2020 feels like the longest year in the world with not little to show in terms of results, apart from the important hot chocolate regatta within our squad.
Reflecting on the past year, it feels like we can split it very easily into three parts.
Pre-lockdown, so January to March, we had a few training camps in Vilamoura with our teammates Meg and Steph, in 4-12 knots, apart from one day where we managed to get some wind and waves! We came on massively in these conditions and felt cheated that we were not able to put our speed gains we made onto a racecourse but in the grand scheme of things, this was a little loss! With the pandemic concerns growing and all our events cancelled, we came back to the UK and waited for the next instruction.
Lockdown was announced and at first, we both felt lost with everything going on. We were gutted that our events were cancelled and clung onto the hope that a Europeans in May would still happen. As you can imagine, it did not. After a week of moping and not knowing what to do, we both got part-time jobs to use our time effectively. Aside from sailing, we both coach to help gain income to fund our campaign and amidst the pandemic, this was also cancelled. Alice worked in Tesco part-time and Bella worked for the NHS cleaning. These were different jobs than we have been used to, especially as they involved being inside. They added sanity to the weird times though and we met new people and kept a routine going and security on our finances.
When we were not working, we both picked up cycling and embarked on a serious Strava-fuelled cycling campaign! This was a fun and competitive way to catch a break outside from our studies and learn to improve in something that was not water related. Both of us had our university studies to get on with, including exams for Bella, which originally clashed with our Europeans. That was one stress we were concerned about but luckily, she was able to complete them in a non-racing environment and aced her first year with a first! Alice battled on with her masters and now only has her dissertation left before graduating in April 2021.
June 1st we were allowed back on the water, but we were not allowed to stay overnight anywhere. This meant we commuted on ad-hoc days to see each other and sail but could not commit to a full training programme till the middle of June due to long commutes. When we finally were able to stay overnight, we committed to a 3 week on, 1 week off programme throughout the summer all the way to September. The gains we made were impressive and we are so pleased with how far we have come. Racing is the most exciting bit about our sport, but it made us appreciate the gains we could make if we were uninterrupted for a long period to make other improvements. It has been a challenge not having results to track our progression, but we learnt how to use other factors to gauge where we are at.
September came about and a Europeans were announced for us which was exciting. However, we had the issue of Austria, the host destination, as a red country. We had to weigh up whether the rewards were better than the risk and how a 2-week quarantine would affect our lives at home. In the end, we decided not to go as we had university and other plans that we felt the risk was too much. Although it was gutting we missed out on the opportunity to race with some of the best in the world, we are glad we made a sensible united decision.
We got back in the boat middle of October for our rankers and all-team camp to find out that they were cancelled as well, and the team-camp was moved online! We also planned to leave beginning of November to go abroad but Lockdown 2.0 halted our plans and we had to sit tight. Luckily, we fit underneath the elite exemption which meant we were able to continue training throughout November which was extremely lucky. What seemed like a bad thing, suddenly became a good thing and we were able to get lots of days training on the water with our squad, chasing daylight and getting cold! In hindsight, if we had gone abroad, we would have got less days due to flying and university, so the Weymouth training benefitted our campaign immensely and we missed no days for weather.
At the end of November, we tried to leave again. Then that was postponed. Then we were told we had to leave before the end of the year due to Brexit. So, the rush was on to get the boats out. We had a ferry booked for the 29th December but then we thought about going earlier when the borders started to shut. We nearly made it but were a few hours out so had to once again sit tight. We then decided to postpone the decision altogether and we are planning to leave end of January to head to either Lanzarote or Vilamoura, depending on where the fleets are and where we can get to!
Despite the challenges, we have had a great year sailing and improving as a team and we are excited to put our skills onto the racetrack and feel like we have grown a lot as a team and individually. We were also able to focus on other areas of our campaign and secured the partnership with Racecarmarine who designed our awesome website. They help us stay out the on the water and help us in the areas of technology we lack in to keep everyone updated with our sailing. We also formed a partnership with Gurit who offer their support through their products which mean we can repair any breakages we might have and offer great advice on this. Their information can be found underneath our partners section on our website.
We have two big outcome regattas next year: our Europeans in May and our Worlds in Oman. We are going to push hard for both and make sure we can do our best. We are also looking to buy another boat to send to our Worlds in Oman in November. Any support would be appreciated!
Team Mastfell would like to wish you a happy new year and watch this space for the coming year!