BST blog – Saskia Tidey – Back to events, minus the hugs

Written by 30th September 2020 Blog, Tokyo 2020

Over the next year we will be bringing you guest blogs from the Tokyo 2020 selected athletes who will give you an insight in to their lives in the run up to the Olympic Games – this month, Saskia Tidey – 49erFX crew sailing with Charlotte Dobson.

Just as it has been for six months now, Covid-19 continues to affect a major portion of our time – and will do for the foreseeable future.

Charlotte and I have had some pretty big training camps in Weymouth recently where we have just been able to tick over and work on boat handling – something we don’t get a chance to do this time of year as you are usually in the midst of racing season.

As the training progressed there was an option to go to Kiel week which would have been the first bit of competition since Covid hit. It was something to look forward to, but also a little bit scary at the thought of leaving the UK and getting back in to race mode – so it was a mix of excitement and apprehension.

Then things started to kick off again and we were unsure if it would be on at all, but Germany stayed on the green list of countries and it actually ended up being a last-minute call for us. We packed up about three days before the start and headed over.

Looking back, we had been holding out all summer for Kiel to be on. It’s been the longest I’ve ever had without competing in my life, the last regatta was in Geelong in February for the Worlds. You usually check in with the other nations throughout the season to see where you and where everyone else is, so not having that has been strange. That’s how you know if you progress, regress or have stayed the same so it’s important.

Kiel ended up being quite an efficient trip, it actually made us think if we need to go to some events so far in advance, especially where there’s not much venue knowledge to be had. Some food for thought.

It was also good to show us that we could plan to do regattas at short notice and minimise days away. If for example the Olympics ends up being affected in this way, then events like this are important to know you can do it. And we are confident now we can.

Despite the excitement, being in Kiel was a bit alien. It was strange being in a mask all the time until we hit the water, but once you get out on the water it felt like we were back to normal business.

One of the weirdest things was not giving all the girls we race against a hug. It’s such a simple thing but we spend so much time with everyone in the fleet, everywhere around the world for most of your career, you become good friends so it’s strange not giving them a hug after not seeing them for so long, just to say hello.

But the flip side of that is that when we get to the Olympics we are there to do a job and friendships take a bit of a backseat when you are competing, so again it was good practice for another scenario.

It was nice to catch up, but it’s natural to fall in to the ‘what did you do during lock down’ talk, and there’s only so much of that you can do. So we decided it was better to look forward and make plans for the time ahead instead of dwelling on the past. Let’s get a training plan with some of the other girls going.

Away from sailing I’ve been doing a lot of road biking. I’m really loving it at the moment. It’s nice to use that as an escape. We spend so much time in the boat park and the gym that it’s nice to get away sometimes and road biking definitely offers that.

I’ve also been using the time to sort the house out. You don’t often get time to focus on the ‘everyday things’ so having some time to work on where I live was nice – again, you spend so much time away sometimes you can neglect that part of life.

But, having said this, ultimately we are sailors and there was a lot of organising for the months ahead. Trying to get our ducks in a row and sort our equipment and where it is to make the most of our time when we can do more. Like the next few weeks.

We will actually be spending some time in Portugal. We are trying to make the most of the Portuguese summer and there are some international teams that we train with like Martine [Grael] and Kahena [Kunze] there.

Cascais is known for its wind and waves and will really replicate the big days in Tokyo nicely, so for me and Charlotte it made more sense to use those elements and conditions instead of doing the 49erFX euros in Austria, which will undoubtedly be beautiful but not really of benefit for what we need moving forward.

This time is also around the anniversary of us being named in Team GB. There was a bit of time when we had didn’t know if we would have to go through the trials process again, but keeping our place was a massive weight of the shoulders. It means we can continue to focus and work on what we need to do without the added complications and stress.

Thinking about the Olympics, getting a bronze medal in Kiel was a big confidence booster. There weren’t many girls missing from what would be the Olympic fleet so to medal in that scenario where we didn’t have much sailing prior was good for the morale.

All the lessons we have learned from Kiel plus the winter targets and goals we now have all make for a really exciting year ahead. Another year of doing what I love. I can’t wait to see what Tokyo 2020 – Tokyo 2021 – has in store.