We always think windsurfing as fun and often we forget the safety aspects related to our sport. This is even more the case for occasional windsurfers who don't spend too much time inspecting their "looks-fine-to-me" gear and want to rig as fast as possible to maximize their otherwise too short time on the water. Until something happens that reminds you to better be more careful.
To make a long story short, yesterday afternoon turned out to be windy on the South shore of Long Island. Much windier than forecasted. Maybe 30 mph from the SW. As I often do (being pessimist in terms of wind forecast) I grabbed my medium wind stuff. Plus the wind meter in Moriches was dead for the day and I had no clue what the wind was doing in the morning (did I mention I can't go home in the middle of the day so I need to decide from the morning what's the best choice of gear to take with me).
As I arrived at the beach at 3 pm I found it was blowing hard and I had a 6.3 and a 111L board when I should have had a 5.0 and a 90L board. What would you do at my place, go home? I kept saying to myself "Damn it! I knew it!" Then I opted for plan B which was to rig the 6.3 with as much out/downhaul I could apply and go out hoping the wind would drop a little. Which is what I did quite quickly. So fast that I forgot to check whether the plug on the top of the sail was fully inserted into the mast top. Actually, I thought the 6.3 had a cap not a plug at the top so "I could not go wrong". I have to say I'm used to check the top no matter what but there is always a day when you forget to do so and the consequences might be regrettable. So I put the hell of a lot of downhaul and went out. After a very short while, as I was saying to myself it was perhaps (uncomfortably) sailable with the 6.3, I heard a bang and instinctively looked up. What I saw was the mast sticking out of the sail top. Of course I didn't think "you haven't inserted the plug well" (human error), I thought "something must have failed at the top" because, after all, it's never our fault isn't it?
This wasn't a life threatening situation in any respect. I wasn't too far from shore (maybe 400 yards), there weren't big waves, the place is protected and there were people on the beach and a few windsurfers upwind from me. The worst scenario was a long swim pushing the gear to shore plus some walk back. However, the same could have happened to me in the Sound with over 30 knots of wind, bigger waves and a further away from shore. In that case there would be less to laugh about.
In any case, the first thing I thought was to try jibing and sail back with a floppy sail. Having a large board on which was easier to uphaul also helped. Of course I missed the jibe (I’m not a pro, it was also windy and the sail felt really unbalanced without tension) and ended up in the water. This messed up the sail even more. Forget about waterstarting. I tried uphauling but could not sheet in at first. The second attempt succeeded and I could sail most of the way back. I then fell again, can’t tell why. At this point the mast came out of the extension and it was a total mess. I opted for the short swim.
At shore I realized there was nothing broken, just the plug was not inserted all the way in the mast. It was simply pressing against it. With all that tension, as the mast flexed the top popped out. The entire mishap was caught on video and (although quite ridiculous) I decided to post it for the 2-3 people who read the blog and also as a perpetual lesson to myself about spending more time checking safety and less time swimming with my gear. A positive note was that I later re-rigged properly and the wind dropped and switched to the West and the 111L/6.3 was the perfect choice for some relaxed free-riding.