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Interview with Team Allen's Megan Pascoe

by Mark Jardine on 3 Apr 3 April 2017
Team Allen's Megan Pascoe (right) with Allen Brothers MD Liz Adams © Mark Jardine / YachtsandYachting.com

We recently spoke with Team Allen's Megan Pascoe, the reigning 2.4mR World and European Champion, about the diverse 2017 season she has lined up, having the support of Allen Brothers, Paralympic sailing, and the steps that are being taken to increase participation in the sport.

Mark Jardine: How are your preparations going for the 2017 2.4mR World Championship?

Megan Pascoe: It's still very early on in the season and, now I've gone back to my amateur sailing, I need to work a bit longer and get less time on the water. I'm really excited about the Worlds. Last year was amazing, but this year we're going to have a packed fleet with over 60 boats entered already, multiple world champions racing, so it's going to be difficult. We also have lots of new sailors joining the fleet and a strong contingent of German and Dutch sailors who will be tough to beat.

Sneekermeer in The Netherlands is a small lake so we're going to be sailing in flights, so there are always challenges, and if I come out with a top six then I'll be very happy. Winning the trophy last year was spectacular. To beat the guy who won the Silver medal at Rio 2016, on his home water as well, was a 'that'll do' moment! It was the culmination of a British Sailing Team career which has lasted 13 years and to have that at the end of it was a credit to the team and a credit to myself really.

Mark: You've always been a strong supporter of UK events in the 2.4mR class, competing up and down the country, especially at Frensham where you've won a trophy eight years in a row. Why do you believe this is important?

Megan: I feel it's very important to sail within the UK fleet as the only way of getting better is to sail with and against different people. If we don't have a strong UK fleet it's actually quite depressing as I want to go sailing every weekend and I want to sail against good guys; so if I can help build the UK fleet up then we have a good base to work from and it will continue to build in the future. They've also become like family to me; the 2.4mR fleet is relatively 'mature' and I've grown up with them since I was 13, and they're just great guys and good friends of mine. We've got some great venues to go to this year and now I'm sailing at Frensham permanently it's going to be quite scary if I don't win!

Mark: You mentioned some of the great venues you have lined up in the 2017 UK 2.4mR Circuit, with varied types of sailing. Could you tell us a bit about the schedule?

Megan: We're starting at Foy down in Cornwall, which is a new venue for us and will be our Tidal Nationals. That's going to be exciting because it's a bit of river sailing: we might make it outside but we don't sail that fast and we might get sucked out by the tide so we'll see. Everyone's looking forward to the Bank Holiday for that; we all stay in one house together. Then we're at Frensham after that and we always have a big curry as a group and a few beers; puddle sailing makes it very challenging. Then we're all off to the Worlds. We have between 10 - 15 British helms going to Holland which is spectacular.

Then we hit Tewkesbury Cruising & Sailing Club, which is bizarre as it's only a 30 foot wide stretch of water. As many of our sailors will attest you can end up in the reeds quite easily! It's the closest I've come to losing an Open Meeting in a while as it's technically very challenging to tack that many times and work out where to tack. It's a lovely little sailing club.

Then we're off to Rutland. The club are very good to us and welcome us with open arms even though they're a huge club and we're a small class with relatively small numbers compared to what they're used to. Hopefully the RYA Multiclass Event will happen there as well so we can keep pushing disabled racing in the UK. Our able-bodied sailors come to that as well, showing that the two can integrate very easily. We then go to Norfolk in September, where we have a fleet at Norfolk Broads Yacht Club. Again it provides very tricky sailing; one of our sailors stopped a metre from the finish line as they ran aground! It's again a very nice yacht club and is very friendly.

Mark: What does the support of Team Allen mean to you and to your sailing?

Megan: It's been a bit strange as since I left the British Sailing Team in September I didn't have stickers all over my boat! It's interesting working with a British supplier, where I can go to them and say, "Look, I've got a problem with this block, can we try and sort this out?" and they're designing a kicker fitting now which the rest of the fleet will end up using as well. It's a really friendly atmosphere and it's a British product that Britain can be very, very proud of. The brand has a long history and a lot of top sailors use their kit.

Mark: So you find the team at Allen receptive when you say, "Actually, what I really need is a block that does this," they take a look and see if they can design something for you?

Megan: We're obviously in the very early days of the partnership, but I brought along my kicker system to the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show and said, "I need one of these," and they said, "Yes, we can do that." They know it'll work for them in the market and it's nice to have a personal relationship where you know they'll develop products that the sailors actually want.

Mark: As you've mentioned, you've left the British Sailing Team and Paralympic Sailing is out of Tokyo 2020. What is being done behind the scenes to get sailing reinstated in the Paralympics?

Megan: World Sailing is working hard at it. I'm on the Disabled Sailing Committee at World Sailing and it's proving a good avenue to get things done and get World Sailing actually communicating with the sailors, which is what we've struggled with before. The sailors want to help, but we're not entirely sure how to help. Hopefully through my partnership with them we can get some answers out of them.

I'm not going to be a hypocrite about it as I'm not going to the Para Worlds this year - it's too close to the Open Worlds - and I'd say I have more allegiance to the 2.4mR class as a whole than I do to Paralympic Sailing, and I'm not going to Hyeres as I don't really like it there, and now that I work I'm trying to use my holiday time on what I want to do: I'd rather do something like the Merlin Rocket Nationals.

The good thing about the RYA as an organisation is that they're the first national governing body that's come out and said, "This is what we're doing to support international disabled sailing." They're still giving grants to sailors and helping emerging nations, together with World Sailing, to get people to the events.

Mark: Do you think the new structure at World Sailing is more receptive, and do you think they have a better chance of getting Paralympic sailing reinstated?

Megan: Being integrated into World Sailing, and not being separate like we were before, has to be better. It has to be more professional and I don't think we'd be in this mess if we had been integrated earlier. We have to admit that sailing isn't a worldwide sport at the same level as athletics - we're still actually a small sport, especially in the disabled world - but I'm hoping from the legacy of the last 16 years, we can build racing in the UK and help to build that worldwide. Not everybody wants to go racing, but if we can build participation, then hopefully we can have sailors who are good enough to compete in the 2024 Paralympics if we are reinstated. With the new head of RYA Sailability change is afoot, and Sport England is also coming on board to help, and if we can push more people towards the sport then it has to be good for the future.

Mark: Best of luck in retaining your title at the World Championship, and retaining your trophy at Frensham Pond which you've held for eight years, and enjoy the diverse venues you've got lined up for the 2017 season!

Megan: Thank you!

Allen Brothers celebrated 60 years of high quality British design and manufacture this year. The company is based in Essex and prides itself on being run by sailors for sailors. To find out more about Team Allen, go to www.allensail.com

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