My journey to the European Championships in Split, Croatia started with my transition to the Laser Standard Rig in August last year. I had been successful in the youth class of the Laser Radial and wanted to turn that success into a strong starting point in the Olympic Class. The Europeans was the toughest event I have ever competed in; it had 132 contenders from roughly fifty countries all looking to do well in it. Most of these were full time sailors with years of experience in the Laser standard rig. Understanding this, my goal was not to post a certain result in the regatta but to learn and improve from it.
After a large training block and polishing off my first semester of University, I headed to Split in Croatia, travelling with another Western Australian, Ben Walkemeyer, and Queenslander, Will Bates. We arrived a week before the regatta started and used this time to get some good training days in. The wind would consistently come in at about 1pm with a sea breeze similar to Perth. At this stage, I was thinking, this is going to be a great regatta with moderate winds and nice weather. Unfortunately I could not have been more wrong.
When the regatta started we managed to get 5 races done in the first 3 days of the regatta. On day 3 a huge storm hit on the way in. It was 35knots plus and all the boats had to be towed in. Many of the sailors including myself had only been wearing rash vests and were finding the tow very cold and not enjoying it one bit. This storm absolutely killed the wind for the rest of the week and although we still went out for 8 hours on each of the next two days, we did not manage to do any more races. On the last day, there was another storm and we were not even able to leave the shore.
In the first four races I really struggled with my starts but made this a focus point to improve. Starting in a big fleet of experienced sailors is very different to starting at home with ten or twenty boats on the start line. Thankfully I did improve and in the fifth race my start was much better. We then had many practise starts in the last two days on the water but the wind was too shifty or light so they had to be called off. Unfortunately because I struggled to get off the start line, my race results were not the best and I ended up in 80th position in the middle of silver fleet.
I feel I learnt a lot from the Laser European Championships in Split and hope to use what I learnt about starting in my next three regattas in Europe. I am now travelling to Kiel in Germany to compete in the Kiel Olympic week. Although this event will not be quite as highly contested, it will still be a 90 boat fleet of a strong level.
I would like to thank the Ron Tough Foundation, Fremantle Sailing Club, Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, my parents and the Western Australian Institute of Sport for all there continual support of my Laser sailing campaign.