Autumn Report: Max Steele

After a successful career in the RS Tera, which culminated in a third place at the World Championships in August, Max moved his attentions to the Laser fleet.  With very little familiarisation and prior training with the Laser, Max attended the major qualification events through the Autumn, consistently achieving top-8 placings (or better) in the U16 Laser 4.7 boys fleet, and met his objective of qualifying into the RYA’s British Youth Sailing Team (Laser 4.7 squad).  This will give him access to coaching through the winter, and position him well to compete in next year’s European and World Championships.

The following is his detailed account of the start of his Laser campaign, and we appreciate his insights about the benefits of his NeilPryde Sailing hike pads and 3D dry-suit.

The Laser is a very different boat to the RS Tera, the way it points is different, the sail settings and fact that I need to hike out of the boat again.  During the Autumn Ladder series, I found that I usually had good starts, and was well positioned, but not in the lead, at the first windward mark.  I found that I needed to work a lot harder than most other sailors there, as I weigh a lot less.

This was particularly the case at Sunderland for the second of the ladder series, where the winds were really strong, and the waves really big, meaning that I had to seriously depower my sail and end up going slower than others, but I was able to catch up lots of places on the downwind and reach, and again achieved 8th U16 boy. 

Without Neil Pryde’s hike pads, I wouldn’t have been able to work as hard as I could’ve, as it really helps keep my posture and endurance.

It was also the case at Weymouth, where the temperatures had also fallen, so I took out my NeilPryde Sailing 3D drysuit.  I was impressed how rugged it is, still very effective in its second winter.   I also find that you can wear the same drysuit over all the days in the event, as it dries really well overnight so that ready to sail and keep me warm every day.   At Weymouth I got used to sailing in strong wind and chop by cracking off when necessary to help maintain boat speed, and again achieved 8th place boy.  

Hayling Island and Grafham Water were a bit different as the winds were really light.  I was very new to the boat, and had only sailed it once before in light winds, meaning that my tacks and gybes and VMG weren’t as good as they could be.  However, that was only so for a small amount of time. I used the opportunity between races to practice lots of roll tacks and gybes and I figured out how to make myself go faster, which lead to me achieving a 5th placing.  Grafham Water, which was also the Inland Nationals, was even better.  If not for a slip in concentration about a minute before the first race, which lead to a U-flag penalty, I might have achieved a podium result. 

The great news is that I was accepted into RYA’s British Youth Sailing (Laser 4.7 Squad), and already at the first squad I learned a lot of new tricks to apply to my sailing, such as alternating from high to low modes on the upwind by adjusting sail settings.   You also have to keep warm and comfortable.  This autumn has had miserable, cold weather, however my NeilPryde Sailing wetsuit and drysuit keep me really snug like being in a blanket, which helps keep sailing fun. 

My campaign to represent GBR at the European and World Championships begins.

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