Ben and Aled - A good start to our 2019 29er season

NeilPryde 29er UK Winter Championships 2019

Planning for 2019

January was another good month for us. In December we had a few weeks out of the boat just to recharge and focus on a few things outside sailing. It was also time just to figure out our plans for 2019. We have a busy time ahead with exams in the summer and a programme of sailing that all needs to fit together. As we prioritised our racing fixtures in the calendar and divided them into process and outcome events we were able to work back from those and build our training plan for 2019. It was surprising how much needed to happen in December and January in order to put us on the right track.

New Year New Boat

One of the things we brought forward was working with Ovington Boats on building a new boat. Originally we had this in mind for the spring but thankfully Ovington could pull it all forward and work with us on a custom fit out. We wanted the best and have done a lot of dinghy-park research. For us there’s only one supplier we wanted for our fit-out and that was Harken. Ovington took a boat out of their production line to do it and we were able to spec the best build possible. In mid-January the new boat (GBR-2898) duly arrived and we spent a couple of weekends rigging, optimising and putting things the way we wanted to make the boat our 29er, not just any 29er… Our spinnakers also came back from being treated with McLube SailKote and we felt we were best prepared for the weekends ahead in January.

Ben Willett

Looking at the weather forecast mid-month though it was clear that our original training plans needed a change. Pwllheli looked like being blown out so we revised our plans and headed to Draycote for the 29er Class Association training and made a revised plan to focus on the Winter Championships a week later. That worked well and we got some valuable sailing time. The class training is always good fun and we take lots from those weekends and we recommend them to all 29er sailors. Unfortunately for us the training also revealed some urgent changes required on the boat, so instead of leaving it there, it went back to Wales for us to work on it and a week later we towed it back to Draycote again, ready at last to put the boat to the test at the NeilPryde UK Winter Championships.

2019 NeilPryde Winter Championships

At the 2019 NeilPryde Winter Championships we had two days of biting cold weather and 8 to 12 knots of wind that was shifty and patchy. With ice all over the boat each day it really felt like a Winter Championship! We were targeting our starting processes and lane holding and it came together by race three which gave us lots of confidence. We decided to go all out with the way we were managing the starts and stepped up a bit more in terms of risk and putting ourselves into places where we could get higher reward. We also worked hard at adapting our strategies, making different decisions upwind in the light shifty stuff compared to when the breeze was on and we could plane. That was happening on the same beat at times and so it took a lot of concentration but it all started to make sense between us in the way we were both thinking and communicating with each other. It wasn’t an error free weekend by any stretch, and some of the video footage we saw of us afterwards has given us a lot more to think about but we were so happy to be going forwards again at this event. We finished with two really good races on the Saturday so we had an early night and hoped for good breeze on day two.

Aled and Ben with their NeilPryde 29er Winter championships trophies

Sunday came and it was flat calm with a one hour postponement… Not what we wanted. Postponements are always difficult when you’re in a good mind-set and you want to stay focussed but we find the best thing is just to tune out and hang with friends and do something totally different and then when we know we’re going sailing find our own ways to tune back in. We attacked the starts taking the line bias and making our decisions on where the fleet were after we’d pushed out through the first minute and focussing on our lane holding. We rounded mark one of the first race of the day in fourth, close to the leaders, and we gybe-set to come back down with the pressure. The boat popped up and we were bow-down and flying and when we gybed back to attack the leaders we knew were leading… We had one more lap to make it stick and we just kept it all simple and found we’d managed to extend a little. We played it a little safer on the next downwind, covering the fleet and boom! We’d won our first national level 29er race. Against such good competition and so many experienced sailors we were so chuffed to make that one stick. That was a big occasion for us to come away with our first race win and with three more races in the top 10 that day we closed the event as Junior Champions, 6 race finishes in the top 10, and 5th place overall for the event.

NeilPryde Sailing Competition Vests

The other thing we loved about the Winter Championships was seeing our sponsors NeilPryde Sailing coming into the class to sponsor the event. They took a step towards plastic free sponsorship by providing race bibs for all competitors meaning we could all display the brand. Doing it that way may paves the way to no more plastic stickers on the boats in the future – which means no more of them peeling off and getting left in the water at our racing venues. We’d love to see that.


We must thank all our sponsors and those who support us too:- Neil-Pryde Sailing, BCC_IT, Harken, McLube Marine. We’re always so grateful. Between you all, we’re kept warm, agile, light and fast. That’s as good as it gets. Thank you – we can’t do it without you.

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