From Bucking Broncos to World Cup success

16 March 2015

Towards the end of last year I made the switch from the 49erFX to a Nacra 17 and teamed up with Ben Saxton.

Although the boats aren’t too dissimilar, getting to grips with the Nacra and my new partnership with Ben has still been a steep learning curve. 

Changing sailing partners also has its challenges, as inevitably you have to adapt into roles that complement each other. Learning how to get the best out of each other has been a key process and I feel very positive about the way we are running our campaign. 

One of the biggest differences from the 49erFX has been the physical demands, because the loads on the boat are far greater than with the FX. When you initially switch into a new class and have to adapt to new skills, your economy of movement isn’t good, so I would tire out quite quickly. With more sailing hours under my belt, I am definitely becoming more efficient and hopefully this will help in the racing situation. 

It’s been a difficult balance between having to spend a lot of time in the boat, whilst also maintaining a level of physical fitness to meet the demands of the class. I should be able to balance my gym and sailing time more evenly now and increase my level of strength training where necessary.   

I had my first Nacra racing experience back in November, when Ben and I went out to Abu Dhabi for the World Cup Final. We actually used the competition as a kind of introductory event for me, so it was great to go into the racing without the pressure on performance and with the opportunity to learn as much as possible. Learning about the Nacra fleet, the boat itself and racing with Ben was an invaluable first experience. 

Following Abu Dhabi, we headed out to Miami for the North American Championships and the Miami World Cup regatta in January. We used the North Americans as a warm-up event, with process goals to continue my learning before racing against a top fleet at the Miami OCR. Being a new pairing in the Nacra, it was important to maintain realistic expectations but our competitive natures inevitably meant that we were out there to win. 

The event was really challenging with a mixed range of conditions and everyone in the fleet had a pretty high points score line. I was thrown in at the depth end, with 27-30 knots on day one of the regatta! I would probably compare the experience to being on a high-speed bucking bronco, but thankfully I held on and Ben got us around the course! 

We did well to stay consistent and that paid off at the end of the week, when we took the silver medal. It was fantastic to finish on the podium and we are very happy with our progress. I think one of the important factors in our success was just getting into our routines. The consistency with routines, on and off the water, worked well for us and I think it will be important to take this forwards. 

We have just returned from the second of two training camps in Lagos, Portugal. Lagos is an amazing venue and the people at the club there are so kind and welcoming.  Ben and I were training with the other British Nacra teams, and there has been a nice environment for the squad out there. The range of conditions has also given the training good variance. We had the opportunity to train in different sea states and wind strengths, which was great. Thankfully I have now nailed the capsize drill after the initial confusion with my first experience…righting a cat is a bit different to a monohull! 

We have a week off now to recover from the training, before we head out to Palma in preparation for the Princess Sofia regatta at the end of March.  Palma is a great venue and I’m sure we will have a mix of conditions. The waves will no doubt be an additional challenge after the flat-water racing in Miami, but I feel more prepared for that now. Having been to Palma a number of times, it’s always nice to return to the familiar surroundings, although this year I will be racing from the Nacra end of the beach at Can Pastilla. 

Princess Sofia is no longer part of the World Cup Series, but looking at the entry list we are expecting the Nacra fleet to be very well attended. I am really looking forward to racing against the top teams and putting all that we learned in Lagos into action.

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