Only a month and a half 'till the off, so I've been getting a few more test sails in lately. It's a friendly enough coastline around Essex (where I am based) - most parts are easy to stop at and there are no significant waves or swell, which makes it a definite 'light' version of what is to come, but nonetheless it serves for the purposes of testing equipment and systems, and physical preparation. Attached to this post are pictures from recent test sails.
Full load sailing
These last sails I have done with 'expedition load', or something approaching that: 6 kilos in barrel, barrel carrier, paddle (not used yet but anticipating this could be handy), plus a few kilos on my back.
The board handles a little bit differently with the extra weight. Negatives are that it is a bit slower to get going, is slightly more unstable (due to the elevation of the load), and is a bit more draggy in really light winds (due to rearward positioning of load). On the plus side, once up on the rail (upwind) or planing (downwind) there is little change from normal unloaded sailing: the barrel - sat over the fin - is very settled even in lumpy water and the extra weight definitely improves wave piercing (so less sudden deceleration).
Expedition sail: Tushingham Bolt 9.5
These recent sails have been with the Tushingham Bolt 9.5, which is likely to be official expedition sail (instead of the dedicated XR raceboard sail). To be using one sail for the whole trip is a big ask so comportable range is really more important than outright performance in any particular wind. Early indications are that the Bolt is a good compromise choice. It is very light (plenty of lightweight scrim material replacing heavier monofilm), user friendly and comfortable in the up to 15 knots that I've used it in, and I'm confident it should be able to cope with plenty more once tensioned up). The ease of rigging/derigging also a noteable plus.
A Thank You to sponsors
Tushingham have sorted me out with a sail, mast and a nice carbon boom. A replacement harness is on the way from Prolimit. A nice compact VHF handheld from Standard Horizon, a personal locator beacon from ACR, a great little power bank from MobileSolarChargers which is good for 5 charges of a smartphone or similar and means that occasional mains power will suffice to keep all my safety/comms/navigation gear charged. The barrel itself kindly supplied by direct-storage.co.uk. Some brilliant Vibram Fivefinger shoes which are by far the most comfortable footwear to windsurf in I have ever tried, and will be good for on land too. Aquapac (a company founded by windsurfers) are sorting me out with some waterproof bags. Due to arrive are some IT7 wireless headphones (anticipating some drift time to while away...).
Local Contacts Network blossoming
It's been pretty amazing to see so many people registering as Local Contacts and being so kind with their offers to provide support along the way (if it works out - no obligation!). It is no exaggeration to say that without your help this attempt would not be happening, so - Local Contacts - thank you all very very much. I think I manage to reply to you all personally and apologise if I have missed anyone.
More about Local Contacts and how to register here.
The Tracker page is live (showing a dummy route now). During the expedition this will provide speed and position data every 10 minutes with updates direct to web every 30 minutes. Courtesy of the nice folk at YBTracking.
Unrelated to the above, a couple of tracks from recent test sails are here: