by Amber, aka Defi Diva (and in your best pseudo French accent, say d’FEE dee-VAH!)
As I pulled myself and my gear from the rescue boat and sloshed toward the shore, I looked out at the distant sand dunes through a brown gritty haze. The sand was whipping in finger-like strands along the beach. I had been in a similar wind many years ago at Virginia Beach.
Having at the time just newly acquired the 4.7 Ezzy sail I was now sailing, I didn’t bother looking at the forecast that day. I just knew it was windy and I wanted to go out and give my new sail a try. I had been staying at a hotel on the beach that day so rigged in the shadow of the building. As I moved my board and sail toward the water, I could feel the sand scouring the skin at my ankles where my wet suit and booties did not quite connect. “That hurts!” I remember thinking before I dismissed it and plunged into the waves. Not having ever really surfed waves, my naivety provided me with resolve that I would probably now lack. As the wind that day was a side shore and blowing from the north, I quickly made it out past the break and into the deep waters. At that point my brain engaged and I thought that perhaps it was not wise for me to be out in these conditions. I struggled to turned the board back toward shore spending more time in the water and waves than on them. Having just
also newly acquired water starts, it took several attempts before I was once again up and riding in the direction of land. The “non–windsurfing” colleagues I had been traveling with came to the shore to help me with my gear, as I had been blown down shore quite considerably. That evening they teased me relentlessly during dinner. But after I got home a few days later I checked the wind for that evening, it had been blowing 50 mph.
I was told to wait on the beach and another rescue boat would come and get me. I de-rigged my sail, pointed the nose of my board toward the oncoming sand and put the luff under the back side of my board in an attempt to keep the sand from building up inside the roll. I placed the boom on my board and the masts with their open ends also down wind, and then sat down to wait. Eventually a few more sailors joined me on the shore. One with a broken mast, another with a broken foot strap, and others that just had rigged too big. As we sat on the shoreline, we could see off in the distance another boat pull up and several other sailors jump out. Some had gear, and some didn’t… we would find out the next day that seven of them had completely lost their gear.
Despite the sunshine, after a while I was starting to shiver. Following the lead of one of the other sailors, I made my way a couple hundred meters across the beach to the closest sand dunes where I laid down in an attempt to shadow myself from the wind. I tried to imitate a lizard and soak the sun into my black wet suit. It only partially worked, I was still shivering but at least not as much. Eventually I had to roll on my stomach and let my hair blow over my face to cover it as best I could, because despite everything else I was now getting severely sunburned! As the wind whipped strands of my hair against my sunburned lips I began to ponder lunch and the number of shampoo bottles I was going to need that evening.
A couple hours later the rescue boats finally arrived. We walked back from the sand dunes to retrieve our gear. The boats couldn’t reach us where we had been told to wait so we had to carry everything down the shore line to where they sat waiting. The boards were half buried from the blowing sand, and everything was now several times heavier. One of the young French sailors who spoke a bit of English, helped me shlep my gear. If I had been several years younger I might have made other offerings of gratitude, but as it was I just gave him a very thankful “Merci beau coup!”
The ride back on the catamaran took another hour, as we had to stop at several of the off-shore buoys to pick up abandoned gear. There were about 11 sailors on the boat, and as the crew would pull up to the buoys we would help retrieve, de-rig and stow the gear. Eventually we made it back to the venue site. We were transferred to another small boat where we were then driven to shore and dropped off. We were instructed to sign in and that our gear would be dropped off for pick up at an alternate location. It had been almost 3 and half hours since I had crossed that starting line and I was glad to be finally back. As I stepped on dry land, Geert came rushing over to me and grabbed me up in a big bear hug. “We were worried! Here we thought this American comes all the way over to race the Defi, and she gets lost at sea on her first race!” I laughed and gave him a big hug back! “No!” I said, “I’m still here! Tramontane 1, Diva 0!” And, then I thought to myself…”And I will be back
to see YOU, Tramontane, again tomorrow!”