Kitesurfing Channel Crossing
The Channel Crossing was successful; it took us about 2hours and 30 minutes and we ended up travelling over 35 miles.
We met the RIBs at 6am at Rye harbour and gave them clothes for the return journey, a pump and spare board incase John’s bindings were not working well. They then went out across Rye bay to Dungeness and had a BBQ with steaks for breakfast!
We drove round to Dungeness and set up the kites, had some sandwiches and a banana and waited for the wind to pick up a little. We set off at about 8.30 and went to meet the boats about a mile offshore. We were on 9 and 10m kites, I was on a 9m Liquid Force Hifi comp, Tristan on a 9m Hifi, John on a 10m Havoc and Stu on a 10m Cabrinha Crossbow. We were all using twin tips, John decided to go for his Influence with binding and we think it could be the first channel crossing in bindings!
We were all going really well and staying in a close group but unfortunately after about 10 miles Stu could not quite keep this upwind tack and started to drift downwind from the rest of us; John went to join him as with his bindings he was finding it difficult to stay on track with Tristan and myself. We then had two groups with a boat accompanying each and we were all trying hard to keep heading upwind and reach Boulogne port without having to tack.
There was a 2 knot current at Dungeness pushing us downwind, which really affected our trajectory over the first 5 miles when the wind was lighter. As we reached the shipping lane the wind started to hit and we were able to get back on course, due to the slightly downwind first section we had to then edge upwind for the rest of the journey.
The wind was getting strong now and we were powered on our 9m kites but the swell was not as big as I had expected, having a north easterly wind helped this a lot as a south westerly would have brought in much more swell from the Atlantic, it was still extremely choppy and there is a constant spray of water in your face!
When we were about 5 miles out myself and Tristan really started to edge hard and aim for the beach on the north side of the port, we were trying to get in line with the marker buoy but it was too far upwind, we tacked back out to sea for a few miles to try and work upwind but there was a very strong current pushing us downwind and it would have taken hours. We decided to head for the sandy beach on the south side of the port so kept edging hard as the current was working against us all the way. We were pointing right upwind towards the port but our actual angle of travel was across the wind taking us directly to the beach. Tristan arrived at the beach a couple of hundred metres ahead of me and landed just upwind of the big rock outcrop, I went downwind of the outcrop and found an amazing flat water lagoon, perfect! Tristan came round the rocks to join me and we had a powered jumping and looping session before packing up.
By this time John and Stu were about 5 miles downwind of us and becoming pretty small, Stu landed his kite in the boat as he was struggling to stay upwind enough to land on a suitable beach. John decided to give it a go and started to tack upwind to reach a beach a few miles south of the one me and Tristan were heading for. He made good ground and managed to make his way into the beach, as he approached the beach the wind was slightly sketchy due to the nearby cliffs so he decided not to land but to get close enough to smell the nearby Fishermen and success, he then headed back out to the RIB and landed his kite. Their boat crewed by Will and Vince then came across the coast back to the Port where they saw Tristan and me just reaching land and riding around in the lagoon.
The two boats went into the harbour, moored up and they all went for lunch and beers. Tristan and I packed up our kites but as we had not managed to reach the north beach is was about a 45 minute walk through the commercial port to the harbour and lunch! By the time we arrived at the restaurant, the others had worked their way through some beers and lunch. We ordered ours and then everyone had a very Irish coffee before embarking on the return trip. We all donned our clothes and waterproofs and headed out of the harbour on the two RIBs, the return journey was awesome fun, swell was quite big but we made good progress, it took about one and half hours plus beer breaks.
We all had a fantastic time and it was a great experience also John may have been the first to cross in bindings!