A lot has happened sailing wise since my last post before the Youth Nationals! Luckily, the Scottish weather played ball with soaring temperatures of 8 degrees, while the rest of the country shivered in a meagre 2. The atmosphere upon arriving in Largs Sailing Club was fantastic, hundreds of sailors bustling around, refining boat prep, catching up with old friends, and all looking forward to a quality week of racing. After registering and washing my boat down, I went for a sail with some other Hayling Island sailors to assess the race area and conditions. The first thing that struck us was how far away the Radial race area was, around 30 minutes sail out, and at least an hour and a quarter back in. It was evident that the time on the water each day was going to be huge, which turned out to be fairly accurate, leaving the dock at 9.45 and returning at around 4.30 each day. Thankfully, I was laden with Rooster kit to keep me toasty for the long hours on the water. The Rooster SuperTherm is a miracle of a product, leaving me totally warm even when taking an occasional dip between races! I was surprised as to how little I needed to wear to keep warm, previously having to wear up to 5 thermals and a thin neoprene top and then an AquaFleece. The SuperTherm allowed me to only wear one thermal and my AquaFleece, leaving me unrestricted and agile in the boat.
The qualifying series was predominantly sailed in medium to heavy winds, with around 15 to 18 knots on the first day, and slightly less on day 2. This being my first race in a Radial, I was keen to see how I stacked up against the fleet, especially in the wind I expect to be least competitive in. I managed to perform well for my first time, but unfortunately missed the gold cut narrowly, placing me in the top 10 going into the championship series in silver. With a dying forecast, I hoped to move up the table slightly as the winds shifted slightly in my favour.
During the qualifying series, the wind had been shifty, but not so shifty as to cause problems. However, as the wind died to below 10 knots during the championship series, the wind became increasingly unstable, with regular shifts of up to 30 degrees and a very patchy race course. Getting into the gusts early and positioning yourself to be in contention at the top mark was vital to having a consistent regatta, and top 10s would see you do very well overall.
After two days of tactical and chess style sailing, I had managed to post a 6, 8, 16, 20 and then a shocker, placing me around 8th overall going into the last day, but with only 8 points separating 4th and 12th. Everything was still to play for. The last day greeted us with a pleasant but extremely unstable 5-8 knots of breeze, and after a solid 7th in the first race, I knew I could manage a top 5 in the regatta with a top 15 in the final race. Deciding to play conservative, I started at the starboard end and played to shifts into the middle of the course, safely in the top 10 half way up the beat. With slightly more wind on the left, I kept slightly left of the fleet while playing the shifts. Half way up the beat, the dreaded happened...
35 degrees right hand shift. Oh no! After fighting my way up to the top mark, I rounded in 35th and just decided to see how many I could grind down. With the whole fleet gybing onto a broad reach, I stayed to the right of the run in slightly more wind and went by the lee. This leapt me up to roughly 25th at the leeward mark, knowing I had to pass 10 boats to secure 4th place. Unfortunately, the wind had turned the beat into a close reach, and there was nothing to do put follow the fleet dutifully in a procession, with no chance to make a gain. A very disappointing 25th dropped me to 12th overall, tied on points with 3 others and ending up last out of them on count back!
However, the Youth Nationals was an absolutely amazing event which I have learnt so much from, mainly that Radials are far more tactical than Toppers, giving me a clear focus to chip away at over the coming year before the squad selection events. It was pretty amazing seeing how Ellie Meopham absolutely destroyed the Radial boys in Gold fleet, taking the regatta by over 30 points! It feels amazing to race against sailors like Ellie, who are in an Olympic squad, and it's a valuable opportunity to watch and learn off the pro's.
Thank you so much to anyone involved in the event, every aspect was seamless and made our lived so much more enjoyable! Also, thanks to my parents, who slogged me there and back over many miles of British motorway! I cannot wait for next years event to have another absolutely fantastic racing experience.