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Annie Lush sailing on Einstein at Kiel Week 2019

by Kiel Week 24 Jun 2019 15:19 BST 22-30 June 2019
Annie Lush christens 'Einstein' © Kiel Week / Sascha Klahn

"I hope to make it right and bring the boat on a good course", says Annie Lush smiling. It is a great honour for the British sailor, who is living in Mallorca, to baptise the Open 60 with the name "Einstein". It was an early prelude of the 125th Kiel Week. The four-time World Champion, Olympic sailor and two-time participant in the Ocean Race is part of the Offshore Team Germany Ocean Race campaign for 2021/22.

Skipper Robert Stanjek has known the 39-year old for years already. When the two sailors both participated at the Olympics 2012 in London - each one in his/her discipline (Stanjek: Star, Lush: Match Racing) and were sitting together ashore, they already had the idea about the Ocean Race campaign. "It is brilliant to sail with Robert," said Annie Lush happily. "It is so hard to realise a campaign. You do not just bring the boat into the water and sail. It is so much work over the years," so she appreciates Robert Stanjek's commitment. Seven years later the idea has become reality for the German Olympic participants.

For the British sailor living in Mallorca the world race has been already reality for years. "It has been my next goal after the Olympics Games", explains Annie Lush her change to offshore sailing. 2014/15 she started with the team "SCA", the first all women's team, that has won a stage. 2017/18 she sailed on "Brunel". Now she is addicted to offshore sailing. The Match Race lasted twelve minutes, a stage at the Ocean Race for weeks. "You have to perform on the same high level - over the whole time." And it also fascinates her, that the offshore regatta is a team challenge, which does not exist like this in any other sport. The big pressure is a burden for the team over months, which is challenging and tough. That's appealing to Annie Lush.

In her first Ocean Race she was among women only, in the second one, there were two women among seven men and now she will be alone. Does this make a difference? "There is stronger smell under deck", she says laughing. But the real difference is not the gender, but more the type of previous experience. "Sailing is sailing. More or less experience and the sailing background make the difference."

An Olympic campaign lasts over approximately five years. But after each race day you have a bath, solid ground under your feet, and the family is there. "In the Ocean Race there is no email, no mobile, nothing. The focus is solely on making the boat as fast as possible. Everyone loving the competition wants to be faster."

Nine months of racing mean nine months to make the team perfect and get everything out of the boat. The women's crew from 2014 did become a committed team in the end, Annie Lush is looking back. They are still in touch with each other today. "The harder the work, the greater the success."

Fun and frustration are sometimes close together. When the wind forces you to deal with the dead calm for days, when something breaks or tears or suddenly in the close fleet the distance to the leading boat is only a few miles, it feels like scratching with your fingernails on a blackboard, explains Annie Lush the unpleasant feeling. But she is also good in those wind windows, where the boat is only moving slowly. She accepts the challenge to fight for every millimetre, to continue optimizing, even if nothing seems to happen. "Everyone can do with speed. But get a millimetre from nothing, that is a great challenge."

But despite all the experience there are also moments, where she does not feel fully comfortable. There are the dark moments, in meter-high waves, in the middle of night, without moon, with overcast skies, when no natural light brings any brightness into the black of the stormy night. "You don't see the waves, but you hear them in your back." When they hit the boat from the side, you could warn the other crew members in advance during daylight. In the complete darkness that is impossible.

Whether in the calm or the storm, the bodies of sailors are under permanent tension. After 20 days on board there are no fresh vitamins anymore, the body is haggard from not enough sleep and sometimes not enough food. "Be as fit as possible", is the motto of Annie Lush for the preparation. "You need to have a strong core not to injure yourself." Thus the whole crew will go to the gym. "To train together is the best. You get to know each other well and you learn, in which way each person can be best pushed." In the moments, where you are so tired, that you hardly know yourself anymore, it is important to watch each other.

On Saturday evening, the "Einstein" is celebrating her regatta premiere at the Welcome Race at the Kiel Week from Kiel to Eckernfoerde. Sailing is just an amazing sport offering so many different opportunities. And she makes use of them. "I love all of them - no matter, if it is a fast or a slow boat", she says looking at the Yngling. If she could just sail with that right now, she would be happy. Next week she will be in Sweden to sail a Match Race. She takes a lot from Match Race sailing to the offshore campaign, she says. "There are many manoeuvres, you have to think fast and react." She gives that advice also to the young sailors: "Sail everything and with everyone. You love it more, if you do different things."

The conditions are always different and suddenly you find yourself in an unusual situation. "You learn something new every day", the 39-year old is enthusiastic. She is learning from different people, from different nations and boats. "You can also learn something from a 17- or 20-year old, and that is great."

The start of the German Ocean Race campaign was at the 125th Kiel Week, the goal is the race 2021/22 around the world, true to the motto: "From Kiel to the world." And the Kiel Sailing City is hoping to be a stopover harbour. The dates will be published in the late summer.

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