Pics: Roger Ornvang, Jan Cas Smit, Andy Stallman, Dunkerbeck Speed Challenge, Pal Forstervold, Pete Davis, Jim Crossley
Jim Crossley is probably best known for his speed sailing exploits, although of late (and if you follow him on social media) you may have spotted his penchant for snapping up classic windsurfing gear and then putting this through its paces on the water. Windsurfing UK caught up with family man Jim to find out what it’s all about.
Tell us where it all started for you in terms of windsurfing – what got you hooked and wanting more?
I started windsurfing in 1982 as an 8 year old. In those days it was unusual to start that young. I was instantly hooked and spent every hour I could on the water. Living in a beach hut every summer, it was the perfect life.
Was there any specific area of windsurfing you gravitated towards? Why?
I love all disciplines of windsurfing but raceboard events back in the day were massive and really exciting. It was also lovely to be able to go for a cruise around the bay on a summer day even with light winds. I have always loved wave sailing but was never agile enough for freestyle.
How have things changed over the years in terms of the type of windsurfing you do?
These days I get my buzz from speed sailing and wave sailing. Many things have changed over the years but for sure speed sailing has become far more accessible. With improved, far more accurate, weather forecasting and GPS devices it’s possible to travel with some certainty of what you’re going to get and without the complications and expense of fixed timing equipment.
You’re a dab hand at speed sailing, with appearances at many of the top events. Why does speed appeal?
Well it all starts with the feeling of pushing the limits of you and your equipment. That feeling of taking it to the edge… and hopefully bringing it back again. It doesn’t really matter what equipment you are on, the feeling is the same. The inevitable desire to go faster and faster and then compete is where it starts get expensive, but that is the best way to push yourself.
What about other areas of windsurfing? Are you chasing any still to tick off bits?
I would like to break the 50 knot over 500m barrier. It’s just what’s next on the list….after that it will be 51 knots. I have done it for a shorter distance so I know I just need a good run.
What would you say are your biggest achievements to date?
Last year, 2017 was really my best year ever! Second overall and first Brit at Weymouth Speed Week was a big result along with winning the Dave White Trophy and becoming British GPS Speed Champion. I came fifth at the Speed Worlds in Fuerteventura and to top it off had a great trip to Luderitz! I will keep at it but not sure if I will be able to beat that.
Talk to us about your local spot and what it offers riders.
I feel very lucky to live near Christchurch. We have Avon beach for waves and Christchurch harbour only a few hundred meters down the road, for flat water sailing. This is normally enough to satisfy me but Portland and Kimmeridge are not far away if not.
What’s your dream location and why?
Windsurfing has taken me to some fantastic places over the years. My favourite place and one I have promised myself I will return to is Western Australia. The beautiful sailing spots and open roads make it perfect for extended touring trips.
I also have a soft spot for Luderitz!
Any plans to travel in the near future?
Luderitz 2018 is my big event of the year. Last year was going to be a one off but unfortunately with speed, the job is never done. My experience last year just fills the brain with ideas about what can be improved.
How do you balance time on the water with your time with work/family life?
This is something that is getting more difficult. I have a kitchen business, three young children and a wife who works full time as a head teacher. The key to finding time to get on the water is flexibility and team work. ‘Team work makes the dream work!’ we say in our house. It helps that my wife is a very capable woman who supports the cause. After all, she married a windsurfer.
Tell us about your interest in old equipment.
I have a collection of iconic boards and sails from the late 80’s/early 90’s. Generally classic speed and slalom kit. Since my interest in this has become widely known you wouldn’t believe the junk people try and sell me. I’m quite particular about what I buy and it’s nice to know that some classics have been saved from landfill. It seems it’s not just me who enjoys a look back at the equipment that got us to where we are today, every time I pull out a classic I am bombarded with nostalgic comments and good time stories. It’s all smiles.
Where did this come from?
It all goes back to a time when windsurfers were superstars and developments in windsurfing equipment felt like they were world changing. Then put yourself in the position of a windsurfing mad, starry eyed 15 year old working for £2/hour to save for a new sail. 30 years later the feeling of WANT is still there when I see it on an online auction site for 99p. I have also found it very interesting to review the development path. Ideas that worked, didn’t work or sometimes good ideas that got lost in time.
What is your favourite piece of older equipment to date?
That’s like being asked to choose between your children! They all have their place but I love the high aspect speed sails like the Gaastra Speed foils, development revolutions like the Neil Pryde World Cup Slalom and the competition pedigree of the F2 Sputnik 270 board.
How far are you going to take this?
I think I’m about done! I have most of the things I want and I’m running out of room to store it all.
What is your current set up?
I am sponsored by RRD, Loftsails, Unifiber, 4Boards and Moo Custom
Speed: Moo custom speed board along with several older production boards that fit different conditions and locations. Sails I have Loftsails Speed Blades 4.6,5.1,5.4,5.6,5.9
Slalom: RRD Xfire 129,108,98; Loftsails Racing Blades 6.3,7.0,7.8,8.6,9.4
Wave: RRD Freestyle Wave 96; Loftsails Purelip 5.7,220.127.116.11,4.0
Freeride: Loftsails Switchblade 7.3, Oxygen 6.3
What do you have planned for the remainder of 2018?
Right now I’m preparing for Luderitz. This single event is a big investment in time and money so I’m not looking far beyond that. I will try and do Weymouth Speed Week if I can as that is always a great event.
And goals for 2019?
I would like to work on ideas to develop faster speed equipment. I have a couple of things to test in Luderitz this year so we will see how that goes.
Any advice or tips for somebody looking to progress with the speed sailing?
Be in the right place at the right time. Follow the forecasts and if you’re not sure what to look for then ask somebody who does.
Have the right equipment. Speak to somebody who has experience with the equipment, there is a lot of equipment out there that looks like it is good for the job but isn’t. I see a lot of new speed sailors struggle with equipment that isn’t right. Not many of the major brands put any focus or R&D into speed yet still try to market it.
Thanks and praise?
Thanks to Bob & Stu at 4Boards, Equipe Trading (Loftsails, unifiber), RRD, F-hot, Jon at Moo Custom, and my family, in particular my wife who becomes a windsurfing widow regularly and even encourages me to get out on the water!