Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mauritius 10th - 23rd November 2006

From Boardhedz

Sailing Conditions
We sailed 7/12 days in planing winds. My most used kit was my own 5.0 and 54cm waveboard. If it was windy there was enough wind for a 5.7 and 85l waveboard. Which would be fine, ordinarily, but I was expecting a fair bit of down the line perfection. And we only got 1 day of that at Manawa, plus 2 days of heavy UK style down the line on Little Reef one day mast +, the other logo-high. The other 4 days were waist-headhigh on Little Reef. We also had 2 days float and ride inside the reef, and 2 days light wind freestlye.

Manawa is a brilliant brilliant wave, a beginner wavesailor can mess around the shoulder and not get into too much danger, while at the same time the more experienced and/or foolhardy can go deep and get 4/5 critical turns. You approach the wave through a channel in the reef and it is deceptively far offshore, the day we sailed had the perfect wind angle to take you there in one tack. It was a fair bit faster than I was expecting, and a bit heavier, I had one decent pounding across the reef, and one lengthy swim when I found the limits of how deep my skill level allowed me to go. It was half-mast-logo, but could easily go a lot bigger and still be sailable, although it would be pretty intimidating and a real test of your technique smacking the lip at that size. I don’t think the wave could really hold that many sailors, it was starting to feel crowded at more than 10 with 3-5 kites, by going deep you can get rid of the other windsurfers, and can share a wav if they drop-in, but the kites can be a pain. There were kite grooveriders, generally on twin-tips getting on the wave but not using it and generally being very gay, and then there were some execellent kiters on mini-surfboards, who have to turn properly and can really rip.

The first five days we were there the outer reefs were being pounded by a huge swell and the channel to Manawa was closing out, and I cannot see how any of the outer reefs were sailable, despite some good winds. On one day you could see some kiters were heading out to One Eye, but by the time they got out there they were like ants on a tennis ball and it would have been suicide to try and sail it. I was there for two weeks and at no point did anyone sail One Eye, speaking to the guys at the centre it needs a certain set of conditions to work.

Manawa deserves a proper waveriding board, Little Reef gets quite choppy on the wave and lacks juice at its more typical size, so a 80-85l 58cm new gen board would have been better for that. 5.8 and 5.0 sails will get the most use, there’s enough wind for a full waveboard rocker. The stats reported by the centre are pretty accurate, and in fact there was one day when they closed the centre early and then the wind blew through late.

The wind is a tradewind, boosted by a venturi effect when it is in the right direction and sunny, when the wind is SSE to Ely then you will get 10 knots on top of the windguru forecast. If the wind is much further North than Ely then the venturi will cause a little reverse eddy and you can see the wind blowing from the left out to sea, but from the right in close. If the sun is strong enough then this can back round enough to come onshore in the afternoon. If its cloudy then wind can be pretty gusty if its too far to the East.

Safety is more of an issue here than any location I have sailed at. When you are heading out the back at Manawa you are a long long way off shore and cannot be seen from the beach, a kit breakage could cause real problems.

Indian Resort Hotel
The hotel is an interesting mixed bag, the staff are lovely and beautiful, but not in an Ian Schrager up their own arses way, more a happy mulatto island friendly way. The food is great. The gardens are beautiful. The rooms need a refit to get the place to 5*, but then noone cares if you leave your kit rigged in the garden, or if you got to dinner in your boardies or if your daughter feeds the cats at the dinner table. For most windsurfers I know, it is an excellent compromise, any posher and we wouldn’t feel at home, any less posh and it would be poor value.

Trip Advisor - Indian Resort

Other things to do
The hotel has a good kids club, tennis courts, free widestyle kit, hobies, diving school, dolphin trips, 3 swimming pools, spa, etc There is no shortage of things to do. Unfortunately my 2 year old spent too long in the pool the first couple of days, then got an ear infection and fever and had a miserable week after that, when all she wanted was her mum and DVD. A course of antibs sorted it out, but she lost her enthusiasm for eg dolphin trip which I had been really looking forward to.

The hotel is a bit isolated so most people end watching the hotel entertainment, which was actually pretty good, all the staff seemed to be able to sing and dance very well, and I really like the Mauritian music which was a kind of Chet Baker jazz on the offbeat mixed with jit. But maybe I am just showing my age…

If you surf, you will not be short of things to do on no wind days, but I would be very surprised if part-time surfers were up to a lot of the waves I saw. Little Reef was regularly double overhead and looked like more than enough.

I went BA, mainly on price. Nightflight out, which was OK, dayflight back which was not that pleasant even though my daughter behaved herself. It’s a long day and I would pay extra for a nightflight back with Air Mauritius. BA were cool with my kit going out, but complete arseholes on the way back, and I got charged for 3kg excess, when I complained it was suggested I take up golf. I will never be flying BA again. Air Mauritius seemed a lot cooler with kit, and didn’t even bother weighing my mates on the way out. At over a £10/kg excess on BA, I would definitely fly Air Mauritius next time.

The holiday was expensive (£3800 for me, wife and 2 year old all-inclusive), and I would have lived to sail Manawa at least 3 or 4 times given the cost, but that would have made it great value, best holiday ever, etc.

Given reports from other sailors out there this year, and the wind stats the place is getting at the moment, I would not go out there again expecting 10 sessions at Manawa in a fortnight in November. But 3 or 4 would be a great result. If there are waves like this in the UK, then they will be further to travel, and you wont be sailing them in your boardies. You can give yourself a better chance at wind, by travelling in July/August but I get the impression crowds would be a big problem. The centre manager said his favourite time of the year was December – plenty of swell, much warmer, Ok not so much wind, but on the days you do get out, you get far more waves and no aggro. December will be much nicer (ie sunny and warm) for any non-windsurfer too.