no one gets out of bed at 8am on a Sunday morning letalone works figured it wouldn’t be too much of a dilemma that the only thing I could see for miles was one goat and imaginary circling vultures rubbing the claws together in glee. Now a blow out tire I have to admit isn’t so much of a problem having suffered a similar fate in a different car only one month previous but things begin to get tricky when you realise that there is no spare tire and the only person that could actually help you was in fact in England. I sat on the side of the road scratching my head and suffering already from dehydration when I have a brain wave and decide to flag down the first 4x4 driver to come along! Joy! 10 minutes later a man pulls up. In my most exquisite Spanish I manage to convey with a lot of pointing and ‘si’s’ that I want to buy his spare tire off him and with much finger wagging and apologetic looks back I realise that it doesn’t quite work like this. The nice man then drives off. I re-position myself back into head scratching mode and try to work out a plan c when a police car pulls up. Fortunately his partner speaks English – well at least enough to say ‘you are screwed’ and together they get back in their car to leave me to the now salivating vultures!

It still hadn’t really sunk into me that it was just me and the distant goat when a tow truck rocks up. Now I perk up and think there is a partial solution. The comments from Jason Furness and his local friend Marcus about tow trucks charging several hundred euro’s on a Sunday I place firmly in the back of my head and decide panicking is not an option. The nice tow truck driver man asked for my insurance papers which I happily found in the glove box showed that this tow truck driver worked for the same company so within 2 hours of breaking down I shattered the vultures hopes and get whisked off by this knight in shining armour all the way to the ferry port to catch a boat on a Sunday to lanzarote where in fact I to had to fly home from later that afternoon!

On arrival to the north of fuerte I was ditched at the ferryport as I had just missed the last boat for 4 hours. I felt mildly happier that I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere and I was one step closer to lanzarote. I could at least see it. The thing is everything had to go right for me to make it back onto lanzarote and to the airport before check in closed. My lovely tow truck driver rocked back as promised 4 hours later and parked me on the boat before leaving me again.

On the otherside I was to be met by another driver so he could tow me off the boat. Here the plan seemed to fall apart. All other cars offloaded and I was left stranded and threatened to be returned back to fuerte if I didn’t some how get the truck off. Fair enough so off I wheeled at about 5kph onto the motherland. No pick up truck to be seen and I was just contemplating the idea of ditching the truck and calling the owners with its location when the truck finally rocked up. I phoned a friend to speak in Spanish with the completely non English speaking truck man and phoned another to arrange for them to meet the tow truck man at my trucks final destination. Without the help of me the truck got from c to d! In the meantime I got from c – f skipping out d and made it in the nick of time to fly home. Approximately 10 hours after set of point, half an hour before missing my flight and 20 minutes before passing out to the land of zzzz’s on my plane the mission of the day was accomplished. I’m sat here now still completely unsure how I made that happen and eternally grateful to the necklace round my neck given to me for safety and well being by a friend in venezuala earlier this year! Bring on the next adventure and thanks Tanya this necklace really works! xxx Oh yes and moral of he story is - no matter what always carry a spare tire!!!

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