To walk away with a silver medal from the IFDS Worlds in Halifax, Canada was a nice end to a tough week.
It was a difficult Championships; we never really got the conditions that had been predicted, and I had to handle a lot of disappointment. But I’m pleased I was so competitive in the medals even if I missed out on gold by just one point.
I hadn’t raced the 2.4mR for two months, since Kiel in June. I seem to sail better when I’ve had a bit of a break between regattas, and having a pre-Worlds event in Halifax before the main event was a useful way to get back my sharpness and iron out any mistakes.
We actually had 3½ weeks in Canada, quite a long time to be away in one go. There were a few days of training but the best training I could hope for was the pre-Worlds. With 10 races crammed into three days it was pretty intense! By the time the Worlds started I was hitting the ground running.
The biggest thing for me from the Worlds was my consistency. Frustratingly that would have won me the gold medal if we had not had three races abandoned.
In each I was either leading or in the leading pack with all three of my main competitors right down the field. All of them were already carrying big scores from starting penalties, and another finish in the 20s or 30s would have been their regatta over. But each race was canned! By the third time it happened it was pretty hard to take.
I began thinking I must have done something to have upset the race officers! The others were racing on a knife-edge but I didn’t carry anything higher than an eighth in the whole series. That’s the sort of consistency you need to win events, it was just frustrating this one got away from me in the way it did, but that’s our sport.
Going into the last race knowing I couldn’t do worse than bronze was a nice place to be. In that position you have nothing to lose, everything to gain and we had probably the best race of the whole regatta.
Heiko (Kruger) and Damien (Seguin) were leading tied on points with me in third going into the final day. The racing in the last race was so close between all three of us, really battling it out. I found some downwind pace I’d been lacking all event, usually unheard of for me, and I managed to get boats between us. But I couldn’t quite get the two boats ahead of Heiko I needed to get the gold and he clinched it.
I’d never been to Canada before so it was all quite exciting seeing and sailing in a new place. It only rained once or twice the whole time we were there and it’s a really beautiful place, with striking coastline and some stunning lakes. Where we stayed reminded me a bit of Mylor or Falmouth in Cornwall. It was pretty hilly and cycling too and from the club each day was quite a challenge, like interval training!
In a couple of weeks I’m in Canada again for the 2.4mR Open World Championships, this time in Toronto.
I do feel like I’ve got a bit of a score to settle at the Open Worlds, after the disappointment of losing gold in the final race at last year’s event. It would be fantastic to win it, and add a new title to the collection, so we will see what happens. Hopefully last year wasn’t a missed opportunity and I get that opportunity again.
In the meantime I have a bit of time to catch up on all the bits and bobs that don’t get done when you’re away from home for a long period and get the right rest too.
This week it’s exactly two years since I won gold at London 2012 and with Rio now edging closer we are looking at getting out there for good training block in November. The RYA has invested in a number of 2.4mR boats, and four are getting shipped to Rio so we can use them. With the Olympic classes guys having recently had the Test Event there is a lot of information we can tap into already.
I have been to Rio once before last December but I’m looking forward to getting to grips with the venue more and more over the next two years.
It’s been a good summer so far. With our main events in the late summer/early autumn I’ve been able to combine training and ‘real life’ really well.
My husband Steve and I enjoyed some time cruising in our Westerly GK29 around the Solent, something we hadn’t done for about six years, visiting places we had never been before and exploring the Isle of Wight. It was so relaxing and just what was needed before heading out to the IFDS Worlds.
I also enjoyed a few days at Cowes Week with my Para-equestrian friend Lee Pearson, who is now loving sailing after trying it for the first time last year.
We went out to watch the action on the water onboard the motor yacht, Rum Jungle, with Volvo Cark UK guests and I provided some race commentary. I then acted as guest skipper on a Farr 65 racing yacht with UKSA and Volvo. Volvo Ocean Race teams, Dongfeng and Abu Dhabi also provided guests with the opportunity to sail on their VO65s, which looked very, very cool. They are awesome boats!
While in Cowes I also did a sponsored 100ft mast climb for UKSA, who I’m an official Ambassador of. I’m usually ok with heights, but there was one bit right near the top where I switched my handhold and as I let go I swung out a bit. At that moment I had a bit of a panicky feeling going on and suddenly thought, “Oh God, I’m really high!”
I think I’m definitely safer on the water!
It’s always nice to stand on the podium at the end of a regatta, even better when it’s the top step!
I had a great week at the Princess Sofia World Cup. My coach Ian Barker was not available for this regatta, so Steve my husband drove the RIB, and provided the on the water support. This was the first time he had ever been at a regatta, let alone on the water, so it had potential to either be a success or end up in divorce! Luckily it was the first,
I had a great start posting 5 firsts and a second, Steve was earning the reputation of “Super Coach”. However the last day saw some really tricky conditions, I got becalmed at the windward mark and had to watch the fleet sail around me! Luckily enough it did not matter as I had a good points advantage and won the regatta by a comfortable margin.
We are now enjoying a bit of a holiday in Palma. I’m out on my bike each morning loving the cycling out here, and in the afternoon we are jumping in the car and touring the island, which is giving me some great routes for my next ride.
Off to Hyeres for the last World Cup on Monday. Ian is coaching me there, but Steve is staying out to help me drive back and has also volunteered to be our chef for the week!
I’m really looking forward to spending the next week in Rio, my first ever visit to the 2016 Games host city!
The objective of the trip is to recce the place, check out the tides, winds, get familiar with areas, and make contact with people locally we hope are going to be able to help in the build up to the Games etc. My coach Ian Barker, has been over in Rio for about a week already working with a 49er team, and has made contact with the Brazilian 2.4mR sailors and their coach, so who knows i might even get a sail in!
It’s useful that Ian already has a good lie of the land, having coached John Gimpson in the Star out in Rio for their Worlds a few years ago too. Now I can’t wait to get over there for what will hopefully be the first of many visits to Rio over the next three years!
I spent a great day at WPNSA this week letting the 10-time Para-equestrian gold medalist, Lee Pearson, try 2.4mR sailing. I met Lee at Wimbledon this year and we’ve become good friends. Lee came sailing for the first time with us in Cowes Week this year and he enjoyed it so much he went to his local sailing club back at home.
He has been keen to have a go in my boat since Cowes. Being independent and sailing on his own was really appealing to him. As ever with Lee, we spent the day in fits of laughter, starting with me trying to get him into a dry suit. He insisted on trying mine first, despite me telling him it was definitely too small, and got stuck!
We then had to get him into the boat. With hindsight I should have pulled the sails up first, as once he was in there was no way he was getting out! It resulted in me going head first into the boat, trying to reach the halliards. Thank God Lee’s openly gay and I’m married because I can only imagine how it looked! We were laughing so hard I couldn’t get out and had to be pulled out by my legs.
The wind was perfect, about 6kts for his first sail, and he got the chance to get a real feel for the boat. It didn’t matter if anything went wrong as it was easy for the RIB to come alongside and for me to help him out. He absolutely loved it and definitely wants to do it again; I’ll just make sure the boat’s better set up for him next time. The only thing now is he is determined to get me on one of his horses! I’ve never been on a horse in my life and I’m really not sure. The fact he describes his horses as being like Grand Prix cars, and says they can be very temperamental, is not filling me with enthusiasm! I think I’ve got a really busy calendar coming up…….
We had a great couple of days and it was lovely to catch up. We even found time to check out the new plaque on my gold post box after dinner at the Heights. We had to get the car really close to be able to shine the headlights so we could read what it said. It was the first time I had seen it, the inscription was lovely with the added touch it had been written in braille underneath. I felt rather emotional
It’s been a busy family time too, my Gran turned 100 on the 4th December and we had a friends and family celebartion. Her name’s Joan Meredith and she is absolutely amazing. I just hope I’ve inherited her genes. A really proud moment watching her open her card from the queen.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of going to film ITV’s Surprise Surprise, with RYA Chief Executive, Sarah Treseder, to honour the deaf sailor, Gerry Hughes, who completed a solo circumnavigation of the world this year. I can’t comprehend what he achieved and it was lovely to have been invited to share the moment he was presented with the first RYA Sailability Personal Endeavour Award on the show.
The show was broadcast on Sunday (1 December) and Sarah and her partner had invited us over for dinner to watch it and cringe together on the sofa. Luckily it was short and sweet so not too painful.
After the Rio trip, it will just be a case of keeping things ticking over before heading out to Miami for some serious training and the first event of the season. I’m really ready to fully focus on the 2.4mR again now. It’s exciting times.
I’ve always loved Cowes Week but this is the first time I’m going to be doing some serious racing so I’m actually a bit nervous!
Cowes Week for me is usually a mixture of corporate and hospitality sailing, which is always a good laugh, and we will be doing some of that with Volvo at the back end of the week.
But from Saturday to Tuesday I’ll be continuing my SB20 campaign and taking part in the Grand Slam event. I’m sailing with my coach Ian ‘Billy’ Barker, the Sydney 2000 49er silver medalist, in my team, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve sailed against him when we’ve been training in the 2.4 but never with him seriously. He’s doing mainsheet and it will be really interesting actually being in the same boat.
Cowes Week is such a massive regatta so I just want to make sure I’m starting on the right start line, sailing the correct course, crossing the right finish line and that I remember to hand in my declaration at the end! I’m responsible for the first time ever at Cowes Week so it’s going to be an interesting one.
The whole history and unexpectedness of Cowes Week makes it special. You can get some of the most famous people in the world just turning up and going out on boats and I love the social side after racing, when everyone heads to the bars and chats.
On Friday I’ve got Lee Pearson, the 10-time Paralympic gold medalist equestrian rider joining me for racing. I met Lee at Wimbledon and he was really up for it.
He’s not done much sailing before, and its always been in bigger boats, so he is a little bit nervous but I’ve promised him he will be fine and we will just man handle him across the boat if we need to!
Wimbledon was absolutely amazing. I was there on gold medalist day and it was a special day that lived up to all expectations.
I’d never been to Wimbledon before and I was surprised how small centre court is when you’re actually there. You lose all perspective of size on TV but you feel so close to the players it’s incredible. You also realise how massive some of them are! We were lucky enough to watch Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, the men and women’s number ones, play. Afterwards I was like ‘How do you get on Centre Court again??’ It’s another good incentive to try to win gold again in Rio!
After Cowes Week I’ve got a couple of days’ training in the 2.4mR in Weymouth before we head out to Ireland for the IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championships. The last time I was in a 2.4 was at Sail for Gold Regatta in June, although I’ve done heaps of other sailing and serious racing since then so my race sharpness is good.
The Worlds are in Kinsale, County Cork, which is where the 1720 Europeans were in June. Competing at that event was such a valuable experience as although we weren’t actually racing on the Worlds’ course areas we had to sail through those areas each day so got a real sense of what to expect conditions wise.
It is very much a landlocked harbour with a tidal influence and can be really shifty. I think it could be a tricky regatta that is more about tactics, and a game of snakes and ladders, rather than flat out boat speed.
I think it will be an event where you have to hold your nerve and not get down if you have a bad day because the next day could be your day and someone else struggles.
That’s true in each race too; it will be a case of picking the shifts well, not a particular course side favouring. You might be down the fleet in a race but it only takes one gust that you pick well to accelerate you back up the order so patience will count. You have to stay in a race mentally to see opportunities to get you back on track.
I’m going to Ireland with an open mind. Obviously it would be nice to get on the podium but I will be taking each day as it comes. I’m glad I’ve been to Kinsale and been able to recce the venue though as it all helps with familiarisation and routine.
After the IFDS Worlds it’s pretty much straight back home for the International 2.4mR Class Open Worlds at The Poole Yacht Club in September. Because this event is open to both able-bodied and disabled athletes, Billy my coach will also be competing and I’m really looking forward to seriously racing against him.
I’ve let him use all my best kit for the event and I would love it if he won, it would be brilliant. Every time I go sailing against him in training I get a wake up call as to just how good a sailor he is, it’s scary.
I think it will be really interesting coming in from racing each day and comparing our experiences of the racing, tactics and conditions and seeing if our perspective of each day is the same. There aren’t too many events where you get the chance to race your coach, especially at a serious regatta like a World Championships so it has the potential to be a very valuable learning experience for both of us, and good fun.
The Delta Lloyd Regatta was one of those regattas where you can wear the entire contents of your sailing bag on the water and still be freezing cold!
Last year the weather for Delta Lloyd Regatta was fantastic and I think that’s lulled us into a false sense of security because in the back of my mind I’m sure I thought I was going to spend the whole of this week in shorts! But this year we had everything! Driving, freezing rain, hail, mad chop, big clouds, big gusts, we were just waiting for the snow! Is it really May??
The first couple of days of the regatta always reminded me why water and electrics don’t mix. If you need an electric pump anywhere it’s Medemblik.
Because the water is so shallow there the chop is steep anyway. But throw in the weather we had and the bow’s disappearing into the waves and you’re faced with a wall of water at every wave, with a massive amount of water coming into the boat. I was constantly hand bailing the water out of the boat while still trying to steer and race. Exhausting!
Portland Harbour can get choppy but you can normally steer around the waves, but this was relentless. Yes, you can really do with your electric pump playing ball in Medemblik!
All things considering I was actually been pretty pleased with the way I sailed and my second place finish as it’s absolutely been the most testing conditions I’ve faced since returning to the 2.4mR. Some of its just been wacky races with 10 knots of breeze suddenly turning off completely and leaving you bobbing around in the middle of the racecourse, followed by a 15 knot gust from nowhere.
I came to Medemblik after a few days at home just sorting admin out, getting on top of logistics for forthcoming events and packing up for Holland. After Hyeres Regatta I did an SB20 Grand Prix event, also in Hyeres, with Team Vovo’s Lucy Macgregor, Ali Young and Richard Mason, which I absolutely loved. It was a great bunch of people and once we got used to the boat we were sailing really well by the end of the regatta. It was exactly what I hoped it would be.
The plan is to also do the SB20 Nationals in Falmouth in July. Because of everyone’s Olympic campaign commitments we will have to change the crew a bit. I think I know who two spots are going to but the third place is currently up for grabs. At the moment my husband, Steve, could find himself recruited. He normally helms so it would be a change for him to have me at the back of the boat while he pulls some ropes. We have sailed his Projection 762 Sportsboat together, and that’s not too different to the SB20, so I’m sure we would be fine!
Everything’s been put into perspective with Andrew Simpson passing away. It’s completely devastating and still hasn’t sunk in. I keep expecting him to walk into the gym. I came up through the system with Bart, I’ve known him for years, and he’s always just been there. That’s the hardest thing and I’ll miss that. He was always so interested in what I was doing in my campaign, so keen to be involved and was such a big part of the team. He and Iain Percy were such ambassadors for sailing and yet to them they were just doing what they loved.
This is the first time the team’s been together since Bart died and you can really sense how it’s pulled everyone together even more than we were already. Sparky [Olympic Manager] said a few words at the start of the regatta and it really makes you realise the little issues you have really aren’t that big a deal.
Bart was such a good sailor and the way he was prepared to bide his time for his opportunity, always happy to help Iain and Ben (Ainslie) with their Olympic campaigns and win their medals, before winning his own gold with his best mate in Beijing, just summed him up. That moment in Beijing was so special for the whole team and it’s such a loss.
After Medemblik it is back to the UK for the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace next Thursday then we have Bart’s memorial service in Dorset on Friday before the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race on Saturday. The next racing event is the Sail for Gold Regatta in the second week of June. This time of year always keeps you busy; it’s why we do it.
Just got back from my first event in the SB20 and loved every minute!
Must admit when I arrived on the Wednesday with no idea how to rig the boat, did feel slightly out of my depth, but everyone was so helpful, that I had the boat rigged and in the water by the time my crew, Lucy Macgregor, Richard Mason and Ali Young arrived. We even managed to sneak out for an hour practice in the evening.
First day of racing and with 4 races scheduled it was a long day on the water, but great! The wind steadily built and we finished the last race in 18-20 knots. Our results just steadily improved as the day went on and I got used to the boat and the angles downwind. We were on track for our first race win, having lead the last race until the last run, but sailed out of the pressure and finished 3rd, still not a bad result!
Much lighter winds on the Saturday and we had good pace upwind, perhaps because we were 20kg light! We had a great day with a 7th, 2nd and finally a race win in the last race! Great social evening with dinner and the beer flowing,the SB20 fleet know how to have a good time! Unfortunately no racing on Sunday not a breath of wind! So finished 5th overall and first female helm, not bad for our first event.