The world champion of wind surfing said his apartment was on Maryland Avenue near the State House, but could we meet instead at the luncheonette across the street?
"I'm a little short on furniture," said the wind surfing world champion.
The luncheonette was nice enough for a place with an ambient air temperature of about 46 degrees. When frostbite threatened we asked the waitress if there was any heat in the place.
"No," she said.
Back at the wind surfing world champion's apartment the heat was on. "That's odd," he said, pulling up a folding chair. "You know, this place may not look like much but it's actually the nicest place I've ever had."
The wind surfing world champion is nemed Ken Winner, appropriately. Recently this 25-year-old native of Davidsonville competed against the best American and European wind surfers at the 1980 world championships in the Bahamas. He won the freestyle competition and distance race, tied for fifth in the slalom and was 10th in his weight class in racing, making him overall world champion.
It was not his finest hour. At the 1977 world in Italy, Winner, with two years of board experience, won three events -- freestyle, distance and slalom. That made him a cult hero in Europe, where wind surfing is huge, and earned him "not two lines in the local (Annapolis) paper," he said.
Ken Winner is not a household word, even in his own backyard. Sometime in the next week or two he hopes to alter that with a bid to eclipse the world wind surfing long-distance record.
He once set the record with a 100-mile jaunt down the Florida coast. That was recently surpassed by the 136-mile Mediterranean journey of Frenchman Stephan Peyron. Now Winner is set to embark on a cold journey down the Atlantic Coast on a 13-foot, 50-pound board he built himself.
A northwest wind watch is in effect at his railroad-style apartment. Winner's sailboard is mounted atop his Datsun, ready to launch. He has one eye on the calendar and the other out the window, checking the weather.
The ideal day for his assault on the world record is Saturday, Winner said. "The tide and the moon say it's right." On that day (one day before the shortest day of the year) there will be a full moon, permitting him to start about 4 a.m. when the outgoing tide will be ripping down the bay.
Winner, a clean-cut ramrod straight athlete, is hoping for a cold-front Friday, which would bring a northwester behind it. If it comes he will don his $400 dry suit, fill his belly pack with fruit and juice and charts of the waters, strap a compass on his forearm and set out from Thomas Point Light in the dark before dawn, sailing south with the hard wind across his shoulder.
With a steady 20-knot breeze he reckons he could be at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel a little after noon, then follow a 180-degree compass course down the coast as long as his stamina lasts. His goal is Oregon Inlet, N.C., 210 miles from Thomas Point.
A wind surfer uses a surfboard with a sail. The mast is attached to the board by a universal joint; the sail is controlled by wooden booms that the wind surfer hangs onto. It is exhausting sport, balancing the two-foot-wide board and hanging onto the boom while the little boat skips along at speeds close to 20 mph.
Wind surfers were inverted about 13 years ago and have since taken the sailing world by storm. They are now the most popular sailboat class in the world and have been approved for inclusion in the 1984 Olympics.
To make sure his record is officially sanctioned, Winner is busy this week arranging a chase boat to follow him down the coast with a photographer and reporter aboard. Wind surfing distance voyages often come under sharp scrutiny if they are not verified. A frenchman, Baron Arnaud de Rosnay, claimed recently to have ridden his board 500 miles in the South Pacific over 11 days, but that mark was not verified and is not considered official.
Winner, who went to the University of Maryland looking for direction and finally found it in 1975 on a used wind surfer, said he chose to make his assault on the distance record in the dead of winter because the winds are more predictable, the effort will gain more attention, and he thinks the problems posed by winter travel are less than they seem.
His dry suit, a foam rubber survival outfit, has left him sweating after workouts on bitter days on the bay.
Winner tried twice before to set new board-sailing distance records. He was foiled once by storms off Hawaii and again by lack of winds off Florida. "It has a fascination for me," he said. "And I've tried it twice and failed twice. I really don't want to quit. I don't like to be beaten."
And how long does he think the record will last?
"About three weeks," said the wind surfing world champion.