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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.