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420 Team Taylor-Alton - European Selectors 420 Team Taylor-Alton - European Selectors

So with the Worlds only finished two months ago it was yet again time for the next selection series for the 420 Europeans, due to the winter Worlds. Our first event was at Datchet and with over thirty boats entered for the whole three weekends it was setting up to be a tough series. Luckily for us Datchet is only a 15minute drive from home so we were able to go and rig the boat on Friday meaning a relaxed start on the Saturday morning.

With light but gusty winds forecast for the whole weekend we started off the first race managing to end up on the wrong side of one of the many random shifts up the first beat, we were then playing catch up for the rest of the race and then hitting the second windward mark didn’t help. We finished the race in 17th but now knew the way to go up the first beat so weren’t disheartened at all. In the subsequent races we got back to where we knew we should be posting results in the fleet and in the final 3 races of the day posted 5,2,3. This left us in a good position overnight and us fully set for the final two races on Sunday.

Sunday was much again the same conditions but from completely the opposite direction. This led to some tricky racing with us being pushed into the corner of the reservoir and having to pick a side of the beat as to avoid the large water tower in the middle of the course. We managed to get a 10th and a 9th in the two races that day and this left us lying fourth overall after the first weekend of racing.

Our second selector was two weeks later in Poole and with training there on the weekend between events we were fully prepared for the conditions as they pretty much ended up being the same for both weekends. Once again it was light winds but we were confident despite being one of the heaviest pairings in the fleet.

We started off the weekend well posting a 7th in the first race but then a disappointing 20th in the second. However, with the help of some encouragement from Pete we bounced back to score a 7th and 5th in the final two races of the day. The Sunday was forecast once again to be light winds and with the direction the race officer had a tough task trying to get a course in due to the large island causing large shifts upwind.

We started the first race of the day by starting away from our main rivals as they went for the pin and we started just down from the starboard end. With a great call from Pete on the line we managed to start about a boat length and a half in front of the rest of the fleet. We were 2nd around the windward mark with a small gap behind us leaving us to attack the lead boat downwind. By the bottom mark we had got into the lead and from there on it was just about covering the fleet. With a bit of help from the boats behind battling for 2nd and 3rd we pulled away from the fleet to win the race by a significant margin.

The second race was similar but with our start in the previous race people had cottoned on to where the line was. We got to the windward mark 5th but with a late gybe to the inside and to more pressure for the run into the mark gained 3rd by the leeward mark. We then relied on our boatspeed to get us into second and then first up the beat which we held for the run. For the final beat we chose to cover the group behind us on the left but one boat headed out right and managed to get around the outside to take the lead. We had once again pulled out from the boats behind but couldn’t quite get past the lighter girl boat downwind meaning we finished second. This left us third overall for the weekend and fourth in the selector series 1 point behind the guys in third.

Our third and final selector was in Pwllheli, north Wales. We had been watching the forecast all week and we finally got what me and Pete had wanted since September…a windy weekend sailing. We arrived on Friday to go for a sail in the afternoon and get the boat fully prepped for what was going to be a very windy weekend sailing.

The racing started on Saturday in about 20knots of wind and we managed to post a third in the first race of the day. With the wind building the second race started in more wind and during the race there were recorded gusts over 30knots but this played to our advantage as we posted another third. The race officer kept us out for two more races in the strong winds and we mimicked our Poole start by starting ahead of all the boats around us in the third race and yet again went on to score a third. The final race of the day was only just allowed to start by the race officer due to the high winds but we were just too close to the line at the gun and were scored OCS, however this did mean that as we were pulled out at the windward we had a nice run in to the beach rather than the beat the rest of the fleet would have. This left us fourth overnight for the event but third in the series as the boat that was one point ahead of us before the weekend(Tarra) scored 4,4,4,RET compared to our 3,3,3,OCS leaving us with a two point lead overnight.

Sunday morning we were greeted with yet again strong winds and two races scheduled. We started the first race not having a great first beat but rounded the windward 8th but due to the help of a couple of capsizes on the reach and boat speed we were 5th by the leeward. We then decided to split form the fleet and went left up the second beat to more wind and bigger waves, with Gerry (or Allen as our boat is known to most of the fleet) taking a bit of a beating and getting fully airborn at one point. We finished the race with yet another third and our closest rivals about 4 behind us. For the final race in the series we just had a bit of fun but with missing the windward mark due to it being blue and small as we were out on the right of the course, joint with a bad second run we finished 6th but Tarra finished 5th meaning that we finished 3rd overall in the selection series leaving us very happy. This meant that we qualified for the Europeans in the Summer to be held in Tavira, Portugal.

A big thanks to all the race officers and support crews and parents for driving us to events (especially Dad for driving back home from Pwllheli to pick up the mainsail I left in the garage) and Allen for sponsoring us and supplying us with all the gear we needed.

Chris Taylor

GBR54163

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