Charlotte Dobson & Sophie Ainsworth - Helsinki European Championships 2014
Well we arrived to the coolest climate we've sailed in all year (thirteen degrees Celsius), yes we know that we've been incredibly spoilt but it was certainly a shock to our system. Sophie was quite upset that despite lugging her wellington boots around with her all year, this was the one event they were left at home. It was fantastic though, as for the last three months we have been desperate to work on our boat handling in windy weather to continue our progression from Garda, and the areas Olympian Ben Rhodes thought we could improve. We were thrilled that in the pre-Europeans training we finally kept the boat upright in a lot of windy maneuvers. For us this is a big stepping-stone, as we were starting to worry we might need to get snorkels for our windy sailing...
This drastic improvement continued into the regatta for us. We had a ranged of conditions but this was probably the windiest regatta we have had all year. In particular on the third day of the regatta it was 18-23knots and in three races, with three laps (designed to give crews heart attacks) we capsized once - on a bear away. This is definitely something for us to celebrate, especially with less than two months until our World Championships in September.
Throughout the week we were pleased with our performance, and kept ourselves in medal contention, it was the first regatta we've really been in touch the leaders, that was until the last day of fleet racing. We were racing on the course closest to the land, away from the submerged hidden rocks that the boys seemed to keep crashing into. The conditions were very changeable, but we came away with a solid 7th in the first race. We were on target for another counter in the second race when disaster struck. We failed to see one of the Finish teams coming upwind as we hoisted the kite and got going downwind. We ended up anchored to the other boats trapeze elastic with our pole. Essentially we stopped for a couple of minutes and let the entire fleet sail past... For the third race of the day the wind had picked up to twenty knots, unlike the eight knots we had launched in. We got our coach to jump on our board to get it all the way down for the first race. It was a nightmare for the third race, as we couldn't get it back up in between races, so we were incredibly slow for the last race of the day. We had to capsize to get the board back up once we had limped around the course.
We went into the theatre style racing on the last day with a seven-point gap to close to be third European. We left ourselves with too much work to do and finished the event in 6th overall and 4th European. It's frustrating to have been so close to medalling, but at the same time, we continued to learn throughout the regatta and it's hugely encouraging for us to consistently be in touching distance of the gold.
Next stop Rio!! We have the Olympic sailing test event at the beginning of August. All the top teams are heading out there, it should be some more exciting close racing.