Well it’s been a tough year to be honest and as you might know it’s pretty frustrating for me being an “amateur” sailor, trying to balance work life, home life and wanting to do really well at sailing events is a struggle and very demoralising when you can’t achieve. Anyone else struggle with this?
2019 was one of those years, you can rely to an extend on muscle memory and a bit of experience but if you don’t actually sail enough you will get found out as this was much the case for me this year.
Going into 2019 I made sure I got plenty of time in the boat over the winter come rain or shine and sailing at Chew Valley Sailing Club definitely sharpens your boat handling skills and shift spotting senses.
This meant rocking up to the first event at Rutland I was actually pretty confident I could achieve something in the event. Given the nature of the sailing at Rutland it’s much like Chew Valley, well all the practice paid off and I got a 4th overall and while doing that beating some very good sailors. Some of the sailors behind me in the fleet were tipped to do well at this years World Championships so I was well chuffed with that. A good start to the sailing season!
Now unfortunately I had to spend 5 weeks out the country due to work commitments, cue the work life not allowing me to practice and perform at an event due to not enough time in the boat. Major frustration for me!
The next Musto Skiff event was at Stokes Bay, home to a huge fleet of very good Musto skiff sailors some of which would be contenders for the World Championships.
I have always had a funny relationship with Stokes Bay I bloody love the place and in certain conditions it’s great but once it gets to a certain level of wind and chop I just struggle. I started the weekends racing well inside the top 10 in race one unfortunately before I could finish the race I was harpooned by a famous sailing reporter (no names). After that my first days racing went south and was nothing to shout about.
Day 2 of the event was ok the first race was epic posting an 8th place but the second race, remember I said about certain wind speed and chop, well it reached that and my demons had me by the balls! This led to me posting a DNF.
You guessed it! I unfortunately missed the next few rounds of the Musto Skiff GP circuit again because of work, another trip abroad in the heat of the sailing season.
The next event I could commit to was on the big stage at the Musto Skiff Worlds in Holland sailing at the Medemblik Regatta Centre, no pressure then.
I turned up to Medemblik a week early to get some much needed sailing in and try to get back into the rhythm of sailing, the first thing I noticed was how much sailing at Medemblik was like inland sailing shifty, gusty and unpredictable. So as the week progressed I got more confidence in the conditions but only being 4 meters deep it was clear as soon as the breeze picks up it was going to get fruity with some mental short sharp chop, and the risk of boat damage was pretty high due to the depth of the water so keeping the mast pointing up would be key.
As we got further into the first week of practice I was happy with my pace compared to the other boats at the time so things was looking up.
Right.... time to get into gear! So the start of the actual event, the pre worlds was disappointing and it started on the first lap where my trapeze line snapped! Grrrr but it was ok, it was a pre worlds race so get that sorted it will be ok right............?
Day 1 of the Worlds it was all going ok until my rudder pin failed and basically put me out of 2 races.
Day 2 of the Worlds and in the 2nd race I was doing pretty well again but guess what...... Yep you got it something else went wrong, the bloody pin that holds the main sheet block to the boat came off, so I had to sail 2 laps with no main sheet block!
Thinking back I can only put it down to the venue, it was so brutal on the boat because of the short chop it just shook things on the boat that would never really be effected in a normal venue, if you get what I mean, it was horrendous up wind constantly slamming my poor boat!
I learnt that if it can happen it will! Maybe more prep was needed, or more sailing of the boat? Lessons were learnt, more insulation tape needed at every possible point of failure.
The Worlds were poor I had set a target of top 20 I just made it to mid fleet so was pretty annoyed I got taken clean out in one race and suffered a broken rack the list just goes on...... But I did have one good race posting a 14th so there was a bit to take back from that event.
Again the stresses of being an amateur sailor and not being able to dedicate as much as you would like was definitely a factor to the World Championships. So with that done and dusted off to Spain again for work for another 5 weeks I come back and it’s time for the Inlands at Grafham Water, possibly the coldest place on Earth.
The forecast looked absolutely terrible and I had not sailed for over 2 months and I've put on weight so wasn’t looking forward to it but there would be good rivals and some funny banter so it would be worth the trip. Two of us went for a blast on the Friday which was epic in a building breeze touching 30 knots in some of the gusts so sending the Musto Skiff down wind was pretty epic touching 20 knots at some points so that was fun.
Saturday came and it was breeze on and again I had pace but true to form throwing it away at every given chance, mainly at the windward mark where there were a load of trees which made for some of the shiftiest sailing I have done 6knots to 20knots with 30 degree shifts in a blink of an eye. BUT everyone had the same so no excuse really it was fun but should have done better.
Sunday came and it was very close on points from 4th to 10th I think I was in 9th going into Sunday so there was a chance I got jump up the leader board. I had a good first race but unfortunately in the second race I was doing well but hit another boat I had to do turns which cost me and the 3rd race well I had to finish in the top 10 unfortunately i didn’t I finished 14th which made me slip out of the top 10 overall.
As you can imagine pretty frustrated at that as well which to be honest summed this season up for me. It has been a good season with some positives, not many, but some.
Next year I will definitely be sailing more and trying to dedicate more time on the water to try and iron out these mistakes. Remember if it can happen it will!!!
A huge thank to Sailing Chandlery for the continued support.
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