British sailor Kate Macgregor reports from Palma about training on the 49er FX ahead of the Trofeo Princess Sofia Mapre.
49er FX sailing
I’ve just got back out to Palma after four days at home, which with the weather like it is was plenty long enough!
We have been training over in Palma for a few weeks now and there have been a few other crews out here too, which has been great as it is the first chance we have really had to see how the British squad is doing compared to the other countries and crews.
There has even been a training regatta, with about 20 boats taking part, which was so useful because it helped me get back into fleet racing again, while it was also the first time I raced a skiff. There were other boats on the course too, which helped because it meant you really got used to doing manoeuvres, something that in a four-boat squad is hard to replicate.
On day one I was completely out of my comfort zone, and it was a very different style of racing to what I have been used to, but on day two we picked up some better results.
Before coming out to Palma we had done all our training in Murcia, where it is quite flat water, and even when it is windy just gets choppy. But here is a completely different story; we have been hit with real waves for the first time and it has almost felt like starting again!
The first day we were here has gone down in squad legend as ‘Big Wednesday’, it was an epic sail! It was about 15 knots when we went out but the waves were massive the whole day and there was a LOT of capsizing. Although the wind got up to about 25knots average, that isn’t an unsailable amount of breeze when flat but on the way back in, we were the only one of four boats not to end up with a broken mast! We all took a LOT of bruises.
I think the expression is ‘baptism of fire’!
It was really interesting seeing who was making the early pace in the 49erFX fleet during the training races. Those girls who have done a lot of skiff sailing at Youth level, but maybe not so much Olympic Classes stuff were pretty far ahead of the rest of us. But that is to be expected at this stage I think, as we are still getting used to the boat.
Over the next couple of years I think we will see the balance shift and those sailors with more experience of Olympic Classes campaigning will start to emerge at the front of the fleet, and there will be much more genuine competition. We certainly saw that in the Olympic Classes Women’s Match Racing fleet, when in the two years before the Games the same eight or so boats would be at the top end and a sort of hierarchy was established.
As a squad most of the British boats are pretty even at the moment. But the one thing we are really good at as the British Sailing Team is putting together campaigns. The depth of campaigning experience and support set-up in the team means I have complete confidence that British boats can and will start to break into the top end of the fleet and will stay there.
At the moment we are all just trying to get as much time on the water as possible and get better at sailing the boat. I think we definitely have improved as a squad over the past few months but it is hard to tell when there is no solid reference point.
The Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma will be our first real gauge and we can’t focus on the results too much. Sometimes it is easy to look at results and then get down about it by losing sight of the bigger picture. But realistically we all know this event is all about boat handling and racing, and for me particularly, fleet racing again. Having a good squad will help reinforce that.
The squad is getting on great, and we have all been staying together in the same flat while we have been training. The boys have been laughing at us as we have got this rota to take it in turns to make lunch and dinner for the other girls in the squad but we don’t care! It is sensible and it has worked well for us so far. The fact we are so near the sailing club, meaning we can pop down to the boats whenever we need to, is an added bonus.
Between now and the next ISAF World Cup event in Hyeres [that starts on the 20th April] I have also got to get my dissertation completed! All my assignments are done and handed in but everything is still a bit hectic. I have got my final exams at the end of May, the week before Sail for Gold. I really wanted to finish my degree, and I’m pleased I carried on, but it will be a relief when it is done now.
Our Europeans are in Denmark at the beginning of July but our Worlds aren’t until the end of September in Marseille, so in that time we are planning to spend most of the time training at Weymouth and Portland, just going off to do the occasional event.
But before then it is just sailing, sailing, sailing and getting better at sailing the boat with hopefully not quite so much capsizing!
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