Aled Llewellyn-Jones - My first event as a NeilPryde Sailing Young Gun

Aled Llewellyn-Jones

This weekend saw my first event as a Neil Pryde Sailing ‘Team Rider young Gun'

It was a great weekend, good breeze, big competitive fleet, and lots of learning!

Topper National Series 5 at Draycote saw 165 boats entered in the main fleet and I was keen to build on my performances from earlier in the season. Saturday came with a forecast for 16 knots gusting 20 which was great given many weeks of light air training recently.

Race one got under way with plenty of pin-end bias. I played safe and stayed right of the bunch expecting a shift back to the right and I had a good beat up the middle. Coming into the windward mark I had two quick tacks to make the top three and had to make them stick. The first tack stuck but I didn’t… I missed a toe-strap and only just managed to recover to sixth by the end of the race! It wasnlt the start I wanted but I managed to block it out and went on to win the next three races. I was especially pleased with race four, winning the pin end, crossing the fleet soon after and always extending. My starts were more assertive as the day went on and all the hard work was seeming to pay off. Work rate was also really crucial given the gusty winds and it was a good test of my fitness. A score-line of 6, 1, 1, 1 put me in first place overnight with four more races scheduled for Sunday so it was an early night for me!

Sunday looked a bit lighter and still gusty. While Saturday had been a strong day, the standard in the fleet is really high and I have a lot of respect for my friends and fellow competitors. I continued some assertive strategy in the starts and it worked well. It was great to nail the biased pin-end again on Sunday and put myself in control of the fleet. Some tricky beats, especially as you got close to mark one meant a couple of higher scoring results with a 6th and 7th as well as another race win. With seven races done it would all come down to the last race…

As we went into the eighth and final race, by my calculations afloat, three of us were within a point of each other. I was in the red flight which meant I was drawn against yellow. That meant I was drawn in the first start and also meant that my closest rivals were drawn in the second start. This was not good. It meant that the two people I needed to beat overall were not drawn in the same flight as me and so things were slightly out of my control. All I could do was win my flight… I nailed the biased end and tacked early to cross. With the left looking stronger I tacked back soon after and felt I was in phase with the shifts and had the fleet under control. I loosely covered left and worked the shifts to round with a good lead which I held on to the finish. Meanwhile in the other flight several general recalls meant a delayed start for them and I couldn’t see how their race was shaping up. I got ashore where some people thought I’d done enough having won five races overall but it wasn’t to be – Sam Jones had also won his flight in race 8 too which was enough for him to take the overall win.

Even with five wins out of eight races, I had to settle for second place. It will make me a stronger sailor knowing you can’t take anything for granted and that I can only deal with the things in my control. I felt I did a lot of good things over the weekend that are preparing me well for the events ahead and I’m happy to have got some great results in such a big fleet. Winning more than half of my races was better than I was expecting and sets me up well for what lies ahead.

My next big event is at Derwent next month which is my last Topper event before the Nationals and Worlds.

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