Coming up from my second time around the Windward Mark. The noise of the Runners on the ice at 50 KPH sounds like a rattling drawer full of cutlery. Big knives. A massive shift in the wind, which lifts the cold about 20 degrees, picks up the corner of the 110 lb craft like a newspaper off a street corner. The starboard skate is level with my eyes and rising. In a reflex, I throw my left leg out of the boat and manage to hold it from flipping when I dump the air out of the sail.
I really nearly managed to lose it that time. As the Runner smashes back down onto the ice, with a pray of splinters, I am hauling in on the sheet, picking up speed again as I round the Mark, ready to bear away. This is when it gets really fast; your speed almost doubles when you go downwind.
36 hours earlier my brother Johnny and I were checking in to the Rhum and Kök Hotel in Sigtuna, near the Southern coast of Sweden, along with Ed Leigh, Graham Bell and the rest of the BBC TV series High Altitude's Production crew. We have come to film the last episode of the year’s series about extreme winter sports. This episode is going to be about the somewhat obscure sport of ice-sailing. It still gets dark pretty early that far North, so after a sit down interview and dinner with the team, we all head off to watch the first leg of Inter-Milan v. Manchester United on a fuzzy Swedish TV Screen (commentary also in Swedish). I don’t remember much after my third vodka.
Next thing I know, it’s a cold grey morning, I’m putting on my thermals, I’m traipsing across the frozen lake. We get to where the boats are all being set up and are introduced to Jonas, his son Oskar and a very fine English gentleman who is the President of the British Ice-Sailing club. Chris Williams is his name. We practiced all that afternoon on the ice, and in very little wind our confidence and our speed began to increase. This is a good thing because tomorrow we are racing against each other.
It’s race day. The sun is out, but it rained overnight, turning what snow there was on the ice into fine slush, but it looks amazing. The great thing however, is that the wind has picked up and, I am told, is moving at 3 meters per second (you figure out what that is in Miles-Per-Hour). It’s enough to get the ice boats screaming across the surface. We complete five races on 2 different courses in near perfect conditions - and the biggest surprise of all – no one gets hurt.
If you want to know who wins the race, you’re going to have to tune in to BBC2 on March 8th. You should watch it. Actually, I’d love you to watch it, it was quite incredible.
Here endeth Simon LeBlog part something, i.e very fast indeed