The day after his final exam in June, Sixth Form student James Grummet flew out to Germany to compete in the Kieler Woche sailing regatta. With racing starting the following morning there was no time for training at the venue. Despite not having sailed for 12 weeks during the run up to exams, James and his partner Dan were quick to recover from early mistakes and were pleased to qualify for their first ever senior Gold fleet in a 49er (a two-handed, high-performance sailing boat). A further 3 days racing saw them finish the week in 23rd place overall, in a fleet of 69 boats.
Returning for a final week of school, James then headed to Weymouth for a 3-week training camp before packing the boats and taking them back to Kiel for the European 49er Championship. The event promised to be much tougher than the previous week in Kiel, as the fleet expanded to 94 boats with the world’s top professional 49er sailors arriving for the premier events of the summer. After a difficult qualifying series, James and Dan just missed out on Silver fleet but then carried on to win Bronze fleet with a comfortable margin of 22 points.
As most of their team members flew home for a few days rest, James and Dan began a 3-day, 1600-mile road trip to compete in the Junior European 49er Championship in Galicia. This is limited to sailors who are under 23 years old, and was highlighted as their target event when they began their 49er sailing back in August 2016. With the experience of the two Kiel events behind them, they were pleased to come away in second place with the Silver Medal, losing out on count back (the sailing equivalent of goal difference) to their British Sailing Team training partners who took the Gold Medal.
A short trip along the coast saw the junior teams join up again with the seniors in Porto to prepare for the World Championship, arriving just in time for ‘A’-Level Results Day.
After a few days training and a couple of days rest, the first day of the World Championship arrived but lacked one sailing essential – wind! Day 2 was similar, with day 3 seeing the first races completed in light winds. Day 4 saw much stronger breeze and an Atlantic swell that continued to build through the day. Despite sailing the last two races of the day with a huge hole in their sail, James and Dan built on what they had learnt at the Europeans to post solid results and qualify in the Silver fleet. With winds building, day 5 saw the fleets sail out to the race course only to be sent back in again. Conditions had become unsafe with winds of 30+ knots and a 2 metre swell, and the focus switched quickly from racing to recovering 150 boats in a small space in high winds while avoiding injuries and damage. As the fog lifted on the final day, the fleets launched again hoping for better conditions.
After 4 good races on the final day James and Dan were pleased to finish 48th at their first 49er World Championship, in a fleet dominated by full-time professional and Olympic sailors. Over the summer their World Ranking has improved from 99 to 61, and they are now looking forward to another winter of training camps as they prepare to build on their success over the year ahead.