Michael Beckett – a summary of the last few months…
Just back from the Europeans in Porto, Southeast Sailboats sponsored sailor has written this excellent write up of the last few months of competitions around Europe….
“Last week saw the close of the Senior European championships in Porto, the final event in the big European season. For the remainder of the year the focus moves towards the other end of the world, in Japan. The Senior Worlds are in July in Sakaiminato, the Olympic test event is in Enoshima in August and is shortly followed by the Enoshima World Cup.
The Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta kicked off 2019 in early April. The event, even by own it’s standards, had a huge entry of over 1200 sailors in the 10 Olympic classes. The Laser fleet with 187 entries was raced in 3 fleets. Racing in Palma is notoriously tricky, it is always so hard to identify a pattern to the changes in the breeze; this year’s event was no exception. Racing quickly turned into a reasonably high scoring series, as all but the top sailors struggled to remain consistent. A very strict jury handed out over 100 yellow flag penalties during the event (breach of rule 42 – improperly propelling a boat), I picked up two penalties which resulted in a painful DSQ early on in the regatta, this was certainly a mistake to learn from. Chris Barnard from the USA did very well in a high pressure, windy medal race, to win the regatta ahead of my team-mates Elliot Hanson & Nick Thompson.
For me I took two weeks to come back to the UK and do some sailing, Palma having pointed me in the direction of where I drastically needed to improve. For those sailors going to Genoa to do the World Cup, they travelled strait from Palma. Genoa provided a week of immensely light winds and lots of waiting around, where “6 knots would be considered a gale”. I’ll admit to feeling a bit smug that I had chosen not to go to this event.
Most sailors such as myself who didn’t go to Genoa, went to Hyeres instead. The regatta no longer being a World Cup in format, still took place with a very strong entry. The Aussi & Kiwi sailors had come to Europe with this as their first event, and they were absolutely dominating the top 10 and there were only three European sailors – Jean-Baptiste Bernaz, Elliot Hanson and myself – who were able make it into the medal race. Matt Wearn accumulated an incredible number of race wins, making the regatta looking far easier than it actually was!
The final event in the trio of regattas was the big one, the Senior Europeans, the entry almost identical a World championships. Porto delivered top notch racing conditions; in total there were two days in light flaky winds, three days in medium airs and the penultimate day in 20kt+ with monstrous waves, this was a real boat-handling challenge. Every single day had between 0.5kt – 1.5kt of tide, usually in the same direction as the breeze to give us some painfully long upwind legs, and a broad rolling swell. The standard of racing was incredibly high, personally I found it a real challenge to gain places and far too easy to lose them again! The number of simple errors that world class sailors were making was an indicator to me of how tough the racing was. In the European only results, Lorenzo Chiavarini found some incredible pace in every condition he needed it to become European Champion, Nick Thompson took second, and while I was only a few points off taking third, I made a few too many mistakes to give Philip Buhl the bronze medal. Despite that frustration, being one of four Brits in the top six was a nice thing to be part of, in what is conventionally a fairly independent and isolated sport.
Throughout these three events (and all events I do), a key focus is having the right tool for the job – my boat has to be right. Once I go afloat I rely on having everything working well, holding myself and my boat to a high standard ensures sure that this happens. This means that after every day of sailing I write down any changes I need to make – anything from sealing the ends of some rope to re-splicing a primary line or changing a toe-strap. I used to convince myself that I could just remember what boat-work I needed to do, and get it done the next morning before going out, in reality this never ever happened, I would always launch having forgotten and kick myself! It is always worth the time and effort to get everything right, even on something seemingly as strait forwards as a Laser, it takes the frustration out of sailing leaving behind the enjoyment and racing.
For these events I was trying out a 3.5mm Polytech line on my outhaul secondary, which I can honestly give a glowing review. A slightly thinner line than the conventional 4mm makes a surprising difference to how well the system runs. Likewise it’s good to have a more supple & soft rope for the downhaul (such as FSE Robline 4mm) as this will make it easier to pull on – particularly with an 8:1 system with such a high number of turning points. For the vang I have to recommend something more durable unless you want to be dealing with fluffy ropes all the time, Marlow’s 4mm GP78 runs well and lasts an ample amount of time.”