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Rio 2016 Olympics sailing duo move up to World Number 1

On the 16th December we flew out to ‘Club La Santa’ in Lanzarote for a final push on our fitness before Christmas. A fantastic facility, a milder climate and some incredible views set us up for a productive week on the road bikes. It was great to be training in a venue with some other Team GB athletes: bumping into some of the athletics team in the supermarket and warm up track, as well some of the cycling team in the gym was very inspirational! For Eilidh this was a complete first – having never been on her road bike before she held up and put in a sterling effort – even after a little fall with some cuts and bruises at the end of the week she got back on the bike and rode home. We travelled with a small group of sailors from the British Sailing Team, the team Physiologist and the team physiotherapist to keep us on track and fully functioning. In total we clocked up over 380km on the bikes over the 7 days as well as fitting in our strength sessions in the gym. Let’s say we deserved our Christmas dinner when we got home!

The plan was to return home from Lanzarote on the 22nd, and drive to Tilbury in East London on the 23rd to collect the new boat. Unfortunately for us the boat was delayed in customs… having already waited 3 months for the boat to be shipped from New Zealand, we found out that she had been shipped in a container full of honey and customs wanted to check it out! This put us back a couple of weeks, but allowed us to have some quality down time over the festive period. We finally got our hands on the boat on the 7th January, again a little later than we had expected having been told we could collect her on the 2nd of January, and then travelling to Tilbury on the 6th to wait all day and be asked to come back tomorrow! A lesson learnt that we should always factor in a little bit of leeway time when it comes to shipping boats around the world – must remember a good book next time!

Finally getting our hands on the boat was SO exciting. When we cut the plastic sheet we ended up with polystyrene and bubble wrap everywhere, we sure know how to make a mess, but she had travelled safely. Although the boat came ‘fitted out’, there was still plenty of work to be done, changing rope lengths and blocks, calibrating the jib deck and jib carrs, aligning the hull and packing out the centreboard and rudder to name just a few. With only a few days on our hands before we flew out to Miami we had some long days and late nights, but the jobs had to be done. It was a relief to know that when we left the new ship in the UK and migrated to the warmer climates in Miami she was going to be safe and warm – and importantly out of the relentless storms battering the UK. We have kindly been donated a 40ft container which we have had grounded in the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy. We are currently boarding up the insides and insulating (with a lot of help from the dads), and eventually we hope to get some lights and electrics fitted, this will provide us with a base, allowing us to dry store our boats and kit down in Weymouth.

When we flew out to Miami we hadn’t been on the water in the 470 for just over a month. It felt like much longer sailing success for RIO teamGbwhen we finally hit the water for the first time! We had a couple of days training before we competed in the North American Championships 2014 where we were racing in a mixed fleet – men and women racing together. It was a tricky event with shifty offshore breezes, and we were rusty – our communication took a while to get going and our boat handling was a little slack. Despite this we finished 3rd overall and picked up the Bronze medal! This provided us with plenty of work on’s for the next week of training, and a fun few days we had! We trained with Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield who push us around the training courses, but throughout the week we were getting closer to them and this gave us confidence knowing that we were getting better. Whilst we were there we tried to get out and about and see some sights. We made a few trips to the shopping malls, which were huge, and we visited the cinema in Coconut Grove where we were based. We didn’t get to visit all of the places that we wanted, but we know that we will be back next year!

The Miami OCR was the first ISAF World Cup regatta of the year, for us it was the first test to see how our training had gone, and how shaped up compared to the rest of the fleet. We had a small fleet of a high racing standard – three of the top four in the world would be racing as well as the 2013 European Champion. Our aims for the Miami OCR were to improve our communication and decision-making around the racecourse. A result wasn’t important to us going into the regatta, knew that if we could get this right then any result would take care of itself. The 6-day event proved a difficult one, we were blessed with light airs and a lot of waiting around ashore and on the water – we had almost 35hours of waiting in total. Although this is not physically tiring it is mentally demanding, meaning that we have to be prepared to race at any time, stay out of the sun and well hydrated, and knowing that if we race it is going to be close as speed differences are minimal between the boats in the light airs. We raced well and aggressively, and consequently had a nearly immaculate scorecard! Going into the final day where we compete in the ten boat double points medal race we had an eight-point lead – a top four finish would automatically win us the event. Another lights airs race was coming our way, and a poor start made our lives difficult. We sailed smart making good decisions around the track allowing us to claw back places and eventually win the race, and thus the regatta with a twelve point margin to second place!! Winning Gold at the Miami OCR 2014 is our first ISAF World Cup victory, and we were over the moon.

Our win in Miami also bumped us up to Number 1 in the latest ISAF World Rankings, a career best for us both, and far more than we had expected one year into our campaign!

No rest for the wicked though, we flew out of Miami on Sunday evening after packing up the containers, and we were straight back to finishing off the jobs list on the new boat. The weather made our lives a little difficult – the flooding in Chiswell, Portland prevented us from driving to the boat park one day, so we had a rather damp walk to contend with – even the Volvo’s wouldn’t make it through! We have a lot of people to thank for helping us with our jobs over Tuesday and Wednesday as the boat was packed off to Palma for our next training camp on Wednesday afternoon. She is now en route to Palma, Mallorca where we will catch up with her tomorrow for our training camp. We can’t wait to get back on the water and test the new boat; it’s going to be great!!!!
sailing success for teamGb
Signing out of this blog as World Number 1, Team 3,2,1 would like to invite you to our black tie fundraising dinner that is being held at Hayling Island Sailing Club on Saturday 12th April 2014. There will be a guest speaker, an auction and a raffle, tickets are priced at £40 of which £13 goes directly to the Team. These can be purchased through Hayling Island Sailing Club or using the contact details below. We would love to see as many of you there as possible so that we can thank you for the support that you give us, and we can give you an insight to our Road to Gold in Rio 2016!

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