Best performance yet for high flying Kirklands
All the hard work Jesse and Zander Kirkland have put into their 2012 Olympic qualifying campaign finally appears to be paying off.
The sailing siblings produced their best showing to date in the 49er skiff at this week’s Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia-MAPFRE regatta in Mallorca, Spain where they placed 13th among a formidable 76-boat fleet.
“It is a huge achievement for us and a true breakthrough for us into the top of the class,” said crew Zander. “What it did, more than anything, was show we can sail with anybody in the world.
“It has been a long two years on the road sailing this extremely difficult boat and finally we are starting to see all this hard work come to fruition. No one ever said it was going to be easy and the work is not done yet, but it is nice to have some clear results which point to our progress on the international stage.”
The Kirklands broke barriers in Spain earlier this week by reaching the Gold fleet or the first time sailing at this level and then winning a race involving some of the world’s elite in that fleet.
“The highlight of the week was winning a race in Gold Fleet (Thursday), a race where we were fast and stayed composed as the breeze dropped out in the tail end of the race,” said Zander. “It is no mean feat in a fleet full of World Champions and Olympic Medallists.
“We also won a race in the qualifying series and had numerous (six) top ten results throughout the week. These are important as they point to us being able to finish off races where we are doing well.
“In the past when we were new to the boat and the realities of skiff racing, we had trouble capitalising on good positioning early on in a race. Now it seems we are more calm in the boat and able to keep our heads out of the boat and make better decisions on the racetrack.”
In the lead up to this week’s ISAF World Cup event in Spain the Kirklands received valuable pointers from world renowned coach Ramon.
“While Ramon was not here for the event, he was here before the event for a week helping us get our new boat (Cahow) ready and working with us,” Zander said. “We think his continued presence with our sailing is helpful and we thank him for all his efforts.
“On this trip he was real helpful with some trimming secrets, which seem to be make a big difference to our speed, especially off the wind. He missed this event because of a scheduling conflict.
“This event concludes our first trip to Europe for the year and we are very happy with the training and the results. In total in the past month in Mallorca, we have sailed for 21 days (nine regatta days and 12 training days) and put in five days of boat work to our new boat ‘Cahow’. She is proving to be a fast boat and we are grateful to all our supporters who have gotten us to this point.”
The Kirklands will now shift their focus to next month’s Olympic qualifier in Croatia where the final five Olympic spots will be determined.
“For the next few weeks we will be regrouping, working and gearing up for the Olympic Qualifier next month in Croatia,” said Zander. “We look to take this momentum (from Spain) into the World Championships in Croatia and qualify Bermuda for this summer’s Olympics.”