I first really started sailing Lasers (Standard rig – the Radial fleet was very small and non-existent at Qualifiers at this stage) in 1993 and made it into the Youth Squad in 1994. I remember excitedly waiting for my letter from Jim Saltonstall, and it was somewhat of a surprise to get it as I spent most of the windy races upside down being relatively new to the class, but fortunately I had some top three finishes in the lighter races of Youth training.
In 1995, my final year as a Youth, I came second in the Youth Nationals in Largs and was Ben Ainslie’s training partner for the Youth Worlds that year. It is probably worth mentioning that Paul Goodison was third and Edward Wright was fourth, so it was certainly a tough year!
In 1995 I also went to Loughborough University where I studied Chemical Engineering for five years. I was also a sports scholar there. However once I reached 21, weighing still around 65 kgs, I realised I was never going to be big enough to sail the Standard rig successfully at international level. I changed to the Radial rig which I have sailed ever since.
Upon graduating from University in 2000 I was a training partner for Shirley Robertson who won gold in the Women’s Single handed class in the Sydney Olympics (at the time the class was the Europe) proving I am pretty much the perfect weight to sail a single handed boat… if I were a woman!
I have been a professional sailor/coach since 2000. After campaigning the Laser I changed to the 49er where I could sail with a larger crew to make up for being a short arse. Unfortunately I had to stop campaigning the 49er in 2007 when I suffered two prolapsed discs in my neck and had to take seven months off for the discs to be removed and the three vertebrae fused. After this my plan was to race the Olympic Catamaran, the Tornado. However unfortunately this has been removed from the Olympics classes so I am not sure what I will campaign for 2012. During all this time I have continued actively to race the Radial.
I first started coaching in 1995 to help fund my degree, and I have now been a full time coach for nearly ten years so it seemed natural for me to take on the role of the training officer for the UKLA. I have certainly seen more Lasers racing over the past few years than I care to mention. In addition I have also completed in pretty much every Europa cup and Eurolymp event so I am always more than happy to answer questions from people who want to improve their sailing either through training or going to new regattas. This applies equally to those brand new to the class or those who have raced Lasers for many years and just want to be as good as they can be.