Els and Bart were there to greet us with big smiles and hearty hugs. Our little beach house was only a couple of blocks away from the little bungalows where we had first met three years earlier, when I had come for my first DEFI adventure. They had already checked in and picked up the keys to the house earlier that day. So when we walked in there on the little coffee tables were three piles of gifts waiting for us. Two piles were labeled ‘Chris’ and ‘Amber’ while the third was labeled ‘Chops’. Both of us dove into our piles, sifting through the finest Belgian Chocolate, windsurfing stickers and other awesome swag, just like kids in a toy store.
Chops’ pile on the other hand contained a variety of dog biscuits, as well as some much needed dental treats.
In return, both Chris and I broke out gifts from our side of the pond. Els, we presented with a pink Avon Koru “ohm tree” T-shirt and Bart was bestowed with a Brown BABA T-shirt and a US Windsurfing water bottle. When they had come to the US to join BABA on the spring trip to Avon two years ago, Bart had lustily eyed a mast bag I had purchased from Avon Sail House before the shop closed. When I won a similar bag at one of our raffles, I tucked it away for Bart as a little surprise. When I pulled it out for him a big smile crossed his face, “Ah! You remembered!”
That evening we sat around and reminisced, catching up on all the latest BABA and Belgium sailing club gossip. Bart had been unable to register officially for the DEFI as the registration had filled up in an unprecedented 24 hours. “This is crazy! This has never happened before. Last time I registered in April as a sort of last minute decision. And now?…sheesh..but I am hoping to maybe be able to fill in if there are any no-shows”, he said optimistically. It seemed that very few of the Belgian team were able to register because of the quick sell out. I was disappointed, I had also hoped to at least see Geert, Xavier, and Jurgen again. Bart admitted that he hadn’t seen them in a while either, so it wouldn’t be quite the same without them around as well.
Conversation eventually turned to the dire wind forecast. “When the wind comes from the South and East, it is called the ‘Marin’ and it can be quite nasty”, Bart explained. “It is likely that they won’t have any official races. They might have some fun races, but I don’t recommend that you go. It is nothing but pure carnage. Broken masts, sails, boards! The on shore wind and waves with that number of people just make for an ugly situation.” Chris and I nodded with Bart’s warning, but both of us knew that given the opportunity to try, we would throw caution to the wind and try nonetheless. After all, we were down one board already, what was another mast or two?
Neither Chris or I were able to keep our eyes open for very long after dinner, but with a quiet wind forecast for the next day we all decided that it would be an ideal day to rent bikes and ride over to the venue. So with full stomaches and plenty of chocolate we settled in for the night. I think Chris and I opted to continue ignoring the reality of a dismal weather forecast and instead decided we rather just pray and dream for some Disney “Happily Ever After” Tramontain ending…
The next morning after a leisurely breakfast we went over to the bike shop and got four of Gruissan’s finest PDRVs (peddle driven recreational vehicles) which hosted upright seating and front handle bar baskets. We meandered along the bike paths taking in all the sites as we made our way to the venue. It was a beautifully warm spring day, and it seemed everyone was out enjoying it.
When we got to the DEFI site, we locked up our bikes and Chris and I went over and checked in. This year, competitors were sporting bright multi colored jerseys. I had reserved my old number, 803, and Chris was assigned 318. They gave us our blue Neil Pryde/Wind Mag bags, and the official race t-shirt that only the competitors get. I had once again tried to get a women’s t-shirt that was big enough for my arms…but alas my biceps were too large and I had to settle for a men’s version. A blow to the ego and the Diva’s stylish wardrobe for sure.
We spent a few hours listening to the race announcements, eating lunch, and meandering around the various vendor’s displays. Bart piped up as we approached the Goya displays, “Heeeyy do you know who that is?! Francisco Goya! I met him a few years ago. Come on let’s go meet him!” So he and Chris went stumping off to talk to one of windsurfing’s legends while Els and I distracted ourselves with other windsurfing shiny objects.
After a while they returned sporting Goya swag and big smiles. “What an amazing and nice guy, he is!”, said Chris. “So very approachable, and easy to talk to.” It was clear they were both star struck, and Els and I watched and laughed as they went about trying on each other’s new Goya trucker hats. Eventually we got back on our bikes and began our way home. This time we stopped at the castle to see the view, and then road through the city center gawking at the luxury sailboats moored along the way.
When we finally turned down the road that brought us back to our beach house, Bart and Chris stopped by the bridge and looked over the edge. “Hey look! We found Amber a new board to replace her crushed one!”, exclaimed Bart, and they both ran down to the water’s edge to retrieve an old Tiga that had wedged itself under the bridge. “I don’t know guys, looks a bit too aggressive for my sailing style. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right? Does anyone have a fin for this thing?…”