After finishing a winter of UK Youth squad and Welsh squad training my first big event of the year was in Barcelona from February 12th to the 16th for the first event in the 29er Eurocup series. This was an abnormal event for me because I wasn’t sailing with my usual crew, Ben Bradley but was sailing with my welsh squad coach, Max Todd. I entered this event with no expectations to perform because Max and I had never sailed together before, and as a crew we were 168kg. This is far heavier than a usual 29er crew, so we knew we would find racing in lighter winds more difficult.
Consequently, the first day of racing came as a big surprise when we finished the day with the results of 1,2,2,1 out of a fleet of 89 top European boats. The forecast was for a light breeze but soon after launching the breeze unexpectedly increased to 20knots. Our results from day 1 placed us second overall going into day 2.
On the second day, there was no wind in the morning so we were held ashore. A small breeze of around 5 knots came through after lunch which was enough for the fleet to launch and give racing a go. We entered the second day knowing we would find it tricky due to our weight. This meant we didn’t have as much boat speed as some of the lighter sailors. However, after a difficult first race, we were delighted to finish third. The wind dropped after race 5 and the fleet were sent in after a long postponement on the water. Due to a good result we stayed in second place overall going into day 3.
On day 3, there was a patchy breeze of 8-12 knots. In these conditions, the lighter sailors could get plaining in the gusts but as a heavier crew, we couldn’t. Therefore, we knew it was going to be a very long and difficult day. After a challenging day due to differences in boat speed across the fleet, we had the results of 16, 25, 23, and 14. We then discarded the 25th and 23rd and we moved down to 5th overall going into the last day.
On the last day there were perfect conditions for us as it was windy. However, because we already had two big discards we knew we couldn’t make any mistakes. We were in the yellow flight with the current leaders of the event, Fin Armstrong and Freya Black so we had our work cut out. We were leading race 10 up until the last downwind where Fin and Freya just crept in front of us with very good downwind boat speed. The second race of the day (race 11) was a disappointing one for us after we led the whole race and then finished and realised we had been scored a UFD. This UFD meant we now had to count our 23rd from day 3. We knew we couldn't make anymore mistakes so the pressure was on! We were leading race 12 until we did a big pitchpole just before the leeward mark on the last downwind. After righting the boat quickly we then finished 5th in race 12. Race 13 of the event was a great race for us, where we led the fleet all the way around the course and finished the event with a bullet. The last day was full of ups and downs with results of 2, UFD, 5, 1. We were happy to finish the event in 7th overall as we were racing in a tough fleet and we went into the event with no expectations.
After returning from Barcelona I had three weeks of school and two weekends of sailing in Pwllheli. Soon after this, it was announced that the UK was going into lockdown. This was a very abnormal time for everyone and as a sailor, due to everything being cancelled, I had to do all I could to keep fit. I went for daily runs that were around 10k and occasionally challenged my friends on Strava. In the process, I completed my first run that was the length of a half-marathon. To keep my strength, I would do daily exercises at home such as pull ups, press ups and squats etc. To keep my flexibility I completed a 30-day yoga at home challenge with friends and family on zoom. Also, I have been doing lots of boat work such as polishing in addition to dry storing my boat in my garage so that it is ready for when sailing competitions resume.
Recently, since sailing has been allowed back, I have been sailing an RS 800 and a Laser Radial at local clubs. Although I have not been able to sail a 29er, this sailing was still very beneficial and enjoyable. The RS 800 was especially relevant to my sailing career as I would like to move into a 49er after 29ers and both the RS 800 and 49er are twin trapeze skiffs.
I have plans to get back into the 29er with private coaching in Pembrokeshire and training in Weymouth soon. I will be training hard in preparation for the rescheduled Youth Nationals as this is the most important event of the year.