Former All Hallows Student represents UK in New Zealand Sailing event.

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The first thing about New Zealand was that it is way further than we expected; after the first 11-hour flight and 4-hour layover in Hong Kong we felt like we should nearly be there and we still had another 12-hour flight to go. Watching the sun rise and set twice from a plane seat in one trip is a little disorientating. We arrived at 7am New Zealand time and checked into our accommodation and walked into the nearby town for some lunch. Unfortunately, soon after landing both Emily and I came down with a vomiting bug which took us out for a few days so we had to miss some of the pre-event exploration of Auckland, a volcano walk and a bit of training in single handed dinghies in Takapuna. In some ways, however it was an advantage as it made the event feel much like a normal one; and the room service that our coaches provided to us while we were stuck in quarantine was a bonus too!

The actual event opened 3 days after we landed, by which time we had fully recovered and couldn’t wait to get out on the water. Our boats were allocated the day before the event for us to rig and adjust to our personal preferences and then we finally got a chance to hit the water. Compared to the winter training in the UK that we’ve been doing in the last few months, the blue water, bright sunshine and 25 degrees was amazing. After a few practice runs and manoeuvres we felt happy with our preparations and speed and came ashore to get ready for the start of racing the following afternoon.

The boys raced in the morning and came in having had one entire lap of their race completed in a consistent 30 knots so we knew it was going to be an intense day physically and mentally against the best girls in the world. We arrived at the race course, had a quick discussion with our coach and then started our pre-start routine. The nerves were gone as soon as the start gun went and we could just do what we’d practiced for; try and sail two laps of a course faster than any other boat. We executed everything we’d learnt and by the end of the day we were leading the event having put in a score line of 1, 1, 2 and winning the first two races by 3 minutes. It couldn’t have been a much better start to the event and we were pleased to have demonstrated that we could sail well enough to win races and lead the event. Unfortunately, the following day was tough and we couldn’t quite get to grips with the tricky conditions as well as we would have hoped and we put in one too many high scores for a one discard event. Following this though we held our nerve and put in 3 more days of good racing in mixed conditions and we’re very happy with how we competed and feel we did ourselves, and everyone who supports us, proud by finishing in 5th place in one of the best events we’ve ever had the opportunity to compete in.

Being part of a team that did so well also made us incredibly proud; Emma Wilson the GBR windsurfer and Tommy and Crispin the 29er boys came away with gold medals and Team GBR came away a very close second in the Nations Cup which is the best result we’ve had in a long time. It was amazing to be a part of their, and our teams, success. Not many people our age can say that they’ve sat at a prize giving with people from 65 different countries in it and the learning, friends and experiences we’ve come away from the event with is something that we’ll always look back on with pride and take with us into the next stage of our journey.

Hannah Bristow