Until early November I had never sailed at Southend’s ‘The Ray’ before. It is strange as it meant to be a hot speed strip! Now after the last two months of sailing at The Ray I have been asking myself the same question, why has it taken me so long!
What to expect when saying at The Ray: firstly check for a good winter storm coming through with a southerly wind direction. Secondly, you are looking for wind speeds with a base of 30mph. Finally, check the tide times, normally The Ray can be sailed two hours before and two hours after low tide. Once these conditions are on your side it is time to head down to Southend.
You need to go to a area of Southend seafront called Chalkwell, there is a small parking area at Chalkwell beach costing about £5 for 4 hours. The car park is right on the side of the promenade with a sea wall to pass your kit over onto a lovely grass rigging area.
I normally get to the beach about 3 hours before low water giving me time to rig up and take the walk out to the waters edge, that is about ¾ mile walk to the water. When walking out there is a kind of old gravel walkway that is easy to follow down to the waters edge. I would suggest taking a drink and energy bar out with you for a refuel and a break during the session.
Now we are on the waters edge this is the Ray. A speed strip that runs parallel with Southend sea front , the strip of water is about 3 miles long with a slight dog leg at the pier end of the course. This comes into play when the tide has dropped out just leaving the low tide sandbars sheltering the water state but leaving your sail in the full force of the wind.
I was surprised on how many people sail here from kiters to guys on wave kit to top end speed sailors every one loving their own passion on the water.
I have found everyone happy to explain the best area to sail here. Generally this is on the Thames side of the channel and the closer to the sand bar the flatter the water. I have never experienced such a smooth water surface in a gale of wind EVER! ANYWHERE! So on my first run back in November doing about 30knotts broad with the sand bar about a meter from my back, flying just on the edge of control asked myself ‘why has it taken me so long to check this place out’. It was a great first visit to The Ray using my RRD 98l and 5.7 slalom sail.
About a week later is was looking like another big storm was going to allow Southend to play ball again, I met up with a few speed sailors and one of them said give this board a try! It was a speed board 66ltrs 45cms wide with a fin about 20cms long. With a slight thought of panic I plugged in my 5.7m on this extremely windy day and off we went out onto the water. I must be honest sailing a speed board with a 20cm fin is not a easy as some make it look. I have picked up over the couple of months how to sail these boards fully powered up, broad reach with no weight on the back leg to stop it will spinning out. They are the very fast boards and fantastic to sail, it is so exhilarating sailing speed boards flying through the gusts.
So after about 6 visits to Southend I am starting to venturing into speed sailing and have picked up a Locosys GW52 GPS to record my speeds. I have also joined the website www.gps-speedsurfing.com to register my speeds and this is linked to the National Watersports Festival who are running a UK speed ladder. This event is running up to the NWF weekend this September where there will be prizes for fastest speeds at local beaches.
Written by: Simon Chippington