So recently I’ve been sunning it up in Antigua through a chance meeting of a friend of mine on Twitter and the amazing racing team, the Sirens. They’re an entirely female Solent based yacht racing team, with the aim of not only getting women on the water, but competing at the same level as the mainly male teams on the circuit.
They offered me the chance to travel with them to Antigua to race in Sailing week onboard a Beneteau 40.7 as their tactician.
Now normally I wouldn’t consider myself even good enough to step onboard a boat like this with a team of this nature, I just really don’t believe in myself I guess, but something in me recently has made me slightly braver.
So I found myself rushing from Hyeres and the World Cup Regatta and hopping straight on a plane and flying (in a rather rockstyle manner) to Antigua to join the girls at Antigua Sailing Week.
I’d spent one day training with the girls on the Solent prior to Antigua, but I hadn’t met the entire crew, and being fully honest with myself, my tactical calls are not something that I’m that confident in. This was going to be a huge step for me, to jump onto a racing boat with a crew that I’ve not really met, to do a job that is pretty pressurised… Well here goes!!
We had an awesome regatta, and from day 1 racing with the girls, I felt comfortable and above all, I felt supported and valued on the boat. My confidence was growing…
When I first stepped onto the boat, I remember getting all the girls on deck and talking to them about how I like to run a happy boat, how it’s always a team effort and that I would welcome feedback.
My role as tactician wasn’t quite what I expected and it was massively different to the Sonar; firstly I had an iPad giving me bearings and distances to the racing marks- a huge luxury! Secondly, I was having to make decisions a lot more advanced of any manoeuvres due to the number of people on the boat, as well as the added complications of the sheer size of it!
I was making decisions, talking them through with Sue on the helm and also just trying to be really positive – after all the girls were all fantastic and the effort and just general atmosphere on the boat was quite simply awesome!
The girls believe in each other as a team and everyone just supports everyone as they go along, there’s quite simply no egos onboard.
One thing that really stood out to me was how confident they all were in themselves. We would launch for the day and everyone would be in their bikinis or sports bras just enjoying the sun. For me this was a huge deal, as I’ve spent many years quite simply hating my body, but here there was no judgement, in fact quite the opposite. The compliments and the support was overwhelming, and it really allowed me to come out of my shell and I did even start loosing the clothes!!
In the end we finished a really credible 7th overall in a hugely competitive racing fleet; an achievement that I’m sure all of the team are really proud of.
Looking back, my time in Antigua really opened my eyes and allowed me to gain some hugely valuable experience and thinking time. I’ve learnt that I’m way too critical of myself and I need to give myself a break from time to time.
Being self-critical all the time is really draining and at the end of the day, I’m a human being, and I will make mistakes, it’s how I move on that really matters.
I also just had a huge amount of fun and I started to feel a bit more of that “balance” I’ve talked about before, it’s ok to go out and dance the night away with the girls and to lie on a beach the next day, I work bloody hard on my campaign to win a gold medal in Rio and rewards are all part of that journey to the podium.
Finally I learnt about appreciation and value… I came away feeling so positive, supported and valued, and I have all of the girls to thank for that.
So I guess you can say I’m once again finding my feet, and I can now say without a doubt that I really am a Siren.