Kos, June 2003 – The Magnificent Seven Days of Wind
Report by Ross Ketteridge and some other blokes

After recent luck in European windsurfing holidays, we were expecting a handful of windy days in Kos, at best.  Arriving very early in the morning on Sunday, we blearily waited to see what day one would bring.

The usual script is that the thermal wind kicks in at about lunchtime, whereupon the light morning cross-shore breeze is supplanted by a strong offshore to cross-offshore wind.  This is driven by the effect of the cooler sea air rushing to replace the hot air rising from the nearby landmass of Turkey, visible in the far distance.  The islands to the south of Turkey, which include Kos, thus benefit from this quite reliable wind, between June and September, which varies between F4 and F7 in strength.

On the morning of day one, the clarity of Barnesy’s memory of his fruitless one-week no-wind trip to Lake Garda last year was making him nervous.  By 2pm, his nervousness turned to pessimism, as the sea in Kefalos Bay glistened in the thirty-degree heat like a glassy millpond, with not a breath of wind to disturb it.  Similarly I, after my recent holidays’ statistics of one day of sailing in every two, was beginning to think along the lines of oh no not again.

At which point of course, as the title somewhat gave away, the wind introduced itself assertively, and blew strongly until late evening.

This pattern was to continue for the remaining six days, even improving slightly as the wind came earlier and built to a greater strength each afternoon.  One advantage of the extremely unsociable through-the-night flying times that we suffered on both the outbound and return flights is that an extra day of sailing is gained.  When every one of the seven days is an epic sailing day, the penalty of the sleep loss is easy to accept.

One of the main characteristics of Kefalos Bay, in its context as a windsurfing holiday location, is its compactness and the proximity of everything that one needs.  About two miles across, the bay is lined with simple cafes and restaurants.  This is no great loud, modern, high rise, high tech, expensive, nightclub resort frequented by our sadly familiar vomiting tattooed British ambassadors, oh, no.  This is a quiet, under-developed, quaint fishing harbour catering for people who want a simple, cheap, quiet break, or some great windsurfing, or all of these things.

At one end of the bay lies the Club Med water sports holiday complex, from where dinghies, catamarans and windsurfers can be seen coming and going.  In the middle of the bay are two windsurf hire centres, the most central of which is the F2 “Fun Systems” centre at which we were based.  This position makes it great for access to the nearby apartments, the beach restaurants and the modest main street.  Conversely its central position makes for very tricky launching and landing for windsurfers, as the wind is often dead offshore at this point, and very gusty due to the nearby buildings.  The quite steeply shelving beach doesn’t help either, but, in all, these are small drawbacks.

Once clear of the first hundred gusty metres, the wind tends to be steadier and stronger, these characteristics increasing the further out you venture.  Reaches of just less than two miles are possible, across the clear blue water.    The sailing direction, parallel to the shore, provides not only an excellent spectator sport for onlookers, but also a better aspect for the eagle eyed F2 centre’s safety boat crew, constantly scanning the bay with binoculars from their lookout hut.

Logistically it could not have been more perfect.  We would sit in the Rock Garden Café in the latter part of each morning, consuming in equal measure large amounts of breakfast and pre-windsurfing banter, carefully watching the club med catamarans and the early morning novice windsurfers.  After the first few toppled sails in the eagerly awaited first strong gusts, it would be a Le Mans start for us in the form of a brisk 50 metre walk to the F2 centre where a quick plug-in of the ready-rigged sails would have us set to go within five minutes.  The blissfully hot weather and warm water (22 degrees) meant that board shorts, a rash vest and bare feet were the accepted dress code, a blissful change from our winter wetsuit routine.

Equipment was mainly F2 Powerglides and Wizzards, and Naish Titans, the latter of which were my weapons of choice, the 110 lt getting the most use.  Sails were Pryde and were unanimously disliked, especially the RAF Jets that were awful to handle when overpowered, although this wasn’t helped by a lack of downhaul which was how each was rigged.        

The generally flat water allows great learning potential for all levels of sailor.  Our group certainly benefited, with everyone having their own success stories.

Reiner made some great breakthroughs in his shortboarding, getting into both straps and planing fast for the first time.  After previously observing that one does not necessarily need to go fast to have fun, and that such speed is merely a by-product of our sport, he subsequently changed his mind and admitted to being as hooked on it as the rest of us, once clear of the feet-in-straps hurdle.  He also made some waterstarts, witnessed by onlookers too – well done, Reiner, fantastic progress!

Tim made similarly excellent progress, making some waterstarts of his own after a remarkably small number of days of sailing under his belt, and he too was planing, hooked in and feet securely in straps.

Susie was hooked in too, in a different way, by the end of the week, having completed her first few lessons and admitting to the beginnings of the familiar addiction.  We look forward to seeing her practicing her tacking on a lake near you, soon!

Tony L, a regular Kos visitor, was going well too, honing his clew-first water starts and enjoying the high wind days.

Tony C, adopting his usual not-doing-things-by-halves approach, had some of the longest sessions of us all, getting to grips with the Naish Titan to the point that at the end of the week he was carving round some rather extrovert one-handed trail-the-spare-hand-in-the-water gybes, and spinning the fin out only once a day, unlike the rest of us.  He also gave us a great show of how to get a 94lt board (the Naish Super Cross) back to shore in a rapidly dropping, gusty offshore wind, after a gruelling four hour sail – a fine balancing act, it was!

Terry, like the Tonys, a veteran of many Kos trips, was glad to be back and had some great sails on the 135lt Naish Titan.

Gavin was on his first Mediterranean windsurfing holiday.  His grin widened with the dawning of each new windy day.  Frankly I was relieved that his first taste was a windy one although we were at pains to tell him not to expect 100% wind every time!

Barnesy was ripping on big sails as usual, and carving his exits to gybes as well as the entries by the week’s end.  He in particular loved the days of the strongest wind, threatening to be the fastest on the water at times.  Paul, being as vain as even myself, enjoyed the in-water photo sessions.  In defence of nearly crashing into Tony C during one “shoot”, he introduced a new sailing rule that states that the accepted sailing rules of the road are enforceable at all times except where the sailor in question has a camera pointing at him, at which times they may be waived by the “model”.  We all ratified this, of course!

For me, it was an opportunity to practice well-powered carve gybing and I was pleased to manage some unprecedented long periods where I didn’t drop any, and I even managed to carve right through more of them than usual.  I’m sure this was down to the forgiving nature of the Titan as much as my improving skill.   Most days I sailed on 6.2m sails, going down to 5.7 and 5.2 at the end of the week.  It was great to be able to practice transitions with such small sails in my hand, compared to my usual 7m set up.

I should also mention that in my eagerness for some close-quarters racing, on day three, I nearly caused a nasty full-speed crash with Tony C due to a rather ill judged bit of navigation on my part.  Tony’s split second reactions and avoidance action prevented the lower parts of my legs being removed by his board as I sailed almost over the top of him.               

As well as testing existing friendships with such incidents, we made new friends too.

Our “tenth member” was Will, an eighteen year-old Irish guy who regularly sailed all the top west coast spots such as Brandon Bay.  Being only 60kg, he was blasting on 4.7m sails at times!  Will slotted into our group like an old friend and proved to be great company.   

Another new friend was an infamous Kefalos Bay guest, “Dick the Dutchman”.  Dick van Tol, a carpenter from Ijsselstein, spends ten weeks each summer touring the best European sailing spots in his Mercedes van, having a great time blowing every other sailor off the water sailing flat-out using his huge shoulders, his tree trunk arms, his spade hands and his dedicated slalom race board and rigs.  He’s been coming to Kefalos for thirteen years, and, being known to the Tonys and Terry, was introduced to our group. 

Barnesy was the only man crazy enough to challenge him and on the penultimate day held him off for almost a kilometre in a dual Paul later described as the most frightening, fast and stressful bit of flat-water sailing he has ever done.  We suspect that it will be an unforgettable one too, not least because the God-like Mr van Tol not only acknowledged that Mr Barnes was indeed a fast sailor but gave him a nickname too – The Red Devil!

In addition to the main activities of sailing, eating and drinking, we had a couple of very enjoyable snorkelling trips, in the local vicinity.  One of these was a swim around a nearby island, its beautiful igneous rocks making a great spectacle in the crystal clear waters.

From beginning to end, a fantastic week was had, that everyone enjoyed immensely.  I’ll leave you with some anecdotes from my fellow holidaymakers. 

Gavin Duthie –

 

A brilliant holiday with a real 24/7 feel to the wind, but that’s enough about my apartment buddy Ross who trumpets for England.

Why go to Kos, then? ; kos its windy, kos its hot,  kos it rocks? (sorry I know, and apologies to the originator)…….. yes, yes yes  it’s all true.  The numbers tell all, 100% 7 days out of 7, F4/5 and even F7, 31 degrees and all within a 2-mile area.

The tale of the 2003 tour of the magnificent seven (club members) and their trusty amigos Tim, Suzie, Will and last but not least Der Fliegener Hollander will I’m sure be talked about for some time, and justly so, apologies now, but I’m sure you understand.

My image/quote of the week is Barnsey looking small (yes Barnsey !) sat in front, worshiping at the alter of Dutchman Dick in the Blue Moon bar marvelling at the spade like hands, the thigh sized Popeye forearms, asking him how, in his camper van he got to Kos.  Dick’s riposte was immediate: “Fasht!”

Tony Champion –

 

The Titans in Kos
 

Anyone’s impression of a board depends on the conditions, sail used, body weight and ability so bear this in mind as you read this report.

Kefalos bay suffers from the Ashy pond syndrome – it is very gusty. Of course that is the only similarity but the same strategy for sail choice is required – go big or you are going to spend a lot of time lying around in the water or wobbling along.

The sails we used were 7.9 Diablos, 7.4, 6.9 and 6.4 RAF jets and various smaller Expressions. Only the Diablos coped with the gusts. The Titans deserved good freerace or freeride sails so as I never used the Diablo I don’t think I got the best out of the boards at the top end.

The 135 L Titan is quite the easiest board I have ever sailed. It is fast, extremely easy to gybe but frankly rather dull. I also found it tended to stick in the chop but, because of the large volume, I had to have the mast track further forward than I would have liked in order to hold the board down in the gusts. I only sailed it once so perhaps I’m being unfair but I would say that it is essentially a “fat boy’s” board with big sails.

The 110 L is totally different. I sailed it every day of the week and liked it more each day. At first we all had trouble with spin out but I think that this was due to sloppy technique and a bit of timidity. It is a board that thrives on gallons of testosterone and a back hand like a hydraulic piston. If you waterstart and then try to jog away and wait for the speed to build it will spin out on half an inch of chop. If you kick it round to 30 degrees off the wind and give a couple of quick pumps it jumps onto the plane and accelerates away so fast that if you don’t hit the back strap instantly you can be left sitting in the water. Once up and flying the 33 cm fin holds in even with a 7.4 sail and the board is fast and a bit skittish but the faster you go the more stable it becomes. It gybes very easily and in a small arc but there is very little volume in the nose so tacking is not easy. It feels like a 90 L board when powered up but is a stable platform for wobbling along so long as you keep your weight in the middle. Upwind I thought it was awesome but its performance was compromised by the truly horrible raf jet sails which tended to behave like a crisp packet on a stick when overpowered. (To be fair we felt that in order to prolong the life of the sails they might have been rigged with inadequate downhaul but, what the Hell, I wouldn’t buy one). Would I buy a 110 Titan? If I only sailed at Beadnell, maybe: but the footstraps twisted and I think it could be a handful in the corrugated chop at Hadston.

The 94 L Supercross is very different. Regrettably I only sailed this once and was underpowered most of the time so struggled a bit. When powered up it is fast and despite the little 26cm fin flies upwind with very little spin out but all the volume is in the middle of the board so if you don’t get right round in the gybe (not difficult at speed), you’re dead in the water.

Regrettably the Enduro freerides were not available. Last year I sailed the 120 L.  I think it was a lot quicker than the Titans but unforgiving in the gybe.

I would love to sail these boards here with decent freeride sails but would hesitate to give them an unqualified recommendation. With the exception of the 135 Titan a reasonable level of competence is required because they are fragile (not recommended by the hire company if you can’t carve gybe or can’t sail without catapulting). They also require more than the average level of commitment and in gnarly conditions could prove too frantic a form of transport for an old man.

Tony Lobley –

 

Kos Holiday - Report by the Club Food & Drink Correspondent

It's only when you share a restaurant meal or a drink with someone, that you
get a real insight into the "inner" man.

One member's preference for rough Greek red wine, served from a battered tin jug, or alternatively, "Sexy Greek" cocktails, speaks volumes for his informative years development.

Greek yoghurt with lashings of honey, seemed to be a favourite of quite a few of the crowd, and there must be some form of innuendo appropriate to that treat.

Some preferred the delicacies offered by the Greek equivalent of the Bigg Market "fast food" cafe, whereas the surprises within the traditional "Greek Plate" were generally welcomed.

Overall, the food choices and quality were well appreciated, ensuring that the "fat boys" maintained their profiles, and the local beer helped create a suitable level of relaxation which complemented the excellent sailing during the day.