On Thursday 18th October, Sam Lutman-Pauc successfully kitesurfed across the English Channel from Dungeness, Kent to Wissant, France in 1hr51’34.7 setting a new World Record time.
SAM TALKS ABOUT THE CROSSING.
Pulling up at the life boat station at Dungeness, the first thing that struck me was just how remote a location this is, a baron expanse of shingle scattered with deserted and rotting fishing huts. Dungeness has a very strange feel to it, it’s pretty lifeless and with a heavy grey sky hanging above us it made for quite a dramatic start to the crossing.
The wind was with us though and that’s the main thing. A steady 20knots cross-shore. I had taken the decision to go big with an 11m kite, yes I could get over powered in the middle of the Channel but if I wanted to get back again I knew I need a bigger kite as the wind was forecast to drop off in 2hours. Rigging up on the beach was quick, a process I can now do blindfolded. At 11.55am I was hugging my wife and saying ‘see you soon!’ Hitting the water my Suunto Ambit (GPS watch) was started at 11:59am and with 20knots blowing strong I was off at speed and cruising in the wake of the support boat at 20knots.
The first half of the crossing was textbook, steady wind; moderate sea conditions and the sun had started to break through the cloud. These conditions weren’t set to stay with us long though. Ten miles off the UK coast and the sea had now changed. Three to four metre swell rolled through the Channel and both the support boat and I had slowed our speed to deal with the conditions. These were without a doubt some of the biggest conditions I’ve kited in here in the UK, at times I was literally surfing down the face of 3m waves. Yet despite the big sea, we made good progress and without warning, Will, the Skipper of the support boat shouted over that we were on track to hit France in 1hr35min. It’s amazing how you can go from feeling totally elated to totally crushed. The second announcement Will made was a huge shock. ‘Sam, we’ve got to slow down. You have to give way to the tanker approaching from our starboard side’. Tanker, seriously, this was a floating city. A huge vessel that was ploughing through the Channel at 20knots, the same speed as us, if we didn’t stop then a collision was imminent and I doubt the tanker would even notice us. Nothing to do but to sit back and wait for the tanker to pass. Ten minutes seemed like half an hour as I sat with the kite above my head and bobbed about in the huge swell. By the time the vessel had passed we had drifted off course down wind in a 4knot tide and with a dropping wind I had little chance of hitting France at The Cap. As the wind continued to drop it was everything I had to work the kite to keep going and hold a straight line. By this time, we had missed The Cap and instead were heading for the cliffs at Wissant beach. 1 hour and 45 minutes in to the crossing the French coastline was in touching point and whilst well of track the World Record was well within my grasp. Six minutes later and the GPS time was stopped as I hit Wissant Beach and my kite dropped out of the sky, with only 5-10knots of wind blowing a return crossing was out of the question.
Still, you’ve got to be happy with one World Record and despite the poor conditions and hold up, I managed to take 27 minutes off the old record set by Sam Branson in July 2012.
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