Fancy some light-hearted entertainment from two of the UK’s best loved windsurfing characters: Yes, we are reliving the infamous Harty versus Whitey head to head that took place at Niton on the Isle of Wight way back in 2003!
Photos by: John Carter
Way, way back in November 2003, the day after an epic White Air competition, there was an epic forecast for Niton on the southern tip of the Isle of Wight. Despite Dave White single handily blocking the whole narrow access was with his massive demo van, eventually there was an epic session had by all. Towards the end of the day, John Carter came up with the idea to pitch best friends but also arch-rivals Dave White and Peter Hart into a 30 minute, head to head battle on the water. What ensued provided a hilarious half an hour of entertainment for the judges and crew on the beach. Prizes made out of driftwood and old tyres were hastily assembled and after much debate the winning trophy was awarded to Dave White, despite Harty’s protests. Read on for Peter Hart’s hilarious take on this legendary encounter!
PETER HART: “There was a lot of blathering and faffing about sail size when we first got arrived. Robby Swift and Scotty Gardner were out on 4.4s but both came in saying they were absolutely stacked. But still I looked at it and thought that with there being no wind on the inside where the rip is, this was NOT a place to be underpowered and rigged a 4.5. Board choice was no problem. I only had an 84 litre Mistral Beast with me – it sounded a bit big, but it works wonderfully in the big stuff.
So off we went for a ‘warm up’ session. Whitey had gone out pretty early. I was keeping an eye on him and was interested to see how much his front crawl had come on since he’d started his new training program. He was not alone in the pool – there was a LOT of swimming going on out there.
Niton really has the feel of a proper, hard core wave spot – the launch across the rocks, the swim out through the dead zone, the view downwind of nothing but more rocks and cliffs to catch you if it all goes wrong. This was a very special day. Sunshine, screaming side-shore wind, very big swell, stunning backdrop – it had the feel of a wintery Ho’okipa, except it was harder to get out. There was a lot more white water and some really meaty bowling sections to confront. The wind was chopping up the faces of the big outside sets, but it was down-the-line and jumping heaven. Everywhere you looked the likes of Skye Boy, Audsley, Mullet, Ross Williams and Andy Funnel were popping 20-30 foot off the deck.
WARM UP: About half an hour into the warmup I flirted a little too much with a meaty lip and got taken down. It was right on the outside. The board didn’t go too far but it turned out to be one of those nightmare swims where every time I got within six inches of it, the next wave would wash it just out of reach. I clattered over the rocks under the cliff and finally made it to shore way downwind where I met Ross Williams who was de-rigging after a broken mast incident. I was just about to relaunch when I caught sight of another rider-less board bouncing in over the rocks. It turned out to be that of my girlfriend Annette. With a chance of winning a jackpot of brownie points, I bounded to the rescue. It was worse than I first thought, she was caught in a whirlpool rip and the board was wedged in the rocks. By the time I got to her, she’d managed to cling to a boulder (bloody tough these Americans) and the board had been washed out of the rocks and into the rip. I swam after it (after making sure Annette was OK, of course) and finally caught up with it another half a mile around the cliffs.
Then began the walk back across the boulders. I had a brainwave and scaled the cliffs hoping to find some kind of a path. Bad mistake. The IOW cliffs are crumbling into the sea at the rate of about a mile a minute and the tops are covered in brambles and yes, I was in bare foot.
HEAD TO HEAD: By the time I made it back to the boys, my feet were like a pin cushion and I felt as if I’d just done three triathlons. The first words I heard were those of Carter – “Head to head starts in 5 minutes!” Realising this was always going to be a battle of wills as well as bodies, I took a deep breath and uttered “no problem”, when in fact what I meant to say was “piss off the lot of you I’m off to the pub.” Whitey had played the same game. He’d also been out for a couple of hours and also needed a little lie down – but nothing he was admitting to.
“So, it’s one half hour heat” said Carter. “The Judge’s decision is final.”
“Who exactly are the judges?” I asked.
“This lot here.” he replied pointing to Skye Boy, Timo, Corky and the rest of the Whiteboarders team. To protest at this stage would to be to betray a weakness. Game on.
The wind was dropping. I hatched an immediate game plan which was to get out and avoid a swim – to get washed down early with the tide and rip whipping you downwind would be physically and psychologically disastrous.
Well what can you say – I thought it all went rather well. It was hard to plane on the inside so I concentrated on riding, got into a bit of a rhythm, latched onto the big outside sets used them to take me upwind and then tried to do my stuff on the inside bowl section right by the ‘judges’
I hardly saw Whitey. After about 15 minutes we crossed, waved and swapped a quick “ows it goin mate?” After that I caught sight of him way downwind. He was really struggling in the failing wind; I hadn’t seen him do anything and felt this one had to be in the bag. I would dine out on it for years and was already preparing my acceptance speech.
With about 5 minutes to go I came right inside and heard Timo screaming something at me – it sounded like ‘whoop, poop, maybe loop’ (it turned out he was telling me to go for a loop). With the wind as it was, the jumps hadn’t been lining up. Anyway, I was planning on a ‘no forward’ strategy’. I have no cartilage in my right knee. If I over-rotate on starboard, I land heavily on it, the bones crash together, the whole thing swells up and I’m off games for a week. But then on the next run out I got a gust as this big set was peaking. I was winding up to hit it absolutely perfectly – this would put a final nail in the big boy’s coffin. It turned out that a moment of horrible indecision cost me the match. As I climbed this beautiful peaking face my thought process went something like “OK what shall I do. A forward … No, a back, maybe table top, yes a table top … oh b*****…!” Caught hopelessly in between moves, I was so out of shape that I had to bail.
PRIZE GIVING: That was about it. Back on land the gathered throng afforded us a warm hand. The rest is history as they say. Whitey had been talking the loops up all week telling me of his Essex training session and not getting off the water until he’s done 25. These days a forward is nothing wildly out of the ordinary, but I have to admit is a bit special when you see 18 stone of finely tuned blubber whirling above the ocean. When I heard he put in a couple behind my back, I felt the decision slipping away. It turned out that the judges (and I use the word loosely) awarded him the jumps, me the riding but that Whitey edged it on the transitions. He did one of his twiddly twirly ‘Essex ducks’.
Beaten I was by a camp move beloved of German instructors to impress the tourists. The humiliation was complete. Was the judging fair? Well obviously they would all have lost their F2 sponsorship if it had gone the other way – but other than that it was perfectly just. Do I sound bitter? I’m sorry. It was a truly memorable day. I always enjoy sailing with Whitey. Well done big fellah. Let us just say you’ve won part one of however many parts it takes me to get ahead”.