My family and I travelled to Lake Garda, Italy for the Topper World Championships. A 2 hour airplane flight got us to Verona airport then a 2 hour 30 mins coach ride up the east side of the lake to Riva Del Garda, the sights were spectacular! When we arrived at Riva we went straight to our apartment, dumped our suit cases and left straight for the sailing club. The 30 + degrees temperatures kicked in as a short 5 min walk brought sweat running down my face.
When I got to the sailing club my boat was already offloaded off the huge trailer that brought it down from Carsington the weekend before. I found my boat and all of my kit and started to rig so I was ready for the next two days of training. A quick briefing with Nat and Flip about what will be happening over the next two days and I went for a huge dinner as I did not have time to eat properly in the past 12 hours or so.
The first day of training arrived. A quick bit of theory about the Ora and Peler with Flip and I was ready to go sailing. I got changed into minimal kit wearing only my Rooster Race Armour LITE Shorts
, a t-shirt, Buoyancy aid and Boots. When I launched I did not realise how short the slipway was and as my excitement of sailing stopped any thoughts of how short it was I went right off the edge into a cool and refreshing lake, I was not the only person to do this!
We had launched in very little wind, this lack of wind was because the Peler (The cold Northerly wind) was switching to the Ora (The Warm Southerly wind). After 30 minuets of sailing out to the training and racing area the wind had filled in to a strong and steady 18 knot breeze coming from the SSW 210 degrees. This was the Ora for definite but it had not reached its full potential, which can be up to 25 knots of breeze. No longer than 45 minuets later the short chop arrived from the southern end of the lake, this chop was a little smaller than what I am used to at home in the Solent so it was not a new experience for me. However some of the lake sailors in the squad struggled in the chop.
A few short mini races confirmed my thoughts about how going to the cliffs on the right paid more than going to the middle of the lake, a very quick downwind back to the club and that was day one of training finished. The second day of training was exactly the same so we could get a good feel for the venue.
Sunday was a rest day for me all I had to do was register and get my boat measured, other than that I was swimming in the lake with my squad mates to keep cool. A good early night and I was ready for the first day of racing.
I woke to a very sunny Monday. I got to the club for 9:30 and a lot of the boats were already rigged, a quick look at the flights showed me I was in yellow fleet today with two Italians and a lot of British National and Intermediate squaddies, I knew today was going to be an eye-opener for who to look out for in the next few days of racing.
A brief sail out to the race course and the breeze had filled in to a strong 16 knots from the SSW 210 degrees. My plan was to get a very good start and tack as soon as possible to go right to the cliffs.
A clean start as I wanted, 30 seconds in I tacked off to go right and I saw the two Italians 5 boat lengths ahead of everyone. My quick boat speed and good wave technique got me a few places on the upwind, I rounded the windward mark 5th behind the Italians and 2 other National squaddies. A short reach gave the Italians even more ground ahead of us, the downwind leg kept me in 5th at the gate. Coming up to the last windward mark I had gained a place putting me 4th on the downwind. I lost a few places with a stupid mistake at the last mark with a short reach I finished 10th. The Italians got 1st and 2nd. Followed by many puzzled GBR sailors questioning how quick the Italians are.
The 2nd race saw a very similar strategy to the first, the Italians leading from the start again. I had a very similar race and with no silly mistakes I finished 4th behind the Italians and a National squaddie. The 3rd race I had the same strategy as the previous 2, however it brought a different finishing order - the Italians split by Joe Drake, a National squaddie. I finished 5th in that race leaving me 7th overnight, but as Joe beat one of the Italians this gave the squad confidence that the Italians are not unbeatable.
A big dinner and a early night got me ready for the second day of racing.
Tuesday was a very sunny day similar day to Monday. The fleets were shuffled and the Italians were split, I was in yellow fleet again with an Italian and Geoff Power From Ireland who got a 1st, 5th and 2nd yesterday, so again I knew today was going to be difficult.
Sailing out and the Ora brought a very similar set of conditions as yesterday so my strategy stayed the same.
Race 1 of the day and again I got a very good start, the Italian still ahead but Geoff was close behind him. Some more good wave technique put me 3rd at the top mark behind the Italian and Joe Drake. A quick reach brought me neck and neck with Joe at the top mark. Geoff was a speed demon down wind and he soon caught up with me and Joe, then overtook us. The Italian, Geoff and Joe all went round the same side of the gate however I chose the opposite mark as those 3 were fighting it out for 1st. I saw some pressure off to the right that the others had not spotted. As I tacked back to come to the centre of the beat it clearly paid to go right as I had overtaken Geoff, Joe and the Italian and I had built my gap the further up the beat I went rounding the top mark in 1st. Adrenaline rushed through me, the big lead gave me a slight cushion over Geoff's downwind speed, however he and the Italian did not gain any ground on the downwind. A short and quick reach gave me my FIRST BULLET at a National or International event!
The feeling overwhelmed me, the next race I was buzzing with confidence. A quite frankly rubbish start gave me very few options and I knew from the beginning this was going to be a bad race. With all my efforts to gain some places I still finished in a very disappointing 53rd. A few wise words from Flip after the race and I went into the last race of the day with a clear mind - I finished the race 13th, that put me 10th overall but after protests I was moved up to 9th.
Wednesday was very similar to the previous 2 days, my results were 24th, 7th, 10th. My slight loss of consistency dropped me 5 places to 14th overnight but I was comfortably put into the gold fleet and I knew how difficult the next two days of championship racing was going to be.
Thursday brought thunderstorms further down the lake.
The rain from the thunder storms caused the land to cool down and this stopped the Ora coming through, never the less they still launched us in the hope of some wind but it never came so all we did was tie up to the ribs and swim and talk for 4 hours.
Friday, the final day of the regatta - the race committee were eager to get some races in so they moved the first warning signal forward to 7:55 am! Because of this I had to get up a 5am to get down the club for 6am so that we could launch for 7am. Again thunderstorms filled the sky
above so they put the AP flag up. We eventually launched at 10:30 and when we got out to the race area there was still no w
ind. We tied up onto the ribs again. An hour had passed and the Ora finally kicked in and we got three races in. My first result was a 17th then in the second race I snapped my mast giving me a DNF. After a quick sail and bottom mast change, I was ready for the last race. still a little annoyed about my mast I finished 23rd in the race leaving me 16th overall.
I am very pleased with my result and I received a prize. Well done to the Italians who finished 1st and 2nd and Niamh Harper finished 3rd - she is also a National squaddie - Geoff finished 4th and from 5th to 20th were all GBR.
I have one more large regatta in my Topper which is the Nationals at WPNSA starting on Sunday. After that I am so excited to be moving into a Laser.