2016 Sailing Summary
As I start my transition from the Topper into the Laser Radial class I thought it would be a good time to update you on my sailing progress during 2016.
I finished the 2015 National Series 43rd (out of 224) and consequently was offered a place in the RYA UK Junior Intermediate Topper Squad – I was naturally disappointed not to make the National Squad but this only made me more determined to improve.
The year started with the first event of the 2016 Topper National Series - the Winter Regatta at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy (WPNSA) in February. This was my first chance to gauge how my winter training was going. The conditions were brutal with freezing temperatures and 25kts plus of wind! Nevertheless I got some good results, including my first race win at a National Series event which led me to finish 10th overall in the Regatta.
Next stop for the National Series was Datchet Water Sailing Club. The forecast for the event was light, unstable wind, which has always been my achilles heel, so I was keen to see if my winter training had paid off. Despite the unpromising conditions, I managed some good results (including 3 firsts!) and went on to win the event - my best result of the season. Light, shifty winds characterised the remaining 4 National Series events and despite not being able to repeat my Datchet Water form I finished 6th overall (out of 244) in the National Series which I was very pleased with.
My Topper sailing season concluded with my Dad and I going on a massive road trip, first to the Topper World Championships in Bangor, Northern Ireland. This was a great opportunity to sail against sailors from around the world; this year’s event was the second largest ever with sailors coming from as far afield as South Africa and Australia. There was even a 30 strong squad from China. The first 3 days of racing consisted of qualification races to determine which championship fleets (Gold , Silver or Bronze) you race in for the last 2 days. The 3 qualification days were dominated by fairly light and shifty conditions and despite some solid results I was counting an 11th place which meant I went into Gold Fleet in 11th place overall. Day 1 of the championship races started with 10 kts of breeze which rapidly died as the fog came in and racing was abandoned after only one race. Day 2 brought very different conditions with strong winds and big waves. The first race didn’t go to plan; frustratingly the downhaul carabiner broke and ripped half the tack webbing. This meant sailing without a downhaul for the first race and even when I got a replacement carabiner, being very cautious with my downhaul for the remaining races which meant I was unable to capitalise on the excellent conditions. However, I still managed to climb one place to finish 10th overall in the World Championship. A pretty good outcome!
Our road trip took us to North Berwick next for the Topper National Championships. The week was dominated by strong westerly winds, so much wind in fact it was day 4 (Wednesday) of the Championships before we managed to get any racing in at all. The afternoon saw a brief lull in the wind and the organisers seized the opportunity to complete 4 qualification races. Light winds and some mediocre results meant I was in 21st place – not exactly where I wanted to be but good enough to get into Gold Fleet. Thursday saw a return to my favoured strong winds. Two good results saw me climb to 7th overall. Unfortunately, just as we were about to start the 3rd race of the day, the wind built with gusts close to 40kts and the decision was taken to abandon racing for the day. Friday brought similar conditions and much to my disappointment there was no further racing. While I would have preferred to sail more races, I was pleased to finish in 7th overall in the National Championships.
Where next? At 65kg I’m now at the upper range of what is considered competitive in a Topper so I’ve decided to build on my single-handed experience and move into the Laser class. Based on my performance in the Topper I’ve recently been selected for the RYA Transition Squad.