Chris Taylor reports on his 49er European Tour
With exams over for the summer it was time for our mammoth month competing in three events around northern Europe.
With everything packed we headed off to our first event of the trio, Kieler Woche, in Kiel, Germany. We were using this event as a warm up for the Junior Worlds the following week and so had specific things to work on.
The event started with 20+ knots of wind which led to some full-on racing that included avoiding capsized boats at mark roundingís and at the gybe point down the run. This led to some interesting racing where a small mistake could lose you lots, as often it would lead to a capsize. The rest of the event stayed with the wind bouncing off the upper limit until the last couple of days, which meant we lost 2 days of racing during the event. We took a lot away from this event especially decision making in heavy winds, it always pays to be conservative and keep it safe!
2 Days after finishing in Kiel we were now all set for the Junior World Championships in Aarhus. This event was our main goal for the summer but unfortunately didnít quite turn out as planned. We sailed for the whole event in around 6-10knots and offshore breeze which meant for some very shifty conditions! We found that our decision making upwind was very good and this led to us leading around the windward mark on more than one occasion. However, downwind was a different story and we just couldnít seem to get it right. This led to us not finishing the event where we had hoped but did give us our new focus for the Europeans in Helsinki the following week, downwind decision making!
We arrived in Helsinki 6 days before the racing was due to start and this gave us the opportunity for a much needed couple of days off having spent the previous 2 weeks sailing non-stop. We then did a couple of training days with our coach and the rest of the podium potential squad. We quickly found that one of the big factors of racing in Helsinki was going to be not hitting the rocks that were hidden under water. This would be a big factor in the racing as the number of boats that hit rocks and thus damaged foils and boats was in double figures after just 2 days of racing!
Luckily we managed to avoid the rocks during racing, apart from a slight issue with the harbour wall. We spent the week focusing mainly on the downwind decision making and learning more about the rig. For most of the week we sailed in 25 degrees and 15-20 knots and although we couldnít work on the shifty downwinds we could work on the general fleet positioning and this improved greatly through the event. This all changed on our 2nd to last day of racing where we had slightly lighter and very shifty winds with the windward mark right against the shore. Happily, we made some great steps forwards during the day and were comfortably overtaking boats down the gusty and shifty runs which we were very happy about! Turns out that the coach was right all along and we just needed to get on with it and stop questioning ourselves!
We have come away from these 3 events having learnt lots, both to do with decision making, campaign management (lots of events in a very short time isnít great for results), and about the boat and rig which will help in the long term. Unfortunately my crew, Dom, has decided to stop sailing and so from now on I have a new crew, another Chris (Brewer). We are starting training asap in the build up to the ISAF worlds in Santander in September which we have been selected to go to.