Since I last wrote I had just got home from Holland and was gearing up to go to my first training camp in Enoshima, the home of the 2020 Olympic Games. The travel load since has been on another level with a second camp in Enoshima, a camp in Italy, the World Championships in Split and another trip to Japan. I’ll break it down as best I can as it’s been a while between posts.
Ground Zero: The first step after Europe was to debrief and try to understand the mistakes of the past six weeks. I hadn’t performed as well as I would have liked and although there were good parts in my racing it was mostly a battle in the pack. After a quick stint at home and in Perth I was back in Sydney for a two week training block with the team. This was targeted at light airs, my biggest weakness, and although it was raining and cold most of the time I felt I was slowly making gains. It wasn’t easy though as I hate losing and I did a lot of it in this phase of training.
Enoshima – Just outside Tokyo: I had been to Enoshima once before in 2016 to compete in the Olympic week they held but this was a totally different time of year and a completely different group to work with. I had made the decision to buy a new boat (a big investment for me) that would stay in Japan for the next Olympic cycle. The weather was so hot and sticky, over 35 degrees every day with a really high humidity. It was increadable. The wind was once again very light, perfect for me to hone in on what I had learnt in Sydney. Speed work was the order of the week as we tried to wrap our heads around the drifting, light seabreeze that filled in every afternoon. We had a few outsiders to train with as well, Charlie the American, JB from France and a few Japanese locals to fill the gaps. It was ten days intensive and then we were gone but not before we went into Tokyo on our day off to see the sights. It’s an amazing city, nothing like I expected, and opened this country kids eyes to life in a big city (Tokyo-Yokohama has a population of 37.8 million, the biggest urban area population in the world, nearly double all of Australia!)
Round 2: I had two weeks in Australia before I flew back to Tokyo for our second training camp. I spent a week at home, seeing the family but it wasn’t really long enough to truly relax. Before long I was back in the air for another block of training. One thing to note was that while we were away a strong storm cell had hit right onto Enoshima, flipping our boats over which were stored outside near our teams container. This was a bit stressful but luckily there wasn’t any notable damage. What’s been so good about going to Japan has been the host family that I’ve been lucky enough to stay with every time I go back. After our first meet through Airbnb I stayed with them ever since. They are the nicest people and have made my time so much easier, Enoshima feels like a home away from home because of them. The second block of training was much the same as the first with light winds and hot weather. The two biggest differences were I had a bike to use, one I had brought from Australia to keep in Japan and make life easier in the long run. The second was that the Kiwis were there to train along with everyone else. It was great to hang out with Sam and A-mac a bit since we hadn’t crossed paths a lot this season. When training was done the team split up. I was going back home while some of the team went onto Aarhus for the worlds test event that was about to begin (Tom was already in Europe competing in the moth worlds and would meet Matt and Blackers there). My time at home was brief once again, less that ten days, before I headed back to my spiritual home, Lake Garda, Italy.
Largo de Garda – Italy: Two weeks in the Italian summer is such a special thing that I’m always so grateful to head back there. Mitch and I flew into Milan from different ends of the country before catching the train to Rovereto, close to Riva where Jeremy, Matt and Tom picked us up on their road trip down from Denmark (logistics is half art, half science with us). This was business time now. The worlds were coming and I hadn’t posted a notable result all season. It had to be at the worlds, the biggest event of the year, that I would perform at. The training in Japan had built my light air confidence and now I was back in some more breeze I was all the better for it. Physically the training was demanding, with big breeze most days as the hot, dry weather dragged in a reliable Ora every afternoon. The Lake was packed with tourists that time of year so we struggled to find accommodation really close to the lake so Mitch, Jeremy and I were out in a small town called Arco, near the base of one of our favourite climbs, the Largo Di Tenno climb. The two weeks flew by as my training became more and more sailing specific. The tension was building.
Split – Croatia: The sun wasn’t even over the hills as a very loaded rig left Lake Garda heading south. I took the first shift of driving, getting us out of the lake and well on our way for Split. We arrived in the late afternoon, rolling straight into the cramped boat park to unload our boats and find our accommodation. We’re getting pretty good at packing and unpacking by now. This was my third time in Split and everyone other than Finn had been here before so navigation was great as we already knew all the best shops. The apartment I had booked for Mitch, Jeremy and myself was amazing, looking right over the race course with plenty of space to lounge around in which was a huge step up from our place in Italy (nicknamed “The Dungeon”). It was straight to business for us as the lead in regatta for the worlds was about to begin, the GP Mornar regatta. It was a simple four days of racing, testing out the regatta waters with an invite only entry list. Day one was a perfect seabreeze with sun and fun waves. My racing was solid; I had great speed from my training in Garda and wanted to keep things simple and clean. I walked away with some solid scores after day one and three races. Then the wind stopped. We didn’t sail for two days due to a lack of breeze which is typical of Split that time of year and from my own experience (in the 2014 European Championships we only completed 7 of 12 races). The final day of the regatta was a South East wind direction none of us Australians had seen before that the locals called “Hugo”. It was steady with steep, fun waves as the breeze funnelled between the cliffs on the land and the island of Brac. Again I sailed well, keeping things clean and simple with good speed. I had some great comebacks, notably on the first downwind of the last race where I took nearly 20 boats, but I still missed the cut for the night race (top 9) finishing 11th overall. Still a solid result with some good signs for things to come. The night race provided some great banter, watching the boys race in close quarters right in front of the yacht club.
The Build: Two weeks to go now and it’s the calm before the storm. Most of the European sailors that had been camped out in Spilt for months had returned home to rest while us Aussies had a little downtime to ourselves to freshen up and prepare for the last push. Blackers arrived from Sydney soon after the Mornar regatta had ended and training commenced. We did a mix of speed work and racing drills, inviting a few select groups to train with us on occasion to help with diversity. As we got closer the training broadened as it usually does to mass groups of over 50 boats racing together. It can get hectic and it’s important not to lose your cool. I had opted not to take pre-charter to help save some money (a mistake in hindsight) so I got my boat two days before the event. I had one great session in the boat, nearly winning every race in training, then disaster stuck. The day before the regatta started I was trying to relax and tidy a few loose ends so I wouldn’t be worried about them during the regatta, but I didn’t feel great. I hadn’t eaten all day and had been on the toilet quite a bit. I went to see Sam for a bit and he made me an omelette just to get something in. BIG MISTAKE!! A few hours later that came up into the toilet while everyone else was at the regatta opening ceremony. I was stressed and angry and couldn’t believe this was happening now, the night before the regatta. Luckily I had a massive sleep that night and woke up way better than I was the night before. It was time to race.
World Laser Championships 2017: The start of the regatta was light and shifty and I just wanted to get through qualifying without any major scores on my card. I walked away from the day with a 17th and a 12th, two massive comebacks after some poor starts and first beats. Day two was hot with no wind at all and no one really expected to race. Then, out of nowhere a moderate Hugo came in to save the day late in the afternoon. We got one race in some good conditions and I had another great comeback, just chipping away to finish 6th. Day three was epic and will be remembered by the competitors for a long time to come. Three races, back to back, in 20 – 25 knots of wind and some epic waves. I had some great speed and really got to use my fitness to my advantage. I got better and better as the day went on and placed 7th, 3rd (after an epic battle with Greg on the last run, changing leads several times) and a 2nd (which was a comfortable lead I gave up on the top reach of the race to JB, dammit). These results saw me move into 14th place after qualifying, a solid position to build on going into the critical gold fleet racing (the top 50 of the regatta racing in one fleet to decide the champion).
The first race in Gold fleet was one of the craziest races I’ve done in my life. An unusual wind from the north (called a Bora) came onto our course just hours after a massive thunderstorm had swept over Split bringing torrential rain and hail stones. As the race began the wind died, leaving only a few to get one little gust that trickled down the centre of the course. I was left at the back of the fleet by the top mark, down but not out. The top reach compressed and the whole fleet basically restarted as we all moved in a clump towards the bottom mark. I had a good run through the crowded centre to round just ahead of a massive pack. I chipped away to get a solid 21st considering the conditions. That was the only race we got for the day. Day two of gold was again hot and again no one really expected to sail as we waited around until well after lunch for wind. Then again we were saved, this time not from a Hugo but from a glamour seabreeze, champagne sailing conditions. With three races planned this was going to be the most critical day of the regatta. I had a poor start in race one but fought hard all race with some great downwinds to finish 10th. Race two was a much better start and I was fighting out the front most of the race. I rounded the bottom equal 6th but slipped to 8th by the top and lost a critical 4 more on the final run, something that would haunt me (more on that later), to finish 12th. On the last race of the day the sun was getting low and the wind a little funky. I really wanted to go left and was in a super tight lane going that way but I just couldn’t survive with Micky, a British team sailor rolling me. No big deal I chipped out and found a lane but as we came back towards the top the extreme corners of the course were the only places getting wind. I was left behind in the middle and rounded the top well in the 40’s. A good run again and picking the right hand side of the course saved me a heap though as I sored up into 24th, a great comeback in such high quality racing. Micky who rolled me won the race. We towed in as the sun was setting and I felt quite good about my day, no major scores and two races to go. It was all on for tomorrow.
Except it wasn’t! A storm was brewing and the race committee was very cautious about sending us out before it hit round 1pm. After a small bit of rain had passed over we waited for the call to launch but the wind never came. The storm had taken it all away and left the laser fleet with an AP over A (all racing abandoned for the day). Just like that the Laser worlds were done and any chance I had of making top ten. I placed 14th, a personal best but left the event angry and disappointed. It’s a funny game. It left me thinking about all the missed points and opportunity’s I had that cost me those eight small points. Even if that 12th had stayed an 8th I would have placed 11th. I didn’t have a lot of time to dwell to be honest though. We packed up immediately and Mitch, Jeremy and I were on the ferry to Ancona that night, not even hanging around for the closing ceremony. The regatta was won by the great Pavlos Kontides, an Olympic silver medallist and now world champion. The rest of the podium was taken by Tommy and Wearny, a great finish for Australia. Everyone in the team had a personal best at the worlds this year, showing just how strong our team really is.
Perth – Australia: After a hectic day of driving I made it to Munich, (I left the boys there as they continued on their crazy drive to Amsterdam) so I could fly out the next day. Still no time to rest though. I arrived back home in Perth on a Friday night and was coaching at Westsail, WA’s biggest youth training clinic, the next day at 8am. For most people 6 days of that is enough but I went home the next day to Esperance and was coaching a learn to sail clinic with 33 keen young sailors. Crazy days! The day that finished I drove through the night to arrive in Perth the next morning in time for the Fremantle Sailing Club opening day which included racing on a 36 footer called Aquila. Not two days after that I was in the air headed back to Japan for the third time this year!
Gamagori – Japan: Once I got back to Japan I stayed with my host family for one night. The next day I was up early packing several trucks with our team boats and coach boats to make the 5 hour drive south to Gamagori. While our boats made the way by road the rest up us took the bullet train, quite the experience. I was staying in a traditional style Japanese homestead in Gamagori. My room was probably only 2m x 3m, a single futon on the floor with tatami bamboo flooring. The house was full with sailors, probably because it was the cheapest place to stay in a 10km radius of the venue, including some Lithuanians, English, Dutch and Japanese athletes. We unpacked the next day, just in time to beat the rains and boy did it rain. I have never seen such consistent rain, day in day out like I did in Japan this trip. It was incredible.
I got two days on the water before the regatta started, happy to be back in the boat and sailing quite well, even in my weakest condition. Then the regatta started. The first two days were some of the most marginal racing I’ve ever done in a World Cup, less than 4 knots most of the time with massive holes and huge wind shifts on top of some very skewed courses. On the 3rd day of the regatta I didn’t even rig up the conditions were so bad. We never even left the beach and all the while the rain poured down. For three days it did not stop. The 4th day of the event we actually had some wind, shifty and difficult but fair. I had my moments but was having a hard time getting off the start line well. For the final day of racing we got one thirty minute race in and then the wind shut down. The race committee still kept us out there for another 4 hours just to make sure we were good and cold when we got in. Did I mention it was still raining? I packed up, watched the medal race the following day, Tom won the race but Sam won the regatta (well done boys). I finished 28th. We got our boats packed up, put them on the trucks again and went home to wait out the storm. Still raining by the way.
By now typhoon Lan was bearing down on the coast, a massive cat 5 storm that was due to hit that night. Nothing too bad happened though and I still had a good night’s sleep somehow. The next day I was on the free bus the race committee had organised for the competitors to get to Enoshima. The other Aussies had caught the train the night before so I was riding with Rob (Canadian laser sailor) and Barney (American laser sailor). It was a great day, sun out for once, and we had an amazing view of Mt Fuji as we drove past on our way north.
Enoshima – Japan: Being back in Enoshima is like coming home. Staying with my family is so great and familiar surroundings make the travellers life much easier. I had another two good days on the water pre event with some really tricky offshore breezes blowing. I took the day off before the regatta started and my host invited me into Tokyo to see his home there and meet his wife and new born son. Then we walked around the city and he showed me some of the sights. It was amazing to walk around Tokyo with a local and have his insight into living there. It is one of my most memorable experiences in Japan to date.
The first day of racing wasn’t so good for me, still having a hard time with my starts. Day two was much, much better though, coming through with all single digit scores in the 54 boat fleet, the second best day in the fleet. My starts were still hampering my ability to be near the front though. On the final day of racing we got one really shifty race in where I chipped away and solidified a 12th place overall in the regatta. Then the heavens really open up, it had been raining all day but this was something else. You couldn’t see more than 50m and the race committee called it a day. We quickly packed in the rain, moved our lasers into storage and helped pack the coach boats into containers to be shipped back to Australia for the summer. And that was that.
Perth – Australia: Now I’m back in Perth for an epic three weeks, the longest I’ve been here all year. The sun is out and the sea breezes are strong. No rest for the wicked though. I’m already well under way debriefing and preparing for the summer ahead. I’m a long way from where I would like to be and I have a lot to get better at before the European season next year. By the end of the month I’ll be in Melbourne for a team camp, much like the one I did on the gold coast at the start of the year. Then the racing begins and I can’t wait.
Sail Melbourne 29th November – 2nd December https://www.sailingworldcupmelbourne.com/
Sail Sydney 11th – 14th December http://websites.sportstg.com/assoc_page.cgi?client=1-9990-0-0-0
Australian Laser Nationals 29th – 4th Jan https://www.auslasernationals.com.au/
See you on the water,