Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pre-Worlds Regatta, Santander, Spain

In 2014, the ISAF Combined World Championships, the most significant international qualifying regattas for the 2016 Olympics, will be held in Santander, Spain.  Last week, we competed in the Santander Pre-Worlds in preparation for the 2014 event.  Although my focus for the event was training tactics, the venue's conditions and fleet quality held surprises that made experiencing the racing in Santander a very valuable experience in relation to next year.

All photos by Aleksandra Blinnikka
 In partial preparation, I trained in Cadiz for two weeks leading up to the event with a top Spanish sailor, Blanca Manchon.  When discussing the venue, which she is familiar with, we expected flat water and light wind.  However, Santander proved to be a tricky place with many factors affecting the various race courses.

The geography of Santander consists of a narrow bay with a channel opening into the Atlantic Ocean.  Because the bay inside is too narrow for more than one racecourse, most of the courses were located outside on the ocean, a long tow in light wind.  Similar to the Weymouth events last year, we changed courses daily on a total of three different courses.  On each of these courses, the current varied greatly, and coves and cliffs made the wind gusty and shifty.  On top of these physical features of the courses, the swell was also large and unusually spaced.  It made for a slightly different pumping style especially on the downwind leg, and also made a few sailors a bit green! 

We pumped the entire event - not one race was held in fully planing conditions.  We saw two different types of breeze, one being sea breeze, and the other being cloud-driven wind from rain cells.  Both were somewhat unpredictable.  During one rainy day, we stayed on the water six hours while the wind shifted direction.  We had three races in three different wind conditions! 

Santander's conditions were special, but we also had a special fleet competing. Although the number was small (23), countries sent their very top sailors and the quality was high.  Many of the girls were highly prepared, almost to the degree of a World Championships.

Women's podium:  1,Charline Picon (FRA); 2, Bryony Shaw (GBR); 3, Blanca Manchon (ESP)
 I had a tough event, but I also took in some valuable lessons.  The event was one of those where suddenly a light is turned on.  I worked on tactical positioning within the fleet, and I finally understood the mistakes I was making.  I also had the opportunity to work on light wind technique, especially  pumping downwind in the swell.  During my last race, I was well positioned enough and aware of wind shifts on the course that I was able to jump from mid-fleet to 4th position. 

 Coach Curro Manchon and I

The next month in Europe holds more training in Cadiz and another Eurosaf regatta in La Rochelle, France.  I am looking forward to applying lessons learned in Santander to achieve a good result in La Rochelle.  Let's hope the Atlantic coast of France in October actually won't be as cold as I think it will!

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