Unexpected Changes

The title to this post relates on two levels. The first was the unexpected nature of the wind in Puerto Vallarta compared to my time racing in 2016 and the second is about my dramatic change in calendar from what it first looked like when I left for Europe back in March to now in June. Some changes have been great and very exciting and others (like the wind) didn’t match my expectation.

Top mark race lead

My 10th Laser worlds (now called ILCA) is now in the books. I’ve done every single one since 2013 and I must say it’s been quite a journey riding the highs and lows of high-performance sport and also watching myself change as I grow up doing it. Despite its challenges I’ve loved every minute of my time doing this and I wouldn’t have rather spent the last 10 years of my life doing anything else.

The event here in Mexico has taught me once again some valuable lessons about racing and my own thinking that I can hopefully implement for the rest of this Paris campaign. I had arrived here in Puerto Vallarta with what I thought was an understanding of the venue and the way the breeze worked here. I now know that it was based on a one-time experience 7 years ago and that I really didn’t understand anything about this place at all. The wind last time made the racing a very right-handed race course and because the thermal here is so reliable and regular I wrongly assumed it would be working the same under all circumstances. I now have a much, much better idea of what this venue is but I more importantly know that it is always a trap to not just sail the wind you have in the moment. If you set a trap for the wind, you’ll get caught in it every time.

Back to the traveling part, we had a mega day leaving Lake Garda. On our final day (as we usually do) we crammed as much stuff into the day as we could. This included me picking up a hire car, packing my bags, going sailing and packing up my boat, going riding up Tenno one last time, having pizza at SUD, packing more stuff again (at the yacht club at 11pm packing still until security kicked us out) then finally loading the car and going to bed at 2am only to wake up at 5am and hit the road. We all crammed into our car and I dropped Ej and Zac at Linate Airport before Finn and I continued on to MXP Airport to get our flight. We were getting close on time and starting to worry but we made it to the airport and thought we were clear. However, we couldn’t find where to drop our car off!! We did lap after lap trying to find the car drop until luckily Finn spotted it and we raced in. We ran up to the check in desk to find no one behind the desk, just some of the British Airways staff about to go and find some lunch. We asked if we could check in and they said it was too late but they could put us on another plane. We explained we had a connection to Mexico that we couldn’t miss and thankfully they were very helpful and quickly rushed us through. It was as close to missing your flight as you could get without missing it.

Waiting to collect out boats on the first day of charter. We almost didn’t have boats for this event with many dramas going on behind the scene, mostly to do with shipping and customs

Everything went fairly smooth after that, we were all super tired after finally getting in to Mexico and it took a while to get used to the time difference again and the heat but it was good vibes being somewhere tropical. I had booked a really nice condo on Airbnb with Ej and Sam King that was huge! We each had a bedroom and bathroom with a bed to spare and it saved us a lot of money compared to the resort at the club. We had a day to sleep and chill (or play golf in my case) and then we got into our preparation. The boats were all very good being one builder this time, thank goodness, so there was no room to blame our equipment for the regatta. We got 5 days on the water before the event and I would say things were going quite well. I was pretty happy with my speed and I thought I had a handle on the venue but that was a mistake.

The island green par 3 on the 7th hole, El Tigre Golf Course
Some great prawn tacos at a small restaurant near our Airbnb

The Worlds: Winning the first race can either be a blessing or a curse and this time I feel it was the latter. Before this event started, I was bringing a lot of bias into my thinking from my last experience here which was a very right-handed course. Just about no matter what you did you had to get right to take advantage of a pretty consistent geographical shift. I did exactly this on the first race and it set me up to win the race. Now I’m certain the right is the must do strategy and I started backing that plan with no question to anything else. So when the first left handed shifts started showing up I was confused and not ready to accept that the left could be an option. I wrote it off as a once off and that it wouldn’t happen again, until it did! Now I was scrambling and it pretty much summed up the story of how my event unraveled. It was only by the last day of the event that I let go of that idea and just sailed the races how I felt was best and I had a much better time.

I didn’t have any time to mope about it though as I had two more events to gear up for! My original plan was to finish the worlds and fly home but before the event started, I was given a chance to potentially coach the ILCA 6 Masters Worlds two weeks after my event and I jumped at the chance. I didn’t want to just sit around for 10 days though and with the help of Brett Beyer we scrapped together 12 sailors for me to look after for the ILCA 7 Masters Worlds. It was a busy week trying to remember 12 different water bottles and getting to know a crowd made up of Australians, an Argentinian, a Frenchmen, a Thai sailor and two USA but I had a lot of fun and I think they did as well. We got two Champs from the week with Brett winning his GM category and Andres winning the Apprentice division. More importantly we all became friends from a group that otherwise would have had little interaction.

Brett and I chatting pre-race

With just one day off I was back to it again with the ILCA 6 group, a bit more manageable this time with just 6 older gentlemen from the States. I started a little unsure how to coach a group like this because most of them had plenty of experience but I quickly learnt you can teach old dogs’ new tricks and they were some of the most enthusiastic students I had ever had! We had a blast of a week accumulating with a really exciting final day that saw my sailor Boomer win the coveted Legends category (75 and older) on the final race which was truly exciting. I really bonded with the group and I know I’ll be seeing them in America one day, from the stories they told there are some places that I absolutely must see and sail at.  

Mine and Toms coaching group with Boomer in the middle

I should also quickly mention what was happening off the water during these 3 weeks. Colin and his family, who are all now good friends, kindly invited me into his home to stay while I was working for him. He was the one who set me up with the job in the first place but more than that, he showed me how he and his family lived on their beautiful property outside Bucerias, a small town 15min from the club in Nuevo. I don’t think I could have stayed in Mexico for so long if it wasn’t for their kind hospitality. I had such a good time; I know I will be back again. Colin and Paulina went above and beyond to look after me.

The new burro (donkey) at “The Ranch” (Colins house) with Colin and their German shepherd Oso in the background

So now after 5 weeks in Mexico it was time to leave, but not back to Australia. There seemed little point on returning home now with the team coming back to France in the middle of July so I decided to come here to Kiel in Germany to see my girl and race in the famous Kiel Week! This hasn’t at all gone to plan though unfortunately starting with all my luggage becoming lost on the flight over here and on top of that, me getting very bad food poisoning on my second night here. For 3 days I was feeling really bad and was stuck in bed while everyone else got to enjoy the sunshine and sailing. I did manage to get a quick sail in yesterday (in my new E6 boat) and compete in 1 race (which I won) but I felt the priority is to get better so I can start training properly again, rather than push through for little reward. It’s been a bit unfortunate but that’s all a part of being a campaigning sailor and you have to take the good with the bad. Hopefully they can find my bags soon because I’ve been in the same clothes for a week and I won’t have much luck training without the stuff inside them.

Next up is two weeks in my favorite place in the world, Lake Garda in Italy for bit of a fitness boot camp and to get some good sailing in before I meet with the rest of the Australian Team in Marseilles for a good block of training at the Olympic venue. It’s going to be a great next few months and is hopefully productive towards my campaign.

Strawberry picking with my girl in Heikendorf (near our accommodation in Kiel)

Talk soon,