Round Brownsea Island (from Southbourne)

So it finally had to happen. After I've-lost-count-of-how-many attempts to sail around an island only to find the wind dropped, we finally made it all the way around one. Admittedly Brownsea is quite a small island, nestling - I think that's the word - in Poole Harbour, within easy reach of the Sandbanks popular windsurfing strip. In our defence we made things a little bit more tricky by starting from Southbourne, nine miles downwind from the entrance to the harbour.

This little expedition was a training sail for Jono Dunnett who is preparing for a proper, full on adventure when he attempts to windsurf all the way around Britain this summer. There's a website all about this attempt here.

Once again we were on old raceboards bought at throwaway prices from Ebay. But nearly a year after striking out in this new direction (it began with a (probably drunken, I can't remember) pledge to windsurf around the Isle of Wight), we've now refined the equipment somewhat. By which I mean Jono has fitted an adjustable downhaul and outhaul and carries flares, emergency contact gear, GPS and energy gels, and Clyde now has an uphaul.

I'm pretty happy with my set up, a twenty five year old Fanatic Ultra Cat board and nine metre Gaastra sail with three cams, and a nice carbon boom. Total price less than £150.

Yesterday we set off from Southbourne beach in a fresh but gusty and shifty NW wind. The sea was very slight but the long beat up to the entrance to Poole Harbour was quite technical since the wind would sometimes cut off completely, or change direction by thirty degrees. It wasn't a race but I still went from four hundred metres behind to half a km in front by cleverly reading the shifts. Then I got stuffed by a header and ended up four hundred metres behind again, but like I say, it wasn't a race.

There were a few worrying moments when the wind dropped to nothing, and the forecast was for it to drop steadily as the day wore on, so I was fully expecting to spend hours standing wobbling on a dead run downwind at the end of the day, or to be stranded in Poole shivering in a wetsuit and looking ridiculous while waiting for someone to pick us up. But we worked our way up the coast, past the piers and finally to the harbour entrance where we stopped to assess how to make it in past the chain ferry.

At this point the wind did the unexpected and filled in stronger, so after a few blasts up and down the speed strip off Studland beach, we crossed into the choppier waters of Poole Harbour and beat our way up the west side of Brownsea Island.

It got pretty windy here and once up by the north end of the island and able to free off, something I never thought would happen happened. After nearly a year of raceboard cruising, I finally managed to start going downwind in the footstraps. Up till now the wind has always dropped at the point of turning downwind, and I'd concluded the rear straps were really only there to make the board easier to carry on land. It turns out you can put your feet in them after all, and then this massive board lifts out of the water in front of you and flaps and pats the water gently while hoovering up distance and leaving a streak of white behind you in the sea. Anyway, we were ten miles upwind from our starting point. It couldn't last.

A quick sandwich break on Brownsea and we needed to get back on it while there was wind to do so. 
It took no time to reach down the Harbour back to the entrance to the sea, then we bore off and streaked out past the chain ferry at twenty five knots, straight out to sea. 

The wind was a solid force five all the way, the sea state flat with a chop building as we tore off downwind. Twenty minutes of grinning, falling in the gybes (sorry, stops for photos) and we were back by the vans after a sail that will live in my memory for a long time. Mission accomplished. Brownsea Island circumnavigated, from Southbourne. Fifty km in about four hours. I can't believe more windsurfers don't get themselves some old raceboards and explore the coast. On a day that was a non starter for wave kit we had a ball