420 Junior Europeans 2017
Six days of racing lay ahead of us for the 420 Junior Europeans 2017. Gemma and I had trained with our team for four days prior to the event, each day of our training we gained more knowledge of the wild winds that Lake Garda is famous for. The wind in Lake Garda can be simply understood in a few sentences - every morning the wind is light. It drops at 12pm and shifts 180 degrees, quickly building to a gusty 20+knots in the afternoon.Our training days gave us these conditions but the racing threw quite the opposite at us, each day of racing was different to the previous day. The local Italians said that Garda was like this for around 10 days of the year and unfortunately for us it fell on our event. Although the conditions were difficult for getting races in, all 12 scheduled races went ahead. Day 1 of racing we saw light winds. The left side of the course favoured in the soft breeze which was unusual to the normally right side bias when it is a southerly wind. It was shifty and dropping throughout the racing. Our results from day 1 were disappointing, but the knowledge which we gained made a huge difference for the rest of the event. Day 2 we saw more wind. It was shifty again, while we started off well in both races the large fleet meant that one wrong tactical decision could put you out of the race, this was the case for us in the first race on day 2, as the right side favoured hugely. For the first beat we went right, on the next lap we went left. As the wind was dying quickly, we put our knowledge from the light wind of day 1 into practice. Although, we were thinking just a bit ahead of the wind as the large shift to the left did not come in as soon as we expected and so going left did not play in our favour! The second race of the day was going well although our spinnaker pole broke half way through the race, it was manageable to fly the spinnaker without the pole. It was only difficult on the last reach coming up to the finish as we were trying to hold the spinnaker and sail high to the line! We had a 25th in that race and we were quite pleased.
Day 3 was the final day of qualification for gold fleet. Instead of first gun at the usual 1pm we were up early, with our first warning signal at 7:55am, this meant that we were launched by 6:30am! The wind in the morning in lake Garda blows in a northerly direction, it is usually light in the early hours but day 3 was an exception, a cool 20+knots gave us a refreshing morning wake up. There was a large swell out on course B which is further out on the lake than course A, where we had raced on days 1 and 2. Unfortunately after 6 races we had not qualified for gold fleet.On day 4 we had launched with the intention of having 2 races, this was the case for everyone else who had launched but not for us. With a bad start in race 7 we were determined to catch up to the top of the pack, doing everything to get maximum speed in a 420 can mean getting close to breaking rule 42, and for us it meant one too many pumps of the spinnaker and we were yellow flagged. As we were doing our turns we capsized and as the boat was being righted we noticed something floating away - our rudder. Our rudder pin had snapped and it meant we had to retire from the race and head in. The breeze was about 12-15 knots, coming from the south, it was a perfect day for racing! Day 5 was light and shifty, but we played the shifts and used our Garda knowledge to our advantage. Race 9 had a series of abandonments and recalls, many boats were black flagged. The start was crowded and we were in a bad position, we got out and sailed over the committee boat on port. We continued on port until we hit the cliffs and sailed over the fleet on the starboard layline. We came away from day 5 with a 9th and a 12th. The final day of racing was hectic! The wind was a steady 12-14 knots but it was shifting to the left and then suddenly to the right which meant that it took a while before we got one race in. This was our best race of the event and it was also our last! We got 8th and sailed in so that we would make our flight back to Dublin that evening! Competing in the Junior Europeans was an amazing experience, we enjoyed every minute of it! We feel our sailing has improved immensely and we can't wait to see what the future in sailing brings! Thank you Rooster for sponsoring us on our journey and for our coaches for all of their helpful advice on the racecourse. Emma & Gemma