2016 Review - my year on the water, by Billy Vennis Ozanne.
Heading into 2017 I thought I’d look at what’s been happening in my world of sailing and what has interested me.
The start of 2016 in the 29er was up and down. I was sailing with a number of team mates and looking back they were all good experiences, but sailing a 29er against a competitive fleet you really do need to be in a solid team that is in tune. Nick Robins and I had a few chats about sailing together for the 2016/17 season and decided to do events where our previous commitments didn’t clash to see how we worked together. We did the 29er winters in a blizzardy Draycote where we rounded the top mark in first place in our very first race together which was very cool, but it didn’t last! Not long after this I was pretty fortunate to get a Mach 2 Moth and while I missed some of the 29er events, I did have a new sailing experience to get stuck into. GCSEs were also on the agenda so I had to do some time juggling with revision. Sailing out of Stokes Bay in my Moth was a pretty cool way to forget all about Maths but turned out to be pretty good for the Physics revision. Foil tacking is still a little bit hit and miss and more handling practice is always needed, but sailing the Moth is an absolute dream.
Early summer seemed to arrive pretty quickly and exams were imminent. I managed to squeeze in a Moth GP at Stokes Bay - being very light for a Moth it was not ideal conditions at 20+ knots, which was well out of my experience zone! I did get some racing in but in a big wipe out I ended up exploding a tramp and that was the end of that. It was great fun but closing speeds and crossing other Moths was a whole new ball game compared with taking part in Topper events less than 12 months earlier!
Europeans in Norway, June. Nick and I managed to get exams out the way and headed to the 29er European Champs in Tønsberg, Norway. It was an amazing experience and we came away with a top 5 result which was very pleasing. Norway is a stunning place to sail and the race areas were very challenging, people are gorgeous, food expensive, water cold.Conditions: cold water, warm sun, 5 to 25knots. SuperTherm Longjohn, Polypro top, ThermaFlex or SuperTherm top, Split Toe Trapeze boots, Diamond Overhead Buoyancy Aid. Stand out garment for me was the Pro Aquafleece Rigging coat kept conveniently on the RIB for when the heavens opened for 2 ½ hours without a drop of wind. I was kept dry and warm, not so for some in the fleet! The 29er Worlds were at Medemblik and I had linked up with Margaherita who I had known for a few years after meeting her in Iseo, Italy for the Tera worlds. She had been sailing 29ers for a year longer than me and was in-between team mates, so we decided to do the Worlds together. Quite a tall order looking back at it as split second communication was not something that was easy as our mother tongues were not the same. The Worlds started quite light and although starting was a bit off beat, we managed to finish up after the first couple of days racing in the top ten, which out of 228 was pretty unbelievable! As the breeze built in the following days, this played havoc with our communication at mark rounding’s which got us slipping down Gold fleet. Still, we very pleased with the end result.
Nick and I started sailing officially at the 29er UK Nationals in Torbay; a great venue but westerlies off the land made it a tricky venue. We sat in 2nd for quite a while but slipped on the last day to 3rd overall but came away with lots of stuff learned.
Moth Nationals Weymouth, September. I was hoping to get some much-needed time sailing my Moth but it seemed pretty hard to squeeze everything in, so I arrived at the Moth UK Nationals with the intention of using it as experience and time on the water. Day one was blowing dogs off chains and I decided not to go out for the first race as it looked like I might damage something. The second race was abandoned due to too little wind; we were mostly low riding but I was hopeful that some breeze would come in as half way up the first beat I was in the top ten. The next day was windy but I dug deep and launched. 4 races back to back in strong breeze was a real test and each race I improved on what I had set out to do in getting sailing time and experience, which was happening in bucket loads! I enjoyed racing against other boats and started getting to grips with closing speeds upwind and some of the scary downwind encounters near the gate. Every race was brilliant apart from the race where I think I was in the top twenty after the first lap and got a little tangled up and snapped the tiller extension - that was a little disappointing - needless to say it was the one supplied and not a Rooster Carbon stick . I finished up 50th out of 75, so though I would have liked higher, each race I improved and that's what I had aimed for.Conditions: warm water, blowing old boots! Pro Brushed Spandex top; its perfect for those warm days when you still need to have a protective layer on your shoulders. Rash leggings with Race Armour shorts; great for all the manoeuvrability needed in a Moth. Diamond Overhead Buoyancy Aid with a long-sleeve Rash Vest over the top for some drag reduction. Stand out garment even though they are for trapezing are the Spilt Toe Trapeze boots which give so much grip and manoeuvrability across Moth tramps 29er Ovington Inlands, Grafham water, November. Conditions: 3 degrees, blowing upto 30 knots on occasion, intense wind chill. Fleece lined Beanie, fave colour is blue or red, Polypro Top, Polypro Gloves under Supergrip Gloves. Split Toe Boots still warm as toast in these conditions. Stand out, cold beating garment was the Supertherm Steamer sent from heaven in these super cold conditions! If i am out training at this time of year I add a Pro Lite Aquafleece over the top which is super close fitting, a struggle to get on but great for less windage and fine for quick hoists.
Time to get cracking for the 29er GP 2016/17 series. First off was Rutland with some really breezy conditions making it hard for the big contingent of new teams into 29ers. We did a pretty good job here with some big leads which we shared with Hannah and Emily who had amazing pace over the rest of the fleet. We kept them at bay though and took the win. Weymouth GP was a bit of a brain drain and we ended up in 8th but with plent of lessons learnt, so not all bad but a bit frustrating. We got into Youth Squad with this being my second time in a squad after only a brief time in a Feva squad a few years back, so it’s been interesting to see how training in a group works. It’s been great and the support at Garda and the HPC training is working well and now we're really getting to grips with the finer details of 29er sailing. Nick and I finished the 2016 season by getting a good few bullets at the Ovington Inlands and taking the title. We're looking forward to a busy 2017 season with 29er events, the UK GP series the Sprint Champs, the RYA Youth Nationals, Euro cups, Worlds in California, Europeans in France and the UK Nationals in Weymouth. Somewhere in amongst that I have AS Levels to take and Mick has his A levels! We have a very full-on 2017 ahead, oh maybe the odd Moth event too!!
Top of the season to everyone out there look forward to the cold and the warm of 2017. Fair winds from Ora and Notus and good waves from Neptune to all!