The Radial Europeans was my first major event of 2009 and after finishing third in 2008 just three points off winning the event I felt it was unfinished business.

Just like last year I went to Germany first for Warnemünder Woche and won the event from a strong field which this year included the current Women’s World Champion Sarah Steyaert and also the Double Youth World Champion Gabrielle King. However the conditions were light all week so there was no opportunity to practise hiking, but we got in seven races and many starts (several black flagged) so it was all good practice.

There is always a lot of pressure on the first day of a major regatta and my aim was simply to get through the first day without scoring my discard. I had a solid start in the first race and pulled through to top three overall. I arrived at the boat park late but changed so as to avoid all the pre-championship nerves that are always floating around there!

So far so good, but in the second race I was just outside the top five going down the first run when the wind dropped and I got swept well to the left (down tide) something that was going to haunt me later. I worked hard to get back in the race, reaching to the bottom gate (the leg should have been a run) but unfortunately picked up a yellow flag. The resulting penalty turns did not cost me much ground (I have done lots of boat handling practice) but this meant another infringement would cause me to retire from the race and so I had to be extra careful for the rest of the regatta. In the end I pulled back up to eighth but this turned out to be my discard from the round robin series anyway.

Day two and I bounced back with a race win and a fourth place to keep me in contention.

Day three and the wind was now coming straight offshore. I led the first race until the final run when the wind dropped and again I ended up too far to the left downwind (due to the current). However by the finish I was less than half a boat length behind the leader, and I entered the last race with confidence and was rewarded with my second race win, which was enough to move me up to third overall.

Day four and the wind was so light no races were held so the round robin series stood and the fleet was split in half with the top half in the Gold fleet, meaning the races were now twice as hard as it was before (in the round robin both fleets are mixed ability)! Therefore I decided a conservative approach was wise as you are only allowed one discard from the final series (of Gold fleet races).

Therefore I started the first gold fleet race well down from the committee boat, to avoid any chance of an OCS and it was a while before I could tack onto the first shift. I noticed the right hand side of the course was gaining but I had to duck a few transoms to get there. I managed to scrape into a top ten position before tacking onto the layline some distance from the mark. However the wind continued further to the right and even against the current, overstanding the windward mark was fatal and I dropped to midfleet and in a fleet where everyone is fast it is very hard to catch up, so a 15th was the best I could do.

In retrospect I should have really gone for it in the next race, but again I had another conservative start and unfortunately I was crossed by those boats who started at the pin end meaning I was now well to the left of the group. Rather than duck a huge number of boats and risk the layline again I stayed to the left, but everyone to the right rounded the top mark in front meaning there were just four boats behind me, a situation I have never been in before. Needless to say this was my discard from the Gold fleet.

The final day I approached with a clean sheet (treating it like any other day and forgetting about the yellow flag and no discard hanging over my head) but I was determined to try and be consistent.

I initially led the first race until the start of the second beat when the wind built. I felt I had lots of weather helm and felt slow. I kept to the middle of the beat and hiked as hard as I could but I was passed by two boats on the left and two on the right which seemed strange. I then checked my rudder and found large amounts of weed had collected in it. I quickly stopped to remove the weed and instantly found my speed improved. I gained a place downwind and one more on the final leg to the finish to score a third.

The last race of the event, and I rounded inside the top five with a medal in sight. It was a tricky race with big gains and losses to be made. However I had good speed, but once again on the final run the wind died and I ended up massively too far to the left dropping me to tenth and off the podium. Oh for the benefit of hindsight, but in fairness from my earlier experiences I really should have kept right but it was hard to do with boats under me holding me to the left but it is always easy to know what you should have done after the event!

Although getting a “Paper medal” (finishing fourth) is always disappointing (you are the last position not allowed to stand on the podium and you don’t get a medal to take home!) I feel I have learnt from my mistakes at what was an extremely difficult regatta and although I unfortunately made the same mistakes a few times I hope not to repeat them later in the year. There were lots of good sailors who had a tough regatta and I was just one of them… My next stop is the UK National Championships in Paignton and I am aiming for a textbook regatta.