Helena Lucas on Qingdao

Yngling helm recounts her experience at the recent Test Event

Tuesday September 12th 2006, Author: Helena Lucas, Location: Australasia
China was an amazing experience, not just the sailing, but also the culture. First impressions of Qingdao are that it is very westernised with skyscrapers, fast food restaurants and department stores, but when you look a little closer and go to the markets and old part of the city you realise it is still very much developing. The cost of living is a fraction of what it is back home, £10 a day is a good wage. The people are very friendly and hard working and that is evident by the progress they have made with the Olympic sailing venue, apart from the accommodation it is all finished!

The sailing was as challenging and tricky as we thought it would be, with tides up to 2 knots and winds often around 5-6 knots and sometimes less. The sea state was always bigger than you would expect for the conditions and we experienced a big swell on a couple of days.

Before arriving in Qingdao my experience of helming a Yngling amounted to two days training in Poole with the girls before we left, so we were keen to get as much time on the water as possible before the regatta started. I think we managed 4 days of training and the practice race, which was not bad considering the forecast.

The opening ceremony was pretty impressive, and a taste of the effort gone into hosting this regatta. Racing was scheduled over nine days on four race areas, with 10 races in the series and one discard before going in to the medal race. We were racing on area D, probably the best race course as we often had better conditions than experienced on the other areas, but an hour long tow to get out each day!

I had no expectations going in to the regatta, having never sailed in the Yngling fleet before and was surprised to find us in third overall after two 5ths on day one. The Chinese also put in a surprise performance finishing first and second in the first race. It became quickly evident that if you could put in a consistent performance you were going to do well, as scores were erratic due to the conditions. We had one race which in the end was abandoned, when the fleet found themselves being swept by the tide back up the run towards the windward mark when the wind totally died. However Qingdao did surprise for us for one day when we experienced 25 knots of wind and a huge swell. This for me was probably the trickiest day, keeping the boat upright on the gybes and big surfs downwind. We managed two 3rds which pulled us up to second overall. We never dropped out of the top three all regatta, and were becoming stronger and stronger in performance as the regatta went on.

By medal race day we were a comfortable second and five points off the Dutch team who were leading. In the medal race only the top 10 boats ranked after the series can race and the points count double. The race is also non discard able, so a good performance is essential. We needed to put two boats between us and the Dutch to win the regatta. The Dutch had an awesome start. Some of the coaches thought they were over and certainly the footage shown on Grandstand would suggest this, but they weren’t picked out by the race committee and went on to win the race. We finished second securing silver and China 1 who had continued to surprise us all finished in Bronze.

It is a fantastic result for myself and also Annie and Lucy who were a great team and a privilege to sail with. I don’t think it really sunk in until we were standing on the Podium at the closing ceremony. I really enjoyed being part of the Olympic squad and the professionalism and support of the RYA shone out above all the other countries. 'Paralympic sailor takes Silver in the Yngling class' caught the attention of the media and the one question I was constantly asked all week and still being asked now is whether I will go for the double. I am certainly tempted for 2012…….

Helena

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