Ben willet - Summer Report

The last 12 months have been a blur. I’ve competed in four classes and put in a lot of hard work. After Toppers I moved into a Laser 4.7 and then last winter the Laser Radial to begin the hard road into Youth classes. The Youth Nationals in Largs was a tough event: We lost several days of racing and when we did get afloat it was breeze-on, snowing and very cold. It was good preparation though and at the Radial World and European qualifiers over last winter / spring I found some good form.

Sailing in Largs

The most obvious difference I noticed stepping up to the Laser Radial were the starts: Everyone was on the pace – right on the gun the fleet was away and there wasn’t a second row… There were great opportunities to learn and I feel my sailing really moved forwards in those months getting both fitter and stronger as well as more dialled into my pre-start routine.

Teaming up with Aled Llewellyn-Jones

Ben and Aled - NeilPryde Sailing Team RidersAs I looked towards the long term though, it was always about the 29er class. Aled Llewellyn-Jones and I first stepped into a 29er in mid-summer. We clicked, and brought different strengths to the boat and were very positive but I knew we had a lot to learn. With Aled still to finish his Topper campaign, which included the Worlds in China, we faced a lengthy time apart and we had goals to make RYA Cymru-Wales squad selection for our first winter with not a huge amount of time to prepare.

Goodbye Radial, hello 29er

With only a couple of months to sail together and keeping all these long term goals in mind I made a decision in June 2018 to make the permanent switch to 29ers a few months early. I hung up my boots in the Laser Radial, sold the boat, cancelled my Nationals entry and stepped across into the 29er. It was all about getting as much experience in the new class as possible so I made a plan to sail with Sam Kneale, a friend of mine from Cardiff Bay for a few weeks with our target being the 29er Nationals at Hayling Island in July.

29er Nationals
Sam and I first sailed at the Harken 29er Grand Prix at Torquay and we had some good races. Once we’d worked out our communications and roles around the boat we knew we could be competitive and we set our goal to finish in Gold Fleet at the Nationals only a couple of weeks away. The Nationals at Hayling Island was brilliant. In the first race we rounded the windward mark well inside the top-ten and my tail was up, but making it stick in those windy and choppy conditions was another matter. We worked super hard all week and talked a lot about how we could improve each day getting more and more assertive with each race. We qualified strongly and had our place in Gold Fleet booked comfortably. As we went into finals the margins for error got even tighter and we pushed the starts, me calling Sam up to the line early a couple of times and not yet tuned into the acceleration, taking a UFD and BFD into our scoring. We still finished 30th overall despite counting letters in the score-line but goals were met, we improved a lot and for me, I learned some invaluable things to take back to my partnership with Aled.

So that was my summer. A transition period with lots of learning goals to take forward into the new partnership with Aled. After a hectic year things are just about to begin. We’ll check in with a team report once we kick our training off in November.

Watch this space.


  • Ron Williams

    Great work Ben, looking forward to 2019.

  • Barry Sandilands

    Enjoyed your insight into the challenging summer as you move up the boat sizes
    I’m sure the partnerships with Aled will bring the results you deserve
    Keep going !

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