Monday, October 15, 2012

British Speed Sailing Championships

For me 2012 is all about my world speed sailing record attempt commencing on the 19th November for two weeks in Luderitz Namibia. It has meant pulling out of the European speed sailing tour to concentrate on developing and fine tuning equipment that will achieve my goal of breaking a number of sailing records on the specifically constructed canal in Luderitz.

However the last event on the tour is also the British Championships and being conveniently located at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy (2012 Olympic sailing venue) it was an opportunity to put aside the specialised small record breaking equipment and load up the light / medium wind equipment that is usually needed for Weymouth in October.

October in Weymouth has a good chance of strong winds blowing through although the past few years have seen light winds for speed sailing. To break world records you need flat water and at least 40 knots of wind blowing at the right angle to the course to produce fast speeds. The beauty of Portland Harbour is that you can set a 500m course at the correct angle to the wind in any wind direction, it may not be a flat course but it will be a course that you can compare your speeds directly to your fellow competitors.

The course is 500m long and your fastest 2 runs are averaged to give you your ranking for the leg. The speeds attained have to be above 28 knots for a leg to count. Your speeds are picked up by a GPS unit that is strapped to your arm, the unit is approximately 2” square by 1” and not only picks up your maximum speed but your tracks, kilometres sailed, average speeds, pretty much everything.

Tuesday 9th saw the wind pick up enough for racing. The first day was split into two legs running from 10am to 1pm and 1pm to 4pm, have noticed no break in between. We had Easterly winds averaging 16 knots, which is about the lightest winds I can get up to speed with my biggest 8.8 square meter sail and biggest 127 litre board. Top speeds for the leg were in between 30 to 31 knots. After being out on the water for 3 hours nonstop I was lying in 3rd position. A quick sail back to shore for a drink and it was back out for another 2.5 hours sailing. The afternoon leg saw me record a 5th place that dropped me down to 4th overall.

It was a brutal first day sailing for 5.5 hours. My GPS was showing that I had sailed 86 kilometres recording 38 runs down the course, the most by any sailor. Speed sailing rules have changed over the years. Weymouth has always wanted to keep the course open the whole day without a break due to the course being open to any type of sailing craft and not wanting to potentially miss the best conditions. It’s not my favourite way to run the event. 1.5 hour legs with a 30 minute break and a maximum of 3 legs per day is a more sensible approach but it’s the same for everyone so you have got to get on with it.

My fitness training throughout the year certainly paid off that first day.

The next day we had exactly the same conditions however during the skippers meeting I asked for the course to be moved closer into the harbour to allow us easier access to the rigging area so that we could change equipment if the conditions changed. A fellow competitor also asked for a 30 minute break in between legs. Both were put into place. Two more legs on day two and two 4th place finishes, 56 kilometres sailed leaving me in 4th overall after 4 legs and some work to do if I wanted a podium finish.

Thursday saw the winds die down again but with a forecast for good winds on Friday.

Friday morning and the wind had changed direction to North West which meant offshore winds along Portland’s Chesil bank and flat water. The winds were still light, 16 knots. The first two days of sailing had light Easterly winds however it was constant, Friday’s wind was averaging 16 knots but dropping to 12 and gusting to 20 later on in the afternoon when a couple of rain showers came through.

It proved a frustrating day for me, I never felt comfortable on the water. Sailors were using even bigger sails and it didn’t feel like speed sailing to me. The morning leg was a slug with every run I made feeling under powered and slow. The afternoon leg was similar with relatively massive increases in wind strength as two rain showers came through. I caught the end of one for a run but was left with a slow second run to add for my average.

I came off the water feeling as if I had blown my chances of a good result. I sail my best in strong winds and Weymouth 2012 produced the lightest conditions that can be competed in but being fiercely competitive I gave it my all and had done the best I could.

During the prize giving that evening I was gob smacked when they announced Martyn Ogier in second place. I had a frustrating last day but everyone else must have had one as well.

Second place two years on the trot however this year is a lot more rewarding because the conditions weren’t as good for me as in 2011. Well done to Anthony Baker for winning his first British Championship, he sailed very well and deserved the win. I’ll be back next year to try and win.

Now its back to preparing for Namibia. The light wind equipment has been put away and the extreme gear is ready to go.