Starboard are supporting this expedition. Having retired my 2009 Phantom that made it round Britain, I'll be sailing a 2017 Phantom 377L round Europe. The refined Phantom has nice features that make it a first choice for expedition sailing. In my opinion it also looks just fantastic.
In short, very reassured to be using a proven race-winning high performance machine for this adventure. Looking forward to receiving the board and fitting a barrel as soon as possible. Pre expedition start I'm training with Phantom 09.
Despite being only 75kg myself, I'll sail the bigger 377L. That will help with carrying a load of between 15-20kg of gear.
The batwings give extra width in the tail - right where I need it to encourage planing with a barrel on the back, also helping to plane broader downwind (I've side by side tested and can confirm this!), and adding to stability. The overall width is relatively narrow, for great upwind performance in light airs, control in windier conditions, and ease of punching through a big sea. Check the video on the Starboard website for a full explanation of all the other features that make this the ultimate racing, cruising and expedition windsurfer.
Severne Sails and rig components
Severne sails are contenders for 'the best available' in all their ranges. I'll be using the hugely versatile Turbo GT on this adventure - size 9.2m. The Turbo GT has a reputation for being easy to hold on to whilst still offering impressive low end grunt.
Severne are very generously building a special edition full-scrim sail that will offer the enhanced durability required for such a long and intensive period of use.
Ease of use is a major factor in choosing to sail with the TurboGT. Two cambers lock in power and shape down low and high up there is plenty of twist when needed. The allround qualities of the TurboGT make it ideally suited for the many days I'll be dealing with force 1 to force 5 - and maybe having to cope with more - on the same day.
Equally significant is the Enigma boom I'll be sailing with. I haven't sailed one yet but I know the value of a stiff, light and well thought out boom and the Enigma ticks all those boxes for me.
I'll be using other Severne components too. Top notch gear that I have confidence in.
Tushingham Watersports Distribution
Tushingham are the UK distribution for Starboard, Severne, Aeron, Red Paddle Radz gear and their own hardware. The whole team are a thoroughly likeable bunch of very knowledgeable watersports enthusiasts.
Stohlquist have supplied their Shift drysuit which is a vital piece of kit to stay warm and safe in a wide range of conditions.
There is no doubt that this would also be a great suit for kiting, windsurfing, SUP, kayak... in fact any activity where cold water immersion could or does happen and where freedom of movement is important.
I'm very happy to be using this suit.
The Stohlquist Shift is the ideal touring / expedition drysuit. Key features are:
- breathable materials designed with salt water use in mind
- waist harness friendly zip position
- standby mode with more ventilation when risk of immersion is low
- slim cut to maintain reasonable agility when in the water
- relief zipper!
- understated styling that looks like normal foul weather gear
- integrated feet, removable hood, generous internal and external pockets, reflective accents etc...
I turned to Hurtigruten for help with logistics - getting myself and 3.8m long board to Northern Norway by air was proving difficult... With typical Norwegian pleasantness and efficiency myself and equipment have ended up booked on for the 6 day sailing to Kirkenes, which sounds very nice indeed! Thank you Hurtigruten :)
The service I will travel with - one of many operated by Hurtigruten - connects Norway's south to extreme north. It is an essential supply line and a popular cruise route for the scenery that is takes in, and for me also represents a fantastic opportunity to preview the coastline to be sailed.
During spring time, the contrast between southern and northern Norway is huge. From Bergen to Trondheim you will sail through a lush and green landscape in blossom in close to summer temperatures. Further north in the Arctic region, winter struggles to maintain its grip.
The route from Bergen to Kirkenes takes 6 days and has been called "the world’s most beautiful sea voyage".
I am delighted that once again YB Tracking will be tracking the expedition. I used their excellent YB3 unit around Britain. It worked brilliantly and I have no hesitation taking exactly the same unit on this adventure. Once I'm underway don't forget to check the tracker page to follow progress!
The YB3 is a reassuringly good bit of kit. The track it records goes direct to the website. The battery lasts for ages (depends upon update frequency but a week is no bother). When it does 'need' a charge that couldn't be easier: top up via USB cable connected to a solar charger / powerbank / mains power. Looking at the track is a lot of fun, but above all the unit is a big deal in terms of safety.
The unit is lightweight, robust and dependable. It comes with dedicated SOS and SMS by satellite functions that work anywhere on the planet, and probably beyond...
To top it all the nice folk at YB are knowledgable, helpful and courteous to a tee.
Genesis Bikes UK
With the Updated Plan: Revised - closing the loop from Bulgaria to Norway by bicycle - I needed a bike! I am a keen "person who bikes" but a bit out of touch with brands and models so set about researching a suitable steed. The Genesis Bikes Croix de Fer model more than ticks all the boxes as a dependable go-anywhere machine. Also, a British designed bike from a British company seemed right, so I made an approach. Genesis Bikes team are a super friendly bunch and offered me a nice price on the Croix de Fer and I am very happy with the opportunity to team up.
Things I thought important: steel frame for strength and comfort, geometry for the long haul, disc brakes, lots of mounts, proven (this bike was used to set a round the World record, so is as proven as they come...). It ticks all the boxes and to my eye looks very nice without being too 'precious'.
Although it would happily take panniers for the journey, I will use a trailer. This is mostly because I want to continue the journey with my barrel and Aquapac bag. The barrel has come a long way and hopefully we will make it together to the end!
Aquapac is a British company founded by windsurfers with a reputation for quality gear that keeps electronics and other gear dry. They helped me out in the round Britain expedition and have stepped in again here.
The wet and dry backpack is a great piece of kit. Very light weight and tough enough to cope with a continual daily use if care is taken with sharp objects. It can also easily be modded to replace the camp mat with a hydration bladder which works out great. If you kite or windsurf you can also use the supplied hip strap to take the weight of the pack on your waist harness. Dependable and functional kit. Thanks Aquapac.
I got in touch with Black Diamond after a couple of night time finishes, and they kindly offered to supply an Icon headlamp for use on the expedition. For the first months in Norway it never got dark, so a headlamp wasn't a requirement, but now the evenings are drawing and soon the nights will be longer than the days. Windsurfing in the dark can be difficult, and is only very rarely - in perfect conditions - something I plan to do. But when I do cut it a bit too fine, or get caught out for whatever reason, I am very pleased to have the Icon to light the way back to shore.
The Icon headlamp has all the characteristics I am looking for, including being highly waterproof and having a long run time. The long run time is important in the event I get caught out at sea at night. The Icon takes 4 AA batteries which gives it a longer run time than lighter headlamps. To offset the weight penalty of more batteries I use Lithium AAs which are significantly less heavy than standard NiMH or alkaline batteries. AAs are also the same battery type as used by my GPS so backup batteries can do for both.
The Icon is very highly rated by those who know about headlamps and is trusted as a get you back home tool in the event of wandering off trail at night. That is essentially what I am after, although my scenario is at sea: either wanting to get back to shore at night or wanting to be seen by shipping or (worst case scenario) a rescue team.
For daily camp use it it better than I need, but the occasional luxury is nice to have :)
Club Nautic Fornells
I've been competing under the colours of the Club Nàutic Fornells since my twenties, and they unexpectedly stepped in with an offer to help out with a GPS and sleeping bag.
I left getting sail stickers too late, but C3 Imaging from Colchester saved the day!
Iconsports are supplying a set of Thermo Pro pogies for each side of the boom. Pogies are more normally used by kayakers but my testing has found that they are useful for windsurfing too and do a good job of reducing windchill and splashing.
I like the Iconsport Thermo Pro pogies because they are made of light weight but strong aquatherm material, have good openings that stay open for easy hand access, and are soft and insulating. These pogies hardly take on water so the two pairs I need (one set for each side of the boom) add minimal weight even when getting regular dunkings.
In colder conditions I will use the Thermo Pros in combination with neoprene mitts.
Karma Surf Shop and Karma Houses
Having just arrived to the Mediterranean and finding serious damage to the board I phoned Antonio at Karma Surf Repairs and sensed here is a good guy and true professional. Pretty soon after meeting I realised that he is also someone you know you can trust without reservations. If you would like a board shaped or repaired, chat with for genuine and knowledgable advice (over a beer under the nisperro and lemon trees) then look no further. And if you want to stay in the area, look no further than the soul calming Karma Houses that Antonio and Mari have created, where I was lucky enough to lodge.
Jaws Surf Shop Murcia
Not a planned sponsor but very kind support just as the heat of summer is really hitting. Shop located at San Pedro marina, Murcia, Spain, where I arrived 30th May 2018.