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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

ITCA (GBR) Invitation Coaching at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy

by Mike Powell 8 Jul 16:39 BST 6-7 July 2024
The ITCA (GBR) Invitational Sailors Startline Action © Helena Lucas

The GBR Class Association for Toppers (ITCA-GBR) recently organised an Invitational Coaching Event at Weymouth and Portland Sailing Academy on 6th/7th July where we had a group of very enthusiastic Topper sailors from across the country in attendance looking to develop their racing skills ahead of the World and Nationals events that are coming up in the next couple of months.

This is the third Invitational Coaching event of the year, where Sailors are invited to attend these training events based upon their recent results in the ITCA GBR National Series. This is a great opportunity for the sailors to train with others who they are regularly racing with at these events.

The association arranged for 3 amazing coaches, these being the very experienced Gold Medalist Helena Lucas MBE taking the lead, supported by Topper World Champion coach Steve Irish and 470 Helm, Millie Irish. Additionally, as an added extra, we had Nathan Bickle, a sports psychologist from Chichester University in attendance. Nathan volunteered to be with us all weekend to discuss sports preparation and resilience with the all of sailors.

Head coach, Helena Lucas had formulated an exciting plan for the sailors that would me a mix of working in the harbour and going out into Weymouth bay. This was sent to all the sailors with pre-work so they would be fully prepared for what the weekend would entail.

The forecast for the weekend was for it to be a strong Westerly breeze on Saturday, dropping slightly on Sunday. When Saturday arrived, the direction was forecasted correctly however the wind over delivered considerably resulting in a change of plan. Saturday morning would be in the classroom with sailors going through the sailing technical details along with Nathan taking the group through some very interesting Sports Psychology concentrating on focus and dealing with the pressures that sport can bring.

With the wind dropping slightly, whilst still very breezy, the sailors launched straight after lunch for a strong session in the harbour which would consist of close quarter boat handing with Windward Leeward races. The coaches set tight start lines so it meant that the sailors really had to think quickly about their sailing priorities and strategy for starting.

Onto Sunday and the wind had dropped a little, this enabled the coaches to work more closely with their plan and go out into Weymouth Bay and split off into their respective groups. Phase 1 of the training was downwind speed work, working the boat on waves as much as possible, for some of the sailors this was the first time they had experienced this and they absolutely loved it!

Speed work upwind was next, heading back towards the harbour entrance and enroute completing the first of 3 planned Mini races where the sailors could put in place some of their wave techniques in a boat on boat situation.

Once reaching the harbour, after completing a massive upwind training session, the coaches set about running 2 further races inside the harbour in different areas, so the sailors got to experience the changeable conditions. All of this resulted in the sailors having an amazing training session, learning and developing their sailing skills with the coaches maximising the time on the water in stunning conditions.

At the end of the second day, it was back into the training room for the coaches to give a debrief of the weekend and present the Topper prizes, not just to the sailors who won the mini race series, but also to the sailors throughout the group who showed such focus, determination and resilience during the weekend. All of these prizes were very kindly donated by Russ Dent of Topper International. Thanks Russ!

The enthusiasm showed by the sailors was amazing all weekend, they had a great time working with the coaches and their energy levels remain high and focus continued right until the end of the 2nd day.

A special thanks to all our coaches and volunteer parents/guardians who really made the weekend so much fun and full of learning.

With the Topper ITCA (GBR) National Series 2023-2024 now completed a number of the sailors are travelling to Spain for the World Championships in Mar Menor in Spain, then back to the UK at WPNSA for the ITCA GBR Nationals in August.

The 2024/2025 National Series starts again in October with NS1 at Carsington SC on 28th/29th September 2024, look out for entry opening soon on the ITCA Website (www.itca-gbr.co.uk/calendar). Topper Sailors will be keen to do as well as they can to put themselves in a position to receive an invite to the next ITCA GBR Invitational Coaching which is being planned for January 2025.

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