The Last Dance

 “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out” 

I’ve never had a major injury before. I take a lot of pride in that and give myself a fair bit of credit for it. I eat well, train well and feel pretty in tune with what my body and mind need on a day to day basis. The last thing I expected before the worlds was to get injured! My training preparation had been as good as it’s ever been and mentally, I was ready to give my all again. Then, just like that, everything turned for the worst. I’d just finished a really good four days of training and was planning on having the weekend off to recover when that night I woke up in the worst pain in my left shoulder. There was no way I was getting back to sleep and no way I could get away from the pain. I send a message first thing to our physio on site, Warrick, and he straight away took the time out of his weekend to see me. After some tests we weren’t sure what was going on but we knew I had lost all my external rotation in my shoulder. I literally couldn’t rotate my left arm out wards at all!

One of the last training sessions before the injury
One of the last training sessions before the injury

After a stressful and painful Saturday, I had to keep moving. Sunday was time to pick up my new charter boat and rig it properly. There was still no improvement by the days end so by Monday morning I was in the Melbourne CBD seeing our team doctor, Dr Kathy Yu. An ultrasound and cortisone shot later and I was back at the boat park to do my final sailing session and see if I could actually still sail a boat at all! The boat felt great and the new sail looked mint. I could still hike but I’d lost a lot of control of my left shoulder and was pretty out of control going downwind. It was going to be an interesting regatta, but at least I could still get out there.

Rare photo of Buhli behind me (or anyone for that matter) on day one of racing

Qualifying – The stage was set; it was time to race. After a little bit of time under AP to get everyone’s nerves up, the 126-boat fleet got out in a nice 10 -14 knot southerly. With the fleet split into three, low numbers where going to be important to making the cut. I started with a bang and was first to the top mark in a hot red fleet but couldn’t quite hold off JB (the Frenchman) or Elliot (GBR) so had to settle for a 3rd. I backed up the next race with a 6th which was a solid comeback from 11th at the top but still had room for improvement considering I got up to 2nd at one point. Still, a good first day.

Good starts lead to a good day on day two of racing (I’m third from left)

Day two was a cracking southerly breeze, 12-18 knots, with sunshine and nice waves. I sailed the day really well with some good speed and walked away with a 2nd and 1st to win the day in my fleet. It came at a cost though. That night, I didn’t sleep and wink, my shoulder was in so much pain. By now I’d figured out I couldn’t sleep lying down anymore. The only way to find some relief was to place some pillows behind me and try and sleep lying upright. It was far from ideal and make me feel horrible the next day.

I was pretty cranky on day three. The pain was bad and I hadn’t slept at all. We had a strange south easterly wind blowing as well but I managed to navigate it fairly well with a 10th and 5th place but found myself losing places throughout the races which is something that hadn’t happened yet. Rafa (my coach for the event while Blackers focused on Matt) didn’t let me get too frustrated by it though and told me I should be happy with how the qualifying had gone. I was in 5th place overall, well on track for my goal of top 10.

The pain in my shoulder was as bad as it had been and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep much again and I was right. Dr Kathy agreed it was time to see what was going on and arranged an MRI for the first morning of finals racing. Luckily my Dad had been in Melbourne since the start of the event to support me, otherwise all of this would have been that much harder. We went to the MRI that morning before rushing back home again to get ready for racing. Fortunately, I had some luck on my side with the bipolar Melbourne weather delivering some strong storm cells to Port Phillip bay, cancelling racing for the day. This gave my shoulder a much-needed rest day but also meant I was going to have to deal with 6 races over the next two days of sailing. It was going to be an important weekend.

Gold fleet starting is on another level

Finals – We were greeted to the first day of finals with dark clouds, rain, cold and lots of wind from the south west. Classic Melbourne conditions. The racing was hard but I held my own. I was 10 at the top and banked a 6th in the first race to start finals strong. I backed that up with a really hard fought 10th and finished with a solid but very disappointing to me, 15th. It was disappointing because I was leading the race with only a few minutes of sailing left to the top mark. I made choice to duck and starboard tacker (Jesper, SWE) and continue to the lay line. He chose to cross the fleet and approach the top mark from the left lay. I was 20th at the top and he was 1st and won the race. It’s moments like those that keep you awake at night about what could have been. After all that my consistency was paying off and I was still holding down 5th place but the points were compressing with a bunch of really top yachties just behind me. It was going to be a super Sunday.

The worst part of my day, trying to get the mainsheet in with one arm around the bottom mark

Sunday was by far the most extreme conditions we had seen all event. East south east winds with diagonal waves, big pressure differences and massive shifts. It was nothing like any of us had really trained in yet and the potential to get caught out on the wrong side of the course was huge. Again, I set myself up for consistency and just had to hope my speed would carry me to the top. I was so exhausted by this point in the week. I had barely slept; my shoulder was really painful and I was so irritable I felt like I could snap just from someone looking at me the wrong way. I just wanted this to be over, which isn’t the way I really want to be ever, let alone when I’m doing what I love. I banked a 14th in the first race but with lots of small mistakes throughout the race. I felt like I should have easily been in the top 5 that race. The next race I had a good start but was rolled by someone sailing exceptionally quick, quicker I think than I’ve ever seen a laser sailed upwind. I was assuming it must have been on of the big guys like Buhl (GER) or JB (FRA) but to my surprise it was my friend Wannes (BEL). We were the head of the fleet but I didn’t want to stay in his bad air so I split away which turned out to be a costly error. With the majority of the fleet set up to my left I was looking great but as we got closer to the top the left continued to reward those out there and I ended up with my worst race, a 24th. Again, a race where I’m left kicking myself for the chances I had blown.

Off the start on the final day of racing. Good starts definitely helped my performance this regatta

For the final race I saved my worst start of the event. I got spat out so quickly but managed to work some shifts that put me back in the game by the top. I had a solid run and great second beat and all of a sudden, I was putting away a 10th place and sealing the deal on 7th overall! It was a huge relief to have finally finished in side the top 10, I goal I have had since I was 15 years old and one, I have tortured myself with for a very long time. For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to do it but here we are. The points were so close in the end, as it turns out I was only 8 points away from a bronze medal! So now I’m back to kicking myself for all those points I’ve wasted throughout the week just like any other regatta. But overall, I’m stoked. And exhausted. And in pain. And just want to go home. It’s a weird mix of emotions when I come up the ramp for the last time.

Arthur and Belinda have coached and mentored me since I was 15 years old and were some of the first people to greet me on the ramp after racing.
Huge congratulations to Buhli for sailing an amazing regatta
Sam accidentally grabbing my sore shoulder!

About the shoulder – When I got back to Perth, I went straight to my WAIS Doctor and I had another cortisone shot put right down on the nerve this time. I got on some new medication and after about a week the pain was next to nothing and I could start to lay down when I went to sleep. In summary my supra scapula nerve had suffered some trauma, whether from a virus or inflammation they’re not sure but either way, that why my shoulder couldn’t rotate. The signal from my brain wasn’t getting through to my infraspinatus muscle, which has seriously atrophied now. I’m on a physio program to help get it back but it might take 6 months or more until it’s close to normal. At least the pain is gone now. Nerve pain is no joke!

The Amigos

It’s only fair that after a long summer I name the people that really helped my campaign and made it a success. I know it wouldn’t have been half as fun or rewarding if these people weren’t apart of it.

Coaches: Rafa, Blackers, Arthur, Belinda, Tristan, Palky, Ben and Ash. All of these amazing people helped contribute to my sailing a lot over my life and have shaped who I am today. This is a team sport played on an individual level. I know I wouldn’t be here or be the sailor I am without them.

Team mates – Kenno, Wearny, Finn, TB, Jezza, EJ, Zac, Wongy, Ricko. All these blokes have put in massive hours with me sailing and have become some of my best friends. I hope I have had as positive influence on you as you guys have had on me.

Friends & Family – Kate & Fitzy. Ben & Kath. Greg & George. Meechy. Liza. Elyse. The Duncan Family. The Lloyd Family. Mum & Dad and everyone else who came along for the ride, hosted me, let me use their home gym, fed me, was a friend to me and supported me this summer and on every other occasion, a massive thank you. You all enrich my life and make the whole experience what it is. The sailing is just a bonus.  

Continuance

 /kənˈtɪnjʊəns/
noun

FORMAL
the state of remaining in existence or operation.
"his interests encouraged him to favour the continuance of war" 

“If in doubt, don’t tack”

One of Stewart Walkers golden rules of racing and one that guided me through my choices off the water as well. I had been having a tough time deciding what the future would hold for me after the 2019 season had ended but this simple idea ended up having a big influence. I’ve been living for the last seven years what my dream was as a teenager, and even though it has its challenges and differences to what I might have imagined it would be like, it is ultimately exactly what I asked for. ‘Tacking’ away from my Laser sailing would be walking away from my Olympic dream after so much struggle to get to this position in the first place. Once made, the decision to continue has been a simple one and has given my life clarity again. The last few months have been some of the most enjoyable of my sailing career, and now, on the cusp of doing my 8th Laser World Championships, and first in Australian waters, I couldn’t be more excited.

Staying true to this blog though, I’ll keep it chronological and go back to where I left off in September:

After I had decided to continue in the Laser, I had to start thinking about how I was going to do it? I didn’t want to fall into the same traps as I had in the past, I wanted to do it a bit different this time, using the experience I had gained from the past 10 + years of competing. The aim was simplicity and enjoyment.

Some fun, windy sessions out at Freo, just like the old days

Perth: After Esperance I went back to Perth and found myself with time on my hands for once. Out of habit or maybe because I truly wanted to, I started going to training at FSC again, just like I used to when I first moved to Perth. I wasn’t really thinking too far ahead with it, I was just doing it and found myself really falling in love with the sport again.

The boys lining up on a smokey Sydney Harbour

Sydney: Whether I was ready or not, the last two weeks of October was spent at Middle Harbor Yacht Club training with Matt and Finn. It had a very different feel to it with there only being three of us there, but none the less it was a productive camp. The strength was starting to come back and the feel in the boat was getting better.

Perth: Back West again for two weeks. I used this time to continue my training from Sydney. My fitness and boat feel were way off what I wanted and this was a great chance to improve those things in the best training ground in the world. Also, Perth in summer time is just the best place to be, sailing or not.

The strongest wind I have ever sailed in. A classic Melbourne SW front with an initial gust of 52 knots!!

Melbourne: Starting to get real now. The last two weeks of November was spent training at Sandringham with some of the worlds best. We had almost 30 boats which consisted of the Scandinavians, Kiwis and some European and American teams. 5 days of training was backed up by the Victorian State Championships, where I finished 9th with a confidence boosting win on the last race. That was then followed by a brutal four-day coaches regatta, mostly in strong winds and with long days. Great conditioning but once again, I was feeling my fitness still wasn’t in place yet.

On my way to winning the last race of Victoria Laser States
Last day of our coaches regatta in Melbourne. I’m second from right with Phillip Buhl (GER) and Wearny close by
TB at the moth worlds. Had the chance to coach him and Chewy the weekend before racing kicked off. He ended up finishing 3rd!

Perth (Again!!): Returning to Perth was signing off on a solid six-week block of training. It was time for a rest from the Laser and to enjoy some much-needed therapy (time on the golf course). The Moth World Championships were in Perth as well so it was a great chance to catch up with friends and watch some of the best foilers around do their thing. I couldn’t just take the whole month of December off though so I made sure I got another five-day block in, just to top up the tank before I checked out for Christmas. It was getting close to business time now.

Christmas day sunset – Esperance

Esperance: Now was time for some much-needed family time. It would be the first Elliott Christmas with myself and two sisters there in ten years, so safe to say it was a special time. I even got out on a Laser, (sorry fam), but for a different kind of training. This was more of a nostalgic throwback to my high school days when I used to sail around the bay for hours on end by myself. Plus, the seabreezes in Esperance are epic and it’d be a shame to waste such a good opportunity to get out there. I obviously also got plenty of golf in and made some new friends while at it. It was a great holiday and just what I needed.

Classic Esperance Seabreeze
Watt bike sets on the deck
Radio tower – Nullarbor roadhouse

The Nullarbor: Now was my time to drive back to Melbourne (so much back and forth this summer!!). I had my car loaded with my toys and I set out for the three-day journey across the country. I’ve done the drive two times before but this was my first alone. Not that that’s much of a problem for me, I like road trips, they help clear my head. I was sleeping rough as well with my sleeping bag and camp bed wherever I decided to pull up which added to the experience. I even managed to play a couple of holes worth of the Nullarbor Golf Links, the worlds longest golf course.

Smoke from the worst bushfires Australia has ever had on day one of racing. Air quality was at hazardous levels for quite a few days in Melbourne this summer

Australian Laser Nationals: Finally!! The racing. Months of prepping and planning and thinking had finally come to a head and it was time to see where I was at. We had the strongest nationals’ fleet in recent memory competing with 70 sailors lining up at the start, including the kiwis, Americans and Dutch teams. I started with a 16th and 25th ☹ funny old game. This was not the start I was hoping for. Fortunately, I was able to adjust quickly and got on a run over the next 7 races to move through the fleet into 4th going into the final day. It was tight, and there was a chance to move up or down on the scoreboard but unfortunately, I made the worst of it and fell to 8th. I didn’t have a disastrous day so much, but my close competition had much better days and that made all the difference. Still, I managed to take some confidence away from the event and felt good about the next one to come.

My one race win at Nationals came on the lightest and least predictable race of the event
Day three of sail Melbourne

Sail Melbourne: After a few easier days of training and some time spent with friends (I was living with Jez and Eliza for a week) it was time to race again. It took a good few days to feel fully recovered after the Nationals so I only spent two days in the boat before the event started but my mind felt ready to pick up where I left off. The fleet was about 70 strong again but much deeper in competition with the British, Scandinavian, French and other various European teams representing. It would be a real test of what the worlds would be like in a couple weeks time. I got off to a hot start, leading around the top mark in race one and finished with a 5th in challenging conditions. The next day of racing wasn’t as successful but some great comebacks and a good attitude kept me in the game to move up later with a 18, 3, 19. The conditions became quite tough for the race committee after that with us only getting another three races in for the event. My consistency was paying off though, banking a 2, 10 the next two races pulled me up into 6th with a chance to move up or down again on the last day, just like at nationals. This time I held my nerve and put another solid score on the board with an 11th, which was enough to jump to 3rd overall with my competition all having bad races. I was stoked to be on the podium in such a tough event and it was a good confidence booster in the last event before the worlds.

Leading race one of Sail Melbourne in an unusually strong SE breeze. I would finish up fifth
Keeping a close eye on the competition
From left: Elliot Hansen (GBR), Matt Wearn (AUS) Jean-Baptist Bernaz (FRA), Me, Duko Boss (NED)

Perth (Again, again!!): Time to have a break from Melbourne and refresh. I only had ten days back west but I needed them. The weather was gorgeous and sunny and I was home at the perfect time to watch the Warren Jones Regatta being hosted right in front of the city. The thought of the worlds being only a few days away was never far from my mind.

Melbourne (the last dance): I returned fresh and ready to race. I’ve completed three days on the water and I can honestly say I’ve never felt so good. Not just in speed but in my attitude and decision making. Maybe the event will be a flop but it won’t be from a lack of effort and preparation. I’m very excited to see how things play out.

Second to last training session before racing kicks off. Everything going great so far

See you on the other side,

Swifto

Flux

Flux                                                                                                                    /flʌks                                                                                                                  noun: continuous change

The last few months have been some of the most turbulent of my career. With our Olympic trials coming to an end and a decision being made on who will go to the games looming closer, its been a time of reflection and contemplation the last few weeks. Before I get into that though I’m going back to the ending of my last post to tell the story in order.

Charter boats ready to go at the World Championships

The 2019 Laser World Championships:

The biggest event of the year and also the most remote, we had over 150 sailors arrive into the unpopulated district of Tottori, in the middle of July to compete for the world title. The small city of Sakaiminato seemed crowded with sailors or maybe that was because pretty much everyone was staying in one of two hotels that could host us. Our team stayed in the hotel Nono which was quite traditional but very nice. I don’t usually stay in hotels but with a lack of Airbnb’s in the area it was the only appropriate choice. It turned out to be a really good time and a nice way to see some old friends and make some new ones.

The sailing was tough! The venue threw up a real mixed bag of conditions for us in training with each day bringing its challenges. Coming from a cold Sydney winter the heat of Japan was taking a bit of a tax on me and I was struggling to feel the kind of form I would expect of myself going into such a big event. I wasn’t too concerned at the time, not that I could have changed anything by then anyway, but there were warning signs that this was going to be a tough event for me.

The first day of racing set the tone of the event a little for me. A good start at the pin heading to the side that had paid for the first two fleets (I was in red fleet day one) only for a massive right shift to come through and put me in the pack. A dropped mainsheet on my first tack in the second race rattled the nerves but I scrapped through with a 13th.  The wind increased for the next two days with awesome onshore wind and waves, normally conditions I excel in. A BFD in the first race of the second day, then a mixed bag of results rounded out qualifying and saw me scrape into gold fleet. The form wasn’t there and I knew it and there’s nothing I could do about it. Too little, too late! It’s probably one of the worst feelings you can have as a sailor, knowing you don’t have the speed you need but still having to slog through and event either way. You’re trapped between a rock and a hard place.

The wind lightened for the start of finals and produced some of the most challenging conditions with variable wind and some big swell. It was one of the hardest days of sailing I’ve had. The two days after threw up similar conditions. Moderate wind, chop and plenty of shifts. I had one good race in finals, the second last race of the event. A good start in the middle, I held a long lane and a small pack of us extended away from the fleet. A good first run moved me up and I held onto a 5th place which was nice. The damage was done though and I had to settle for a 38th overall. However, at the other end of the fleet something special was happening. Tom and Matt were fighting out at the front and ended up placing 1st and 2nd respectively. It was Australia’s first world title since Slingsby in 2012 and TB’s first. It was an awesome result and I was really proud that those guys had come out on top.

My one good race a few minutes after the start (I’m second from left)

The next day everyone was packing up and starting to get ready to fly home. Not me though. We had a training camp back at the Olympic venue in Enoshima in 10 days and rather than fly home and back again I decided to stay in Japan and go on an adventure. I’d spent plenty of time in Japan but had never gotten out to see much. That was about to change.

I’m not going to say everything I did and saw but as a quick rundown:

  • Two days exploring Hiroshima including the A Dome and the world-famous Itsukushima Shrine
  • Two days riding the Shimanami Kaido trail from Onomichi to Imbari which is a road connecting six small islands between the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku.
  • One night in Okayama
  • Two nights on Shodo Island with Kyotas (my Enoshima host) cousins’ family. Amazing, authentic taste of a different side of life in Japan.
  • One night in a back packers in the city of Fuji
  • One night at the 9 ½ station (the closest to the top at 3550m altitude) on Mt Fuji. Yes, I climbed to the top!
  • Back to Enoshima and my lovely host family.

It was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had and so different to the normal sailing travel I do. I’d hope to do more travel like it someday.

Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage sight
Somewhere on Mt. Fuji with Velika, a fellow backpacker that I met on the way

Training camp:

The ten days of travel went really slow and really fast at the same time. Before I knew it, I was back in the whirlwind of the sailing world and the buzz of the Olympic venue. We had two weeks of training in a variety of conditions finished off with a three-day coaches’ regatta with pretty much all of the Laser world rankings top 20 in attendance. I didn’t sail amazing but I didn’t make too many mistakes either which lead to me finishing the week 8th overall.

Perth:

After six weeks I finally got back home to Perth. The weather was colder but it was great to be back in a familiar environment and to see my friends again. I also ended up spending quite a bit of time coaching at FSC which was really fun and nice to be a part of. I knew it wasn’t going to last long though as I was going back to Enoshima after only 20 days in Australia. This time it was for the final event of the season, the World Cup, Japan.

Enoshima (again!):

The unique thing about this trip was that when I arrived an event was already being run, the Olympic test event, that has a closed entry. Tom and Matt were our representatives at the event and were already fighting it out when I landed. This left Finn, Mitch and I to find our own training partners for a bit and make the most of the venue on our own. The first day of the event we had a really soft seabreeze that I didn’t sail very well in. We lost the second day of the event because of too much wind before we settled in to three of the biggest days of Laser sailing I’d done. Eight races were crammed into those last three days and every day was over 15 knots with big waves. The beats were long and physical, everyone was hurting. By the end I was barely holding on, my speed had been similar to that of the worlds and my determination had faded. I ended the regatta feeling pretty crushed. Not so much about the result but because of my poor effort. It’s one thing to lose when you’ve given everything like in Aarhus the year before. These last two events were something different. I’d lost, I hadn’t put in the work and I knew it.

Now we get to the part that gives this article its title. On top of my poor sailing in Japan, I knew this meant that my selection for the Olympics was over. I’d made all of my plans for the season end at the World Cup in Japan. By the time this event rolled around though I knew I wouldn’t be going and was struggling to think of what the future would hold for me. Then, on top of that, I’d been given some really enticing opportunities that would see me leaving the Laser class, at least for a while, and maybe even the country. It had sent my mind spinning and had me struggling with my integrity as a person, made me question what I valued most in life and put doubt in my mind that continuing on this Olympic path was the right one. Since the European Championships I’ve been in two minds and it has really made me appreciate the value of single mindedness in sport, something I’ve never usually lacked.

Home:

After the World Cup I went back home and had a proper rest. I had time and space to think, reflect and write. I’m always learning from this sport and not in the ways I always expect. This period of time has made me question everything and check in with who I am all the way to my core. Its been a time of growth and introspection that I probably wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for the unique situations sailing has put me through. I’ve come out the other side with a different perspective that will hopefully guide me to better success in the future. I won’t commit to anything now but I see myself continuing on the Laser path for the foreseeable future. There’s just nothing quite like it.

Swift/

Port in Porto, Sushi in Sakaiminato

Yet again I’ve let time get away from me and have left it far to long between these blog posts. I can’t give a complete summary of what has happened in the time since I was training in Sydney in March but I’ll do my best to summarize it location by location.

Sunrise view from our house in Gulf Harbour
Training in ideal conditions in New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand – After several weeks of training in Sydney we had a change of scenery coming up to keep things interesting. I had been to Auckland before but not since 2015 and was really excited to go back. It’s a great city and I was keen to see the kiwi boys who we hadn’t sailed against since December. We were sailing up on Gulf Harbor, about an hour north of Auckland and we had rented a massive team house for the week up there but not before I had played a few rounds of golf with Greg at some of his local courses. The hours on the water were long and it was bloody tough training but I left New Zealand battled hardened and ready to race.

Richo posing in front of the water feature at Piazza De Ferrari
Bottom gate in Genoa

Genoa, Italy – I had never been to Genoa before and neither had most of the worlds sailors I think but this was the new location for the World Cup instead of Hyeres so we all had to get used to this new venue. I flew from Perth with Richo just a few days after I had got home from Auckland and was on the water in my new Laser exactly a week after my last day on the water in Auckland. The venue was known to be notoriously light which was great for me because that was exactly what I wanted to work on. We had a strong 120 boat Laser fleet racing and I was keen to see where I was at. I started the regatta with a 3rd place then wobbled up and down a bit as the week went on. A few unfortunate things didn’t go my way including a race win that got scratched because the other fleet didn’t complete their race but I got what I wanted out of Genoa and left feeling better than I arrived which was the main thing.

Some long exposure photography I was playing around with at the dock in front of our accommodation
Red, blue and yellow dots all in a row

Hyeres, France – This was my 7th consecutive year racing in Hyeres, a venue that has continuously challenged my racing. I don’t think I had ever posted a top 20 result in Hyeres to date but I came into the event feeling confident and prepared. In stark contrast to Genoa we had too much wind for part of the training leading into the regatta and spent most of the lead into the event sailing in 15 knots plus. The 70 strong fleet started the regatta in some light winds and though and again I started another regatta with a 3rd place. Day three I had one of my best performances to date in classic 15 knot onshore conditions with 1,1,2 which was awesome. I continued that form onto the first day of finals with a 1,6 to move me to second overall. I had a tougher last day of finals racing with a 4,14, 17 but was still holding onto 3rd place going into the medal race. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out my way in the medal race and I painstakingly watch a silver medal turn into a 4th place in a tight medal race. I took some great lessons away from this event though and was keen to use them in the last and biggest event of this trip, the European Championships.

Old Town Porto
Crossing the fleet from the right

Porto, Portugal – I had never been to Portugal before but I had heard a lot about it and was keen to explore. The city of Porto was vibrant and busy which made it a fun place to visit. Good coffee, great pastries and beautiful architecture were just some of the highlights. The venue also provided some world class sailing with mostly sunny weather and a variety of conditions. The most challenging factor here was the massive Atlantic tides that ripped up and down the coast. The European Champs is second only to the worlds in significance this year so all the who’s who of the Laser world was here to put on a show with a maxed out 165 entries. The event started in very light conditions, not unlike Genoa, and I believe my time there was paying off as I won the first race and backed it up with a 10th in conditions I’m not known to excel in. The next day was even better in lovely seabreeze conditions and I pulled out another 1st and a 3rd to be the overnight leader on the second day of the regatta. The last day of qualifying was light and lumpy but I kept my cool and had a 7th and 10th to round out my qualifying and put me in 4th going into finals racing. Finals didn’t quite go the way I had planned though. I started it with a BFD which compromised the rest of the series and made my starts really hard unfortunately. Even when the conditions where some of my favorite I couldn’t piece together the first beats and I was stuck trying to make up way too much ground to have great scores. My best race of finals was my easiest race with and 8th place to finish the regatta 13th overall. Not how I wanted to cap of my European season but I was happy with how I had sailed; it just didn’t turn out this time.

Pastel De Nata and Flat white at our favorite cafe 7g Roasters
View from our apartment in Porto
Goldfields Cyclassic

Western Australia – Once I got back home, I had a quick few days in Perth before I drove out to Kalgoorlie to seem my friends Tooley and Karis and meet their new baby Lachy. That wasn’t the only reason I was there though, I was there to do the Goldfields Cyclassic again, a two-day handicap race I had competed in two years ago. The weather was amazing and as always, the riding was tough but fun. I met some new people and caught up with some old friends which was great. I then hit the road again and had a few relaxing days in Esperance before I was in the air again bound for Sydney.

How we wait for wind in training camp mode

Sydney – The next two weeks were dedicated to preparing for the World Championships in Japan. The turn around from the European Championships was really fast but everyone was in the same boat and this wasn’t the time to be taking it easy. Unlucky for me I caught a nasty virus for the second week of training which meant I really didn’t get a lot of benefit out of training for that second week in Sydney. Luckily, I had shaken the majority of the bug by the time I got on the plan to Japan.

First day on the water in Sakaiminato

Sakaiminato, Japan – Now I’m here at the venue of the biggest regatta of the season, the 2019 Laser World Championships. I’ve completed four good days on the water and I’m finalizing my preparation for the event. Let’s just see what I can do this time, I’m sure it will be challenging and interesting either way it goes.

Another Summer

It doesn’t seem so long ago I was writing about last summers adventures and now here we are at the beginning of Autumn. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. So, back to where we left off.

Windsurfing in Esperance

After my time at home in WA, which was mostly spent staying in shape, windsurfing and trying to master my new hobby, golf, it was time to get back in the boat for proper. The Aussie summer is a big natural advantage we hold over our friends in the northern hemisphere because we can train and race while most of them are snowed in or have to travel away from home to get time on the water. The last two weeks in November were spent at a training camp in Sydney leading up to the first event of the summer, Sail Sydney. We had a great little fleet including the Kiwis, one of the best British laser sailors, some good dutch sailors and a hot bunch of young Aussies coming up. The regatta started in some very tricky south easterly breezes with our course set up between shark island and the land. I held my own with some great comebacks but struggled with my starting and first beats.

The last two days of the regatta turned it on with great seabreezes and a course area change. I had a few race wins but made a crucial error on the last race of the event which cost me the podium. I finished 4th, same as last year funnily enough. A few days later I got in a car and drove the team trailer down to Melbourne for the next event of the summer. I had a bit of a late night drive trying to get in which made finding my airbnb a bit of an adventure but I eventually found it. I had a nice house for the week with Mitch, Greg and Etienne, a french sailor from New Caledonia. The first race of the event started off pretty breezy but as the day went on it got progressively lighter to the point where we were finishing the second race in a glass off. I had one of my best comebacks in that second race after a bad first beat but sailed through the fleet all the way up to 4th. The next day we only got one race in before a big storm front rolled over but I managed to finish 2rd in that race. The third day was a write off because of no wind so we had three races scheduled early on the last day to make up ground.

This was an interesting day for me, on and off the water. Unfortunately my head wasn’t really in the game and was more stressed about checking out of the airbnb, packing up the boats and getting onto the Spirit of Tasmania that evening. I went from an equal first position with 4 other boats to finishing 5th overall. Disappointing again to miss a good opportunity on the last day of an event. After speedily packing up in the rain Blackers, Ash and I got in our cars with our trailers in tow and made it onto the ferry with a little time to spare. Pheww! I’d never been on the spirit before and it reminded me a lot of the ferries I’d caught from Barcelona to palma. The next morning Blackers and I met up with a local sailor who helped us store our boats on his property just out of Devonport where the nationals were to be held. It was a beautiful morning and made me remember just how pretty Tasmania is. After dropping the boats it was onto the airport and back to Perth.

I had a lovely two weeks in WA, mostly spent in Esperance which was amazing. It was my first christmas at home in 10 years and I loved every minute of it. I had my friends from Perth, Mark and Elisa, come down to stay for a few days which was sick and we even had a BBQ on the deck with Ki and Issi making an appearance. I’m very lucky to have such great friends and family and to be from such a special place like Esperance.

Too soon I was back at the airport and on my way to Tasmania again. I was staying with Blackers for the regatta in a nice apartment near the Mersey river. The weather was quite nice for our event and even though we didn’t race on the first day to a lack of wind the rest of the event went smoothly. The only drawback was the days on the water where especially long with each day averaging about 5 hours on water. I had my moments throughout the event with a few race wins but lacked a little consistency which put me down to third behind Tom and Matt. I had a fun time in Devonport. It’s a cool little town and when I wasn’t sailing I spent my time on the golf course or riding with Indi in the mornings. We found a great cafe that we went to everytime with the best waffles I’d ever had called Laneway.

Nice scenery in Devonport

The day after the regatta I drove with Zoe and Caelin to Hobart via Launceston to begin coaching at the youth nationals. I was filling in for Tristan coaching the NSW State Team, most of which I’d already coached at the Radial Worlds last year. I hadn’t been to hobart since the 2012/13 Laser nationals and it was great to be back. It’s such a beautiful city and reminds me a little of home for some reason. Other than the coaching I had one goal in mind I had to complete, I had to cycle up Mt Wellington, something I didn’t do last time but had always wanted to do. The regatta went quite smoothly and the kids where great to work with as always. Too soon came another big few days of travel. On the last day of the regatta I had to pack up and drive back to Davenport to catch a late night ferry back to Melbourne. Then the following day I drove all the way to sydney before finally catching an early morning flight the next day back to Perth. Getting good at doing all this travel.

This was my last time in WA for a while now. I did some more coaching, went back to Esperance for a little more time with the family then was back on a plane headed for Sydney. This next few months is just sailing now, focusing on the season ahead. I’m excited to see what this year brings, it’s going to be full of challenge but I’m feeling prepared for it. I’ll keep you posted.

Training off the heads in Sydney, March

/Swifto

The worlds & beyond…

Where do I begin? So much has happened since the last post, it seems like a year has gone in a few months. As I sit in this cafe looking back it’s hard to put everything into a simple few lines that makes sense. I guess I’ll do my best and try and not make it sound too boring.

2018 Aarhus Sailing World Championships:
Months of preparation had led to this. Now was time to let go and give everything I had. The first day is usually the most stressful and it was no different this time. The fleet is unsettled and eager, everyone wants a good start and everyone is on edge, especially in the moderate seabreeze conditions we had. I was in blue fleet day one and the only Aussie in that fleet which was kind of nice. I had a tough first race not getting clear very well but had a great second beat to move up to a respectable 13th from the 55-boat fleet. The next race just fell in my lap. I had a simple start a third down from the pin then tacked 5 minutes later and crossed the fleet to be first at the top. I had a good battle with Phillip Buhl and Nick Thompson on the next run but held them off then extended on the second beat to win the race.

That’s Nick and I off the front in race 2

After that day the results took a long time to update and the only race they had up was my second race putting me at the top of the leaderboard for some reason. I had a lot of people commenting about it that evening.

The next day the wind shifted to an offshore westerly with massive shifts and gusts. I was yellow fleet so off first. I won the pin race one and managed to round the top mark in the top ten. A solid run kept me in the game but it was a close battle. I avoided a massive hole on the second beat though and went from 11th to 2nd. I was pretty happy with that. The next race was even tougher, rounding the top mark in 19th but a good run and second beat again put in up into 7th. Later that night someone in front of me got disqualified saving me a point and pushing me from 7th to 4th overall. This meant I went into the next day racing in red fleet, the last fleet to start.

First to the top

We had a stronger westerly day today, very shifty and choppy. I raced hard, hiking harder than I ever have before. I rounded the top second in a close battle with Pavlos and TB. I took the lead briefly on the second beat but couldn’t hold it and finished 3rd. The next race I extended left and rounded the top 1st. After that I never looked back and one the race easily. When I got to shore I checked the score and I was in second overall behind Sam! I couldn’t believe it.

First to the finish line

We had a lay day the following day so I had a whole day to sit in second. I didn’t do a lot and spent the day trying not to think about it too much. We had all found a few very nice cafes so Sam and I would meet every morning before racing to have a brew and talk about anything other than sailing. Today was no different and we met with a bit of a crew to have a few coffees. Tomorrow in my mind the regatta started again, gold fleet racing is a different beast and the forecast was looking marginal.

Blue Dot

No one teaches you how to lead a regatta, you can only experience it and learn it for yourself. Today was going to be one of those learning experiences. We did three quarters of a race in next to no wind before it got abandoned. I was deep so I couldn’t complain. The next race we did in nearly as light a wind but they finished the race. I had a poor start and sailed near the back the whole race. The next race we had some more breeze and even though I had a bad start I clawed my way up to 15th at the top mark the second time but lost 6 on the last run to finish 21st. A frustrating day and nearly 6 hours on the water.

The next day we woke up to no wind and were postponed for many hours before being sent out late in the afternoon. Again, we did half a race before the wind died and got abandoned, this race I was actually doing ok so I was a bit disappointed it got called. We tried again and I had a horrible start to put me deep. It was a grind trying to make ground and I lost a lot of my hard work on the last reach to the finish losing 6 boats. Ouch!

I was now in 11th place and the event decided to use its lay day to make up the last race. My goal was always top ten and I was so close. I had one of the worst nights of sleep stressing about the outcome of tomorrow. We raced in a light seabreeze and one big shift and a bad start took me out of the game early. I finished 15th overall, a really disappointing and painful way to end my regatta. I didn’t sleep the next two nights thinking about it. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by lots of great friends and family and they helped me keep perspective on what had happened and made sure I didn’t get too depressed about it.

Still smiling

Even if I wanted to dwell on the regatta I couldn’t, two days later I was on the road to Kiel to coach the Radial Youth Worlds. I was excited to coach a Radial Worlds as I hadn’t done one before and I hadn’t coached many of these sailors before. On top of that I had the opportunity to work with another coach, Danny Fuller from Queensland. The two weeks flew by and I learnt a lot from the sailors I worked with and got in touch with myself as a coach again, I’d been out of the game for a while now.

Miki & I, Radial Youth Worlds

The day after Kiel finished I was jumping on another plane, not for home though but for Trieste, Italy. I landed at midnight and met Paul Gilham of all people to pick me up. I was headed to Koper, Slovenia to coach the Finn Silver Cup (U23 World Championships). Jock had contacted me a month before asking if I could come and coach and I jumped at the opportunity to coach senior athletes at a world title. I got in at 1 am, found my accommodation and crashed before getting up early and finding my coach boat. Straight away I was into a week of coaching a regatta, talk about hitting the ground running.

Some good views…

and scenery 😉

Slovenia was great! I’d never stayed there before and it really impressed me; sunny, clean and nice people. It wasn’t even that crowded. We had a bit of an adventure in the rib down to a coastal city called Piran where we went for diner then realized we were out of fuel and couldn’t get home. All part of the job.

Piran from the North

Piran from the South

Rib parking spot for dinner

After the Silver cup finished I was off again and in a rush. I left the night of the regatta on bus trying to get to Zagreb and so begun one of the craziest few days of travel I’ve ever done. To start the bus was late by and hour. I then waited in Trieste for another 90 min for the next bus then finally hit the road at 11pm. From there I had to cross the border out of the Schengen zone when I was well over my visa time. Bit stressful at 2am in the morning getting off the bus and walking across the border to get your passport stamped but I made it through all ok. I arrived in Zagreb at 3am and was walking around a bit trying to find my hotel. Luckily, I made it and had a nice 4-hour sleep. Then I hit the road again headed to the airport. From Zagreb I flew to Dubai, then Dubai to Perth. I had 20 hours in Perth to sleep and repack my bags before I was on the red eye to Melbourne. From there I had the morning flight to Narita, Tokyo to land just in time for Super Typhoon Jebi to hit the coast. I landed ok but the train to Tokyo was very delayed so I didn’t make it to my home until 11pm. What a way to spent 4 days of your life!

Windy coaches regatta

Somehow, I made it without getting sick, losing a bag or missing a connection. Once there I was very happy to be back with my Japanese family. Why am I in Japan I hear you asking? I was there to compete in the Olympic Test Event. All 15 of the top 15 from worlds was there as well as 25 of the top 30. It was set to be a tough event and I was well under prepared. Some teams had been out there training for weeks, when I rocked up I went straight into a two-day coaches’ regatta in 20 knots of breeze and big waves. I thought I had no chance but I surprised myself and finished near the front a head of a lot of good sailors. Even though my body was broken from it I had some confidence going into the event.

Not that performing in those conditions meant anything. Come day one of the regatta the wind had completely changed again and we had shifty offshore winds with strong tides. I wanted to redeem myself this event and show that I could perform in a gold fleet equivalent fleet and make up for my poor gold fleet performance in Aarhus. I held my own for the first two days then the wind went very light. We got one race in on day three and it was my best race finishing 4th. The next day was even lighter and I held in to get a 14th and moved to 7th overall. The final day we had three races planned and race one I got 4th only to learn after finishing that the race was abandoned!!? This messed with my head a bit and the next two races didn’t go so well. Only after we got to shore after a very long day did the first race get reinstated as a mistake by the race committee. This helped me overall but I missed the medal race by 1 point. Once again, I had fallen down at the last hurdle. But this was different. These conditions have always been an Achilles heel of sorts and to finish 11th in that fleet was a great outcome. To keep things in perspective Pavlos who won the worlds three weeks ago finished 14th! That’s just how tough Laser racing is these days.

Elliot and I battling it out

Other than the sailing my host family took me to a baseball game and I even got a few nice surfs in with some left-over typhoon swell pulsing around. I really love Japan and my family there and it was sad for everyone when I had to leave. I can’t lie though I was excited to finally be going home after 4 months on the road. It had been a much longer trip than expected. Now I have two more weeks of coaching before having some down time in this part of the off season. All to soon I’ll be back in Sydney and back to work getting ready for the summer regattas.

Talk soon

/Swifto

Trains, planes and training camps

After my time at home it was time for me to get back into training, not that it really ever stopped. I was still on my bike and in the gym at home but now it was back to Sydney for a three week camp from the start of June. The first two weeks were with the Aussie boys alone and it was wet, cold and dark most of the time. Actually it was the coldest and wettest winter I have ever spent in Sydney which made it some character building stuff. Luckily I managed to bring some of my golf clubs over with me so got to spend a little bit of my down time working on my swing (golf has become one of my little hobbies that I want to get better at, it’s nearly as frustrating as sailing is). For the third week of training the Kiwi boys came over and we ran a little regatta with about 10 boats. We had a range of conditions including some of the windiest weather I have sailed in for the first two days which made things pretty entertaining.

When the camp wrapped up I flew back to Perth for a total of four days before I jumped on a plane again headed for Brussels. From there I picked up the team van and rib from Wannes’s house and drove the 1000 km’s to Aarhus broken up over two days. The trip went really well and I didn’t really have any problems which was amazing. All of Europe was having one of the hottest summers in history with sunny skies and dry weather. It’s both great and also kinda scary. When I got into Aarhus I met up with Sam at the boat park straight away and we ended up going out for a quick sailing session together which was nice. We were there to do a training camp as well as a mini regatta with a bunch of the top teams to try and get used to the conditions in Aarhus. Mitch and I had an Airbnb in the city which was great (it was a nice airy penthouse apartment) and somehow Mitch had ended up upgrading our car from what was supposed to be a Ford Fiesta to Audi A4. Things were going well 😀

Something I think all of us Australians have noticed since we’ve been here is how good looking and fit the Danish people are. Everyone is tall and lean and something I think that might add to that is the fact that eating out is incredibly expensive (I paid $15 for a flat white and some banana bread once) and their gyms and really cheap and good. Fitness World is a big chain of gym over here, all of them seem to be really well equipped and they only cost about $20 a week! Fair to say they’re doing something right but I don’t think I could live somewhere where a coffee is $8.50.

Expensive but good

The training went well in a mix of conditions and the racing was tough with about 60 entrants in what was mostly gold fleet. I was holding into the top 20 until the last day when I got given a double black flags on the last two races. Bit frustrating but I’m glad it happened then and not in the regatta. I took some valuable lessons away from that event but was ready to leave Aarhus for a break when it was over. Luckily we had organized to go to Lake Garda for a bit of a holiday and fitness block. Mitch and I nearly had a major when we got to Billund Airport when we learnt we hadn’t told the airline we were bringing bikes with us and they weren’t going to let us on. Yikes!! Luckily we managed to make a few last minute calls and we got them on with no extra charge. It was a long day of travel though, flying through Frankfurt before arriving in Verona then catching a shuttle to Riva arriving at 1 am. It was so good to be back though, my 6th year straight coming to Garda. We cycled nearly everyday, I windsurfed twice, gymed hard, walked up to the church and I even went foiling on Wannes waszp, my first time foiling on the lake. The 10 days flew by though and before we knew it Mitch and I were on the road again headed back to Aarhus. Bus, train, bus, flight, flight, bus was the combo it took to get back. Another 12 hour day to cross the continent. We figured we could have been halfway home in the same amount of time it took.

Once we got into Aarhus we parted ways as I was staying in the team hotel and Mitch was staying with Greg out of town a bit. Since then it’s been all business, sailing nearly everyday, trying to minimise distractions and focusing on what’s most important. My regatta boat is good and all my equipment is how I want it now. The wind has been quite tricky with this unusual summer still continuing but come the first day of the regatta it looks like we will have the more normal Westerly winds. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easier, probably quite the opposite actually, bringing flat water and massive shifts across the race course. I’m as ready as I can be though and I know I’ve done the work on myself required to perform. Now I just need to go out there and do it. I can’t wait! Two days to go now.

I’ll keep you updated,

/Swifto

Learning from my mistakes and coming home…

Recalibrate
riˈkalɪbreɪt/
verb correct a situation; make something right
The World Cup in Hyeres did not go well for me. This venue has challenged me since I first competed here in 2013 and every year since. I really thought with the good time on the water in Palma I had made some good improvements that would help leading into France. Unfortunately on the last day before I left Mallorca I found out some bad news about my equipment and had to make a rushed change in Hyeres. I’m not going to blame that for my result because I hate people who do that but it definitely had an effect on my confidence leading into the regatta. Mix in some really high expectations, difficult conditions and a red hot fleet probably means the result I got was deserved. I did have one fun race at the front of the fleet on one of the lightest wind days but I didn’t have any consistency in my results and felt like my decisions were being dictated by the fleet not the other way around.

How it feels sometimes

Having said that everything not to do with the sailing was fantastic. Kenno and I had a great pad overlooking the race course. Only problem was it was a 25 min ride from the club including a 3km climb to the house but we just treated it like a good cool down at the end of the day. Pre-regatta I also did one of the best rides I’ve ever done in Europe and that’s saying something. Will, Euan, Dave, Andrew and I all went out into the hills on a beautiful sunny morning before the sun got up and I saw some parts of the region I had never seen before. To cap it all off I got a delicious almond croissant for breakfast with the boys afterwards.

The view from our place in Hyeres. Early morning start for my ride

Tasty treat after my morning ride 🙂

The night before the medal race a bunch of us headed out to the go kart track and got some laps in which was epic. The next day we had the most efficient pack up the team has ever seen and before we knew it we were on the road within hours of the medal race finishing. Mitch and I drove the van while Blackers, Tom and Finn drove the small hire car to a city called Montellier. Somehow my navigation and kenno’s driving beat the other boys to our hotel despite them being in a small car and us lugging the van and rib around. We weren’t sure what to do that evening so I picked out a pirate themed restaurant nearby that was recommended as the thing to do there. Must say it did deliver with pirate waiters, a proper pirate sword fight and pretty good food.

Quick top change on day one with coach Tristan

The next day we drove on and made it to our destination, La Rochelle. This is a special place in Europe for Kenno and I as we both raced here back in 2011 for the very first time and we couldn’t wait to be back. We had plenty to reminisce about in the car and both had a strong sense of nostalgia rolling into town. Mitch had booked an epic apartment right in the heart of town and due to Jez no longer being on tour with us we had space to burn. This was the last event of the trip, the European Championships and I was desperate for a good result. Another boat change at this venue left me feeling a little shaky though, especially it being a european boat but I thought of it as good practice for the worlds (were charter boats are mandatory) and thought nothing more about it. I was determined to make this work either way. Another change for this event was a new coach. Tristan has been selected to coach Mitch, Finn and I at the world championships and was using this event as a test to make sure we were happy and compatable with him. Luckily for me T-bone and I go way back to my early years (including being in La Rochelle with me back in 2011) so safe to say I was pretty excited to get to work with him.
On the water:
I started well but not well. My first race was a 5th but I was given a BFD and I think it was deserved. After that hiccup though I raced well to finish qualifying 8th from the 160 strong Laser fleet. I couldn’t maintain my consistency for the finals racing though and unfortunately slipped back to 17th overall to finish my European trip. I struggled to find my way to the front of the fleet and even though I had some good comebacks it wasn’t enough to chase down the leaders. It was a step in the right direction though and gives me some a path to take going forward.
Off the water:
The experience I had off the water in La Rochelle was as good as it was on.  My friend Sake had been living in La Rochelle for nearly two years with his French girlfriend and was fluent in the language which enhanced our experience to no end. He showed us all about town, showed us the best cafes and restaurants and made the whole trip feel like we were really living there as well. The town markets were literally on our doorstep and every morning we wondered down to buy fresh fruit and bread. To cap it all of Sara, Mitch’s girlfriend, had arranged with me to come over to Europe early to surprise him. The look on his face when she showed up was unforgettable and having her stay with us for the event was really lovely and a good distraction from the racing.

Mitch and Sarah at our favorite cafe Mason Merling

Before long we had packed up and for most of us this meant hitting the road to Paris to fly home. Mitch and Sara stayed on to enjoy a holiday in Bordeaux and beyond while Finn and I jumped in a car and convoyed with Blackers, Tom and Tristan. Since being back in Australia I’ve bought my first car which is exciting and I came straight home as quickly as I could which is where I’m writing this from. This weekend I go back to Sydney for the next phase of preparation for the Worlds which is the biggest event of the season. I’ll keep you updated.
/Swifto

Not the start I wanted but maybe the one I needed…

The whole trip to Mallorca went so well, it went almost too well. Being gold with Qantas has made life a dream at airports. I get the privilege of using the lounges anywhere I go and for the first time ever I got a shower at my stop in Dubai on my way to Barcelona. It was epic! Spent the in a hotel with Richo in Barca before jumping on a 20 min flight to Mallorca. All my bags made it, I got into my Airbnb smoothly and all was looking good.

The boys (Mitch and Wearny) showed up a day later after driving from Belgium with the team van and trailer. Spent a sunny Monday morning setting up my boat then hit the water for a quick session. I sailed everyday from Monday to Friday as well as getting a few good training rides in. My speed was proving pretty good and I was at the front more than not, especially in the big breeze. I’ve found a new gear in my heavy wind sailing which is exciting. Everything looked great.

Then the regatta started. Now I’m not going to say things went poorly or anything like that. I actually felt like I was sailing really well but with a massive 183 boat fleet in three fleets and only 4 races to make it into finals you had to have some single digit scores on your card. I didn’t. Some mistakes and poor execution at critical moments paid me bad tenfold and I finished a brutal qualifiers in 78th. Ouch! Unlike other years though where a result like this would normally carry a lot of negative emotional baggage I took it in my stride and continued trying to carry out the highest standard I could each day. The weather turned from light and fickle to 20-25 knots the next day and although it sucked to watch the gold fleet go at it in conditions I do well in I made the most of my time in silver fleet and got two wins.

The wind turned a bit mixed for the rest of the event and I worked as hard as I could on what I needed to work on, mainly starts and first beats. I finished up second in silver fleet. Obviously not what I wanted but I’m taking away some valuable lessons in what I need to focus on and how I need to focus to do well. This time I just didn’t put my energy in the right places.

Can still smile even when in silver fleet

After the event I watched the medal race and went to diner with the team to celebrate Wearny winning the regatta. I took some time to debrief appropriately after the event was done then as tradition states hit the mountains for some cycling. We had a great group to ride with and the sun shining so I started big and did 124 km with over 3000 m of climbing. It was an epic day and I only ran out of fuel on the last climb. From the time we left the cars to the time we returned was over 9 hours. We drove home in the dark and all went to Cuban bar for some rollos (sort of like a rolled pizza). The next day we did the lighthouse ride which I had never done before. It was stunning but I was definitely feeling the fatigue from the day before.

After I had cleared my head on the bike it was time to knuckle down and get back in the boat. There was a great group of South Americans training daily so I joined in with them and punched out some good hours on the water. I’m up to my fifth day on the water in a row today and I’ll do one more tomorrow before I jump on the ferry to Barcelona on Wednesday to start the drive to Hyeres on Thursday. The World Cup in Hyeres is one of my target events for the year and I’m aiming for a top 10 finish. This seems really far fetched now after this first event but I am fully confident that if I bring my A game it is within my reach. Let’s just wait and see…

A World Title and a training camp

When I got back to Perth I was thrown straight into the world of Vipers. Not the snake or the high performance catamaran but the three or four man sport boat also called the Viper 640. A while back I had been contacted by TB saying he had been offered a tacticians role on a Viper for the worlds in Perth but he couldn’t do it and wanted to know if I wanted the job. My first response was “What’s a Viper?” and my second response was “YES”!! This was how I first got introduced to Justin, one of the founding members of the Viper 640 class and and a keen yachty. He was a British citizen but had been living in the states for the better part of 30 years and was making the journey to Perth for the worlds. His normal crew couldn’t make the trip across so he was looking for sailors in Australia and luckily he stumbled across me. We went back and forth via email for a few weeks in November last year but now the time had come and before you knew it we were shaking hands at the airport.

Dispite months of preparation we ended up having quite a few last minute dramas. Justin had asked a few weeks before the event started if I could find a second crew as well as none of his team was going to make it now. I managed to find a perfect fit for our team but with only one day until I picked up Justin at the airport he had to pull out with illness :C This left me scrambling to find someone who could drop everything they were doing for 10 days and come sail at a minutes notice. I knew just who to call. Connor picked up the phone straight away and was keen from the get go. We’d sailed against and with each other since we were kids so it worked out to be a great fit.

Us second from the pin. Tight one design racing, got to love it

After two days of intense boat work and set up we were on the water and up and running, quickly learning the ropes (quite liteally) of how to sail a Viper. Straight away I knew these things were fast. It felt like I was sailing a giant dinghy, nothing like the slow SB20 that I have raced before. The boat was lively and responsive and wicked fun downwind. After two days of onwater work it was time to do some racing. SoPYC had organized a small pre-regatta the two days before the event started and we were keen to see where we would sit in the fleet. It was light winds all weekend and very flat water. We started with a difficult 8th place in the first race but went on to wind the remaining three races to win the pre-regatta 😀 This felt pretty cool but we deep down knew we had heaps on. As a team we were really under weight, at least 30kg on most of our competitors and the forcast was showing big breeze most of the week. We were going to have a fight on our hands to make our top 5 goal.

The forcast had promised 20 -25 knots on day one and boy did it deliver. We had 4 races and it got winder each one. By the last race the fleet was barely surviving in 25 + knots. We had our moments but found ourselves going sideways upwind without the extra weight some of our competitors had. To top it off we had a UFD added to our scorecard in one of our better races. We finished the first day in 10th overall with Nick Jerwood looking unbeatable with three firsts on his scorecard.

Nick Jerwood lit up on day one. We were hitting over 20 knots on the downwinds

Day two was only a little better for us. The wind was less but a little bad luck hurt a lot. After being third all race in the first we watch half the fleet sail past in more wind on the final run. Then we got caught behind with a massive wind shift in race two to put us way back. We were pretty demoralised by this point after our high expections from the pre-regatta. Luckily we finished the afternoon strong with a 2nd and 6th place to be in 8th place after the second day.

We had a lay day the next day and we had a great class cocktail party in the maritime museum with all the sailors. It was a great location and time for everyone. When racing resumed we got to work. The wind was 10 – 14 knots and super flat water. If were going to move up today was our chance. As a team we stepped up and put in the work and just got on a roll. 2nd then 2nd then 2nd then 3rd. The best day in the fleet in what was a really tricky breeze and with that score card we boosted up to 3rd overall. We couldn’t belive it but to make it better we now had a shot at 2nd. When our second drop came in we were only 7 points behind Keith Swinton who had been holding down 2nd place all week behind Nick. We had two races left so decided to see how the first race went and then see what would happen. We lead around the top by a lot race one but in what was a super fickle race lost a few to place third, four points in front of Keiths 7th to put us 3 points away from him.

Us in second place with the white kite

To beat him we had to get three boats between us and him and also finish inside the top three because he was only dropping a 7 and we were dropping a 17! Another thing to note is that Keith was a World Matching Tour champion and won multiple events around the world in that discipline. If he just harrassed us enough and put us behind we were in danger of even holding onto our third place. Let the games begin. We ended up doing some full on circles and proper match racing pre start as we tried to escape Keith. He ended up pursuing us towards the pin and we go an average start and held in. The wind was super shifty and we just got enough of a lefty to tack and cross him. Now we had him behind we got to work chasing down the rest of the fleet. We rounded to top mark 10th and needed to finish 3rd to get him. We had an amazing run and a great second beat to just come into third and managed to defend a tense last run to the finish. It was a great feeling and felt just as good as winning I think, to have such a great come back. We were all ecstatic.

A big congratulations to Nick and his team for a great win was well. Really classy sailing and an even classier winner.

Since the Viper worlds I’ve been back in routine in the gym at WAIS before I went to Sydney for two weeks to do a training camp. The Kiwi boys came over for the first week as well as the best new wave guys in Australia coming through so we had a big group to train with. I was pretty rusty not sailing the Laser for two months but I was super keen and I really enjoyed the sailing. I got better as the camp went on as I got my feel for the boat back. Now this last week has been the final bit of preparation before I head to Spain. I’m flying in two days and I’m super excited to get into it. I feel like a little kid again 😀

I’ll keep you updated,
/ Swifto