|Southwest Lakes Trust trailer in east Germany|
It was a long way to drive, but we gave time to stay overnight at Hohenstadt near Nurenburg each way to relax. It's a beautiful area of Germany, with some quite steep hills coming out of nowhere, and miles and miles of forest cleared in places to make way for fields. The houses are also pretty, with very steeply sloping roofs.
One thing that you should know about driving in the Czech Republic, is that you for a 10 day permit to use the motorways. This is presumably so that they can rebuild them all! The slow lane is so, so bumpy, really bad in places, which isn't ideal for a rather old trailer stacked full of windsurfing kit! It was a bit much for it in the end, and one of the posts for the board rack sheered on the way home (it was a bit rusty): nothing a bit of string and an old mast extension couldn't solve though! I was pretty pleased that we didn't have a flat tire, the bearings didn't break, and Pauls plywood rig box didn't shake itself to bits! In fact, my car coped very well, and we didn't have any problems with it the whole 3000 odd miles, except when we tried to run our laptops off the car battery and realised that it was on its last legs! The car needed bump starting every now and again after that!
Some, well, ok, a lot of the journey was pretty boring, especially Belgium, which is lovely, with spacious feeling motorways and nice trees, but it is all the same (by the time we got to Belgium from Czech Rep we were pretty bored of driving anyway though)!
The south Moravian region of the Czech Republic, where the lake is, is very pretty rural area, with lots of farmland and vineyards. The aristocracy who lived in Mikulov, the nearest town had lots of fishing lakes etc. designed, but the lake that we were racing on is one of 3 lakes that were built to prevent the river Dyje from flooding the surrounding low lying farmland. The lakes are quite shallow, with a dam/embankment around much of it, but the southern bank (where the sailing club is) consists of a large steep hill with rows and rows of grapevines, and a rather imposing ruined castle on the top.
The event was very well organised indeed, and seemed to run without a hitch. There was a lot of sponsor support for the event, so a big thanks to them.
|Team GB, ready to race|
|Nice conditions on the training day|
|Time for some lunch|
The wind was a little gusty and very shifty on the last two days, so those who found the pressure and got the shifts right made big gains. The last day of the qualifying series saw me finish 2nd in each race behind Patrik. I tried not to be too risky at the start, and just concentrated in having space to accelerate in the middle of the line with options. This meant that although I was never first to the windward mark, I was consistently in the top 5. Frenchman Sylvain Dehouve was always close to the front, Pedro Corte Moura from Portugal was very good upwind, but I usually managed to gain on him downwind. I usually gained or sometime even overtook Patrik Pollak by getting a favourable shift and pointing higher than him upwind, but downwind, he was very fast indeed and won each of the races.
|Me and Pedro upwind (Photo Martin Hales)|
The final day left me in a pretty tight 3rd place, a long way off Patrik and Max in 1st and 2nd place, but with Petr Kucera, Sylvain Dehouve and Curro Manchon all snapping at my heels. The light winds meant that the most races we were going to get for the series was 10, which was big news for much of the fleet as it only allowed 1 discard. Luckily for me, Curro (who had got 2nd in every race on the penultimate day in the blue fleet whilst feeling very ill) had an OCS to discard, because on the final day, he showed me the way, counting a 3rd and two 2nds. Having to count a 7th from the first day meant that he finished two points behind me. Petr didn't have such a good day and got a 6th, 11th and 22nd, so slipped from 4th to 6th, which meant I got 3rd!!!!
|Curro (Photo Martin Hales)|
|Yep, it's real, I've just got 3rd!|
I still haven't quite got my head around it, having spend many years of my life sailing with, and finishing behind such people as Sam Sills and Connor Bainbridge, who dominated the UK events and achieved such amazing results at international events, I suddenly found myself winning UKWA events on Raceboard, a dream in itself, I never expected to get 3rd place at my first world championships since 2009 on Techno. Actually, maybe that's part of the reason for my success; I went there without expectation or pressure on myself to do well, and stayed focused, didn't take too many risks, and concentrated on sailing fast. So I didn't really make any mistakes, and when I did, I just focused on sorting it out and overtaking people, a few years ago I would have gone mental and started shouting at myself and my gear. I remember one race at the Techno worlds where I had a shit start, bad upwind, then when I fell off on a gybe downwind, started punching my board rather than getting up immediately and working my arse off to overtake some people!
|Lightwind carve gybe|
I hope that I can compete in the worlds or euros next year, but will have to see how things pan out. Unfortunately, I cannot afford any more events this year, so the raceboard will be hibernating in Cornwall until next season, hopefully I can get out on a couple of times, but I already can't wait to race again, the constant tactical, physical and technical challenge has me hooked. I came off the back of last season with 3 consecutive wins, so I had high hopes for this season with my new kit from sponsors Tushingham and Starboard, but to win every event in the UK and 3rd at the worlds is unbelievable!
|Here's to 2014!|