Building on early season successes 

Written by Elliot Hanson  | 24 July 2017

Elliot Hanson reflects on the 2017 season so far with success in the Laser and Youth America’s Cup

It’s been a bit of a different year for me, combining my programme in the Laser as a British Sailing Team Podium Potential sailor with being a part of the BAR Academy, sailing the GC32 in the Extreme Sailing Series as a forerunner to the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.

I’m happy to say I’ve seen success in both, with some podium finishes in the Laser, including a gold at the Delta Lloyd Regatta, and as part of a winning team in the Youth AC out in Bermuda.

They’re polar opposite boats really, and the role I was doing was very different as well. The Laser’s a very simple single-handed boat – it’s all down to the sailor making all their own decisions, whereas what I was doing with BAR was more of a tactician role and boat speed, on the wing trim and mainsail trim, as part of a team. It was very different, but actually for me it was very refreshing to do a role where you’re not helming and you’re doing just tactics. I think it’s probably helped me and has brought on my Laser sailing a lot as well.

The Youth America’s Cup was quite a different experience – especially winning back to back events what feels almost like totally different sports having just won Laser gold at Delta Lloyd. You go from Laser sailing which is all single-handed, and then you win something as a team. It was so nice to share that with other people – that was a first for me.

It was quite interesting racing in Bermuda. You get taught quite a lot as a junior and youth sailor that starting is really 80% of racing. In those AC boats that’s never been more true, so in my role my life is made very easy if you win the start or get round the first mark in the top two, and conversely it’s very hard if you don’t do that. On the second day, we struggled to get off the start whereas the Kiwis did a very good job, so as a tactician it was quite interesting being back in the fleet. Ultimately what won the event for us I think was sailing through the fleet better than any of the other boats did. The Kiwis did everything they could on the second day, but it wasn’t enough because of the way we pulled through the fleet with a bit of good fortune on our side.

And now it’s back in the Laser again, building on a solid start to the season. I’ve done a lot of hours in the Laser now and it’s nice to start to see the fruition of all of that hard work just by removing a few weaknesses. Hitting this year quite fresh, certainly mentally, has made quite a big difference for me.

Now I look forward to the rest of the season with the Laser Worlds and Europeans where hopefully I can carry on that good form from earlier on. We’ve just finished up a training camp at the 2020 Olympic venue in Tokyo, which was my first time at the venue. Personally I was quite excited by being there. I spent a lot of time in Rio training alongside Nick [Thompson] and it certainly helped more than I ever thought it would looking back.

Back then it was kind of all a training partner focus and learning as much as I can, whereas now I’m approaching the Games venue stuff with a lot more of a performance mindset, and just the conditions and what I think is going to pay out in Tokyo are certainly getting me quite excited. We’ve had a good range of conditions so far and I think we’ve got a good idea of what’s needed to win here already after just two weeks of training. I’m looking forward to it.

Long term, I’d lying if I said I didn’t want to put a really good case forward for myself to be selected for the Games in 2020, so with that in mind the first big event of the new cycle will be the Worlds at the end of September in Split. I wouldn’t want to put a number to it, but I guess carrying on somewhere around where I’ve started this season would be not a bad place to start! If I can get it right then hopefully I’ll be somewhere up there.

Our Laser squad is really strong at the minute. I’d say among the top two or three strongest squads on the world circuit and so as a training group it’s perfect for us. We’re really pushing each other and I’m sure that’s going to go on for the next three years which is an ideal scenario for me who needs to continue to improve.

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