What are sand sailers

Wind is the fuel of the motorhomes
By Uwe Wandrey and Heike Ollertz

Ten seconds to go, nine, eight, seven, six ... “The figures in the candy-colored overalls fold down their visors, lie forward, claw their hands into the crash bars of the car. Six Beaufort, the sails tugging at the sheets. The red flag drops suddenly. Like bobsledders, they push their cars onto the slopes. Ten, twelve steps - hop on the axle plank, jump into the cockpit. Grab the tiller, lower the sheet, pick up speed. Slowly bring the sail closer until it is stiff like a board. The howling of the airstream mixes with the concert of buzzing rope blocks, dull drumming hulls and crunching sand tires. Ahead lies a wide puddle left by the tide. Fountains shoot up, clap the sails, atomize in a water organ. Rainbows vibrate.

After just two minutes, the sailing wagons have shrunk to small white triangles. They slowly dissolve in the hazy distance. Somewhere in the field, Hansi Dibberts, circulation specialist from Hamburg, is racing down the slopes. Shaken by the unsprung chassis, with tense nerves, the pulse rising - with the speed. This is exactly what the doctor has in mind: the digital digits of his satellite navigator flash on his neoprene sleeve. 40 ... 60 ... 80 ... 100 kilometers per hour. Now on the smooth track - the GPS doesn't lie - 110! And that without swallowing a drop of gasoline or a milliwatt second of electricity.

The wet and cold west wind chases rain squalls over the beach, the race management has withdrawn with their CB radio into the rusty club bus behind the start line. After four minutes it purrs out of the airwaves: “Hans Werner is through!” The message comes from the turning mark, six kilometers from the start. Hans Werner Eickstädt, multiple European champion in “land and sand sailing”, leads with peaks of 130 kilometers per hour and will extend his lead even further. The world record for sand yachts is 152 km / h - no sailing yacht runs that fast.

When the pilot's body has disappeared into the “body” of the car, all theories are forgotten, and man and machine have merged into one. Then lightning-fast calculation, feeling and experience count. The creeks, humps, puddles, riparian fields and grains of sand change their position and size after each flood, but if you know the interplay of wind direction, season, water level and tidal current, you know where the obstacles lurk. However, foreign territories and fellow campaigners are less predictable. Eickstädt's principle is: "Get out of the crowd as quickly as possible - even in a roundabout way - gain space!" Does he have any technical secrets? The European champion smiles: “Anyone can take a look at my car.” Although he is constantly upgrading it with the latest materials, these alone do not explain his lead. Tactical tricks? "Well, on certain days, with certain weather and on special beaches ..." - he keeps a low profile before the start.

With strong winds like today, everyone quickly finds their place on the wind, and the field tears apart early. Most of the cars swept straight through the large puddle. Eickstädt goes around it in a wide arc, cuts through several small ones and suddenly lies surprisingly in front. Another brushes through the gravel, brushes the surf, a wheel mounts and the car falls back. Pans along the whole route - every pilot feels his advantages. Where do I lose less speed: up there on the ripple field or next door on the soft sand? Do you risk a break at full speed through the trough or do you prefer to cut at an angle? Decisions that have to be made in fractions of a second - and all from eye level half a meter above the ground and behind a dripping visor. Before the start, there are other decisions to be made, those that are mainly dictated by the strength of the wind and body weight: loading or unloading sandbags, optimizing tire pressure, adjusting the mast inclination.

In terms of speed, technology and rigging, the pilots of the modern wind projectiles have strayed a little from their ancestors: In 1935, Italian archaeologists found a temple from the year 87 BC in Medinet Madi, Egypt, and inside a wooden frame two thousand years older with two axes and a mast base : two meters long, 1.2 meters wide, axle length 1.7 meters. The temple inscriptions revealed what this car was used for: The Egyptian King Amenemhet III. drove "in the desert with axles and sails". The Egyptians are said not to have known the wheel yet, but who knows - the wind is inventive. And he covers up traces.

Even four millennia later, the camels were amazed when a special caravan crossed their paths: the 1967 Sahara rally through Algeria and Mauritania with 24 participants from eight European countries. It was marked out for a distance of 2500 kilometers, but due to unusual wind directions and calm, after many breakdowns and a sandstorm, it became a 32-day strain of 5000 kilometers. The second rally in 1973 was similar and was the last attempt to win sand sailing enthusiasts for touring.

There are beach areas where the ebb and flow of the tides with heavy surf loads smooth the sandy beaches into concrete-hard slopes. Depending on the tidal range and the slope of the beach, runway widths from twenty, thirty to several hundred meters arise. The sea takes care of the maintenance of the track. More than forty beaches are sailed in Europe. At low tide, the North Sea exposes the fourteen kilometers long and up to two kilometers wide “Big Sandbank” off Sankt Peter Ording, which can be navigated two hours before and after low tide.

As crooked as a boomerang, interspersed with creeks, soft sand and wind- and wave-hollowed holes, it is internationally recognized as the most exciting slope on which all-round talent is in demand. In the summer season, however, it is limited by tourism. This banishes the speedsters from Borkum and Juist completely into the winter season. In Sankt Peter Ording, it's the ecologists: if they prevail, the sand yachts have to leave their territory in the middle of the Wadden Sea National Park to the even rarer birds. The protected feathered people suffer, as it is said, from the wear and tear of the car's tires. In addition, the sandbank lies under the flight path of the protected eider duck. Club boss Jochen Löhmann: “We negotiated with nature conservationists for a long time. In the end, they got into the car and drove - since then it's been quiet. ”Until further notice, an exemption applies.

This is an excerpt from the text. You can read the whole article in mare No. 11. Subscribers can also read it here in the mare archive.