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.
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.
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.
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 😀
When I arrived in Brisbane I was quickly reminded how hot and humid the place is. Stepping out of the airport was similar to walking into a sauna. I went straight to my Airbnb and met my hosts who were very friendly. The next day I met up with the other Laser guys and we hit the water for an hour or so in a glamour seabreeze after setting up in the morning. I also trained the next day with Tom and Mitch who didn’t make it out the day before in some really light winds which was a really good wake up before the event. I knew the conditions in Morton bay weren’t suited to my strengths so I knew this regatta was going to be a battle all the way.
The first day of the regatta was a shifty southerly wind and I found it hard to get to the top mark in good stead. I had some good downwinds though that put me back in the game each time and allowed me to minimize the damage. After the first two races I was back in 7th and knew I had a fight on my hands. The next two days gave us a mixed bag of wind with the final day before the lay day (new years eve) producing a strong storm wind and only one race.
When the regatta picked up again after new years day we had no racing at all on the first day with a complete glass out and several hours waiting for wind on the race course. The race committee needed to make up races now so the next two days had three races a day in moderate to strong south easterly’s with some nasty chop and changing current. The last day of the regatta was really hard work with long upwinds and not many tacks needed, making it a real speed day. As the regatta went on I slowly ground down my competition but it was too little too late with the top three guys sailing a very consistent regatta. Once again I finished 4th (for the third time this summer)! Each regatta was very different from Sail Melbourne to Sail Sydney and the Nationals and each time I had different people in front of me but I just couldn’t get myself onto that podium.
After the nationals I flew to Perth for five days to attend a friends wedding. It was great to see some of my oldest friends after six weeks on the road and enjoy being back in the dry Perth summer air. It was a short-lived stop over though as before I knew it I was back at the airport and on my way to Brisbane again, this time for something completely brand new.
On a side note last year I achieved a five-year goal for me. When I first started campaigning in 2013 I had the dream of one day making it to Gold status with Qantas which would mean I could use the lounge. The dream was finally realized after my flight home from Japan and I can now enjoy the fruits of the converted Qantas airport lounge. It’s made my like so much nicer with the amount of time I spend at airports and it was nice to see a small goal like that come true.
Back to my sailing I had retuned to Queensland to compete in the Australian Finn Nationals. I haven’t raced much in other classes and I’m trying to expand my knowledge in sailing. The idea started in Melbourne kind of as a joke but when Jake Lilley offered for me to borrow one of his old boats I jumped at the chance. So one thing lead to another and after doing some training in Sydney with the squad boys here I was in Brisbane ready to race. We had a real mixed bag of wind conditions with mostly light and shifty winds. I had some good moments but overall I felt I didn’t sail very well and missed a lot of opportunities to place better. Upwinds were a grind for me and downwinds I was flying being 15kg lighter than most of the competition. On the final day of racing I was in 5th place and I had only 2 points to the competitor behind me. The wind had come up and we had 15-17 knots of breeze so I had to work especially hard to stay in the game. At the end of the day my downwind speed pulled me through and I held onto 5th place with only the national team competitors in front of me. It was great to hang out with a different crowd and learn from Raffa, the new national team coach for the Finns. What made my time even better was that I got to stay at Ash Brunnings house (my old team mate and coach) and before I left I knew all there was to know about his latest passion, Bitcoin trading.
You would think after doing four regattas back to back I would have had enough but the day after I got back I was down at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club early in the morning racing in the Jess Cup, a warm up match racing event for the warren Jones International event happening next week. The Jess cup was sailed on BW8’s a popular Perth keel boat and our team (Swift racing, not my idea) was made up for Mark Spearman: Skipper, Rome Featherstone: Main, James Stuart: Bow and myself on trim. I was originally on main but we found it faster if Rome and I swapped places. We improved as a team through the round robin and qualified for the semis with only two losses.
In our semi we faced Ethan Prieto-Lows team and won in the best of five series 3 – 1. This set us up for a final with Will Bouldens team in a strong 20 knot seabreeze. He won the first race but we bounced back to win the next two. The in the critical fourth race we broached on the run through a gybe which cost us the race and left it all to the final race. We sailed really well as a team though and with a great pre-start we had control all the way and won the regatta 😀
Two days later I was at freshy again at 7am to help transport the Foundation 36ers we were racing down to Elizabeth Key for the Warren Jones. Getting under the bridge was interesting, seeing how you lower the mast then raise it again. We trained all afternoon and most of the next day working with the RFBYC coach and our newest crew member Damian Garbowski. As the 36er is quite a bit bigger than the BW8 you need more crew members and it was a lot of fun working with the team to find the best crew positions for each of us. Damo is one of the crew who won the match racing world title in China and I was keen to learn from his experience in big boat racing. After some struggles in training we made some major changes moving myself from main to pitt, Jimmy from bow to main and Damo from pitt to bow. This allowed us to have the best people in the best positions so we could perform which is what I liked most about the team, we were all were willing to adapt to get the most out of the boat and our talents.
We did two round robins with the other 11 teams over four very long days in shifty, gusty and frustrating conditions. You could never count a team down and out because the wind could flip and gift them the wind at no notice at all. Also with sand bars and beach all around it was a regular occurrence for teams to run aground while waiting for their start sequence. The Warren Jones, just like the Jess Cup, was going straight to semi-finals so after the round robins only four teams would make the finals racing on Friday. It was going to be really tight for us to make the cut off with the first three teams safe in the semis (Boulden, price and Anyon). In our last session of three races as long as we won them all and the Dutch team lost all theirs we would make it. But after winning our first race we lost a nail biter to Connors team. We were shattered after that loss but our coach Ben came up to us after and said if we win this last race we will make it on a countback with the Dutch. By now it was 7pm at night and the sun was already over the horizon. In the last race of the round robin in the last bit of wind and light we managed to sail very tense but solid race to make the semi-finals. We were all stoked and even though we were packing up in the dark it made the last four days worthwhile.
On the last day of racing the four finals teams met at RFBYC where Boulden, as the winner of the round robin, chose to race up in the first semi-final. The wind was very light and shifty and borderline racing conditions but with a big crowd watching and time getting away the race committee raced us anyway. We just weren’t as good as will in this light condition and he beat us soundly in both pre-starts to go to the finals. We were disappointed especially after beating him only a week before in the Jess Cup. But we had the petite final to race against Anyon and a third place to try and win. By now a light seabreeze had filled in and we crushed Anyon in the pre-start both times to win both races and place third in the event. I was a bit disappointed but seeing as we beat many established match racing teams with a bunch of fill ins it was probably about where we should have placed. That night we had a nice celebration at RFBYC and if felt good to have wrapped up a long summer of racing with a good bunch of friends.
The next day I was at WAIS doing a specialist breath enhancement camp with the other WAIS sailors before I drove home to Esperance to have some down time. Now I write this on my last day home before I drive back to Perth and brace myself to compete in another completely new boat, the Viper 640. The World Championships is on at SOPYC and I’ve been asked to be tactician on a boat. I couldn’t say no to an opportunity like that. I’ll keep you updated.
It’s been a productive last few months. I was back on the bike the day after I got back from Japan and back in the Laser a day after that. My time in Perth which was supposed to be down time qucikly turned into an all out training camp! I just couldn’t help myself and if things aren’t going my way the only thing that makes me feel better is working harder. I had a lot of meetings at WAIS seeing the team, debriefing the season and meeting some new staff. Most of my time was spent catching up with my coaches in WA, thinking of ways I can get better and what needs to change to bridge the gap. I also went through a lot of fitness testing which was good. I set a bunch of new PB’s on the bike and my strength training is all on track which is great 🙂
After Perth I flew to Melbourne for an all classes team camp. This was the second one I had done this year and was again really successful. I got to meet a lot of the new staff and the new PD Ian Murry. We also got a few days on the water in our own boats which was the first time that’s ever happened. This camp rolled into Sail Melbourne happening the following week, the first summer regatta of the season. We had a good mix of conditions with a different type of breeze blowing every day. I started safely and built as the regatta went on with a really good last day in some epic conditions. I finished up 4th but got to play around at the front a lot which was the goal of the week. Unfortunately we didn’t race on the last day of competition due to too much wind so I didn’t get a shot at third.
The day after we finished I was in the car on my way up to Sydney with all the teams boats in tow and Connor in the passenger seat. The Sydney International Regatta was the second regatta of the summer and it was starting next week. Lucky for us we had our friends in the NZL National Team coming over to train and compete with us for this part of the summer which was great. They are some of the best sailors in the world so we had both the Gold and Bronze medallists racing in our fleet 😀
We did a really good four days of training with 11 boats out on the water which was amazing. After this kind of quality training and racing you feel pretty confident going into a regatta. Sail Sydney turned it on weather wise with sun and seabreezes every day. I had a good start and kept that flow going through the regatta. On the last day of racing it was all there for the taking with the top four guys all within 2 points of each other. I didn’t sail a great first race but on the second race I lead around the top mark by quite a bit and was a great shot at the podium. Things weren’t to be though as the wind got a bit difficult and I got sucked back into the pack. I finished 4th again, a bit disappointing but I beat Tom for the first time in a regatta which is nice.
The next week I joined in with the Finn squad who were training and as I’ve decided to do the Finn Nationals for a bit of fun I decided to get out on the water with them. It’s a very different beast to the Laser but it was a lot of fun to learn the ways of the class and see some of the best at work.
Now after a quick holiday in Queenstown, NZL I’m on my way to Brisbane for the Laser Nationals. I’m actually writing this from the lounge in Sydney waiting for my flight. All’s going to plan, I just have to trust the process.
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/
Last time I wrote I was in the back of the team car with the rest of the laser squad, driving from Hyeres to Riva Del Garda in the pouring rain. It’s been about a month since then and I’m now sitting outside a café in Perth, sipping on a long mac and enjoying the winter sunlight. Let me catch you up with what’s been going on.
Lake Garda in north Italy is my favourite place in the world. I’ve been going there every year since 2013 and it never disappoints. We spent two weeks there doing a training block this year and even though the weather was a bit wet at times, it was still the highlight of the trip. Mitch, Jez and I had a whole house to ourselves just behind the old town of Riva and it was perfect. The first week was mostly spent cycling and windsurfing, getting our bodies back into shape. The second week we were all on the water nearly every day. Apart from the six Aussies there were two Spanish, a Guatemalan, lots of Italian, Wannes from Belgium of course, and a bunch of other countries I can’t remember. We even had the great Robert Scheit come and join one of our sessions which was a real treat.
After the two weeks was done it was time to leave again. We packed up the trailer and left early to drive to Medemblik in the Netherlands. The last time I made that drive I was in the old green van with Jez and Santi and we didn’t arrive until 1am the next day. This time though we were really efficient with each of us driving for a tank of fuel then rotating so we made it by about 9pm which is still broad daylight in Holland. The last time I did Delta Lloyd Regatta I had just jumped off a plane from Mexico and was super tired. This time I felt much better prepared and we had plenty of time to train and settle into routine. This was by far the warmest I have ever seen Medemblik. Notoriously cold and windy, this year was mostly sunny and light which meant the bugs came out in droves. For those who haven’t been to Medemblik there is vast amounts of stagnant water around and if it starts to get warm the bugs come out to play. Our first day on the water was super light and we were nearly drowning in bugs, I’d never seen anything like it.
The first two days of racing saw some nice winds 8 – 15 knots. The two fleets of 50 boats all fought it out to qualify for gold fleet and I managed to have some good races including a first on the last race of the second day. I went into Gold fleet in 3rd place and 1 point from first but things got challenging from there. I had a solid first race but the wind steadily died as finals racing went on and by the last day we were racing in less than 5 knots of breeze. I struggled to find my way around the course a bit and dropped back to 18th overall. This regatta was a funny one because the medal race was held the same day as the last races so I sat that afternoon with Jez and watched the rest of the Aussie boys compete in the medal race. The next day I still had to get up and race with the remainder of the Gold fleet even though the regatta was over. Weird right! However this regatta still meant a lot to a lot of people as it was a qualifier for next year’s world cup so many people still had plenty to gain. We had a moderate offshore breeze and the hottest day I’ve ever seen in Medemblik, over 30 degrees. I had a good race and chipped away to win it but it was a little too late to change anything. I finished 15th.
After we dropped the boats into their storage Jez and I drove to Hamburg to catch our flight home. Overall the last six weeks in Europe was great and I had a really productive trip but the results just didn’t flow. Back to the grind now, Sydney next week then onto Japan. Plenty to improve on before the worlds starts in September. Finally I’d like to say a huge thank you to Fremantle Sailing Club for their ongoing support of my Olympic Campaign. I wouldn’t be able to do it without your generosity.
This season I’m hoping for a break through. This will now be my fifth season competing full time and my fifth time racing in World Cup Hyeres. Father time is ticking but I’m well aware you can’t force success the same way you can’t force a race win. It has to be earnt with hard work, good decision making and a clear head. Everything has to be just right to even earn a seat at the table of success and even then only a select few will achieve what so many want.
This years campaign was precluded with two months preparation in Sydney with the rest of the Australian Laser Team and sometimes the New Zealand Laser Team as well. With plenty of in house racing and training against some of the worlds best, including the current Gold and Bronze medallists, I felt good about the season ahead. I flew straight from Sydney into Hamburg to collect the team car and trailer before doing the long haul drive down to the south of France.
I was on accommodation duties this year as I was staying with fellow team mates Mitchell and Jeremy so I booked a nice Airbnb a couple of km’s out of Le Port De Hyeres on the southern peninsular. We had four really good days on the water in bright sun with good wind but as usual it wouldn’t last with some cold northerly winds coming for the regatta.
With a 60 boat fleet and closed entry only the best of the best get the chance to compete in World Cup Hyeres which makes the racing of the highest caliber. The winds always throw up a mix with anything from windy and wavy to light and flat. This year was no exception with some really slow moving shifts making strategy a nightmare. I really didn’t race well and had a tough time getting myself off the start line. I finally got myself sorted on the last day and started to race well but it was way too little too late. Hopefully it’s a sign of better things to come. I write this now from the back of the team van driving to my favourite place in the world, Riva Del Garda in Northern Italy, so it’s hard to stay down. Hopefully two weeks of good training on the bike and in the boat will put me in good stead for the racing in Holland at the end of the month.
Last time I posted on here I was just about to compete in the 2017 Laser Nationals. It’s been nearly four months since then so I thought it was about time I posted again. The summer was very hard for me and one I learnt a lot from but also an experiance I don’t want to have again. The toughest things change people and I feel like I have grown from the experiance. I can still take the positives away from something that was pretty negative.
So where am I now? In Sydney after finishing the last of three seperate training camps over here, 5 weeks in all. This last one was pretty race focused as we get ready to fly to France for the World Cup in Hyeres. I didn’t do Palma this year, the first time in 3 years but I don’t mind that. Actually I’m hoping the extra time at home is going to keep me fresh enough to really perform for this relatively short trip to France, Italy and Holland. It’s been a bit of an up and down experiance flying back and forth from WA so often and getting a handle on myself and the new WAIS staff that are coming in. Like I said, all learning which is what the whole experiance is about anyway.
I’m really looking forward to being back in Europe racing again. I always feel a good sense of focus when I’m there and having been to Hyeres four times before, it’s not nearly the foreign land it once was. I’ll keep you more up to date as the year unfolds.
I kicked of December with the World Cup Final in St Kilda, Melbourne. This was my first time competing in the WCF because it is exclusively invite only to the top 20 sailors. The field held both the current gold and silver medallists from Rio plus former silver medallists and world number ones. It was going to be some great racing.
I started out slowly in the regatta making some poor judgments that cost valuable points early. Moving through the fleet didn’t come easy with such a high standard and I was regulated to the middle of the fleet for the majority or the event. However on our last day of racing things finally started to click, or so I thought, when I won the second race of the day and was first around the top in the last race and went on the place fifth. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as I was later told my first place was a UFD and I dropped from 7th to 12th in the regatta, missing the medal race on a countback.
The next two days were spent packing and driving boats up to Sydney for Chris at PSA. We stayed overnight in a small town in the middle of nowhere before polishing of the drive the next day. I was staying in an Airbnb in Bronte, a beautiful seaside suburb just south of Bondi beach and a 15min drive from the club. The weather for Sail Sydney was like nothing I had ever seen before with two days of non-stop rain and light south west winds. The tides we had for racing were exceptional and made for some really interesting sailing. By this time though I was quite burnt out and for the first time ever I really didn’t feel like sailing or being out on the water. My limit had finally been reached. It was a strange and next experience for me and I’m glad for having it but it’s going to make me re-think the way I approach the next four years and how I train for events.
After Sail Sydney finished up I packed up and got myself to the airport to fly to Mooloolaba on the Shineshine Coast to have Christmas with Mitch and his family. $570 dollars in excess baggage later (don’t ever fly with Jetstar) I made it to Queensland and have been hanging out in the warm weather and not thinking about sailing. It’s been refreshing to do something different for a little while.
Next up is the Nationals in Adelaide where I’ll meet my dad and Spero on Boxing day.