Nullarbor and Nationals
Next up on the agenda was preparation for a summer of racing with my own charter business being run on the side. Many months earlier the opportunity to buy some team boats (6 to be exact) had been presented to me by Rafa and I thought I would take on the challenge. This started a massive logistical learning adventure but I had a lot of fun along the way. To begin with I had to fly to Esperance last minute to get mums car, which was the only thing big enough to tow the 6 boats across the country, then bring it back to Perth to pack the car and collect the trailer I was going to use for the trip. It was a lot of running around but eventually everything was sorted so Elyse and I could get on the road. We enjoyed Christmas morning in Perth with Elyse family before driving to Esperance (yes, all 8 hours’ worth) to then enjoy Christmas eve with my family. On boxing day we continued on across the country, camping one night, staying in the worlds roughest pub the next before getting into Sydney late on the 4th day of driving. We had quite the adventure as I kept telling Elyse who had never driven the Nullarbor before, “you have to do it once in your life!”
The next day we settled in a bit more at my Uncle Rob and Aunty Kate’s house in Sydney for the nationals, the same place I had stayed for the same event at the same yacht club 12 years prior when I was still a radial sailor. No time to relax too long though, I had 6 boats I had to move out of storage on the other side of the city and get to Botany Bay in time for all the internationals coming to charter from me. The British boys and Kiwis were coming for most of the summer which included the Nationals, Sail Melbourne and a month of training in Adelaide so I had offered my services and they had all happily accepted my solution to their charter needs. Now I needed to pull this thing off otherwise I could have some grumpy competitors coming after me. It was a bit nerve racking trying to figure out how to best stack the boats the first time, not knowing even if I would have to capacity to do it but after the first short drive to Botany, I knew we would be alright. We got the boats to the club and Elyse and I quickly got to work putting the boats together with the parts that were missing, cleaning the hulls and spray painting the trolleys so they wouldn’t go missing during the week. It was a really big two days of work getting them ready but we got it done just in time and everyone was happy with what they had so that made me happy. Now it was time to start racing!
We got off to a cracker start with a strong North East seabreeze blowing and sunshine. The racing was red hot from the go and I think we all realised this was going to be a tough summer of sailing. We had the entire British Sailing Team of Micky, Elliot, Dan and Sam along with the Kiwi Team of George and Tom as well as Ryan from Singapore. We also had the whole host of young Australians coming up through the ranks to challenge us so from the first race I think we all knew we were on for a big summer. I got off to a bit of a shaky start to the Nationals but I improved as the event went on and put myself in a position to challenge for the podium on the last day but it wasn’t to be and I had to settle for 4th overall and second Australian behind Wearny, Micky and Elliot.
Then came the big pack up for the journey south to Melbourne and the second event of the summer. It took a while but we managed to get all the boats on the trailer and in a stable situation so the day after the event Elyse and I hit the road. We started late so the goal was Aubrey and we got in a bit later than planned but we had no time pressure so we could just plod along. The next day we rolled into Royal Brighton Yacht Club on a sunny afternoon and unloaded the boats. This time we were staying at our friends parents house of Eliza and Jeremy, the same as I stayed in for the worlds back at the start of 2020. This was actually the first time I had been in Melbourne since then so it was nice to be back and see how the city had changed after a few years away.
After two days of training on the water and a day off the water playing golf we got stuck into the racing. Melbourne always throws up a mix of conditions and this was no exception with shifty offshore conditions and one and strong onshore conditions the next. I was able to keep my sailing fairly consistent throughout the event and coming into the last race had a good chance at finishing on the podium. I had George on equal points with me and Dan 1 point in front so it was going to be tight. I remember completely messing up my start though, getting trapped in irons moments before the gun and starting a whole 15 seconds late behind the fleet. I was able to catch up but knew I hadn’t done enough to beat Dan, although I did manage to keep George behind me, just beating him in the race to secure 4th. Then, when we got to shore and checked the results it had me in 3rd! Dan had be BFD on the start in the race to gift me the podium. I was very lucky but happy to take a medal behind Micky and Elliot again.
Once again, the circus was on the road, this time off to Adelaide. We packed up and Elyse and I left the day after the regatta, driving all the way in one go and arriving to our Airbnb (which was very nice) in the evening. We were here to complete a month of training in preparation for the 2024 world champs which were to be hosted here in 12 months’ time. Elyse and I had a few days to enjoy Adelaide, exploring the town and even riding down to see the start of one of the stages of the Tour Down Under, Australia’s premier cycling event. It was great to get to see all the pros and their expensive bikes, you could really tell just by looking at them just how fit they were. We then got stuck into the sailing again, completing 9 days on the water for the first part of the camp with the Adelaide State Champs as a part of it. I managed to finished 3rd here, finally beating Elliot in a regatta but losing to Micky and Wearny.
I flew home to see Elyse and get some rest from sailing for a few days while we had some holiday time between camps, then got stuck back into it again for the second camp for another 8 days on the water. It was a great time with amazing cycling, good gyms and a very supportive venue. The sailing waters off Adelaide and very nice, with a mix of strong seabreezes and tricky gradient winds to keep you on your toes. After all this intense sailing it was time to pack up one final time and hit the road, all the way back to Perth! We loaded the trailer and I got all the parts in order and was driving out of Adelaide by 2pm. It was pretty hot so I took my time and has the goal of getting to Ceduna that evening. Nothing could have really prepared me for what happened next.
At around 2am, only 30km out of Ceduna, my right axle of my trailer snapped. The trailer hit the tarmac and an explosion of sparks followed as the right wheel whizzed past me into the bush on the other side of the road. Thank goodness there wasn’t anyone around and I was able to pull over safely off the road and park up near some bushes. I didn’t really know what to do but this wasn’t a part of the plan. I decided to camp up on the side of the road and see if I could find help the next morning in town. It was a Friday (of course) so I knew this was going to be tricky in a country town. I rolled in early, leaving the trailer on the side of the road, and found some breakfast before getting to work finding a repair place. One conversation led to another and I eventually found this guy Toby who could help me. He ordered a new axle for me to be freighted over night from Adelaide and said he would even fit it for me the next day on a Saturday. This meant I had another night to spend in Ceduna so I camped up at the local caravan park for the night and went exploring. I met a nice young guy from Korea who was camping next to me and he was cycling across Australia just because he felt like it. Crazy guy but we had dinner together and some interesting conversations. I cycled with him out of town and said goodbye then was able to pick up the trailer that afternoon and hit the road. Couldn’t believe it was only a 24 hour turn around to get going again, I was very lucky to break down where I did. If it was anywhere else, I could have been stuck for days. Also, amazing that nothing happened to the boats, they all could have fallen of and I would have been in real trouble but everything was fine and not a single boat was damaged.
I drove a bit over 1000ks that day, arriving in Balladonia in the early hours of the morning for a quick sleep before finishing the drive into Perth the next day, just in time for my dad to collect mum’s car from me to drive back to Esperance the next day. Meanwhile I got to work sorting out all the equipment and cleaning the boats up for the customers buying them, I had a big day on the tools that day but after 12 hours at Freo sailing club I had sorted everything as was ready to be done with my charter boat business expedition. I had to be anyway because the next day I was off to Sydney for a 3-day team camp, the annual get together of all the members and staff of the AST to talk about the year ahead. When that was finally done, I could go back home and enjoy 10 days of being in Perth, sail testing for a couple of them and just generally getting my life sorted before I headed over to Europe again for the first event of the season, the European Championships (I know I had just completed the 2022 European Championships but for whatever reason they decided to put the event late in 2022 and early in 2023 so that meant they were pretty much back to back events).
What an epic summer it was, definitely one of the most heavily packed sailing and busiest I’ve had but one I’ll always remember. I think it will be hard to top the summer of 2023.