We hope you enjoy reading this very informative article from Team Leader, Juliet Bridger about the Euros held recently in Denmark. A special mention to Charlie who was awarded 2nd place in silver fleet.
What a privilege for two boys and two girls to be selected to represent New Zealand for the European Championships to be held in Sonderborg, Denmark. Our four sailors came from different parts of the country; Charlie Bridger (Christchurch), Arran Begic and Bella Jenkins (Auckland) and Tara Labat (Napier). The 5-day regatta held in August compiled of 10 races for boys, and 10 for girls.
Prior to leaving NZ, 5 training sessions were conducted around Auckland yacht clubs where coach Kim Buchanan worked on building respectful solid team dynamics. It was important to foster cohesion between the team during their preparation at home.
For the European team, having recently introduced 2 of each gender proved to be an even balance and worked well (in past years it usually has been a ratio of 3 boys to 1 girl).
Copenhagen was the first stop to get over the jet lag and have some fun seeing the sights. We then took a train to Sonderborg where we would remain for 2 weeks. The sailors, coach and team leader stayed at the accommodation shared with the British, Irish, Portuguese, Turkey, Ukraine, Spanish, Swiss, and the US of A. This was a great way to get to know some of the opponents.
The team had 4 training days in total, unfortunately we had one sailor down for a couple of days. Sailing conditions provided flat water, with winds gusting 20-25 knots and shifty conditions. We shared our coach rhib with the Australian team which fostered a good partnership and friendships. Our charter boats were brand spanking new winners!
The training sessions included starts, something that the kiwi team really needed to work on. At times there were up to 30 boats on the start line which included other countries and proved beneficial. Our kiwi sailors had their first introduction to the forceful, yet down pact starts from their rivals. They became quickly aware that they needed to work on some changes, which included getting right up to the line and taking a more aggressive approach.
Our sailors also admired the way their competitors set up their tacks coupled with the speed they were executed and a fast exit on the tack. Their opponents were at a high level, with very few mistakes made. Talking with our sailors, we felt that our strengths were speed, pointing and a good understanding of the rules. Weaknesses; lacking in confidence and pushing the line.
Measurement comprised of a team of measurers from around the world. Two of our sails failed however were quickly rectified then and there. Also, the chartered painter ropes did not comply in diameter (which were replaced the following day). One of our sailor’s mast and sail had not been signed off (even though had passed measurement) and was put down to a glitch in the system. All of this was swiftly resolved and proved to be worthwhile booking an early time slot for the measurements in case situations like these occurred.
So, the first day of the regatta had finally arrived with the building of those normal first day nerves. Racing days delivered light to medium winds. Our sailors individually had a roller coaster of a ride; encountering blag flags, technical penalties, and a realisation that their rivals would probably take the place that they had their eye on as any racing errors made were costly.
A tractrac device was tucked into each sailor’s air bag. This clever gadget provides real time GPS tracking showing the manoeuvres the sailor is making, together with where they are in relation to the rest of the fleet. Those following live (coach and parents) found it to be a nerve-wracking, heart stopping experience! Post races it proved to be a very useful tool for tactical analysis, not just for the sailor whose course was dissected but also beneficial to the rest of the team.
Our team was split into both silver and bronze fleets. One of our sailors was lined up for gold fleet on the last day of the qualifying series, however due to other penalties coming in for other sailors, was pushed into silver fleet. Unfortunately, the final day of racing provided no wind, therefore the regatta wound up with 4 days of racing for the silver and bronze fleets. One of our sailors made podium position and awarded 2nd place in silver fleet.
All in all, our young kiwis handled the various experiences and disappointments that they were dealt, with dignity, great sportsmanship, and resilience. What also became obvious was how they remained tight as a team and supported each other throughout the highs and lows.
The cherry on the top was the trading. This had been building up throughout the week with sailors approaching our team hoping to secure an item of clothing prior to the official trading day (closing ceremony). The interaction between the sailors was awesome, some individuals displayed natural sales techniques with their bartering, others came out of their shell and spoke to new acquaintances to acquire a healthy number of jackets, caps, rash tops, hoodies, track pants, life jacket and t-shirts.
To sum it up from our team the experience was awesome. It was well worth all of the hard work, the highs and the lows. As individuals they feel they have grown in confidence, self-management, gained ownership skills, and self-responsibility. Oh, and not to forget friends from around the world! If you were to ask them, would you go and do it all over again, the answer would be a big fat YES!