After finishing another week of training followed by a week of being a tourist in Perth I flew to Melbourne. The time difference is +3 hours so getting up in the mornings was fairly difficult, it felt like I had flown to a different country! Fortunately the racing in Melbourne was all scheduled to alternate between 1100 and 1400 (no 0900 starts this time).
The temperature in Melbourne on average is much lower than in Perth. However I saw this as a positive as I felt like I was slowly acclimatising, ready to go back to the UK and its extreme winter conditions. I was also able to wear my snuggly Aquafleece
for the first time in weeks and test out my Rooster Coastal Jacket
in some of the torrential rainfall Melbourne had been experiencing!
In the week before the event I was clocking up the gym sessions whilst I was having a break from sailing. I managed to get myself 2 weeks free membership to any Fitness First gym with a voucher I found in Cosmopolitan magazine. Even better was the fact that the nearest Fitness First gym to where I was staying was a ten minute jog away…result! Lesson learnt there is that its definitely worth reading Cosmo!
I did a couple of days training prior to the regatta to get used to the venues conditions with Charlotte Dobson and my two house mates for the week, Annalise Murphy from Ireland and Nathalie Brugger from Switzerland. We had some great sailing conditions for the training but unfortunately the wind did not want to come out to play for day one of the regatta. All the fleets were postponed onshore for a few hours before being released to launch in a light breeze that was beginning to establish. After another hour or so waiting on the water the wind eventually picked up enough to get a start underway. The wind did not stay for long however and the race eventually got abandoned but not before we all spent at least 20 mins drifting down the reach sitting on our leeward decks to try and get enough heel on to make our sails fill.
Day 2 brought light, shifty winds of about 6-8 knots. 3 races were sailed and I scored 6, 10 and 12 putting me in 8th overall. I was really pleased with my starts and upwinds and felt that all the training I had done in Perth was starting to pay off.
Day 3 was scheduled to start at 1400 but racing got cancelled at 1130 due to strong winds and thunderstorms forecast for the day. Melbourne has very extreme weather conditions!
Day 4 had a very promising forecast of about 10-12 knots, however the wind had made other plans for the day and what we actually got was a light, shifty, patchy, dying breeze. Apart from my first race in which I finished 24th, I had an amazing day racing. I had good boat speed and felt really in sync with the conditions. My scores were 24, 2 and 8, leaving me in 7th place overall. The radial fleet had GPS tracking devices on our boats for that day so if you are interested in replaying the traces and watching me race see the link below.
Day 5 was the final day of qualifying before the medal race, 3 races were scheduled to start at 1400. We completed one race, in a shifty 8-10 knot breeze. On the final downwind the Radial fleet merged with the Finn fleet which had been doing 3 laps to our 2. I hate it when this happens because the Finns are faster so I spent the whole leg trying to keep out of their dirty air and completely lost track of my own race. I ended up finishing 13th which I was reasonably happy with considering how shifty the day was proving to be. In between races I saw a massive rain cloud heading directly towards the course. I decided to put my jacket on, just in case and it was a good job I did. As it started raining the breeze picked up to about 40 knots which blew nearly the whole fleet over. I decided I would be better off staying upside down to preserve my sail, so I sat on top of my upturned boat, hugged my centreboard and waited the storm out! The race committee decided to send everyone ashore so that they could check that everyone was safe and accounted for. Apparently a 2.4 sunk and there was a fair bit of damage to other boats, luckily no one was seriously hurt and everyone made it back ashore. The racing was eventually abandoned for the day after another squall was spotted on the horizon. With no more racing to be done that day it meant that I had qualified for the medal race and would go into it lying in 7th place overall, only a few points away from 5th.
The forecast for the medal race day was for medium to strong winds. I watched the Finn medal race from the clubhouse balcony. It was a Brit race off, with Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott and Ed Wright in 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively going into the day. The Finns enjoyed a breezy race with big waves and lots of exciting place changing on the final run to the finish. Ben took the honours overall followed by Ed and Giles, a fantastic result for GBR to snatch up all the medals in the Finn fleet and an inspiring moment for me. Nick Thompson also took gold in the Laser class and Alex Rickham and Niki Birrell won all their races to win gold in the Skud, making it a very successful regatta for Great Britain.
The medal race is double points and non-discardable, so my strategy was to just try and sail the best race I could as I was lying in 7th place, with a best case scenario of being able to pull up to 5th and worst case drop to 10th. I was fairly fortunate that I was 16 points ahead of the next boat and only 3 points off 6th and 4 points off 5th. With 5th and 6th so close on points it was likely that they would be keeping a close eye on each other and praying that they beat me in the race. It was a powerful position to be in and meant that I went into the race with confidence. By the time the Radial medal race got underway the wind had dropped off to virtually nothing at all and the sea state was extremely choppy from all the coach and spectator boats. This made me a little nervous as it is my worst nightmare to come last in a medal race when everyone is watching and with the conditions being light, shifty and choppy, I felt it could be all too easy to do so! Luckily the wind gods were smiling down on me that day and I did enough in the medal race to pull up to 6th overall. At one point I was in 2nd place in the race which would have put me in 5th but alas it was not meant to be as the wind gods deserted me on the final run! See the results for the top 10 after the medal race here.
For the full results in all the classes click here.
So as I said in my last blog post, I was going racing in Melbourne to prove to myself that I still have what it takes and that is exactly what I did! I consider my trip to Australia to have been extremely useful and successful, I have a renewed confidence in not only my sailing ability but also in myself. Thanks to everyone who helped me out in any way and to everyone who contributed to me having one of my most enjoyable trips ever, there are too many names to mention but I hope you know who you are!
I was extremely lucky to fly back to the UK yesterday with only a 2.5 hour delay due to the snowy conditions at Heathrow (some of the other British sailors are still trying to get home)! I am now tired and cold but very happy to be home. I will be taking the next few weeks off sailing, mainly because it is really cold but also to concentrate on getting fitter and stronger in the gym (plus I will need to cancel out all the mince pie and mulled wine calories I am planning on consuming)!
Have a very merry Christmas everyone!