Words & pics: Mike Pringuer
The Round Hayling Island Windsurf Race is one of iconic longevity that’s still going today having been revived in the last few years to incorporate other disciplines like stand up paddle boarding and outrigger canoe. Mike Pringuer reflects on 2019’s event below.
The Round Island race this year was notable on a few counts: A huge number of entrants – well over 200; a warm sunny day; and three sub-teen young kids had been entered – Charlie Baker (11), Guy Gibson (12) and Tom Pringuer (9).
The event can be brutal, notably the transition from Langstone Harbour to the seafront, and seafront to Chichester Harbour with the sandbars, swell and at times, standing waves in the mix. So it is always reassuring to see a risk assessment being performed thoroughly and safety being taken seriously by the organisers.
Charlie Baker was entered with his dad on a borrowed Starboard Gemini Tandem. Guy Gibson was being chaperoned by his dad, Chris, an experienced racer. This passed muster with the pre-event risk assessment.
In contrast, Tom Pringuer’s entry caused much consternation as the risk assessment glowed red at the prospect of a 9 year old solo windsurfer entrant – the youngest ever. Despite Tom being known to HISC as an advanced windsurfer, the race officer rightfully balked at the responsibility and instructed the club to discuss with Tom’s parents. After suitable assurance that Tom would have 1:1 RIB safety cover, the entry was allowed much to Tom’s relief.
The run up to the event was the usual anticipation, poring over the forecast data and willing the wind to deliver. With light wind forecast, little preparation was done as it was looking like a non-event for windsurfing or a change of craft to SUP. However on the day Tom was adamant he wanted to compete on a windsurfer and after much running around a WindSup was borrowed and a 6.2 rigged from his Dad’s quiver; the biggest rig that Tom can currently handle.
The start line was the usual crowded affair which much pumping from all. Tom ended up sailing alongside Doug and Charlie and also Indie Bornhoft en-route to the bridge.
With the bridge approaching, the first windsurfers intending to sail to the bridge and back were making their return against the still incoming tide. Matt Snedker was spotted sneakily walking his kit uptide on the shore – a sensible move as it transpired. Tom was hell bent on continuing and the attention focused on navigating the bridge. Having driven over it countless times, this was the first time Tom had seen it from the waterline and the natural concerns kicked in. High spring tide…little headroom…little speed…the thought of getting pinned on the bridge…nerves. After a little coaching he was through, following Doug and Charlie. Drama free and relief.
With sporadic bursts of race related comms on the VHF, it was overheard that Guy Gibson’s mast had snapped near the bridge. With the race sadly over for Guy he was transported back to HISC by the event support.
Chapter two of the race was the leg south through Langstone Harbour. Doug and Charlie on the tandem and also Indie caught a gust leaving Tom behind to battle with light airs. The separation was instant and brings it home to you how tricky it is to windsurf together.
Watching the others ahead, Tom made headway but progress was slow. Keeping hydrated from a Camelbak and being fed nugget sized lumps of cereal bar from his Dad spirits were high as was the determination to complete the race. With the Ferry Boat Inn in approaching and the channel narrowing Tom made it out of the harbour into the sea. Being buzzed by unsociable tattoo riddled jet-skiers didn’t help, and the contrast with the normal serenity of Chichester Harbour was remarkable.
The wind had veered to the south, and being wind against tide the battle was on to make ground to allow the focus to move to the third leg – navigating the sea front to the east. Several tacks later and with no ground to speak of made, Tom was talking about giving up and beginning to feel quite tired. However he gave it his all and put in a few more tacks before finally admitting defeat. Feeling somewhat forlorn, Tom climbed into the support RIB and gorged on some well earned food whilst his kit was de-rigged and stowed aboard before motoring back to HISC, picking up a stray paddleboarder along the way.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Doug battled it out, and having the benefit of a daggerboard and expert pilotage from the rear, they made it along the seafront, into Chichester Harbour before finishing at HISC in a time of 4hrs 8 mins. A highly respectable time and an achievement for 11yr old Charlie to be proud.
Having had some time to reflect on the event, Tom has his eyes on a suitable raceboard and want to not only complete next years event, but also finish with a top ten placing. He also wants to foil round.
Tom Pringuer is sponsored by 77Sports. He loves windsurf foiling and is getting into wave sailing. He is a regular at HISC and is coached by Simon Bornhoft from Windwise and also Ant Baker from 77Sports.
“It’s so great to see new talent and raw enthusiasm emerging on the windsurfing scene and a clear example of this is young Tom Pringuer taking on the round Hayling challenge. I’ve spent many days on the water coaching Tom and you can see how his determination, commitment and a pure love for windsurfing whenever he is on the water. Whether it’s learning to carve gybe, jump, foil or race round an island, he just loves it. Go Tom and see you on the water again soon!”
(Simon Bornhoft, Windwise.)
“77sports is committed to the future of our amazing sport and to do this we have found outstanding junior sailors from across the country and offer them support and guidance on the water. Tom has a bright future on and off the water and with his outstanding ability at such a young age we feel that he embodies everything we are trying to achieve”.
(Ant Baker, 77Sports and ex Windsurf World Champ)