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Plymouth week training camp & Topper National Series 5
By James Russ
Coming up to mid season lots of events have happened. Two of the most recent things I have done were my 5 day Plymouth camp with the Topper National Junior Squad and National series 5 at Lowestoft.
My Plymouth training camp (25th to the 29th May) was the longest out of the 7 planned so I knew it was going to be a very challenging week. Throughout the week we had moderate winds of around 10 to 15kts other than on the Wednesday where we had a strong breeze of 18kts+. Fitness every morning woke everyone up for the day, 4 student from Solent University came down to take our fitness so the coaches could plan the sailing we were going to be doing that day.
The main focuses for the week were reducing risk on the different legs of a race course, general strategy across the race course and preparing for the World Champs in Lake Garda and the National Champs in Weymouth. Also we did two championship races everyday after training and finishing with a medal race on the Friday, only the top 10 out of the 25 of us were allowed to compete in the medal race. Overall the week was very tiring but I learnt a lot with over 20 hours of training in Plymouth harbour and bay I know a lot more about Plymouth as a venue if I go back in the future.
The next weekend after the training camp at Plymouth I had a weekend of racing at Lowestoft. The long 4 1/2 hours journey found me in Lowestoft on the East coast of Britain. We arrived at around 6:30pm; I still had plenty of time to half rig and find a spot for my boat amongst the other boats, trailers and motor homes. Where we were staying was a cosy B&B just across the road from the sailing club, the view from the window gave me am idea of where I would be sailing and launching the next day. A bright Saturday morning brought a moderate 10knots of breeze and building from the South West. Our launch area was a ten minute walk with my boat to a small slipway leading to a beach. The sun was strong that day so hydration was key to stay focused on the water. Launching commenced at 11:15am; a flood of toppers flew off the beach heading for the race area. As I got closer to the race area, the wind gradually picked up to a strong 20kts breeze, my confidence built as I am one of the heavier in the Topper Class.
I got out to the race course and the first thing that got my attention was the strength of the tide. This caused a lot of general recalls resulting in black flag starts for the rest of the weekend. As the first start went off I studied at what side I should go for, I decided to stick around the middle and play the shifts thinking of the reducing risk element that I got taught about at Plymouth. I had a strong start and stuck to my plan and I reached the top mark in 4th. A gusty downwind resulted in a lot of people death rolling but I stayed upright using every gust to my advantage, I got to the gate in 5th after a nose dive. I stuck to my upwind plan and played the shifts in the middle and I gained two places back putting me in 3rd at the top mark. A very quick reach got me soaked from the spray of the waves and the next downwind was again very gusty with more sailors going for a swim, reaching the second to last mark in third I felt the person in 4th breathing down my neck, after a silly mistake of nose diving on a reach I finished the race 4th. I was very pleased with the result.
The second race was a very similar race other than accidentally hitting someone and doing my turns I was 15th round the top mark. A lightning downwind put me in 11th at the bottom mark. Another shifty and gusty upwind gave me another 3 places putting me 8th. Another quick downwind I gained 2 more places and finished the race 6th. The third race was again very similar however the tide was going out so it was flowing North Westwards after another strong upwind I rounded the top mark 7th. A short reach gained me another two places putting me in 5th round the second mark. As I pulled my kicker off to go downwind some ball bearings fell into my boat I looked at my blocks and found my top block of my kicker was being shredded every time I pulled it on or off. After looking at it on the downwind I was lucky that only the roller on the block was broken and it still worked, because of my broken kicker I had lost 3 places on the downwind putting me 8th at the beginning of the next beat. I managed to pull on my kicker and tacked early as I knew the tide would take me up to the windward mark, this quick decision gave me my three places back and a big gap between me and 6th I crossed the line 5th after again a very gusty downwind and reach.
I got back to shore and found out my 4th, 6th and 5th placed me 7th over night and joint 5th with 2 other sailors.
Waking to another sunny day there was a light 5kts of wind coming from the south. The tide was again the biggest factor on the race course and I measured 12 boat lengths a minute. The first race was very shifty and the odd gust came through. I had a very slow race finishing 25th and was disappointed with my result. After waiting around for the wind, it shifted 160 degrees and picked up to a strong 16kt breeze. Still a bit distracted from my 25th last race I came in a respectable 15th. The wind continued to build and the last race conditions were very similar to Saturdays conditions. I got another 5th which I was very pleased with. I got back to shore thinking I might be lucky to get top 20 but I found myself in a very pleasing 10th, my best result this season. Overall the weekend was really good and it showed me I need to work on my light winds.
Looking forward to my last squad training camp at Weymouth and the Worlds at Lake Garda and Nationals at Weymouth in July and August.