Olympic Gold Medallist Ben Ainslie relives his great win in Palma and looks ahead to 2012
Palma was a great week, a good result and also the perfect chance to test the kit and my fitness in a range of conditions.
The first day was big, (30 knots / 34 mph) it certainly blew away the cobwebs! I hadn’t sailed the Finn in those conditions for a long time, maybe even 3 years, so a 5th and 4th place was an okay start but certainly some improvements are needed in these conditions.
Some are questioning that the event might have had a different outcome if the winds had been stronger. It will be interesting to see how things go with consistently heavier conditions. Guys like Giles Scott, Ed Wright and the Finnish sailor Tapio Nirkko all showed great speed on the first day. It’s certainly an area I’m working hard on in order to make improvements with the set up of the boat.
We had pretty varied conditions for the rest of the week, 8-12 knots, which meant the free pumping rule came in to play. Palma had waves compared to flat water regattas like Miami, this meant good technique and being smart was just as important as brute strength and endurance. In terms of gauging how I’m doing in a range of conditions – it was a fantastic event.
I’ve been luckily to have my own team out in Palma for the past 3 months, working hard with my coach Sid (David Howlett) and training partner Mark (Mark Andrews) on the development of the kit and that’s certainly seen positive results. Alex (Alex Hopson – Physio and Trainer) has helped massively on the fitness, massage and keeping my body in a condition to race hard.
After the first day of racing the body was pretty sore, Alex was there to make sure I recovered for the next day. The process usually starts in the morning with light exercise and preparation stretching then after racing the same again but more of a cool down and this helps the muscles repair for the next day. You don’t get much recovery time and with the varied conditions in Palma you use different muscle groups each day.
After spending three years match racing I have had to get my head back into fleet racing and I feel the tactics and boat setup has improved and I will take confidence from the results and in particular the medal race.
It was also great to see the other Skandia Team GBR sailors doing so well, with great performances from Paul Goodison in the Laser and Iain Percy & Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson in the Star.
London 2012 is just around the corner
Just before the Palma regatta, I attended the launch of the UPS London 2012 Ambassador programme, I was asked to officially open the first London 2012 logistics centre alongside other UPS ambassadors, Denise Lewis and Steve Rider. It was great to catch up with Denise again, we go back a long way having had the same sponsor for the Sydney Olympics – where we both won Olympic gold medals.
UPS is responsible for virtually all the distribution and logistics services for the games and taking part in the launch really brought home the scale of an event like the Olympics and how in reality it’s just around the corner. With an event like sailing, there is so much equipment that needs to be transported to off-site venues like The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, it’s good to know that all these logistics are in good hands.
Next up is France and Hyeres Olympic Regatta (23 – 29 April). I’m back in the gym this week putting the weight on that you naturally lose with all the time on the water last week, then next week we will be back training hard out in Hyeres ahead of the regatta. Hyeres’s is infamous for its mistral which can last 3 days so it could make for an interesting regatta!