Spring News: Ben Willett

For my helm Tom and I our last competitive sailing was in Barcelona way back in February.  With the recent sunshine and 25°C temperatures it’s hard to believe and has been so long. 

Our last event on home water was at the Neil Pryde 29er Winter Championship at Grafham where we came 2nd overall and first Youth team.

We went into it with a good mind-set and sailed well.  We had super light winds on the first day and had good speed.  Sunday and day two had more breeze with around 10-12 knots and we put in 1, 2, 2, 2 to win the day. 

With two 1sts, three 2nds and a 3rd from our 8 races overall we were the first Youth team and second overall with a big gap to third place.  Thanks to Neil Pryde Sailing a huge number of teams went away happy with a ton of gear handed out at the prize giving!

We took some confidence from that event and felt we’d hit form.  We took that out to Barcelona where we were thinking more about the processes than the outcome that early in the year.  Little did we know we wouldn’t be racing again for several months – maybe more!?  We headed to Barcelona looking for pace in the light choppy conditions that it’s renowned for…

Day one at El Balís was superb.  BIG breeze, waves and definitely not the typical conditions there. 

Day two and we got what we came for! Lighter wind and a very messy sea.  We found out that we had a lot to work on, and it quickly became a very up and down event for us.  We struggled to break into the top-20 all day and had a lot to bring back ashore to talk about with our coaches. 

Then day three came and the breeze was back on! We finished strong with a 3rd in race 11 and we didn’t drop out of the top ten all day – but the chance to work on boat-speed in the chop hadn’t come. 

We put in three top-10s on the first day from five races which we were pleased with.  That was one of the hardest days racing I’d ever put myself through.  Some of the down-winds in those big waves and 25 knots brought carnage to the fleet of 100 boats.  We gave 100% and placed well overnight.

Not long after getting back to the UK we were blown off a few training weekends and then unexpectedly facing the coronavirus lockdown – and there began the longest time away from sailing I’ve ever had.

Miles on the bike and fitness work has ruled since then.  With sailing the 29er being impossible right now the recent weeks have been about preparing to come back stronger and fitter than ever.  So it’s not all bad! Living where I do in Wales, there are plenty of hills so 30 miles on the bike is always valuable. And in the UK 29er Youth Squad we have a Strava group set up so we support each other on the training we’re all doing off the water.  All of that has helped tick away the days where we haven’t been able to sail. 

And there ends the story of Spring 2020 for me.  It began strongly and I had good form in the boat with our sights set on the UK Youth Nationals, and Worlds in Weymouth this summer, with several trips around Europe on the international circuit.  Sadly but understandably, most of those events have been cancelled.  We cling on to the hope that the UK Nationals may go ahead in August but it will be a race against time to get in the boat and put enough hours in before then to re-find our form.  We look on with envy as singlehanded classes make some progress towards getting back but things change quickly and our next news we hope will be all about sailing.  Let’s hope we’re not waiting too much longer!

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