Pics: Matty York, Marcy York, Dave White
Super keen speed sailor Matt York recently underwent open shoulder surgery to repair a niggling injury. As we go to press (early summer 2019) Matt should be on the road to getting back afloat. During this ‘off games’ period though we thought we’d catch up for a natter about all things speed and dealing with obstacles such as this.
Tell us where you first started windsurfing and what got you into it.
I came from a sailing background, both mum and dad sailed along with myself and brother. We were lucky enough to be 5 minutes from a sailing club: Northampton Sailing Club (Pitsford it’s known as that because of the village next to it). I still windsurf there.
Sailing wasn’t really my thing and one day a local sailor turned up with a Laser Surfsprint, he let me have a go and that was it. I was hooked at the age of 8.
Was it always the speed side of windsurfing you erred towards or did you fancy other areas?
I just windsurfed because I loved it. It just became a way of life for me. I did try a bit of freestyle but couldn’t really land anything and after a few bruises gave that up. I did a bit of longboard racing but nothing to serious. I even tried slalom but it just wasn’t for me. I was always fast and just raced against the local lads which can hold their own.
When did the speed sailing bug really take hold?
I had an early midlife crisis I reckon. I fancied challenging myself so decided to try speed sailing and decided to give Weymouth Speedweek a go before I got to old. Think that was 2007. I entered the amateur fleet – not sure why – should have been in the novice fleet really. After what was the best week of windsurfing I’ve ever had I finished in 2nd place. I was well stoked as you can imagine. I just missed out on a year’s sponsorship with Simmer, which at the time was 1st amateur prize. 2nd place got me a Simmer sail and the chance to meet a legend of mine: Farrel O’Shea. GPS units were being used which made speed sailing very addictive, as every run you knew how fast you were so you had to go faster on the next one and that was the start of it all.
Talk to us about your prep for a speed session. Do you train at all? Tweak your equipment?
So prep wise you rig and re rig your small sails loads of times until you’re happy you have them right. You need them to be perfectly rigged on the day or you ain’t gonna go fast. Check all the batten tensions, downhaul, boom heights and make notes. Same goes with the board: check the footsteps are in the right place, fins fit perfect, mast position; you don’t want to be messing about changing loads of settings. You need to start from the same place every time. Now, do I train at all? Well, I don’t do the gym or anything but I’m a builder by trade and do loads of exercise at work (in my opinion). As for on the water training I try to sail as much as possible in any conditions There’s no substitute for time on the water.
What’s your normal stomping ground for screaming reaches?
Our local lake NSC has a couple of great directions for reaches but like any lake when it starts to blow 30 knots the water state gets all choppy and speeds become a real challenge. If the wind’s in the right direction I travel up to West Kirby (3hr drive) as you get super flat water and even in 20-30 knots of wind it can be awesome fun.
Anywhere you desperately want to score?
I’d love to go to Luderitz, just to experience the place and of course break the world record!
Where’s the best location for speed windsurfing in the UK and why?
There’re a couple of great spots: West Kirby and Southend (The Ray) both can be epic. But I do favour West Kirby out of the two. I always find Southend very iffy. The forecast could be perfect and you get there and there be nowt. Kirby always seems to deliver with super flat water and nothing to stop the wind as it comes straight off the sea. The added bonus of your van parked 3 meters away from the water makes it so easy to change fins, sails or get the kettle on. This is something you can’t do at Southend as it’s a mile walk out to the Ray!
What about abroad?
Southern France gets some epic speed conditions at Le Franqui and Le Palma. I fancy doing an event there called The Prince of Speed. So I’ll see what happens on that. There are also some great spots in Holland such as The Brace and Strand Hoist to name a few.
How hard is it nailing good conditions for speed sailing?
Now that’s the hard bit. You end up checking multiple forecasts, watching ALL the weather maps, checking angles, current wind speeds and in the end you just have to go and see. You try your best but sometimes it’s not perfect and sometimes you get that epic day. Normally it’s minus 5C, raining and on a Monday!
Have you got any specific goals in mind with your speed sailing?
I wanted to break 40 knots by the time I was 40 and I got 39.98 knots! Big 50 is next on my list and a 46 average. You sort of get a bit number crazy. Every session you try to beat your personal best. I’ve started to concentrate more on the 250m /500m and basically holding that peak speed for 10s /20s. I’m lucky enough to have the master Farrel O’Shea as my team mate and mentor to help push my speeds. Crashing wasn’t on my to do list last year!
And what about other windsurfing disciplines – do you indulge or are you too focused on speed?
I love all windsurfing: big kit, small kit and everything else. I’ve not tried this foiling lark yet but my other passion is stand up paddle boarding. It’s completely the opposite of going fast but I love it. On a summer’s day with no wind just out cruising on my SUPm is perfect. Plus the whole family does it too so happy days…
You’ve been through the mill a bit in terms of injury. Can you give us some more details about that?
After what was an epic day at Kirby the decision to have one last run probably wasn’t the best decision. It was blowing 40 knots plus, we’d been out all day and were beyond knackered. But it was sunny, broad and fast – I mean really fast! I couldn’t quite get over 46/7 knots so had to try again. The whole run felt wrong. I wasn’t quite in full control. I peaked at 45 knots and after 20vseconds or so started to slow down in the rolling death chop at Kirby. I lost grip and bailed off the back. I remember crossing my arms as I hit the water. At 40 knots that bloody hurts so I tried to protect myself. As I hit the water my left arm got torn upwards dislocating my shoulder. At first it hurt, yeah, but my kit was flying off so I had to go get it. I swam for it and think that’s when I relocated my shoulder. Next day my wife and best friend (nurse) said I best go to hospital as one shoulder was lower than the other (eek! – ed).
How long are you likely to be recovering?
Luckily I’ve been able to carry on working as I’m self employed but I’ve not sailed for a good 8 months. As we speak I’m due to go for open surgery in 5 days’ time (April, 2019). I’ll then be 6 weeks in a sling and then physio for a while. Fingers crossed I’ll be back on the water for the summer.
But hopefully the problem should be fixed by then?
Yeah. I tore over 50% of soft tissue from the bone but hopefully it’ll be stuck back on by summer.
What are your plans for the rest of 2019 as far as windsurfing goes?
To get back on the water ASAP! I was gutted to miss Weymouth last year so I want to be fit for that. And be ready for the winter storms to chase those speeds again. Id like to get a result up for the British Speed Challenge as well. I’ve been 2nd twice now behind that Jim Crossley feller, ha ha!
Any general views on windsurfing as a whole?
Windsurfing is awesome, whatever discipline you’re into just have fun and share the love!
Thanks and praise?
Massive thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way from Tristan (gpsspeed) and Rick (ROHO) to my current day sponsors:
- Simon at Boardwise
- Daz at Rockerline for keeping me warm
- Ashley at Baydesigns for his awesome stickers
- Guillaume at Gasoil Fins for some amazingly fast fins
- Simmer Style for well the best equipment there is
- O’Shea Surf for superb paddle boards
- Zara and Pete (Davis) for being awesome team mates
- Farrel O’Shea – what can I say. The guy’s a legend, a true gent and I’m stoked to call him my mate – thanks Faz!