Having returned from a great summer of big events in both Poland and Alicante I want to use this blog to reflect on the Euros and Worlds and how GBR performed with a look forwards towards the 2024 Worlds qualification and National Championships.
FIrstly, I want to thank all the sailors for the way you represented GBR and the good behaviour that was exhibited at both events - it was a privilege to see how you behaved but also how you kept a watch for the newbies, in particular some of the younger members - Well done.
The biggest thanks must go to all the organisers and helpers, a massive effort for all involved - Tiff, Sharon, Jane for organising and house parenting, plus David F, Ben, Jeroen. Then the driving crews for shipping boats and kit across Europe, and this year covering some big miles, with very little incidents, but also some fantastic travelling tales in some intense and debilitating heat. A big thanks also to people willing to use and allow the use of their vehicles for completing these trips, and bar a class van issue and a class trailer issue in Alicante (thanks for people bringing spares to Alicante to help repair) we arrived at the venues on time and also returned safely. One of the successes at both events was the team clothing, and thanks to Sara for organising - T-shirts, hoodies and rash vests, that were in high demand for swaps by all the competitors from other countries to the point by the end of the worlds I had difficulty seeing who was actual GBR sailors or people just wearing our kit. The bar has been set here and I know work is already in planning for next year's events to be even better.
Now the main part - the sailling.
Europeans: It was obvious from when I turned up in Poland mid week, that many sailors had been away from boats doing school and exams and majority not all of our performances reflected this, although as the week went on we did start to engage our racing brains and results and morale improved. We did have some good results and performances, so congratulations to all, and unfortunately the event was curtailed early due to lack of wind so unable to finish on a high.
Congratulations to Henry and Oscar for being the sole GBR boat in Gold Fleet and also congrats to George and Olivia Creasey for winning Silver fleet after only just missing out on gold fleet. The event was a great week, Gdynia was fabulous, and sure somewhere we will return to. Thanks must go to the coaches supporting from both the RYA and the class here, although we must learn how we can overcome the issues so we are better prepared next year as the Euros are at a similar time, clashing with exams and school so need to be prepared. Another learning point in Poland was the lack of adults to support pack up and had it not been for a few people, James, Andrew etc turning up then we would have really struggled to load the boats in a timely manner. After the Euros, the mammoth depart the trip to Alicante began, with some boats arriving a few days later and others a week or so later having taken in some great sights and scenes along the way, sure you've been keeping up on the Baileys travels.
Worlds: The Worlds felt different to the Euros, there was a sense of optimism for our upcoming performances, but also a bit of nervousness as this would also be the selection event for the World Sailing Youth Words (ISAF's) in Brazil - so a lot on the line. We had a great build up, in sweltering temperatures, with a good number of days on the water and a strong coaching team (Jess, Haydn and Oli plus thanks to Tom for manning the parents rib most days) putting them through their paces and offering good advice to those who needed it. Unlike Poland where the winds were similar each day and too light on the last few days, in Alicante we had a good mixture of breeze and enough breeze to race every day of the event, completing all races planned.
The racing was very competitive and GBR had some fantastic results with two race victories from Henry / Oscar and Arwen / Arlo both on windy wednesday (if only we had more days like this) but we also had numerous boats leading races and showing that the GBR boats can compete at the highest levels across the Male / Mixed, Female and U17 fleets.
I want to highlight some of the successes we had as we need to recognise this and how we can not only replicate but also build on it:
- In the U17 Fleet we had 4 boats make the gold fleet and congratulations to Harry and Ralph for making the top 10 finishing 8th Overall - although pushed by William and Ethan in 12th and Joe and Hennie in 18th and a special mention to Tilly and Charlie, a newish pairing who managed a 4th and a 5th across the week.
- In the Womens fleet, I believe, the pressure of youth worlds selection impacted the sailing of some of the crews, however it was Noa and Gabs who sailed really well to be the lone GBR boat in gold fleet, an event dominated by the Greek girls who had just won the Junior Europeans earlier in the month. I know the other female boats all had the abilities to make gold fleet and once the pressure was off they all put in some excellent results showing what they could have done with a number of boats leading races. The great news here is that all of these female boats can come back for another attempt next year and build on this year's events to push for the top of the table.
- In the male / mixed fleets racing was intense and split into 3 fleets so gold fleet qualification was key, here we had Henry and Oscar continue their performances from Poland and qualify along with George Creasey, sailing with David for this event, plus the ever present Alice and Oliver showing that they are still very quick around the course and without the added pressure for youth worlds qualification all made gold. Unfortunately due to the youth worlds selection being at stake the second half of the week became a race off between Henry/Oscar and George/David which was a massive shame as it would have been great to see how they could perform at the Worlds without the added distraction. Both boats sailed really well and unfortunately where one boat is congratulated the other is commiserated so I want to say a huge well done to both who have been outstanding at the events this summer. In the end it was Alice and Oliver who ended as top GBR boat in 18th place whilst Henry and Oscar ended as top youth boat and look to the RYA's selection for the Youth Worlds along with Noa and Gabs in the female category. Our best wishes to both of them in Brazil in December.
A special mention must go the oldest GBR competitor, Neil Marsden who decided to have a tilt at the worlds and got himself fit and down to weight for the lighter conditions in Alicante only to have "felt it" after 3 races on the windy day and in "Steve Redgave" fashion at the end of the regatta saying if anyone saw him go near a boat they had permission to shoot him !! I know this won't last long. Neil was also presented at the prize giving with a special award by the class for all his efforts in the 420 over the years - over 20 years sailing, coaching and supporting the class - we should be extremely proud and glad he's one of ours. Well done Neil - here's to the next 20 years !!
On reflection there are many take-aways from these events but I want to highlight some key things I've picked up:
- The GBR sailors are the best group of sailors in the dinghy park - great behaviours, good attitudes and manners but most of all a TEAM. No one set of sailors bigger than the team and all routing for each other to do well. In an environment where our competitors all sail many more hours on the water than us we have to take what wins we can and our team ethics and ethos is a major one for all getting better together.
- The class is totally reliant upon a small group of people who do an excellent job and put in many hours to organise and run the class and events and are supported by some fantastic people willing to give up holidays to drive, house parent and travel with our sailors. Very different to many nations. Thank you all BUT we need more people to support the committee as many hands make light work.
- We need to understand how we can compete with the best in the world and how we get the RYA to support us better in this drive. Our whole approach to betterment needs to be reviewed with the RYA to understand how we can continue to progress and move our sailors today and tomorrow closer to the podium.
- We have some key assets we use for these events, covering many thousands of miles and need to ensure these are kept and maintained so when needed are "fit for purpose". Therefore, I'm proposing a creation of a sub committee to oversee asset management and upkeep - more on this to come.
As always there is never time to rest on our laurels, and less so this year.
2024 Worlds: With a World Championships happening in January in Brazil, the class has to have a selection policy in place to support team selection and this year we are using the Zaikobi National Championships at Plas Heli - 26th to 28th August. (Entry and training now open so please sign up plus some fantastic prizes courtesy of our sponsors so it will be a great event) and then Warsash 9 -10th September as the final selector.
With the Worlds happening in Brazil it is likely that people looking to attend will be low in numbers and we are keen to know who is seriously considering, as the likleyhood is that once there is a core of known people looking to attend that the organisation inc shipping, transportation, accommodation and event management will be left to them to organise rather than the class organising although we do know the International class association is looking to offer support for boats looking to attend from Europe plus the possibility of a couple of charter boats.
AGM: Finally, as part of the National championships, the class AGM has to happen to select the committee for the ongoing support of running the class post September. There are a few people looking to step down or change roles this year so it is imperative that we have additional support from the parents for the committee places available, we ran the committee light of people this year and has proved to be a burden on those on the committee hence we must look to fill the places for all roles.
I'm looking to send out a further note with an update on this and the roles and responsibilities in the next few days. Please consider if you have a small amount of time to support the class, as the more people we get the less time needs to be spent by each person and the more we can have clear guidance and process around what needs doing and to be done. Please remember without your support the committee cannot function which then means the sailing cannot happen and the class ceases to exist. We have a really buoyant class with many new members joining and now is a fantastic time to get involved and help to move it to the next level. I'm always available to discuss with interested people who want to know more. As mentioned, I'm looking to communicate shortly.
So the first half of the summer completed lets now aim to finish the summer off and have a fantastic event at the nationals with lots of fun to be had.