In a few more days, we’re off again!

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I’ve just been back to Hong Kong for 2 weeks, having spent the first 2 months of 2014 on Gran Canaria. Gran Canaria belongs to Spain, situated among the Canary Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, but is closer to Africa than to any part of Europe. It has a rather mild climate, was around 18°C most of the time we were there, though a lot more rain showers than we had expected. As is like every place we go, the locals always say ‘The weather’s not normally like this!’, and here we got, ‘It only rains a few days a year!’, yet every time we walked out the door the cloud would come over us while the rest of the sky stayed blue. At least we got lots of rainbows.

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The sea there was quite rough, and we had all kinds of winds. It was great for windsurfing training. I had never seen waves like that before, swells up to 4m high, an amazing sight when the water splashes onto the concrete shore. When the tide was high, the spray from the waves would even reach the roads, so the police would block the road closest to the shore. There were all sorts of sealife beneath us: manta rays and dolphins, which my teammates saw. I saw none of those but I got to know the bluebottle jellyfish. I was standing on my board, preparing for the start of a practice race, when suddenly something stung my foot. My instinct was to get rid of it by throwing it back into the water, but I probably shook it too rapidly, which only made the tentacles cling stronger to my foot, and the poison released into my skin. Sailors around me thought I had a muscle spasm and told me to stretch, while it was so painful I felt like curling into a ball. I went to the hospital, and ended up with two shots in my butt to get rid of the pain.

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I also met a big fish. It was about a meter long, which I astonishingly discovered right before I caterpoled over it in slow motion. It had somehow been floating across in front of my board, so my 60cm fin must have hit it right in the stomach before breaking away from my board and gone forever. I liked my fin but I felt really bad for the fish.

Our hotel was in the area where the island is narrowest. We windsurfed out of the east marina, while the west side was a long beach with a big reef lying parrallel to the shore. It was great for surfing. I had my first surfing lesson and bought my first surf board. It was a huge treat along the hard training to get to surf. There was not much standing on the board, but it was very relaxing paddling out with the current, not so relaxing when tumbling inside waves, though huge satisfaction came even with the slightest bit of progress.

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We also got to do two long bike rides. I didn’t have enough energy to do more though I would have loved to. The scenary was breathtaking throughout the climb to the top — Roque Nublo at 1813m. We passed some other-worldly landscape: stretches of hills with dry sand and rocks and cactus, deep unwinding valleys, farming terraces, then a pine forest near the top! The view from the top was the real prize. We were lucky on our first ride, the sky was clear and we could see far — even Mount Teide of Tenerife, it was still snow-peaked! The last week we were in Gran Canaria it was snowing on Roque Nublo as well. We were told the snow had gotten 1m thick! And down below the mountain the sun was out and we were still windsurfing as usual. It got me to understand what micro-climates are like.

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Gran Canaria is a place I’d love to go back to for training. The only problem there is too much to do, never enough time. Pozo is a famous windsurf spot there for wavesailing and freestyle. We went there for a short sail but not long enough to learn tricks from the pros!

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Our next stop is Palma de Mallorca, another Spanish island, but in the Mediterranean Sea. It will be our first World Cup event of the year. It has been a while since we have raced against all the other sailors in the world. It will be good to know how we are doing, and perform better than before.

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