Long overdue…continued (pt.3)

A nice day trip to Rottnest Island

When I got back to Perth the weather was amazing. Every time I come back to Western Australia; I’m reminded what a special place it is to call home. There’s nowhere quite like it. I had a little time to sort myself out then got back on the water in my own E6 boat which felt great. I did 4 days on water doing a little sail testing and maintenance of skills work before it was time to hop back in a big bird again and head for Milan. This was going to be a little bit of a different trip for me because for the first time ever my dad was coming with me to Europe.

My dad had never been to Europe before and hadn’t been overseas in at least 30 years so this was a once in a lifetime type adventure. We landed in Milan together event free and picked up a hire car to finish off the trip driving to Andora, right next to San Remo near the French boarder. We found Elyse who had travelled a few days ahead of us and she showed us into the Airbnb we had booked. It was tight but would do just fine. It was very early in the season for us, I had never been to Europe so early in the season so we were all prepared for a very cold start but because of Europe’s drought that I had experienced in November 22 and was still continuing, we had very sunny and mild days which were just beautiful. The sailing however was something else.

Lumpy light air conditions for the Euros

I had never sailed here before; I’ll try and describe it briefly. Andora had large hills and headlands falling into deep, cold water. Then prevailing wind was from the north east as was the current with protection from it the closer you got to shore under the headland. This headland also played havoc with the wind as our inner loop course was set right under it so it became a very common theme for the event to have a very different inner loop to the outer loop.

We started with 1 light race with onshore breeze, I just missed one crucial right shift late in the beat and could only come back to a 17th. The next day we were on the water 4 hours but got no racing. In the one beat we did I was 3rd up until abandonment due to no wind. Day three saw 3 races being run and a mega 7 hours on water. I again had a race in the top 2 get abandoned at the bottom mark to be resailed. When the wind steadied, I pulled out two 6ths in a row and unfortunately finished the day with a 20th. After the 4 races where completed we moved to finals racing straight away so everything was still to play for. We finally woke up to a morning of good breeze and I was excited to stretch my legs, knowing I was in great physical shape. I had a good start under black flag and played to beat quite well to round the top mark 2nd and then briefly take the lead on the reach only to get swallowed on the run as people behind got a big puff first. Still sailed well to take another 6th and keep my regatta alive. The next race was my own fault, I had a messy boat end start when the priority was to get left. This left me when a massive chase and I was happy to turn a 35th at the top mark into a 17th at the finish line but the reality was I should have been higher. Later that night a protest was conducted by a competitor against the race committee for improper action (allowing too many people to be over the start and not calling the start back) so my 6th place race was scrapped along with everyone else’s first race in finals. Another costly set back I could do nothing about.

Sailors strike

The next day we got to the boat park to find no one was launching. A strike by the sailors was in action against the race committee and the poor management of racing. I had never seen a sailor strike in all my years sailing but I was glad to be a part of this as the event to this point really had been poorly managed. After an hour of standing around we hit the water and we got two races away in some of the lightest and trickiest racing possible. I had some terrible starts but fought hard to claw back a 22nd in the first race but had nothing left mentally to make back any places in the second race and took a 58th, dead last. We finished the regatta with a triple race day, I started well with an 11th but after that I struggled to navigate the cramped course well, always finding myself at the back of the pack after going the wrong way up the beat and having to fight through in short 40min races which left no time to truly come back well. I ended the event 25th overall, not at all what I was aiming for but also not feeling too disappointed as quite a few things didn’t go my way this time around. Time to reset and refocus.

Game face

After the regatta Elyse, dad and I packed up the hire car and hit the road, this time headed for my favourite place in the world, Lake Garda. We all had a few days to kill before we moved on to Mallorca and I really wanted my dad to see the lake. We scored good weather again, the haziest I’ve ever seen though, due to the calm weather and lack of rain. I got some good riding and fitness in and managed to take dad around to see the sights including some of our favourite restaurants but all too soon it was time to hit the road again.

Palma would be dad’s final week with us, we had a large Airbnb booked not too far from the club which was very nice and we picked up a hire car again so we could explore the island. I had a few more days to kill before the boys showed up with the boats so dad and I went and explored the island a little. We drove to the other side of the island and by chance drove past Rafael Nadal’s Museum so stopped for a look. It’s an amazing facility with many tennis courts, a school, accommodation and the museum itself. One of the best things we saw was an underground cave network with the biggest underground lake in Europe apparently. This included an amazing concert with classical music being played from inside one of the rowed boats in a natural auditorium. It was truly stunning and I would highly recommend if you ever get to Mallorca.

Unfortunately, not long after this I came down with a nasty flu like virus. It felt exactly like covid which I had contracted the same time last year but it never came up with a positive test. I was down and out on my bed for 4 days and was only really feeling better after 8 days, which meant by this time it was time to start racing without having done nearly any training. I knew I wouldn’t have forgotten anything but it definitely wasn’t the best preparation for a major regatta. I started well, day 1 we were away in a very shifty cloud driven breeze. I had worked through the fleet in a dying breeze to make my way up to 6th on the final run when the race was abandoned due to lack of breeze.

Day 2 we started in a shifty onshore breeze where I picked up a 3rd and 6th place, the 6th feeling a bit disappointing as I was 2nd to the top in this race. After that race the wind did a 180 and started blowing very erratically from the land. I felt confident with what I was seeing and my choice of strategy to head right but as the gun went a massive left shift swept through the course and all of a sudden I was 100s of meters behind the race leaders. I fought hard but the front of the race was never to be seen again and I had to take a 31st. Not ideal.

Palma racing

Day 3 was where things really started to unravel. I had two great starts in in moderate seabreeze conditions and usually my speed would do the talking for there but this time I found myself still heavily in the fight at the top mark both races. This rattled me and pretty much shot my confidence, not thinking about the racing but all the time the outcome. I ended the day with two scores around 20 and I knew my goal of a top 5 finish was pretty much over. The next day finals started in similar conditions and I did not handle it well, some results in the 50s and a BFD in a race to top it off. By now I wanted to call it quits but we still had another day to go. I endured it, feeling very much like I was just sailing around the course and not racing at all but I’ve never pulled out of a regatta or not finished a race if I could help it and I wasn’t going to start now. I finished 57th overall, one of my worst results in a long time and not one I’m proud of. In hindsight my mentality was all or nothing, I was going to achieve my goal or I didn’t want it. I wasn’t prepared to grind out another 20 something result which ultimately lead to this massive collapse. Always something to learn from sport.

Not the result I was after

Once the event was over Elyse and I migrated over to the other side of the island as we usually do to unwind and maintain some fitness. Unofficially called “cycle camp”, everyone hits the road and makes the most of being at one of the most incredible cycling destinations in the world. We stayed at a very nice fitness hotel which had everything we needed and more. One new activity we all fell in love with was the European sport of Paddle, a cross between tennis and squash, which was at our hotel and would be played late into the night on many occasions.  

After a week in Port de Pollenca it was time to move again and before we knew it Elyse and I were on the ferry headed for Barcelona to then drive the remaining 500km or so to Hyeres. Everything went smoothly and all too soon we were back after only being in Hyeres a few months earlier. The training up to the event went well with a mix of light and moderate conditions and some nice country side cycling thrown in there as well. Then, as if on schedule, a mistral hit the coast and day one of the event was met with 15+ knots and the typical flat water that Hyeres provides. I started the event well with a 5th and 6th place in some very tricky sailing. Both races our outer loop became mixed in with the fleet behind so our second run would have 100+ boats on it creating carnage.

Day 2 was met with an even windier day and I was pumped to see what I could do. A little too pumped unfortunately as I gave myself a costly BFD in the first race, having to sit out for the entire race. This sucked as these conditions should have been an automatic top 5 in qualifying, and with only 1 drop this regatta it meant everything was going to count from here on in. Race two I came out of the blocks well and lead to the top and help the lead until the second beat where Wearny got a cross on me only for me to get it back at the top. Final run was a great Aussie battle with us two and Ej just behind who had an outstanding run to win the race, Wearny 2nd and me 3rd. All three of us had finished before anyone else had reached the gate so that felt good.

Windy racing on day 2

The wind made a turn after day two to become much lighter and variable. I felt good in the boat and like I made good starts and first beat choices but managed to get sucked into the pack still. I really had some poor second beats and runs which is where the real damage was done and I ended the day with two really disappointing scores. This was a bit of a reset for me as we still had finals to go and I wasn’t going to waste this chance to get better at my light air sailing. I really struggled to get good starts but I stayed patent and had some of my best runs ever to get myself back into races and finished with 16,13,15,7 in gold fleet and place 18th overall. To put that in context I had 49 points in the two races on the last day of qualifying and I had 51 points for the whole final’s series. I really need to get my consistency together.

After all was packed up and done Elyse and I got on a flight home and had a few days in Perth before we finally got away to my home town Esperance to get away from it all. We got to spend a night and two days on Woody Island which is a small camp ground set up on one of the many islands surrounding Esperance. It is so nice to have a home so far away from cities and my regular life, I feel like I get to reset fresh every time I come back. I also was given a very nice opportunity to speak at Esperance Bay Yacht Clubs annual presentation night and share some of my sailing adventures with everyone that I started my sailing journey with which was very cool.

After 10 days at home, it was back to Perth again and straight into a training camp with the Futures Squad, the next young generation coming through along with Zac and Ej too. We had 8 boats in total and got a great mix of conditions, mostly light and tricky winds. We had 5 solid days of that before the young guys went back home and I went back to regular training with the Perth guys for a few more weeks. This included a bit of coaching at Fremantle Sailing Club as well and a quick camping trip with my mate Ki. Just as winter was truly setting in it was time to fly again, this time to get my 2023 World Championships campaign under way, starting in Marseille, France to get some training in with the best groups in everyone’s lead up to the Olympic Test Even in July.

Coaches regatta

Now I’m coming to the end of my time in France after a month of training here from the start of June to the start of July. I really like the city of Marseille; it provides great sailing conditions and an interesting city to explore. I always find new things to see and do the more time I spend here. I had a very productive training block mostly focused on speed and starts for myself and placed well in the 4-day training regatta we had, finishing 5th overall. Next up is a fitness block in Lake Garda while the Test event is on and then on to Belgium to start getting exposure to the current that we are all waiting for in The Hague for the World Championships. I’ll give an update before the worlds begin. Finally, I am fully back up to date with my sailing travels. Thanks for hanging in there, see you on the water soon.

Some of the bluest water I’ve ever swam in