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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.