From right to left: Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor
Richard Langdon / Skandia Team GBR
From right to left: Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor

Keeping the pressure on

Women's match racing World Champion Lucy Macgregor on her Olympic campaign

Tuesday January 11th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

A few berths are looking reasonably secure within Skandia Team GBR on the road to London 2012. RS:X sailors Bryony Shaw and Nick Dempsey seem to have little in the way of competition, even though Shaw must be keeping a close eye on the talented Izzy Hamilton, recently crowned YJA Pantaenius Young Sailor of the Year.

Among the ‘boats’, reigning Gold Medallists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson seem unchallenged in the Star while Lucy Macgregor and her Women’s Match Racing Team on the Elliott 6 is in a similar position.

In 2010 Macgregor was ISAF World no1 in the women's match rae rankings, she finished on the podium in eight of the 13 regattas she has competed in, but best of all in September in Newport, Rhode Island, she became the Women’s Match Racing World Champion.

“The Worlds this year was great,” Macgregor admits. “It means we are on the top level of funding and we get great support from the RYA and that is good for the future certainly.”

However one of the jobs this winter is to secure extra commercial funding to see them through to the Games. “We are no experts in that area, so we are working with people on the commercial side. We have some local businesses which have been supporting us for a few years now and they have been really good. Because all three of us are from Poole that is quite unique and we are trying to build that at the moment and get more local interest even if it just people down the club signing up.”

Despite their success, this year has seen a crew change with the younger Macgregor sister, Kate, stepping into the bow position in place of Annie Martin. “It just kind of happened,” says Lucy of the transition. “We did Sail for Gold and the Worlds with Kate and it was going really well. She is in her second year at uni, so we are stealing her away from that slightly but it is going great.”

An unfortunate downside of Macgregor’s success is sparring partners within Skandia Team GBR seem to have disappeared. The RYA had been attempting to put one rival team together using a squad system, akin to what the Dutch tried with their Yngling sailors prior to Beijing, but we understand this fell apart after Skandia Sail for Gold and now only Mary Rook remains.

“Mary will train with us a lot, but probably we’ll get some guys in to race us and beat us up a bit and some of the foreign teams we’ll do a bit with too. So a bit of a mixture,” says Macgregor. Recently she and her team have been training with American Sally Barkow and Russian Ekaterina Skudina.

Imminently Macgregor and her crew are to decamp to Florida prior to the Rolex Miami OCR. “Last time we raced against everyone in the Elliotts was Skandia Sail for Gold, so a little while ago. Miami will be good to see where the fleet is as and test out a few things we’ve been training on and then a couple more months training again before the season starts.”

After Miami it will be back to training in Weymouth prior to the Princess Sofia Trophy at the beginning of April.

“We did a lot of racing last year and a lot of time on the water and we are looking to cut out a little bit of racing to focus a bit more on training,” continues Macgregor. “We know a bit more about our strengths and weaknesses now and where we want to train, so we’ll focus heavily on Weymouth on the test event and Skandia Sail for Gold.”

They continue to have Mark Nicholls as their main coach, but are also drawing on the talents of double World Match Racing Tour winner, GAC Pindar’s Ian Williams and tactician Simon Shaw (with whom Nicholls regularly races on the Tour) for match racing technique. “That is one of our strengths and something we want to build on, the match racing tactical side of our racing and we are doing a bit of speed work as well,” says Macgregor.

In addition they will be using Skandia Team GBR secret weapon, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailmaking legend Grant ‘Fuzz’ Spanhake, to help them with speed work. “The work we have done with him has been really fantastic and he has done match racing before so in terms of communication he has a lot to give,” says Macgregor.

They may have had their own Elliott 6 for more than a year now, but Macgregor says there is still a lot they have to learn about the boat. “The funny thing is that they are simple boats in many way but to sail them really well there is quite a technique. Just the boat handling - they have very thin foils and they can go sideways pretty quickly, so keeping them under control and the acceleration, there is no one right way of doing it yet. So we are spending a bit of time this winter still going around the course and trying to finesse that.”

While there may be no competition for Macgregor within the Skandia Team GBR, it is still unclear at present when they might get the nod from the RYA that they are selected for definite. Macgregor is quite humble when it comes to this: “There isn’t another team at the moment, but that’s not to say there won’t be and the RYA has a strict policy that they won’t send someone because they are the only one. We are focussed a lot on Weymouth and on the Games. We have got to qualify on the way. We don’t have a date unfortunately. The earliest would be autumn this year. If we can get selected before Perth it would be good for us, but we’ll see.”

With a fine 2010 season behind them, Macgregor looks to be in good shape going forwards, but the perennial danger in doing so well two years out from the Games is 'peaking too soon', where the competition has the opportunity to catch up. However Macgregor and her team do have the advantage that Poole is a stone’s throw from the all-important Olympic venue and they will have an unparalleled opportunity to train where it matters.

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