It's been a while since my last post and a lot has happened! After completing my GCSEs, a summer of sailing began, with the aim of stepping my sailing up a level for the Youth Squad qualifiers in the Autumn. The Laser Radial Youth Europeans in a beautiful Denmark provided the first challenge, especially as it was my first international event. Many people say international events are different because of racing against foreign sailors and 'interesting' rule interpretations, but the biggest difference was how tactically sharp the fleet were. Unfortunately, it became evident that my tactics were anything but sharp, and actually more like a butter knife than a weapon. This led to a very challenging but enlightening week of racing, from which I learnt a lot, but struggled to perform well.
After my international adventure, I returned home to Queen Mary, and began working on my tactics in some competitive club racing against the standards, and lots of sailing on my own at other times too. If I wasn't on a boat, I was basically on a bike or in the gym (with the sofa dominating the rest of my free time). Fitness is one area which is clearly vital in sailing, but is something you definitely can't change in the week leading up to a regatta, so getting a large fitness base was important. It feels like all the time on the water and exercising is starting to pay off, and the Laser Nationals in Largs provided an excellent testing ground for me prior to the Autumn Qualifiers.
Although the 8 hour car trip wasn't ideal, the sailing more than made up for it (although a bit more sun could have helped!). Scotland delivered perfect sailing conditions, bar the rain, for the entire week, with mostly 12-15 knots, and one day of 20-25 knots. The first day of qualifying was a bit of a struggle, with my starts letting my down in both races, leaving me with a 9th and a 14th. The following day brought with it strong winds, and despite terrible starts (again...) I managed to get into 3rd by the top mark in both races with my boat speed. However, my reaching boat speed failed me in both races, mainly down to the fact that I went swimming on both reaches! So, a 7th and an 8th were frustrating results given the mistakes. In the rest of qualifying, my starts improved, and my results were consistently around 8th, although it felt as though a bit more downwind boat speed - which I was struggling for - would have lifted those results substantially. At least I know what I need to focus on now! Luckily, I stayed very warm despite being submerged in Scottish sea water, with my Rooster Supertherm and polypros keeping me toasty, and my Rooster Pro Hikers allowing me to hike with no pain at all. It was pretty impressive that with only two layers, I still stayed warm and could concentrate on racing rather than shivering.
The first day of finals was eventful, with the first race being fairly standard, but the second race giving us a 150 degree right hand shift on the second beat! Any guesses where I was? Yep, left hand boat. So after finishing the race dead last in gold (resorting to stand up sailing on the final run which was a beat, and capsizing on the line), I joined Jon Emmett in a protest along with 10 others to can the race. Ken, the race officer, who did a fantastic job all week, admitted that he was occupied at the time and did not notice the shift, and agreed that it should be resailed the following day, much to the delight of all those who had gone left!
After a fantastic event, I finished 13th overall and 7th British boat. John Booth narrowly missed out on victory over Jon Emmett, with a holding area penalty (for being too close to the start line while another fleet was starting) costing John the overall win. Scotland definitely delivered, and it was a very rewarding event to compete in, with extremely close racing, and a great bunch of people to chill with.