Nikki Boniface and I finished second overall in the Olympic Nacra 17 catamaran class at the Sailing World Cup event held in Genoa, Italy last week. The result follows on from our 4th place at the Princess Sofia Regatta in Palma, Mallorca a few weeks ago and sees us move up to #2 in the World Sailing rankings.
Summer is on the way, and everything is on track for our Olympic campaign. Back in August last year, Nikki’s sustained a shoulder injury whilst we were sailing in wild (fun) conditions in Japan – the 2020 Olympic venue.
She had a successful operation and since then she has managed to wow all the surgeons and physios with her speedy recovery. Her injury is most common among rugby players, and she recovered faster, and more completely, than the doctors had ever seen before. This is a testament to Nikki’s drive, professionalism, and personality. No wonder she is so good to sail with, and such a good friend too.
I continued training through the winter in Portugal with a stand-in crew from the British Sailing Team pathway squads. Great because it meant I could keep fresh but we also could keep the campaign developing and being innovative. Also, I spent a lot of time setting up and preparing our new boat! She is called ‘Nala’ (from the Lion King) and is a beauty. Boats are always female. I don’t know why, it is just the way it is.
We raced ‘Nala’ in February at a training regatta in Portugal. With Nikki returning to sail in the middle on January (initially for only one hour per day in sub 15 knot conditions) we were down on practice but we came away with the win, and it was a great warm up heading into the more important spring regattas.
We spent most of March in Palma de Mallorca training and preparing for the 50th Anniversary Princess Sofia Trophy with was held at the beginning of April. In the warm-up regatta we came away with second overall in a strong fleet, and we finished 4th out of 60 boats in the main regatta.
This was a great result for us and a real confidence boost. However, we did get beaten by a few people we would like to beat, and we came close to a medal. We have to come back stronger at the European Championships in May. We were a little rusty racing in big fleets as we missed the big winter events in Sailing World Cup events in Miami and Japan, but we are proud of how we coped.
Towards the end of April we moved on from Palma to Italy for the Sailing World Cup – Genoa with the aim of getting more racing practice. The wind rarely exceeded 10 knots and we led the event until the Medal Race on the final day. Unfortunately, one poor decision, resulting in us sailing slowly through wake from a fishing boat, meant that we missed out on gold by one point. This was a big disappointment at the time, but we’re still delighted to have won the silver medal – it shows that we’re on the right track.
So, next it’s off to Weymouth for the Volvo-sponsored European Championships where we’ll be looking for another good result before heading off to Japan for more training.
Away from the Nacra 17, I’ll be doing some J70 sailing with Paul Ward on ‘Eat, Sleep, J, Repeat’ including the Europeans at Lake Garda, and then sailing with family on our ‘new’ Contessa 26 ‘Coco of Parkstone’ for Cowes Classics Week, so there’s plenty to look forward to this summer!”
The support of our sponsors continues to be crucial to our campaign, so thanks to you all for your help:
MMWealth – Chartered Financial Planners
ILoveMeetandGreet – airport parking in the UK
Harken - sailboat hardware
Marlow - ropes
UK Sport and the National Lottery
You can follow my campaign on Facebook at ‘Ben Saxton Sailing’, on Twitter at @bensaxton and on Instagram at ‘saxton-ben’.