Laser 4.7 European Championship 2020: Max Steele

As with most GBR sailors, my training preparation was interrupted by the pandemic lockdown.  However when lockdown was eased, we went to Poland for most of the summer, where I trained with the Polish National Coach in Gdansk.  We worked mainly on boat handling technique.

On arriving in Vilamoura, I spent an afternoon pre-event training with the GBR National Team, which really boosted my confidence as it seemed that I had improved significantly compared to most of the sailors.  Luckily, I also found a local Portuguese coach, as the GBR team came to the event without a coach.  This further helped my confidence and mindset during the regatta.

On the first few days, the winds were strong with lots short yet choppy waves.  On the first day, I achieved an 8th place on the first race,  but as the winds strengthened, being one of the smallest in the event, I found it hard to maintain the same speed as the taller sailors in the upwind, especially those who had dropped down from the radial to compete in this regatta.  

However, tactically I felt that I was one of the best, allowing me to gain places by sailing the least distance, despite going slower than the heavier sailors.  Once reaching the upwind mark, I almost always gained at least 5 places each time on the downwind no matter the winds.

This pattern continued through the event, and I found that I was ranking quite well in the U-16 division, and also compared with my fellow GBR sailors.

Unfortunately, I made just one or two blunders on the rare light wind days. However, with only one discard for the whole event, I paid a very high price for this, but it was a good learning experience.

Apart from this however, on the lighter days especially, I did significantly better, and kept in the top bunch, as I was able to go the same speed as the leaders.  I think this is promising, as I actually like the strong winds, and I am optimistic about how well I can do as I grow in height, weight and strength.  Next year, we aim for a win. 

At NeilPryde Sailing, winning is everything, and their kit is surely helpful to achieve this.  In Vilamoura, the weather was hot and I was generally wearing the thin neoprene, with a short sleave rash vest. 

At the end of the regatta, I was placed 32nd U16, just a few places apart from my fellow GBR sailors.  Considering that only the best sailors from each country are able to attend, and many of them ended their lockdown quite a bit earlier than us, and were actually experienced radial sailors with more coaching support at the event, I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to represent GBR and participate.  Based on these results, I am also reasonably happy as I feel that I have caught up to the top and more experienced guys in the GBR team.   

As there have been no major regattas this year since the start of lockdown, this event was a big learning step which I can build on.  Next up, the UK Nationals …

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