Thank you to the BYC Maritime Foundation for sponsoring me to help make it possible for me to to achieve one of my biggest dreams, competing in the ILCA Youth Worlds! I am so incredibly grateful that I was one of the lucky few to be able to travel halfway across the world to Greece to compete with 150 girls from all over the world in the ILCA 4 class. Being able to experience my first Worlds ever with such an incredible group and coaches was truly special. Because of my special opportunity to go to Worlds, I have made connections all over the world with kids around my age. I was immersed in a very diverse experience.
In volos I experienced the cultures of so many countries, and I heard languages I had never heard before. I experienced how competitors from all over the world race. I gained so much from this regatta in my overall boat handling and tactics. I experienced my biggest fleet races ever and learned how to race and start with such a large fleet.
The connections I have made from this regatta are incredibly special to me. Due to light winds and waiting for building sea-breeze, we found ourselves with a ton of free time on our hands. Going up to kids from around the world was a little intimidating at first, but it was definitely worth it. My team and I met kids from Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Italy, GBR, Ireland, Spain, Angola, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macedonia, and so many other places. An event that really resonated with me was learning about life in different countries from kids around my age’s perspective. I always wonder about how people grow up all over the world and hearing about it from firsthand experiences was too cool to even describe. Hearing their accents was also very cool. Some interesting things I remember learning were from a couple of kids in Finland who shared about how they do ice skating for PE outside in the lake behind their school in winter and how cold it gets! Another cool connection was with a girl named Kate who lives in New Zealand, whom my coach used to instruct when she lived there. I traded a shirt for a super cool hat that has the New Zealand fern leaf emblem on it on the last day when we were AP’ed the whole day. During the AP, I also traded for a Team Italia shirt which I really wanted! These are definitely my most prized possessions. Another cool event was getting to know Team USA. I recognized most faces from previous regattas, but getting to know them personally was super cool too. Team USA consisted of kids from all over the Country; South Carolina, Florida, Washington, and Texas, just to name a few.
The conditions in Volos were what many would describe as nothing they had ever seen before; very atypical. The majority of the days were light, meaning we were AP’ed for about two hours in the morning, and when we finally got out we had to wait until the race committee was sure the breeze was in. Every day the wind came from a completely different angle, alluding to the fact that the front was coming in from the East. I recall racing and for about two minutes there was a solid breeze of 20+ knots, then shortly after it would shut off 15 knots and shift about 40 degrees. On the downwind at one point the wind angle swsitched so far we were on a tight reach. These conditions proved to be quite tactical, as my coach called it, sabot racing x1000 due to the range of wind and crazy shifts. Despite the odd conditions, I ended up having one of my best races that day, rounding both times in top 10 of about 75. Sadly, while we were competing, Greece was facing record breaking temperatures in a heat wave named “Cerberus,” as well as raging wildfires right near us. On the third to last day of the event, the fires really picked up. I remember the AP was up, and my friends and I were sitting in a shady spot right near the boat launch area. It was the hottest day of the year, with the average temperature that day of about 108 degrees. There was rumoured to be a large front coming through, but the glassy flat waters we were looking at showed no sign of wind. All of the sudden, a small dust devil spun around though the drt of the outside shaded area. In that moment, something just clicked inside everyones head. The front was coming. Sails started flapping and everyone got up and started sprinting to their boats. Everyone was yelling, and we all felt it, the air got at least 10 degrees hotter. It was an oven. Everyone ran to take their rigs down to protect their precious sails. I dont even need to question the fact if everyone felt the adrenaline pumping through their veins when we ran out to the waters edge and saw the front line coming through. The completely flat water transitioned to what looked like rapids. Sand from beaches across the way was pluming up making the front look even more aggressive. The smoke in the distance plumed up and multiple other fires started everywhere. The front reached the boat yard within minutes and by then it was complete chaos. The smoke stench was very strong and the outside temperature reached a peat of 123.7 degrees which is just absolutely mindblowing. Everyone had a huge grin on their face and many people were recording the chaos. Many were saying “let’s sail!!”, but deep down we all knew that it would go terribly, considering the wind speed and the heat… not a good combination for physical performance. The wind was on average about 45 knots. A tent that we were standing by began to come unrooted from the ground, so everyone got on others shoulders to take the tarp down so it wouldnt fly over into our boats. The coaches scrambled to move the coach boats from hitting the rocks. It was so hot that me an many others got in the water. At this point we did not realise how dangerous the temperature outside was, and decided to swim out past a couple rocks to feel the sheer power of the wind and waves out there. It was certainly unforgettable. The wind felt like an actual hairdryer. I have never experience such heat. Our coach got us out of the water and told us how dangerous it was to be outside in the heat and smoke, so we all went inside to a sheltered area where we realised how dehydrated we were. On that day, I realised how easy it is to be unaware about the effects of heat sickness. When we were running out to the cars to get out of the heat and smoke, we saw multiple kids on stretchers being loaded into ambulances. Water planes were diving into the ocean and picking up water to dump on the fires, so in addition to yelling, the sound of the wind, the heat, sirens, smoke, and so much more, the sound of the planes diving so close to us made the whole situation very overwhelming. The coaches were asked to go over in their coach boats to the other side of the gulf to a town that the fire had reached the beach so they could go save residents. When we got got back to the Airbnb, we felt multiple explosions like bombs which scared us really badly. We later found out the fire had reached a NATO base with explosives and missiles which ended up exploding from the heat. We felt the sonic boom go through our bodies it felt like. It was an eye opening experience and it was certainly sad to think about the losses that day that families has to face. My team and I team tell each other now about the stories we will be able to tell about this day for the rest of our lives.
Racing in such a large fleet definitely was challenging. Everyone at the event wasskilled and brought tough competition to the table. The first days of qualifying for sure had varying results. I learned the hard way that in such big starts, if the Committee see more than a few boats over in a black flag, if there is a group near the boats they saw over, they will call the whole group over even if some of the group were not over. I unfortunately was down the line a handful of boat lengths from group, causing me to be black flagged. It was definetly a challenging mental day, and I had to remind my self not to let my emotions get to me, but rather talk to my coach about what happened and reflect on how I can improve, as well as my plan for the next start and race. I found this to be a common theme throughout the regatta, especially due to the light wind most of the time. I had to persevere through the distracting thoughts and keep my head in the game.
Going to Greece would not have been possible without the funding I was very generously granted. I truly thank the foundation for this opportunity and this dream I was able to fufill. I gained so much knowledge from racing in such a big fleet and I am enthusiastic about furthering my sailing career with my new knowledge and skill that I have developed at worlds. Additionally I experience so many diverse cultures and met so many amazing and talented sailors from all over the world. I am so grateful that I was able to experience many eye opening events into the world of sailing, but as well as knowledge in the world. I learned about how kids my age sail and go to school all over the world, and I learned so many valuable lesson on this trip, I am so extremely thankful for the funding that allowed me to experience this.
My sincerest of thank you to the BYC Maritime foundation!