After a lot of build up and hard work from Nikki and I, finally the event had nearly arrived. In the final few days before racing we spent our time finishing the final preparations to the boat and competing in some last minute training races with the now we attended fleet. Despite a couple of the top dogs missing the Europeans was going to be as contested as ever.
I think it is fair to say that after such a fantastic training period in the lead up to the regatta Barcelona rather let us down weather wise over the race week. Like it seems at most venues, the commencing of racing turns the stable predictable weather on its head, and you are just left with a lot of confused locals saying 'its never like this'. The Europeans was no different. It is also fair to say that Nikki and I have made some great steps forward. The new boat 'Swifty' seems great and despite a battering (more info to come shortly) she did us hugely proud around the race course. That combined with Nikki and I moving forward pushed us to the front of a very competitive fleet. There were a number of 'incidents' good and bad over the week, so without to much of a structure here they are explained.
In the first race of the event, following a great start and the realisation that we had made a dramatic step forward in boat speed we found ourselves right in the mix on the first upwind. Only to see our outhaul rope give out as we tacked for the starboard layline. After as quicker fix as i could possibly do, we got back up and going only to sail straight into a huge piece of debris, this knock our rudder up and following another interruption we were finally back on our way. Using our new competitiveness we were able to climb back through the fleet to a respectable 19th.
On the same day with the breeze increasing, it became harder and harder to spot the what was now huge amounts of debris in the water. This wasn't just plastic bags and twigs, we are talking tree trunks and big logs. Having nailed another start and steaming up the first beat, we rounded the 1st mark in second, but in an unavoidable moment, we ran over a big log, it must have been pretty rotten because it snaped around the front of our dagger board, Nik and just about managed to resist being thrown around the front, but it wasn't over yet, despite snapping the log, it hadn't actually broken and was now flapping wildly under the hull. Nik impressivley managed the wrestle the board up and finally once we had cleared it we gybed and were back on our way. Having lost a couple of boats in the process, we did fantastically to sail back to 3rd place. After the impact the boat had taken quite a hit so, there was a some hours spent repairing her that evening before racing the following day.
When we thought the debris situation couldn't get much worse, we went out the following day and immediately bumped into a large log, having taken a fair bit of gel coat off the bow, we were a little worried we might be taking on water, a fine duct tape repair from Marcus made sure we didn't leak. And then Nik and I reached a fantastic milestone on our olympic careers. In race 2 of that day, we stormed to our first race win in an international event. Having not made life easy for ourselves by hitting the windward mark and some more logs that popped the rudder up we kept our heads and honestly we were flying around the course to a healthy lead and win. It felt incredible, it would be an understatement to say Nik and I were buzzing. So much so we got a bit trigger happy in the final race that day and started early, thus scoring a disqualification. A bitter sweet day, but smiling regardless.
Having missed a couple of days of racing dues to too much wind and then not enough, we were with a shout of the medal race, But due to our disqualification we could afford no mistakes, on a 4 race day in shifty conditions it was a tall order, but by race 3 of the day we were still in the mix, unfortunately that is where it all unraveled. Having just missed a port starboard cross, we fell into a bit of a downward spiral. and sailed our selves backwards. Nik and I were pretty dark as we crossed the finish line, we honestly had left nothing on the water, given it everything we had, but on this occasion the medal race would have to wait. After some serious 'coach carter' words from Marcus Nik and I were back focused, we had a final race the following day to get the most from.
The final day of racing was slightly delayed while we waited for wind, we eventually launched and the breeze quickly built, we sailed a solid race and managed to finish a convincing 3rd, this dragged us back up the results after the previous days blunder and put us in a final overall position of 11th - 10th in the European Championships. So as close to the top 10 medal race as we could be, but not quite. Alas Nik and I were happy, there is no doubt our hard work is paying off, we were more competitive at the europeans than we have ever been, a number of people congratulated us on the progress we have made, and trust me we intent to keep steaming in that direction.
We have 2 months in the UK now where we still have area that we know we can make gains in, we are working closely with coach Marcus and have a great plan to get the most out of our time. As a team we are buzzing at the minute, Nik and I have always believed, but now we are just that little bit closer.
Heres tot he next training block being fun and productive and the next Nacra event for us is in Rio just before christmas, Let see what kind of present we can give ourselves!
As ever thank you all so much for your support, we are here now because of you!