By Will, Sep 28 2018 12:13PM
For this event I teamed up with Jonny Currell and we sailed the new two person Para Sailing class, the RS Venture. The boats were supplied for the event but we had been fortunate to have been able to borrow a Venture from Tim Scott at Bewl and got in a several training days before leaving for the event. Tim’s boat did not have the latest rig and had an earlier, lighter keel but it was a great opportunity to get to know the boat. A huge thanks to Tim for the use of his boat and to 'Mariners of Bewl' for being so welcoming and allowing us to sail at the beautiful Bewl Water, the largest inland water in the south east of England.
Although we had never raced the Venture or even sailed alongside another one, we got to Sheboygan with a degree of confidence. Initial tuning with past Paralympic medal winners confirmed that we were fast upwind, however, in the training races we weren’t so good. The course was short with a reaching start, downwind, upwind, downwind and reach to the finish. Despite previously developing good team work and communication with the asymmetric spinnaker up, we weren’t getting the performance we hoped for and soon dropped behind the quickest two boats. We worked on our spinnaker setting technique and this started to show through when the event commenced and continued to improve into a real strength.
For the qualifying races we were drawn in the same fleet as Alexandra Rickham/Hannah Stodel so we had competition of the highest level. On the first day our starts were good and we were able to mix it with them for much of the race, however, their experience at boat on boat situations put them consistently ahead of us by the finish.
On the second day we continued to improve all round and worked on our boat positioning into marks. In hindsight, we sailed the wrong side of the course in all races and our speed improvement was not so apparent to others, but our confidence was growing. The leaders of the two fleets got a bye straight to the final, but we were able to race again the next day and get in some more learning.
On the third day it was light winds and we had some very close racing with the Italians but came out on top and qualified for the final. We were also able to refine our light wind techniques.
On the final day it was one race, four boats and ‘winner takes all’. Light winds and forecast to drop and swing 130 degrees or so. We planned our race, knew what we had to do. We decided to stick to our tested leeward end start, which had worked really well for us during the week. Unusually only one of the other boats started at the windward end and unopposed, was able to start at speed and led round the first mark. We followed but just touched the mark and had to do a penalty which put us at the back of the fleet. The two favourites were up front and we knew that they would race each other which would give us a chance to catch up. Our plan was to sail fast, keep level heads and go out the side of the course that we expected the new wind to come in from. It worked, our speed was impressive and we passed the previous two leaders on the upwind but still had the Spanish ahead of us. Our downwind speed helped us catch them and a late gybe on the starboard layline enabled us to get room on them at the last mark. We rounded inside and led them into the finish. We were able to put all of our learning points from the week into that one race. Gold for us and World Champions! Results