Team Conlon-Anderson - 29er Europeans - Spain
Spain, and my first international event. A far cry from the concrete shores of Weymouth, but with sun, wind, and sandy beaches forecast, I wasn't going to complain. As we stepped off the plane we were met with that smell of the continent which meant it was going to be a good week. Following a friend's directions - which consisted of one text message - we somehow made our way from Girona airport to the Bay of Fornells, and with a breeze blowing and salt in the air we wasted no time in getting the boat rigged, desperate for a little extra gybing practice in the bigger wind. Naturally it dropped off as soon as the boat touched the water, leaving us if anything hoping for a light winds regatta.
Day one started with absolutely nothing rustling the palm fronds, so racing was postponed until the sea breeze set in. We were slightly intimidated by our flight, with the world champion and a couple of the top British boats racing with us, so with two top ten results in the first two races, we were very happy with ourselves. It of course couldn't last and so the last race of the day decided to be 'one of those' where everything goes wrong: kite sheets came undone, the gnav popped off the boom while we were pulling the kicker on, which left us with a 33rd in the last race; so we came ashore a little down.
The second day played out in a relatively similar fashion, though we were quite surprised that it did so. There was a good 17-18 knots of breeze and a decent swell which left us feeling pretty nervous as we rigged the boat, as we had never felt particularly confident in these conditions. However, once we got out, we seemed to settle down - as did the boat. Despite a couple of hairy moments with the kite up we managed to record another two top tens in the first races, and then the wind dropped off for the third, with the pressure on us to have another good result as we had already used up our discard with the 33rd on the day before. 'Let's make it a bullet', I joked to David. He seemed to take me rather seriously, as we rounded the top mark in 1st after getting the upwind spot on, and we managed to hold our lead down to the gate as well. Unfortunately, our lack of experience at the top then started to show, and we made a few mistakes, which dropped us a little into the pack round the next top mark, and we were then unable to gybe when we wanted with a boat forcing us high below us. So when we finished with a 14th - in our eyes a perfectly respectable result - we were still disappointed with ourselves when we came off the water!
A nervous night; we woke up the next morning and ran to see the results. We were very pleased to sit in 20th, which meant we had made gold fleet. We had no chance to see what this new standard of racing was like, however, as the wind was being temperamental; the race committee had no choice but to abandon for the day.
It was quite a shock to the system when we finally got racing again on the Sunday. We found ourselves up against sailors from as far as New Zealand and the States: their quality was apparent from the start; every single boat getting a perfect trigger start and accelerating smoothly away from the line. A 20th and a 22nd in the first two races we were quite pleased with, and a 14th in the last we thought of as a very decent result.
The next day, and we had only to keep a cool head and we would have a place in the top 20. It was an incredibly tough breeze, with a massive gust one second, a big hole the next; only the boats at the top seemed always to be in a gust! A 16th in the first race was satisfying, and after a very good start and some nice downwind tactics, we managed an 8th - our best result of the week considering the competition - in the next race. Our last race was pretty average: somewhere around the high teens/ early 20s; and so we didn't need to make too much of a fuss when the race committee didn't see us cross the line and gave us a DNF. We had secured 19th, were 4th British boat, and we were chuffed enough with that!
It has been tough both being at uni finding both time and money to compete; having a really quick boat helped us just have an edge, and this was in no small part thanks to Allen Brothers, who have been great in supporting us throughout this year.