In September 1998 an event touted as the “Everest of Windsurfing” with teams consisting of world class sailors from US, Britain, France and Greece came to it’s conclusion. The competitors had just completed a windsurfing race across the Atlantic Ocean. The Trans-Atlantic Windsurf Race (TAWR) was an open ocean windsurfing race starting from St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada and finishing in Weymouth, England. It was 100% unique and we now re-live the tale of this epic adventure with some incredible footage of the action and tales from some of the top names. A chronicle of ambition, courage and extraordinary determination, capturing the raw force of the mid Atlantic this feature tells the story of the struggle to turn a vision into a reality by organiser Louie Hubbard. So what better way then to catch up with top PWA Windsurfers from that era: Anders Bringdal and Micah Buzianis. These two continue to push the level of the sport in speed and slalom so we asked them about their adventures so that some can re-live whilst others learn and perhaps, who knows, this may also inspire…
First we recommend you check out this video clip, it follows Louie Hubbard, the event organiser and tells a tale of why the idea came about and how it all got under-way.
TransAtlantic Windsurf Race – Micah Buzianis Report
I first heard about the Trans Atlantic Windsurfing Race from the old PBA tour manager Louie Hubbard, this was his idea and his responsibility to organize this event. They wanted to put some teams together from different countries and make it an international competition. Unfortunately there wasn’t as much interest as initially thought and it was hard to find sponsors but this didn’t deter Louie and he pushed on and finally got it put together. He got me involved by putting me in contact with an event organizer from Greece that wanted to field a team and since my ancestors come from Greece they wanted me to be a part of the Greek team. Of course I said yes as it sounded like a great adventure and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
There ended up being only four teams to enter as it was costly and hard to find sponsors for but finally it all came together. The race format had to be changed from sailing in shifts for 24hours straight to sailing in shifts during daylight hours only. This was because once we arrived at the boat in Nova Scotia we found out that not all the logistics were set up properly. Mainly there were a lot of safety issues that made it impossible to sail at night, it was hairy enough getting on and off the ship to sail and launch the safety boats in daylight it would have been impossible to do it at night. Also a lot of the tracking that was supposed to be used did not come through or did not work so sailing in the dark would have been way to risky. We had a very qualified safety officer that was to oversee the whole mission and he said no way to sailing at night.
There were two professional teams, my team which was Team Hellas which is the Greek Tourism board. I was team mates with two other professional sailors from Greece Philip Adamidis and Jean Marc Fantis. The second professional team was team Sweden which had Anders Bringdal and another professional sailor from Sweden and I can’t recall his name and the third guy was Robert Territihau, not sure how he fit in for Sweden but he was certainly a memorable person to have on the ship. There were then two amateur teams, one was from the magazine American Windsurfer captained by John Chao, his sailors were Ken Winner, Eddy Patricelli and Jace Panebianco. There was also one other amateur team but I can’t recall the team members or exactly how the two amateur teams were made up.
A little side note before I go on, the main ship was a Russian Icebreaker called the Capt. Klebnikov. This is where we lived on a daily basis and where everything was managed out of. It is a very nice ship and is still operating in the Southern Ocean it is however not made for open ocean cruising and had some serious listing going on in the very rough seas off the Canandian coast.
…watching the RIB get craned back up on deck at the end of the day and swinging around the deck nearly taking out some of the crew members…
The race format was then set up so that there would be one race per day at the end of the day, the two pro teams would race each other and the two am teams would do the same. This would come after a full day of sailing on the water for each team. One team member would leave the boat each day at first light and then would sail for as long as they wanted switching off with team mates throughout the day. You could set up the sailing shifts anyway you wanted having the strongest fastest guys out for as much time as possible and have them out for the end of the day race. The day would be spent just sailing along side or behind the main ship all day and near dark all sailors would be brought to a point while the main ship would continuing sailing for about thirty minutes then all sailors would start and race back to the ship and the first one back would be named the winner of the day. Each day would be counted and at the end of the event the team with the most first would be named the winner. In the end the Swedish Team beat my Greek team and the American Windsurfer team won the Amateurs.
The early highlights of the event were actually leaving port and finally getting under way, we were delayed by a couple days waiting for some boat parts to come in but finally leaving the harbour and pulling out into the Atlantic Ocean was amazing in itself. Another big early highlight for me was just getting off the ship and being able to sail. Pretty much straight out of the harbour in Canada the combination of the rough ocean and the heavily listing ship I was sea sick. I don’t think I slept more than about an hour a night for the first three nights and barely ate any food. It took me a solid three days before I got my sea legs and those first three days were the roughest seas we had the entire trip by far. I remember the first day of sailing and the seas were massive with a rolling ground swell that felt like your were sailing up it for about ten seconds and then about five over the top of it and ten back down it. This along with the thirty knots of winds made for a very rough sea. But once I was off the ship and on my board I felt normal again so it was great to be sailing even though it was a bit scary.
The first time jumping off the ship into the ocean with no land in sight and not really sure how you were going to get back on the boat made for a scary jump. But getting back on the boat was even more interesting, getting out of a small RIB that was pulled up to the side of a large ship that was listing up to 45degrees, you had to grab onto a ladder as it came down to you and then as the boat listed away from you you had to hold on as it took you up and then scramble up the ladder as quickly as you could onto the ship before the RIB or the water came up into you. Then watching the RIB get craned back up on deck at the end of the day and swinging around the deck nearly taking out some of the crew members. It really makes me look back and wonder how no one got hurt…..We really did have some amazing people on that trip outside of the sailors, the boat drivers and crew, the Doctors and onboard safety crew as well as all the teams managers and physios they really did a good job of making it happen and keeping everyone safe and healthy.
What a nut this guy is, it had to be at least 80 feet if not 100 and he just went for it
But the biggest highlights had to be seeing land again and being able to sail back into the beach after launching from the ship, if I remember right it was in Weymouth where we first touched the beach. And by far the most memorable highlight was watching Robert jump from the top of the ship into the sea. What a nut this guy is, it had to be at least 80 feet if not 100 and he just went for it. His landing was a bit painful but he walked away.
A year or two later there was a second one planned to start in Europe and finish in the USA but again they had some serious safety issues and I think ended up making it only as far as the Canaries. I wish that they would do something like this again, I would certainly like to be included and be able to do some sort of crossing like this again. Hopefully now with all the technology it could be set up to be safer and better publicized so they could get some big sponsors to take part as well.
As for me currently I am still racing and competing full time on the PWA slalom tour, I finished 3rd overall after six events in 2012 and with six events again in 2013 I hope to be on the podium again and maybe a step or two up. I will continue testing for Maui Sails and JP as much as possible throughout this year and probably next year as well. Beyond this I just want to stay healthy, spend as much free time with my family and go hunting with any other free time that I may find.
Memories from Anders Bringdal
At the time I was very much into the Long distance races. The idea of taking my windsurf board and going from one place to another was very interesting to me as it added a new dimension. When Louie asked me about it I was on from the start. Originally we wanted to do a race where the teams sailed around the clock to get across but in the end it was not possible to try due to safety reasons. The idea of sailing with a big mother ship and small support boats was the option we could all work with. It still gave us a good idea of how the North Atlantic is to sail on with the huge rolling seas and strong winds.
In the beginning we had quite a few issues and troubles but once we managed to get going it was time to let the talk stay on the boat and get sailing. It was funny in a way at how overwhelming and vulnerable you felt, the best scenario to describe this is the moment you send the kit into the sea and dive in straight after it. That second you water start is the point where you and your kit somehow felt very fragile. I guess we where all a little impressed by the situation.
Taking off in the centre of the Labrador current outside of Newfoundland heading off to the UK… Game’s on! We passed a few hundred miles north of where the Titanic is and straight on through Flemings gap. Apart from the fact that we had a great team; Robert, Nickas and myself, the strongest memories I have is from the water state. At one time, I jumped into the water before the start of the days sailing, right in the centre of the Atlantic, 4000 m to the bottom. I dove down about 3-4 metres and looked into the abyss, as you see the sunlight disappear you realise you are not really any bigger than plankton in this place!
Sailing in very converging swells was challenging but fun. Coming into the Gulf stream where the water goes from 7 deg in the Labrador current to the 20+ in the gulf stream with lots of dolphins. Then as we got towards Europe you come in over the Salmon schools outside of the UK. It goes from 4000m to 200m depth and the waves switch to the more coastal type of waves.
I am very happy I did the TAWR. I do not think I will get another chance to windsurf in the Atlantic like that so it will remain one of my strongest memories in my career.
The TAWR Movie
A documentary style movie was produced soon after the TAWR finished. You can hunt down rare copies of the movie on VHS for anyone who still has their old VHS player tucked away or you can find the clips on youtube. We’ve got the first part below and links to the rest below that. We can assure you the quality and sound is certainly reminiscent of the VHS days but the story is there of this incredible voyage. A special thanks to Micah and Anders for taking part and providing us with their memories.