Well this is kinda cheating, I mean it is still August… But anyway, there is a bit at the start to catch up on!
August started in sunny (not) Gosport, training on Brunel, getting ready for the Round the Island race and the Fastnet. I was in a pretty dark place, the rope burn on my left leg (July injury) was painful all the time, I was just tired and getting over everything far too easily. Luckily some of the team around me, namely Bouwe and Annie gave me a bit of a prod to be a little smarter, to skip the gym, not sail and take an actual day off. The rest of the team then did two days of courses that I had already done (First Aid & VHF) so I got another day and a half off.
This was most definitely required!! I felt so much better just having had some of my own time, and my leg healed more in those three days than the week and a half before (and after!). Annie and I also managed to get over to Cowes for Ladies day, and catch up with some lovely ladies over there, I was very happy to see my old 470 pals Saskia & Hannah!
The Round the Island race was pretty incredible, it was full on from the moment we started all the way to the finish, it was a three hour sprint, a lot of it spent under water. We had a great race and finished 2nd, with some clever sail choices and solid calls on manoeuvres, it was clear to see that Bouwe had been there before (7 times before!!), and the team was quickly on the pace, even after only getting together a few weeks before.
Next up was the Fastnet, I realise now I am quite chuffed to have ticked off both the Sydney Hobart and the Fastnet in this last year! Ahah! I have achieved something 😛
Hectic doesn’t even begin to describe the start of the Fastnet, it was chaos! Hundreds of slower boats in front of us, all of the VO65’s and bigger boats having to weave their way through the fleet upwind. I have no idea how many tacks we did, but I remember looking down at my watch and it had only been two hours but I was completely smashed! Every tack involves moving the stack – on deck its is the 5 sails you don’t have up in the air and downstairs it is every single storage bag (and there are a lot – over 350kg).
It takes about 4 minutes to move the stack, but the amount of times we tacked before we had finished, and then everyone having to push things uphill on deck while I pushed/threw bags uphill downstairs did not make me very amused! But it is just part of it… We didn’t go into our watch system until 4am the next morning, which I think was a little late, as it seemed like we were all starting to get a little sloppy. But slowly we all got snippets of sleep, and started reeling back the fleet.
It was amazing to get to the rock, firstly, I actually had no idea what it looked like, so it was a ‘huh, is that it?’ moment, but the fact that all 7 boats were rounding within half an hour, and we that could see them all was just crazy. After 400 miles, it was most definitely still a race.
From there the wind was anything but steady, there were moments we were right in the mix, but like any race, all it takes is one missed opportunity and you miss a rung on the ladder… We finished in 3rd place, which was a great achievement, but I was definitely ready to get off the boat when we arrived. I found the sailing hard, I was often frustrated, I guess in large at myself for not being able to add enough to the team, I am still learning, and when it comes to moving anything I am just not as useful as other larger people.
I also struggled with the fact that I didn’t think we were working as effectively as we could be. I am a thinker, I like to analyse things and figure out a better way to do them, rather than just grunting it out (also, I just can’t grunt everything with my physique!). But also I am not yet at the experience level required for this sort of sailing to actually have a say in such matters, and in reality, we had only sailed together for a few weeks at this stage, so I guess it made sense.
The hard part is going from sailing (and helming) a two person boat, competing at an extremely high level, where as a team we had pulled apart every detail, every manoeuvre, every piece of communication, every strategic move and tactic. Nothing was left to chance or unsaid. At the Olympic level, competing against hundreds of other sailors worldwide, the margins of error become tiny at the top, but also, you do have the time and the resources to dig in to that level of detail, to make those minute adjustments.
I have not found that to be the case in any other sailing I have done as yet, I do wonder if the America’s Cup sailing is more to that level of precision, but there still, you have such a big team, that every job is allocated out. I guess the beauty of the small boats is that you split everything between one or two sailors (and a coach if you are lucky!), you personally have such a level of involvement and ownership, which I realise more and more was a luxury, not the norm! And as Polly would agree, I probably ain’t the best crew 🙂 Still got a bit to learn a bit about following…
I flew straight back to Holland after the race, and have taken a good little break, including some Dutch style sailing! A bit more sedate 😀
After the Fastnet, I had a chat to Suzanne from Newsroom in NZ, the neat article she put together can be found here!