- 12 August 2013 | Windsurfing
The first ever TransAtlantic Windsurf Race (TAWR) is celebrating its 15th anniversary. In September 1998, windsurfers from USA, UK, France and Greece set sail from St. John's Newfoundland, in Canada.
Louie Hubbard, organizer of the TransAtlantic Windsurf Race, had just lived a near-death experience in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with his yacht, in 1993, when the idea emerged.
"When you've been doing something for four years non-stop, and you invested everything in it, the passion's there no matter how annoying the project gets, how stressed you get", explained Hubbard, three months before the TAWR.
Passion was not enough, though, and Louie Hubbard knew that. Two weeks before the TransAtlantic Windsurf Race, a sponsor pulled out 80,000 dollars. Louie felt isolated and it practically ruined him.
His challenge was nicknamed the "Everest of Windsurfing". The open ocean windsurfing race wanted to connect Canada to Weymouth, in England. That is more than 2000 nautical miles, or more than 3600 kilometers.
The stage was set. The European teams meet up with the Americans in the JFK Airport, in New York. Then, a long trip to Canada in a bus. Four windsurfing teams, consisting of four windsurfers each. They were anxious and tired, yet ready.
"People's lives are on the line. There is a risk. They know that, but everything's a risk in life. If they're prepared for what they're doing then it's almost less of a risk than being prepared for more mundane things which happen", underlines Hubbard.
Excitement is building. All safety procedures and equipment are checked. Money is running out for the daily expenditures, but the Atlantic is calling. Ribs are ready and windsurfers want to do it. Louie is exhausted.
The early GPS devices were ready, too. There was only one rule: every team must have one sailor in the water all the time. Each team has its own support rib and in the early hours of racing, swell got bigger and bigger. There was a tough task ahead.
On the third day, windsurfers had five-meter swell out there in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It could be a serious problem in the making. Still, sailors were back in the water riding powerful waves. Not easy at all. Actually, they were more surfers than windsurfers.
Fortunately, riders managed to keep moving and getting the most out of the winds on offer. On day 5, drama time. One windsurfer was missing at sea. The helicopter is called and the athlete is rescued. It was Dave Weiss, who was already suffering hypothermia.
The TransAtlantic Windsurf Race keeps leaving miles behind and England is nearer. Windsurfers are sailing at high speed and land is in sight. As they touch the sands of the UK, the crowd greets them.
"The vibe and the spirit on this boat is amazing. The boat crew has been amazing. I know very few people, in their right mind, which could do what they've done", an emotional Louie Hubbard tells.
In the end, everyone completed the inaugural TransAtlantic Windsurf Race. Team Liberty took the least important title - first place in the world's most challenging windsurfing event of all time.
Will there ever be another TransAtlantic Windsurf Race?
TransAtlantic Windsurf Race 1998 Results:
1. Team Liberty (Yasu Soukichi, Anders Bringdal, Robert Teriitehau and Nicklas Olausson)
2. Team Greece (Theo Theodoridis, Jean Marc Fantis, Phillip Adamidis and Micah Buzianis)
3. Team France (Jason Gilbert, Denis Pechere and Antoine Martin)
4. Team America (Kiran Beyer, Eddie Patricelli, Jace Panebianco and Dave Weiss)
Key Crew Members at the TAWR 1998:
Louie Hubbard (Organizer), Hugo Feiler (Assistan Organizer), Russ Kerslake (Rib Commander) John Malbon (Rib Driver), Kevin Shackell (Rib Driver), Rory Chisolm (Rib Driver), Richard Clifford (Safety Officer), Chris Reid (Doctor), John Chao (American Squad)