Mini Mac Looks Towards 2012 

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Life has well and truly turned on its head for Kate Macgregor in the past six months.

Last autumn, the 20-year-old was just beginning the second year of her Business degree at Southampton Solent University, every now and then just helping out big sister Lucy and Annie Lush as a training partner for their 2012 Match Racing campaign or joining their crew at events needing more than the three sailors required for Olympic Classes Match Racing.  

But by the end of the year, Kate had an ISAF Women’s Match Racing World title to her name and had been invited to become the third full-time member of Macgregor senior’s GBR Match Race Girls with Lush.  

Overseas training trips and events in Miami, Palma and most recently Hyeres have seen Mini Mac, as Kate has affectionately become known in the Skandia Team GBR ranks, juggle her studies with suddenly finding herself in the midst of a well-oiled and meticulous Olympic campaign. As she stood atop the podium with her first ISAF World Cup Series gold medal in Hyeres, Kate admits she was still pinching herself to believe it is all really happening.  

“I never, ever thought I would get the chance to campaign for London 2012 but when I was invited to join Lucy’s crew there was no way I could say no, especially with the Olympics being on home territory next year. I basically haven’t been to Uni this year, they have done very well out of my tuition fees! But most of the course notes are online and I’ve been able to study in the evenings, which has actually been a good way to take my mind off sailing.   

“At the beginning it didn’t really hit me that I was doing an Olympic campaign. I’ve always been really competitive when I’m sailing, whatever sailing it is, so when we were out training it was in many ways business as usual, just trying to work hard to get better. It was only when there was chat about the Olympics, whether Annie was talking about her experiences as a training partner at previous Games or things about our own campaign it has hit me. It is crazy, and I’m deferring my last year at Uni to give this my best shot.”

Kate, a former RYA Youth National 420 champion crew, admits that although she has first-hand experience of seeing 24-year-old Lucy going through two Olympic campaigns, ultimately unsuccessfully in the Yngling for Beijing 2008 and now in match racing for London 2012, she was still taken aback by just what an Olympic campaign entails.  

“It is unbelievable the amount of stuff that needs doing, I never realised it before! All the admin, making sure flights are booked, trying to find sponsors, it is very, very different to anything I’ve done before.  

“Physically I didn’t have too much catching up to do as I was playing a lot of hockey at Uni, so was already on a fitness programme, and although I wasn’t sailing full-time I was still sailing most weekends doing bits of team racing and big boat sailing. But the other stuff?? Fortunately Lucy and Annie are very experienced and on top of it all, and because I’ve been trying to study as well they have eased me in gently.”  

After a fraught ISAF World Cup outing in Miami, when Annie was injured falling off their boat pre-regatta, and a disappointing result in Palma, the girls bounced back in style in Hyeres, not only claiming gold – their first ISAF World Cup medal since Holland 2010 and first World Cup win since the same event the year before  – but claiming a number of big scalps en route including France’s Claire Leroy and American Sally Barkow, who the Brits saw off 3-0 in the final.  

Having been the only team to have reached the quarter-finals at all ISAF World Cup events in 2010 but never managing to convert that consistency into an event win, Annie had previously stated their desire to put that right this season.

In February the girls started working with their new coach Maurice Paardenkooper, former national coach of the Dutch sailing team and Team Delta Lloyd Volvo Ocean Race coach, and Kate believes his input is already paying dividends to their campaign.  

“We were really pleased with the way we sailed all the way through Hyeres. We did a week in Weymouth before the regatta, just us, and just worked on boat speed in very light winds, which paid off in Hyeres as we were definitely a lot faster in those conditions than previously. Our boat handling is also coming together really well but the most motivating thing is we know there are still lots of improvements to come and we can still go a lot faster.  

“Maurice doesn’t come from a match racing background so he is really into boat speed and handling, which is great for us. His knowledge of running campaigns is also amazing and he knows what he wants. He has already broken things down in our campaign and challenged us to look at how we might do certain things differently so it is very exciting.”  

So what is it really like sailing with your big sister?  

Kate reveals that when they sailed together in Mirrors as kids she and Lucy would bicker and argue a lot but she admits that 10 years down the line respect, and a deep-rooted desire to help Lucy achieve her lifetime ambition, has firmly taken over.  

“We definitely got all the fighting out of the way when we were younger! We have grown up and sailed with a lot of different people since our argumentative Mirror days so as the three of us we are a pretty chilled out boat.  

“I’ve know Annie for years too, our dads know each other very well, and I’m really proud of them both. Knowing they have already been through this once before in 2008 and missed out on selection makes me work even harder to make sure I can do everything I can to help them be selected this time around. Each of us needs to be the best we can be.”