So, my last Topper event is over! The Topper Nationals was an absolutely fantastic event, with the whole 16 race series completed. We arrived three days prior to the event on Wednesday for two days of squad training with my squad, the Topper National Intermediate Squad, to get back in the zone and pick up a few nuggets of key information about the venue, Weymouth. After several valuable hours on the water on both days, we checked over our boats and gave them a final wash before a rest day prior to the six day event.
The first day of the championships arrived at last, with winds of 18-24 knots and pretty severe chop! The flock of Toppers zoomed out to the race course where the PRO waited, course laid and ready for action. There were very few shifts to be had, or any real gains to be made, so it was back to basics; boat speed, starting, keeping it clean. The race started well, popping out the front quickly, but then being the idiot I am, got stuck head to wind for 30 seconds due to some pretty big chop and not dropping the main enough. I managed to claw to 10th by the first top mark, and 3rd by the 2nd top mark. A great battle commenced for 3rd to 5th place, and I managed to nose dive near the end of the run which dropped me to 5th, but overall a solid counter. Unfortunately, the PRO sent us in much to the confusion of the racers, and no more racing was run.
Day 2 was equally windy, so I decided to wear my Rooster Pro Hikers as usual with a Rooster Poly Pro top and my favourite, the Rooster Thermaflex, which kept me cool when working hard upwind, and warmer downwind when it wasn't quite so physical. Would definitely recommend the Rooster Black Diamond Buoyancy Aid, really low profile so you can get under the boom, but high placed so the torso to allow full movement down low. Started off with a bad decision to go right but gained due to boat speed throughout the race to finish 12th. 2nd race I popped out of the port end and tacked across the fleet, leading at the windward mark. I managed to hold this for the reach, and nearly all of the run, until my mate overtook me. I edged left again and led at the 2nd windward mark, until a very quick female sailor passed me on the run, leaving me with a satisfying 2nd place and a famed rubber duck as a prize!
The next few days were light wind affairs, which was pretty bad for my weight range (10kg heavier than the heaviest competitive Topper weight) and put in a couple of ok results to qualify comfortably for gold fleet. During the light wind races, I wore the same as the heavy wind races, although swapped the Poly Pro for the Rooster Lycra Top to keep me a bit cooler, and also moved the pads up on the Pro Hikers, as I would not need them to support my legs for hiking.
Once in gold, things were a lot harder. Two more days of light to low medium winds with not many gains to be had left it again as mainly a boat speed race, which wasn't too good for me! However, I managed to hang in there with decent ish results.
In one race, I saw a big rain cloud on the right and headed for it, leading on the reach and most of the downwind, rounding the leeward gate in 2nd. I knew people would be faster than me, but if I hung in, I could get a top 5. I felt very slow on the next beat, and despite going the right way, was loosing places. I checked for weed half way up the beat to find a huge piece of very rough weed on my rudder. The damage was already done, dropping 30 places. I didn't loose any more from there on in. It's frustrating when something so seemingly obvious yet not a priority destroys your score card, and it's easy to look at where I would have finished the regatta with 30 points less, but I just had to move on.
I even managed to protest a fellow Team Rooster sailor during the event, but I won't elaborate on that!
The final day saw more wind again. Kicking things off with an 8th, I felt confident I could pick my regatta up a bit. Unfortunately, the 2nd race saw me late to the start backing up a near breakage, and playing catch up couldn't rescue me from this one, especially when I realised my boat was leaking badly as all the water which kept filling the mast cup kept magically disappearing! I decided to really go for it on the final race, and held a slim lead at the top mark. However, with a boat which was getting heavier and heavier, with an already heavy sailor on board, it was impossible to hold this downwind, and ended up 6th overall.
In general, the regatta was fantastic, although irritating due to the lack of gains to be made and my boat speed in the lighter stuff being dire despite my best efforts. However, I am very pleased with what I have learnt, and feel a 34th out of 250 is not something to be unhappy about. Time for a new boat, the Radial, when at least it won't matter what the wind is, as I'm the perfect weight for it!