First international events are always very nerve racking, with huge numbers of sailors all with great volumes of experience being the new kids on the block is petrifying. Four young brits took to this challange and went to compete in this years European Slalom championships in Hyeres. We caght up with Jack Bassett who have recently transitioned from the RS:X and Emily Hall a current RS:X sailor to get their reflections.
The 2016 Europeans where held in Hyeres from 6th to 11th April. It was my first international slalom event and it was a massive learning curve for me which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Before the event I had only used my sail and board combination once as my sails only arrived 2 weeks earlier so I had a lot to learn on tuning luckily for me Karin Jaggi and Patrik Diethelm (the owners of Patrik boards and head of the research and development of the Patrik boards and Sailloft slalom sails) were both testing prototypes of the boards and sails in Hyeres. Patrik was very helpful to me and I got some top tips from them both on the best set up of my kit which was really useful. All the little details and things you can do to make the sail fuller and quicker really help.
The course was a 4 buoy slalom and with the light winds we only managed to complete 4 rounds during the week with each round taking roughly 3 hours. In every heat you had to be on the ball and ready to perform. The heat setup was a qualifying round and depending on your finish position in that race whether or not you advanced to the next heat. There were 4 heats for the boys, the largest entry group, with ten people in each. To advance you needed to finish in the top 5. If you finished in the top part of the fleet you progressed to a further heat and then a winners or losers final. If you were unlikely to finishing in the bottom half of the fleet there were no further heats and you went straight to the c final which was tough as half the fleet competed in this. The girls had a smaller entry list so they were in groups of 6 with the top 4 progressing to the final
The event started on Monday with registration and practise races in the afternoon. My first big decision – what boards and sails to register. The forecast looked light so I registered my 128 and 110 Patrik slalom boards and my 8.6, 7.8, 7.0 and 6.3 Sailloft ultimate’s. There was an offshore wind of about 18 knots for the practise race so I was comfortable on my 128 and 8.6 with a 44 cm f-hot fin however I opted out of doing the practise races as the starts where full of 30 or more people who were going 20-30 seconds early so I tried to get tuned in on my kit and get comfortable with the conditions instead.
The first day of racing there was no wind and whilst there was a chance of a sea breeze this did not come through and it was the same again on the second day. So 2 days gone and no racing but Thursday was looking more hopefully.
Finally a race day. Because of the lack of wind on the previous days we had an early skippers meeting at 8:30am with a first possible start at 9am. The forecast was between 15-20 knots onshore.
The wind in the first race was between 15 and 20 knots but there was quite a bit of swell so I went out on my big kit as I didn’t want to be underpowered if the wind dropped. My first round didn’t go too well. A poor start because I went too early meant that wasn’t fully planning when I crossed the start line and I ended up in a C final. However, both Jenna Gibson and Sarah Jackson proceeded into the next rounds with Jenna then advancing to the A final and Sarah going into the B final. My c final wasn’t good either as someone catapulted in front of me at the third mark which meant I had nowhere to go but over the front of his sail.
The second race I had a better start but didn’t do enough to qualify with the standard of the other boys being so high. Jenna and Sarah both made it into the final of the girl’s fleet getting good results. In my C final I was determined to cross the line earlier and have a better start. Sadly I was too keen and ended up with an OCS. The race committee then tried to push for a third round as it didn’t look like there was much chance of racing for the rest of the week. I dropped down to my 7.8 as he wind had picked up and I had started to lose control in the last round. My start was better but not quite good enough and with the wind dropping I didn’t have enough power on my 7.8 and finished 6th place closest to qualifying but not close enough. The wind then died and the racing was finished for the day before the so there wasn’t a chance to finish the elimination.
Thursday had been a long day. We were all keen to improve our results especially Jenna who was 4th overall and 2nd youth with just two days of the competition left. But once again we had no wind. The forecast didn’t look good for our final day on Saturday either and no one expected to race especially as the forecast had been accurate all week. It was therefore quite a surprise when we turned up on the Saturday ready to hang around all day before packing up to go home when wind came through and we continued the rounds from where we left of. The wind was totally different to Thursday. It was offshore and between 14 – 16 knots, the girls started first with their qualifying rounds for the final and did really well with Jenna winning the round and Sarah coming third. They progressed to the final with Jenna coming third and Sarah unfortunately getting a OCS. Emily and I then had our c finals, once again I played it too safe on the start but in a fleet of 20 people if you don’t get a good start you have really fight for places. I managed to take people on tight gybes and going high and taking other sailors wind to overtake them finishing 9th not the best result but I am slowly learning and improving. Emily was also in the c final after only racing half a day on Thursday after getting taken out in her first round and getting injured and managed to win the girls c final which really boosted her confidence for the next rounds.
The race committee started one final qualifying round I again got too psyched out on the start and went slightly late and finished 6th i in the heat again missing out by only one place to go through to the next round. The girl’s heats followed shortly with Jenna winning her qualifying round by half a leg and Sarah and Emily finishing third and fourth in their heat qualifying for the next round all the girls then got through to the final after good heat 5 and 6 results. With Jenna sitting in third place and Emily and Sarah looking to pick up any extra places they could they joked about what if they finished 1, 2, 3 in the race, after good starts from all three girls they all nailed the first leg and finished the Race with Jenna winning, Emily second and Sarah third! With the win from Jenna making her first youth. I had one more final to complete and managed to get my best result yet and finish eighth in my C final.
Overall the week was a big learning curve and most importantly I need to improve my starts so I am in the top 5 of each heat. I had the speed to do so but my timings were all wrong. However, everyone got better after every round and improved each time getting better and more confident. Hopefully next slalom event we can get more Brits there as it is a good experience to compete at such a high level of competition. Well done to Jenna for winning the youth girls category, Sarah for finishing inside the top 10 and Emily for finishing 12th. Also well done to Ellie Gibson for performing well in the girl’s class and to my sponsors Patrik Boards, Sail loft sails and 2XS for supporting me.
Thoughts from Emily
The week was pretty frustrating for me. First two days there wasn’t enough wind to race, but it was a good time for me to rest after the RYA Youth National the week before. The third day the wind was finally enough for racing with around 16 knots. I didn’t have the best start in the first race but started to gain back the places into a good posturing until I was involved in a crash which put a sizeable fin hole in my board. After a protest I got redress for the race so advancing into heat 6 from this I advanced into the B final where I finish 3rd. After this I decided to stop the day’s racing as the crash had caused my ribs to be in a lot of pain!
On the third day they completed another full round and the beginning on the third round, but as the wind died they had to cancel the end of the heats. This left me automatically in the C final if any more racing was completed!
To everyone’s surprised there was wind on the final day allowing the heats to be sailed. In the C final my main aim was to build up my confidence again as it was knocked after the crash. I won the C final by about a leg so I felt slightly better.
The wind stayed so another fourth heat was run. I started to sail better through the heats finally advancing to the A final. I had a really good start keeping out in the front of the fleet, the wind was starting to get pretty light at the top of the course which I was finding pretty difficult as I was on a 7.8m RRD Firewing and a RRD 101 Firerace which was smaller compared to some of the other girls but I keep my speed up enough throughout the race to finish 2nd overall so I was pretty pleased about the result.
The week even though it had huge ups and downs for me was really well run by IFCA and all the race crew, allowing them to get four full eliminations in. I leant loads during the week which I hope I can bring this into the season this year.
I’d like to thank RRD, Boardwise, Glidesoul Wetsuits and Loughborough College Sport for their continued support and guidance.