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Join Sophie Weguelin and Eilidh McIntyre on their Road to Rio 2016

29/7/2014

HARKEN SPONSORED SAILOR UPDATE

This blog update is long overdue. The last 3 months have thrown personal challenges at Team 3,2,1 that we had not seen coming on the radar. It has taken a lot of support from family, friends and our supporters; the good new is that we are getting back on track!

Lets continue with where we left off… back in April…

April began with two slightly subdued girls as we sat on the side-lines and stayed ashore to watch the Princess Sofia ISAF Sailing World Cup Regatta take place in Palma, Mallorca without us. Looking back on it we both believe that missing the event affected us more than we had initially thought it would, and more than we had let ourselves believe it would at the time. Burying our heads in fitness training, organising the Team 3,2,1 Black Tie Fundraising Dinner and planning the season ahead wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying and absorbing as we had first believed, resulting in us being slightly grumpy and short tempered, but more importantly hungry to get back on the water!

Increasing strength and base fitness levels had been set out in our goals at the beginning of the year in January, so to an extent being unable to sail had created us a fantastic opportunity to make some headway that was uninterrupted by the sailing. Time off the water had also presented us with an opportunity that as sailors we are very rarely given: a chance to watch the racing from the coach boat. This may sound a little ridiculous, but watching a race develop from outside the racecourse looking in actually offers us a completely different perspective of what we do! It also allowed us to observe the men’s fleet in action, picking out some valuable lessons in work rate, intensity and tactics.

Without a set date to be back in the boat we ensured that we were doing everything we possibly could to be ready for when we were given the nod. We booked flights and accommodation and planned a 5 day training camp leading up to the Hyeres ISAF Sailing World Cup Regatta at the end of April, and we were slightly disappointed when Eilidh’s appointment to have the wire removed from her finger was put in the middle of the camp! This would result in us missing the training, and a big question mark over competing in the regatta.

No time to dwell on something that was out of our control though… we had our Black Tie Fundraising Dinner to sort out! April 12th was suddenly upon us, and the kindness and generosity of both time and goods to get the evening up and running was immense. We had a fantastic turnout on the night, and hope that everyone who attended thoroughly enjoyed the evening, because we certainly did! Organising and putting on the fundraising dinner was an absolute first for both of us. We learnt some big lessons along the way, and would like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who both guided us in the right direction and kept us on the right track throughout! This year we have worked out that we need to raise £33,000 on top of the money that we receive from UK Sport and The National Lottery UK, to cover all of our basic travel and equipment costs. Those who attended the evening, donated prizes and bought raffle tickets and auction prize have so far helped us raise £17,000. We can’t thank you enough.

  • Xenogenix 
  • Volvo Cars UK 
  • Hayling Island Sailing Club 
  • Harken UK
  • Water to Go
  • Zhik
  • British Sailing Team 
  • Ben Ainslie Racing
  • Head Romance
  • Sail Style UK
  • Steve Gent S&C   

These are just a few of the many people who helped to make it such a brilliant evening.

The dinner passed quickly, and before we knew it we were getting ready to head out to Hyeres, France to hopefully get back in the boat!! For Eilidh there was a slight hiccup in the way, she still needed to wire removing from her finger! For Sophie it was a flight to Hyeres to get the boat rigged and ready with coach Romain alongside some road biking, for Eilidh it was a waiting game. A late afternoon appointment on the 17 April, followed by a very exciting phone call and Eilidh on a flight to Hyeres on the 18th meant one thing, we were going to be back in the boat!!! An abnormal event build up due to the amount of time we had spent out of the boat, but we were ready to race. We set some down to earth goals to keep our expectations realistic, and ensuring that we remembered the amount of time that we hadn’t been training on the water. A fantastic week of racing followed, our communication was a little rusty, but our boat speed was top notch. Going into the final 10-boat medal race we were lying in 2nd overall, every medal race provides us with a different scenario that would could potentially see again at the Olympic Games. This time we were unable to convert silver into gold, but we were very pleased to take home the silver medal. 

Back to the UK where our two boats were in the same place for the first time! This gave us a great opportunity to completely match them, maintain them and make any adjustments that we felt necessary.

May was a chance for us to spend some quality hours on the water with our coach Romain. Since Romain started working with us in March, we had only been coached by him at the Hyeres regatta. There was plenty for us to get on with. We were lucky enough to get some help and finally get light and power into our storage container. This means that we are now able to store the boat dry, and keep all of our equipment safely indoors away from the elements. It also means that we are able to finish jobs indoors even when the natural light disappears, a huge relief that is going to make a big impact on the ageing of our equipment. Thank you to everyone that has got involved with this massive project. We also took the opportunity to attend some of the Volvo Sailing Academy Weekends, these were a fantastic opportunity for us encourage new people; old and young into our sport, an extremely rewarding experience!

As well as spending time on the water, we had an important container load at the end of the month, and a big decision to make. Which boat to keep in Europe for the European and World Championships, and which one to send to Rio for the Olympic Test Event which takes place in August. Shipping boats around the World is something that neither of us have a lot of experience in, yet something we are going to have to become very familiar with – we have learnt that it takes a lot of foreword planning and huge amounts of organisation to stay on top of tools, spares, sails etc. We packed a boat off to Rio at the end of May, and are looking foreword to catching up with her next week!

Sail for Gold was the next regatta on the calendar. Although it wasn’t very well attended, it was great to be racing and winning on home waters. And with it was the announcement of the Olympic Test Event Team 2014, the Team who will travel to Rio in August for the first time, to suss out the venue at the first of many trips.

A speedy end of Sail for Gold pack up saw us straight to Santander for a training camp and coaches regatta. Unfortunately the training regatta started one day after the racing in Weymouth finished, so our coach did a stellar job driving down in the Volvo to ensure we made it on the water for the regatta. This was our second trip to Santander, a place that we are learning to love, enjoy and feel comfortable. This is the venue of the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships, which take place in September and are the first opportunity to qualify Great Britain for the Olympic Games in Rio 2016. The conditions in Santander are extremely challenging, mostly due to its location and the large swell that rolls in from the Bay of Biscay, it will prove to be an exciting regatta in September whatever the wind Gods give us! We finished 3rd in the training regatta, which we were pleased with as we struggled to find our groove to begin with, and finished the camp off with four productive days training and working on our technique.

We left Santander knowing that next time we come back it will be to do business. Confident, and excited it is a truly beautiful place.

Back from Santander and we are almost up to date. A week training back in the UK before another pack up, this time for the European Championships in Athens, Greece. We were racing in a big fleet of 51 boats, which meant that the starts and finding space on the racecourse were a priority. We spent a few days training there in a light sea breeze, and during the regatta we had similar conditions. On race days we spent a lot of time waiting around on the water for wind – and the men’s fleet to get a clean start! This was probably our most challenging event to date, but also the event that we can take away the most learning points from. A bad race in Race 8, and an UFD (premature start) in Race 9 put us out of medal contention, and left us finishing 6th European and 9th overall. We are disappointed leaving the event, but it’s easy to skim over the moments of greatness from the event, we had great boat speed, and we have come along way with our communication process around the racecourse. Our big event this year is the World Championships, and our experiences in Athens will have helped us on our way to success in Santander.

We are now back to the UK and preparing for our trip to Rio at the end of next week. Ensuring we have the correct jabs, and supplements in place to minimize the risk of illness.

We finish with great news that we now have the sail number GBR 321, so Team 3,2,1 is easy to spot on the water and the results sheet!!

Thank you for all of your help and support, next update on our return from Rio! 3,2,1 x

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