Someone sent me quote a while ago saying “it is hard to recognize opportunities because they are usually disguised as hard work”. This quote has gone on to haunt me and push me throughout my sailing career.
When I got a text from Tom in the summer about sailing with him, it was in his typically relaxed style, it went something like “Hey Z, fancy going to Rio with me?” As he was already sailing the Nacra 17, I had a pretty good idea that this wasn’t about drinking pina coladas on the beach and as it sounded like very hard work, after about 10 minutes thought I told him to tell me more.
Turned out what he meant was crewing for him on a Nacra 17 with the ultimate aim of Rio in 2016, definitely no pina coladas!
I was working on a 105ft Wally at that time, having just spent the summer going from Palma to Finland via Saint Tropez, the UK, Norway and Sweden.
Olympic sailing has been on my radar for a long time but always felt like a dream very far off the realms of possibility. A long term ex boyfriend campaigned 49ers for years. I was sailing full time on big boats as I needed to earn money but I used to fly down to where ever he and his training partners were based, drive coach boats and think how incredible it would be to be able to devote my time to the pursuit of excellence in a sport that I love so much.
Growing up in Cornwall, sailing and the sea has constantly drawn me and fascinated me. I did the usual dinghy sailing stuff like most boaty kids in our area but I really got hooked at around 12. It was a certainty from then on that all I wanted to do was sail. Needless to say my school teachers didn’t see much of me after that as most weekends, some weeks and all holidays I was on boats.
I did a fair bit of club keel boat racing but also spent a lot of time with the Ocean Youth Trust as they ran an incredible training system which took me from a trainee bosun straight through to trainee skipper 6 years later. By my 18th birthday I had passed my day skipper, coastal skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore and by 19 I was sailing as a paid 1st mate on a 95ft gaff rig ketch, had around 20000 miles under my belt and had sailed from Iceland to the UK, round the UK, across Biscay, across the North Sea, in Norway.
Now in 2014 I have sailed about 40000 miles, across the Atlantic, all over the Med, east coast America, east coast Australia and raced in regattas in Europe, Asia and Australasia. Graduating from slower yachts in the early days I’ve ended up sailing on everything from Melges 24s, Magic 25s, to 80ft Reichel Pugh maxis and Wallys.
This campaign must seem a bit of a random change in direction but my consistent aim is never take the easy path and always try to be better. It has come at the perfect time. It was on night watches by myself in the Baltic sea this summer that I was realising that firstly I needed a real challenge and also that I wanted to be able to devote more of my time to performance sailing and fitness. My career has always required dedication and professionalism and this has served me well as I think you need to be incredibly tough mentally to make it to the top. It is amazing to feel that I am reaching my peak in all areas.
There is a lot to cover with this kind of sailing, keeping the balance between moving fitness, technical knowledge, time on the water, nutrition, sport psych, logistics, trying to get sponsorship and earning a bit of cash forward each week is all consuming.
Weather permitting, we sail 3-4 times a week and then I try to do 6 weights sessions and a mix of cardio, endurance and yoga. Fitness wise I am so lucky to have the support of Morgans Gym in Truro and the knowledge and training from the guys at Fitness Wild, a great company specializing in outdoor fitness training. They have designed me a fantastic program in weights and nutrition. This combined with being fueled by the incredible food grown on my family’s farm at Cusgarne has transformed my strength and thus sailing performance incredibly quickly.
The support and interest of businesses in Cornwall already has been wonderful. There are a few that I’d love to mention but press releases are in the pipe line so I cant just yet unfortunately. However I can say a huge huge thanks to Brian and Cookie at Windsport International as without them, their support and advice, this campaign would most definitely not be possible.
I think one of the things that has captured peoples imaginations about us is that there are extremely successful Cornish companies and perhaps myself and Tom as talented sailors can fly a flag for Cornish businesses.
We are all a little out on a limb down here, but in a way maybe that is what leads us all to develop the tenacity and maybe a touch of madness to succeed! As Tom said, look out for a catamaran with white sails, tearing around the Fal this winter, thats us!