October 22nd – 29th 2007
Despite checking out many of the sporting holiday companies the most cost effective option for a family half term break in quality accommodation turned out to be with Thomson staying at the Hilton . Board hire was paid for up front independently through Club Mistral who are one of ten or so centers in the bay but conveniently located in front of the Hilton.
The hire center is well stocked with a full range of Mistral boards, North sails, booms & masts. Sails upto 6.2 are rigged on 75% carbon masts & those larger on 100%. For anyone not having sailed with Club Mistral before they operate a system where you have your own board, boom and mast foot for the week. Your boom is numbered & is used for all sails upto 6.2, the benefit of this being once you have set your harness lines they stay that length for the week. Sails over 6.2 will be rigged on a shared boom however over the seven days I only needed a 7.5 for one afternoon. The hire center staff were enthusiastic & didn’t waste a second as they rush to get you rigged up & out on the water, all you need do is collect & return is your mast foot which is the mechanism the centre uses for recording who is out on the water. If the wind conditions change significantly the centre have a number of floating (pardon the pun) boards should your chosen mount be unsuited to the conditions so having the right board for the conditions was never a problem.
Launching from CM is not ideal with the prevailing winds coming over the hire center & blowing almost straight offshore but once on the water the gusts only persist for 40 meters or so as you head out into the bay. There are a number of buoyed off areas for swimmers & a red flag marks a reef at the end of the spit that separates the bay from the speed strip. Winds in the strip are generally 1bf higher due to the clean approach over the kite surfer’s lagoon that only has water when the tide is in.
Sailing out onto the speed strip means heading out round the spit & through the marker buoys some 50 meters off shore to round the reef. The water is flat and the wind much cleaner, the run down towards the wave spot needs to be taken some 10 meters or so off the shore (again to clear a reef). There is a pontoon where you can take a breather or hoist the flag if anyone is in need of a rescue boat.
Whilst the strip is great for going fast from one end to the other the bay area on the other hand is great for practising those gybes, water starts or anything else you wish. The reach is probably getting on for a mile & although a little gustier than the strip it is still cleaner than any of the big lakes we sail here in the UK.
The area up against the lagoon is shallow & it is here where many take a breather or just chill out watching others show how it should be done, there are two towers where centre staff record video for technique clinics & you may recognise the view if you have seen Guy Cribb’s Intuition DVD. Anyone wanting to practice deep beach starts or learn to water start this is ideal. It can though get a little congested at times and is probably about the windiest spot inside the bay.
Windwise the conditions were good for the week. Despite a no show on the first day and an early departure on the second it held good for the rest of the week blowing well in the mornings & starting to drop off mid afternoon. Sail wise 5.0 – 5.7 was the order of the week after the first two days. It sure makes the TWC norm of an 8 metre or so seem cumbersome once back home though.
The Dahab Hilton & Club Mistral are located at the better end of the bay if relaxing on the beach is your partner’s thing although the center does suffer a little more wind shadow than those further to the south side. The staff are helpful & efficient and sun loungers come free with fresh beach towels daily, drinks & snacks from the beach bar can be charged back to your room & settled on departure. Bar meals served on the beach come in around £2 – £4.
Much has been written about Dahab elsewhere so I’ll skip most but just add that the shop keepers & restaurant owners can be a bit over enthusiastic when trying to tempt you into their bar.
Without a doubt this accolade must go to the Egyptian taxi drivers. For some unknown reason they drive without lights at night as do others only flashing the main beam when they see the outline of another vehicle moving toward them. Overtaking rules – there are none it seems, it’s the oncoming traffics prerogative to get out of the way. Fortunately it’s less than 5 minutes in to town but it’s probably one of the longest taxi rides you will ever experience and the risks they take are totally unnecessary really.