Travels with my Laser or how we've put 30k miles on the car in 18 months!
My first year in a Laser Radial, having moved into one from racing a Topper, has been a busy one. In the Spring there are the Qualifiers, which are events you have to do to get a place in the World Championships and also to keep your place in the RYA National Youth Squad. There is also the RYA Youth Championship at Easter where they select the sailors for the ISAF Worlds.
They UK Spring Qualifiers consist of six races at three weekend events and even the Olympic team have to compete in them so there are often over a 100 Radial sailors. This year they were at Stokes Bay which is near Portsmouth, Plymouth and Hayling Island. The great thing about sailing is that every venue is different and even sailing at the same venue in different conditions can be challenging.
Stokes Bay is a pleasant place to sail with a good view of the Isle of Wight and I enjoy sailing there. At Plymouth we were greeted by drizzle, light wind and very poor visibility on the first day, so not a great start; you could hardly see the racing marks. On the second day the sky had cleared and there was some breeze. The first race went well but I didn't do so well in the second race so needed a good result in the third one. I was in the first group after the first beat and had just rounded the gybe mark when I capsized! That was odd; it wasn't very windy and I couldn't think why it had happened. I righted the boat and tried to get back into the race but almost immediately the boat flipped over again. I checked to see if something had broken and was causing the capsize, but couldn't see anything obvious. When I capsized the third time within minutes I was beginning to feel jinxed and decided to retire from the race. I was telling my coach about it afterwards and he said 'Oh that will have been a dolphin! They play with the boats'centreboards and flip them over. I remembered that I had seen some dolphins alongside me on the previous lap so they must have been waiting for me to come round again. The third Spring Qualifier was at Hayling Island which is a lovely scenic place but has a strong tide. As there wasn't much wind the weekend of the event, we had to walk the boats out along the inlet before we could start sailing!
I managed to get a place for the Women's Worlds and the Youth World Championships which were both held at Largs in July. Unfortunately Largs has a reputation for either having no wind or too much wind in the summer and this year was no exception. We only managed three days of racing out of six for each event. We had to be towed to and from the race area as there wasn't enough wind to sail and some days we didn't start the first race until 5 pm. Very frustrating! Both events were good experience though against people from over 40 countries. We were warned about submarines in the area and after the Plymouth experience I was a bit worried about one surfacing from underneath me! We had a great view of one on our last day but fortunately it was from our chalet and not the boat.
My next event was Sail for Gold at Weymouth which featured all the Olympic classes. I love sailing at Weymouth. We had decent wind on most days and were sailing about 3 miles out of the harbour. This was a tough event sailing against the World's best Olympic and World Championship medallists. It was great to see how the Olympics will be run; the event had its own radio station with commentaries on the racing and they showed the races on a giant screen. Everyone on the site had to have a wristband for security purposes, even the spectators.
My last event of the summer was the Laser Nationals at Mounts Bay in Cornwall. This was a more relaxed event with some a social side too and it was amazing how many ex-Topper sailors were there. It is a lovely scenic place and one evening all the competitors were taken by boat over to St Michael's Mount and given a Reception by James and Mary St Aubyn who live in the castle. We had no wind some days but on three days we had lots of wind and very big waves making for some great sailing. We were told we might see whales there but fortunately none interrupted the racing though my friend though she saw what she thought was a basking shark.
After a break of a few weeks I'm off again. Three Autumn Qualifiers at Pwllheli, Whitstable and Weymouth, the Inlands at Grafham and, assuming I get into it again, Squad training at Weymouth and Hayling Island throughout the winter. I'll be racing at Alton Water when I'm not away, but you can see why I (and my parents) don't appear very much!
Rheania's 2010 Results
Results aren't everything ..... this year's highs
- 2nd at RYA Youth Nationals and just missed out on the one place to go to the ISAF Youth Worlds in Turkey
- Second in silver fleet at Youth Worlds (4th British)
- 68th against the world's professional women sailors at Sail for Gold (probably my best achievement although it doesn't sound much)
- First female at the Laser Nationals and won the trophy previously awarded to two Olympic gold medallists (two of the 'Three Blondes in a Boat' in the Yngling who both started in Lasers).
It's not all about results - there's a great social life too and I've made lots of friends all over the country.