Addison Lester Sailing Team Nacra Eurpoean Championships Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

May 09, 2024

Learning, improving, having fun & meeting new people…  a recipe for success!

By Kris Bilston & Addison Lester.

Last week, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete in the Nacra 15 Open European Championships for 2024, held in the Mediterranean waters of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy. The regatta, made up of 68 boats, was a chance to test ourselves in a big fleet and I think we can pretty well say that the countless on-water hours and hard work over the past year paid off and we’re both super proud of our efforts over the week.

Before the 5-day-long regatta kicked off on the 29th of April, we flew over early to set up the boat and train. We joined in with the Belgian Squad, coached by Sebbe Godefroid. For us, having never sailed in swell, this provided plenty of challenges and learning experiences, but it was so great to have the opportunity to train with sailors from different countries. 18 races were scheduled for the regatta; however the wind wasn’t playing in favour of the sailors and we managed to complete 13 races. The standard of racing was excellent, with some incredibly close racing throughout, the scorecards were always changing, meaning you were definitely “in it to win it”. Picking the best side of the course and sticking with the pressure proved to be the regattas key to success for the challenging conditions and course being set so close to a rockwall.

With a building breeze of 12-18 knots for Day 1, we had a rough first race finding our groove in the waves and finished in 13th however came back stronger with a 6th and 5th in races 2 and 3. After nearly 6 hours on the water, we finished Day 1 sitting in 13th overall.

A much earlier start to Day 2 and strong winds forecasted and this proved to be exactly our breeze as we continued to climb up the ladder, finishing with an 8th and 3rd in races 4 and 5. For the final race of the day, the wave state had gotten bigger, winds had picked up and it was a matter of keeping the boat moving and upright. We decided to race this race conservatively, yet still fast and it appeared everyone else had the same idea. Rounding the top mark in the top 3 for both laps, we were very much giving it all we had, with everything coming down to the final leg of the race. We finished in 2nd, something I think we were both very pleased with. The race committee deemed the conditions unsafe and sent us in – At the end of Day 2 we were sitting in 7th overall.

What was supposed to be an early start to racing for Day 3 and the final day of qualifiers turned into a few hours onshore under AP, waiting for the wind to fill in. The vibes were high and after a few intensive card games sure enough it was time to go racing. After nearly missing the start of race 7, we kept it simple and sent it out left. We rounded the top mark in first and held a lead for the majority of the race until we hit a wave on the final top mark rounding during the bear away and Kris went flying. Luckily, he saved himself (it made for a pretty awesome shot) and we kept racing, only loosing one place to Belgium 300, finishing in 2nd. Because of the late start we only managed to get through two races and race 8 was down to quite literally the seconds. Closely racing with Belgium 300 again meant it was all or nothing and a heads-out-the-boat kind of race. In the final moments of the race, we finished in 1st by only 2 seconds, something we, and the shore crew, were incredibly happy with. To finish the day off, Addy got to meet Ruggero Tita of the Luna Rossa America’s Cup Italian Sailing Team before a mid-week pasta dinner with all the sailors. We finished the day in 4th, qualifying us to race in Gold Fleet.

The final two days of the regatta saw a mix of highs and lows for the team. Day 4 saw incoming storms and wild winds, keeping us under AP for nearly 5 hours. Once we finally got sailing, the light winds and a hard to lay start line made for some very close competition. We finished races 9 and 10 in 12th and 7th, still very much “in it to win it” for the final day of the regatta. Day 5 presented a promising breeze, where we started our day off with a solid race and a close 2nd place finish. However, as the conditions were becoming shifty and unstable, this made racing more unpredictable. Whilst we finished races 12 and 13 off with a 9th and 23rd, we were extremely proud of our performance throughout the whole regatta.

So much was learnt and gained over what was a pretty hectic week, there were definitely some highs and lows coming off the water. We finished 5th overall and 3rd U19 team, something we are both very pleased with. The week was about learning and improving, having fun, and meeting new people and I think we did exactly that. A big thank you goes out to our sponsors and major sponsor YPM, RQYS, Sebbe for his coaching and support on water, shore crew and families, none of this would have been made possible without you.

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