In May at the Optimist Selection Trials, I qualified to compete at the 2018 European Optimist Championships at Scheveningen in the Netherlands, alongside six other British sailors – three girls and three other boys.
The racing started on the 25th June but to get used to the conditions, check rigs, go through measurement and registration, the team went out five days ahead.
Measurement was an entirely new experience. All boats were weighed while there was nothing in them, even the buoyancy bags had to be deflated! Sails weren’t allowed to have sail ties on while they were measured, foils were weighed, checked for size and width/length. My rudder was 12 grams too light, nothing that my coach Robbie Burns couldn’t fix.
Unfortunately, we lost two training days because of too much wind. Instead, we did lots of theory and fitness training, including a 5km run, stretches/yoga and swimming. We did go out on the last day of training and tried to get used to the wavy, choppy and tidal conditions. The waves were especially big that day, following the storms of the previous days. Not only was it hard to get good boat speed but there was lots of tide.
The next day (Sunday) was one of the best, even though we didn’t sail. We saw the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race and Dongfeng winning by a tight margin. We could see the boats from miles away as they were huge. Later in the week, we were lucky enough to sail beside some of the VOR boats while we launched and came back in.
And now to the racing: it was really, really tough! Every boat there had incredible speed and tactics. On the first day, the lightest day, I got a 30th and 50th, so a solid start. On the next day which was the longest day (we got back in at 7.30pm having launched at 10 am) we did three races and I got 52nd, 19th and 37th, which I was pleased with. On the third day, the final day of qualifying racing I got a 38th and a 14th, a good finish to the series putting me in 66th overall (out of 150 boats) and in Gold, so I was really pleased.
On the fourth day of racing there was 14 knots and sun, perfect sailing conditions. I got a 44th and 69th an okay start to Gold fleet. We only did one race on the final day of racing and I finished 60th which I was disappointed with, as at one stage I was coming 40th but then I missed a shift and lost 20 places so quickly. At the end of the event, I finished 67th – and 55th European!!
Overall the team did really well. Six of us made it to Gold fleet which everyone says is a great achievement. It was an amazing experience. Tough but exciting racing in which I learnt a lot. I also met loads of sailors from some of the 44 countries represented at the event. I want to thank Allen for the great blocks, especially the new AutoRatchet, my parents for giving me the opportunity and my head teacher for giving me the time off school.