Covid-19: how our campaign has changed.
On 19 March 2020 we were going to fly to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, to race in the annual Princess Sofia Regatta. This was the first of many events on the European circuit that we would have been attending for the first time in our FX campaign. The plan was to compete in 3 events in Europe, returning to New Zealand at the end of May. By the end of February, we could see that this wasn’t going to happen; cases had skyrocketed in Europe and entire regions were in lockdown. We then made the difficult decision to cancel our trip. Shortly after, New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown starting from 23rd March 2020 and in that season, no sailors from New Zealand competed in Europe. Since then, the global pandemic has essentially shaped the last two years of our training. In the same way it drastically changed the world with lockdowns and border closures there has been a consequential trickle-down effect causing the postponement of the Olympics by a year, cancelled events, and disruptions to training with teams around the world; covid-19 has caused significant changes to our campaign.
The pandemic has created some major challenges mainly in two areas – cancelled events due to travel bans and disruption of training from sudden lockdowns. Since the pandemic started, we haven’t competed internationally at all, and with a small fleet in NZ it’s been difficult to get the racing experience we were anticipating in Europe, making it hard for us to gauge and track our progress. In Level 3 and Level 4 lockdowns, boating isn’t allowed, which means our training plans get disrupted as soon as there is a lockdown. Gyms are closed and in Level 4, even activities such as riding a bike must be regional. Thankfully, New Zealand has been lucky in that we did successfully contain the initial outbreak of the virus, but only after several weeks throughout the year spent in lockdown.
On a positive note, we’ve had training opportunities with Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, and training partners Markus Somerville and Sam Street whom we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Throughout the last two years instead of competing overseas we’ve done several week-long domestic training camps in Tutukaka. As Olympians, the girls set the bar in professionalism and racing and we were very lucky to be able to work with them. With every training session we gained more insights and things to work on, some extremely specific, which will be highly beneficial in future competitions. While we may not have gained the racing experience that we aimed for in Europe, our boat handling and boat speed have improved far beyond what we could have done without our training partners. This may give us a good advantage going ahead into competition. Overall, the past two years of domestic training have been a good reminder that training at home can be useful while also giving us a routine. This routine has really improved our conditioning, compared to if we had done overseas competition instead.
Overall, it has been nearly two years out of competition, and we are ready to test ourselves and measure up against the international fleet. Covid has seen us spend the last two years domestically, contrary to our plan which was to be full of racing. We find ourselves likely to have different strengths than expected. However, as we write this blog, things are looking somewhat grim for the country. We are just two days into our first level 4 lockdown of 2021, and things aren’t looking good over the world with the increase of cases due to the delta variant. It’s difficult to see what our future looks like right now, and whether our planned Worlds in Oman, 2021 can go ahead. However, we are lucky to be in a country where we can still try to keep the delta variant out of our borders, and we are grateful to be safe in the pandemic. There may be a time next year where we will need to make some decisions on how we can keep racing, whether it means we relocate or hope that MIQ spots open more frequently. For now, we will keep working and trust the process.