Port in Porto, Sushi in Sakaiminato

Yet again I’ve let time get away from me and have left it far to long between these blog posts. I can’t give a complete summary of what has happened in the time since I was training in Sydney in March but I’ll do my best to summarize it location by location.

Sunrise view from our house in Gulf Harbour
Training in ideal conditions in New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand – After several weeks of training in Sydney we had a change of scenery coming up to keep things interesting. I had been to Auckland before but not since 2015 and was really excited to go back. It’s a great city and I was keen to see the kiwi boys who we hadn’t sailed against since December. We were sailing up on Gulf Harbor, about an hour north of Auckland and we had rented a massive team house for the week up there but not before I had played a few rounds of golf with Greg at some of his local courses. The hours on the water were long and it was bloody tough training but I left New Zealand battled hardened and ready to race.

Richo posing in front of the water feature at Piazza De Ferrari
Bottom gate in Genoa

Genoa, Italy – I had never been to Genoa before and neither had most of the worlds sailors I think but this was the new location for the World Cup instead of Hyeres so we all had to get used to this new venue. I flew from Perth with Richo just a few days after I had got home from Auckland and was on the water in my new Laser exactly a week after my last day on the water in Auckland. The venue was known to be notoriously light which was great for me because that was exactly what I wanted to work on. We had a strong 120 boat Laser fleet racing and I was keen to see where I was at. I started the regatta with a 3rd place then wobbled up and down a bit as the week went on. A few unfortunate things didn’t go my way including a race win that got scratched because the other fleet didn’t complete their race but I got what I wanted out of Genoa and left feeling better than I arrived which was the main thing.

Some long exposure photography I was playing around with at the dock in front of our accommodation
Red, blue and yellow dots all in a row

Hyeres, France – This was my 7th consecutive year racing in Hyeres, a venue that has continuously challenged my racing. I don’t think I had ever posted a top 20 result in Hyeres to date but I came into the event feeling confident and prepared. In stark contrast to Genoa we had too much wind for part of the training leading into the regatta and spent most of the lead into the event sailing in 15 knots plus. The 70 strong fleet started the regatta in some light winds and though and again I started another regatta with a 3rd place. Day three I had one of my best performances to date in classic 15 knot onshore conditions with 1,1,2 which was awesome. I continued that form onto the first day of finals with a 1,6 to move me to second overall. I had a tougher last day of finals racing with a 4,14, 17 but was still holding onto 3rd place going into the medal race. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out my way in the medal race and I painstakingly watch a silver medal turn into a 4th place in a tight medal race. I took some great lessons away from this event though and was keen to use them in the last and biggest event of this trip, the European Championships.

Old Town Porto
Crossing the fleet from the right

Porto, Portugal – I had never been to Portugal before but I had heard a lot about it and was keen to explore. The city of Porto was vibrant and busy which made it a fun place to visit. Good coffee, great pastries and beautiful architecture were just some of the highlights. The venue also provided some world class sailing with mostly sunny weather and a variety of conditions. The most challenging factor here was the massive Atlantic tides that ripped up and down the coast. The European Champs is second only to the worlds in significance this year so all the who’s who of the Laser world was here to put on a show with a maxed out 165 entries. The event started in very light conditions, not unlike Genoa, and I believe my time there was paying off as I won the first race and backed it up with a 10th in conditions I’m not known to excel in. The next day was even better in lovely seabreeze conditions and I pulled out another 1st and a 3rd to be the overnight leader on the second day of the regatta. The last day of qualifying was light and lumpy but I kept my cool and had a 7th and 10th to round out my qualifying and put me in 4th going into finals racing. Finals didn’t quite go the way I had planned though. I started it with a BFD which compromised the rest of the series and made my starts really hard unfortunately. Even when the conditions where some of my favorite I couldn’t piece together the first beats and I was stuck trying to make up way too much ground to have great scores. My best race of finals was my easiest race with and 8th place to finish the regatta 13th overall. Not how I wanted to cap of my European season but I was happy with how I had sailed; it just didn’t turn out this time.

Pastel De Nata and Flat white at our favorite cafe 7g Roasters
View from our apartment in Porto
Goldfields Cyclassic

Western Australia – Once I got back home, I had a quick few days in Perth before I drove out to Kalgoorlie to seem my friends Tooley and Karis and meet their new baby Lachy. That wasn’t the only reason I was there though, I was there to do the Goldfields Cyclassic again, a two-day handicap race I had competed in two years ago. The weather was amazing and as always, the riding was tough but fun. I met some new people and caught up with some old friends which was great. I then hit the road again and had a few relaxing days in Esperance before I was in the air again bound for Sydney.

How we wait for wind in training camp mode

Sydney – The next two weeks were dedicated to preparing for the World Championships in Japan. The turn around from the European Championships was really fast but everyone was in the same boat and this wasn’t the time to be taking it easy. Unlucky for me I caught a nasty virus for the second week of training which meant I really didn’t get a lot of benefit out of training for that second week in Sydney. Luckily, I had shaken the majority of the bug by the time I got on the plan to Japan.

First day on the water in Sakaiminato

Sakaiminato, Japan – Now I’m here at the venue of the biggest regatta of the season, the 2019 Laser World Championships. I’ve completed four good days on the water and I’m finalizing my preparation for the event. Let’s just see what I can do this time, I’m sure it will be challenging and interesting either way it goes.

Another Summer

It doesn’t seem so long ago I was writing about last summers adventures and now here we are at the beginning of Autumn. Time really does fly when you’re having fun. So, back to where we left off.

Windsurfing in Esperance

After my time at home in WA, which was mostly spent staying in shape, windsurfing and trying to master my new hobby, golf, it was time to get back in the boat for proper. The Aussie summer is a big natural advantage we hold over our friends in the northern hemisphere because we can train and race while most of them are snowed in or have to travel away from home to get time on the water. The last two weeks in November were spent at a training camp in Sydney leading up to the first event of the summer, Sail Sydney. We had a great little fleet including the Kiwis, one of the best British laser sailors, some good dutch sailors and a hot bunch of young Aussies coming up. The regatta started in some very tricky south easterly breezes with our course set up between shark island and the land. I held my own with some great comebacks but struggled with my starting and first beats.

The last two days of the regatta turned it on with great seabreezes and a course area change. I had a few race wins but made a crucial error on the last race of the event which cost me the podium. I finished 4th, same as last year funnily enough. A few days later I got in a car and drove the team trailer down to Melbourne for the next event of the summer. I had a bit of a late night drive trying to get in which made finding my airbnb a bit of an adventure but I eventually found it. I had a nice house for the week with Mitch, Greg and Etienne, a french sailor from New Caledonia. The first race of the event started off pretty breezy but as the day went on it got progressively lighter to the point where we were finishing the second race in a glass off. I had one of my best comebacks in that second race after a bad first beat but sailed through the fleet all the way up to 4th. The next day we only got one race in before a big storm front rolled over but I managed to finish 2rd in that race. The third day was a write off because of no wind so we had three races scheduled early on the last day to make up ground.

This was an interesting day for me, on and off the water. Unfortunately my head wasn’t really in the game and was more stressed about checking out of the airbnb, packing up the boats and getting onto the Spirit of Tasmania that evening. I went from an equal first position with 4 other boats to finishing 5th overall. Disappointing again to miss a good opportunity on the last day of an event. After speedily packing up in the rain Blackers, Ash and I got in our cars with our trailers in tow and made it onto the ferry with a little time to spare. Pheww! I’d never been on the spirit before and it reminded me a lot of the ferries I’d caught from Barcelona to palma. The next morning Blackers and I met up with a local sailor who helped us store our boats on his property just out of Devonport where the nationals were to be held. It was a beautiful morning and made me remember just how pretty Tasmania is. After dropping the boats it was onto the airport and back to Perth.

I had a lovely two weeks in WA, mostly spent in Esperance which was amazing. It was my first christmas at home in 10 years and I loved every minute of it. I had my friends from Perth, Mark and Elisa, come down to stay for a few days which was sick and we even had a BBQ on the deck with Ki and Issi making an appearance. I’m very lucky to have such great friends and family and to be from such a special place like Esperance.

Too soon I was back at the airport and on my way to Tasmania again. I was staying with Blackers for the regatta in a nice apartment near the Mersey river. The weather was quite nice for our event and even though we didn’t race on the first day to a lack of wind the rest of the event went smoothly. The only drawback was the days on the water where especially long with each day averaging about 5 hours on water. I had my moments throughout the event with a few race wins but lacked a little consistency which put me down to third behind Tom and Matt. I had a fun time in Devonport. It’s a cool little town and when I wasn’t sailing I spent my time on the golf course or riding with Indi in the mornings. We found a great cafe that we went to everytime with the best waffles I’d ever had called Laneway.

Nice scenery in Devonport

The day after the regatta I drove with Zoe and Caelin to Hobart via Launceston to begin coaching at the youth nationals. I was filling in for Tristan coaching the NSW State Team, most of which I’d already coached at the Radial Worlds last year. I hadn’t been to hobart since the 2012/13 Laser nationals and it was great to be back. It’s such a beautiful city and reminds me a little of home for some reason. Other than the coaching I had one goal in mind I had to complete, I had to cycle up Mt Wellington, something I didn’t do last time but had always wanted to do. The regatta went quite smoothly and the kids where great to work with as always. Too soon came another big few days of travel. On the last day of the regatta I had to pack up and drive back to Davenport to catch a late night ferry back to Melbourne. Then the following day I drove all the way to sydney before finally catching an early morning flight the next day back to Perth. Getting good at doing all this travel.

This was my last time in WA for a while now. I did some more coaching, went back to Esperance for a little more time with the family then was back on a plane headed for Sydney. This next few months is just sailing now, focusing on the season ahead. I’m excited to see what this year brings, it’s going to be full of challenge but I’m feeling prepared for it. I’ll keep you posted.

Training off the heads in Sydney, March

/Swifto

The worlds & beyond…

Where do I begin? So much has happened since the last post, it seems like a year has gone in a few months. As I sit in this cafe looking back it’s hard to put everything into a simple few lines that makes sense. I guess I’ll do my best and try and not make it sound too boring.

2018 Aarhus Sailing World Championships:
Months of preparation had led to this. Now was time to let go and give everything I had. The first day is usually the most stressful and it was no different this time. The fleet is unsettled and eager, everyone wants a good start and everyone is on edge, especially in the moderate seabreeze conditions we had. I was in blue fleet day one and the only Aussie in that fleet which was kind of nice. I had a tough first race not getting clear very well but had a great second beat to move up to a respectable 13th from the 55-boat fleet. The next race just fell in my lap. I had a simple start a third down from the pin then tacked 5 minutes later and crossed the fleet to be first at the top. I had a good battle with Phillip Buhl and Nick Thompson on the next run but held them off then extended on the second beat to win the race.

That’s Nick and I off the front in race 2

After that day the results took a long time to update and the only race they had up was my second race putting me at the top of the leaderboard for some reason. I had a lot of people commenting about it that evening.

The next day the wind shifted to an offshore westerly with massive shifts and gusts. I was yellow fleet so off first. I won the pin race one and managed to round the top mark in the top ten. A solid run kept me in the game but it was a close battle. I avoided a massive hole on the second beat though and went from 11th to 2nd. I was pretty happy with that. The next race was even tougher, rounding the top mark in 19th but a good run and second beat again put in up into 7th. Later that night someone in front of me got disqualified saving me a point and pushing me from 7th to 4th overall. This meant I went into the next day racing in red fleet, the last fleet to start.

First to the top

We had a stronger westerly day today, very shifty and choppy. I raced hard, hiking harder than I ever have before. I rounded the top second in a close battle with Pavlos and TB. I took the lead briefly on the second beat but couldn’t hold it and finished 3rd. The next race I extended left and rounded the top 1st. After that I never looked back and one the race easily. When I got to shore I checked the score and I was in second overall behind Sam! I couldn’t believe it.

First to the finish line

We had a lay day the following day so I had a whole day to sit in second. I didn’t do a lot and spent the day trying not to think about it too much. We had all found a few very nice cafes so Sam and I would meet every morning before racing to have a brew and talk about anything other than sailing. Today was no different and we met with a bit of a crew to have a few coffees. Tomorrow in my mind the regatta started again, gold fleet racing is a different beast and the forecast was looking marginal.

Blue Dot

No one teaches you how to lead a regatta, you can only experience it and learn it for yourself. Today was going to be one of those learning experiences. We did three quarters of a race in next to no wind before it got abandoned. I was deep so I couldn’t complain. The next race we did in nearly as light a wind but they finished the race. I had a poor start and sailed near the back the whole race. The next race we had some more breeze and even though I had a bad start I clawed my way up to 15th at the top mark the second time but lost 6 on the last run to finish 21st. A frustrating day and nearly 6 hours on the water.

The next day we woke up to no wind and were postponed for many hours before being sent out late in the afternoon. Again, we did half a race before the wind died and got abandoned, this race I was actually doing ok so I was a bit disappointed it got called. We tried again and I had a horrible start to put me deep. It was a grind trying to make ground and I lost a lot of my hard work on the last reach to the finish losing 6 boats. Ouch!

I was now in 11th place and the event decided to use its lay day to make up the last race. My goal was always top ten and I was so close. I had one of the worst nights of sleep stressing about the outcome of tomorrow. We raced in a light seabreeze and one big shift and a bad start took me out of the game early. I finished 15th overall, a really disappointing and painful way to end my regatta. I didn’t sleep the next two nights thinking about it. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by lots of great friends and family and they helped me keep perspective on what had happened and made sure I didn’t get too depressed about it.

Still smiling

Even if I wanted to dwell on the regatta I couldn’t, two days later I was on the road to Kiel to coach the Radial Youth Worlds. I was excited to coach a Radial Worlds as I hadn’t done one before and I hadn’t coached many of these sailors before. On top of that I had the opportunity to work with another coach, Danny Fuller from Queensland. The two weeks flew by and I learnt a lot from the sailors I worked with and got in touch with myself as a coach again, I’d been out of the game for a while now.

Miki & I, Radial Youth Worlds

The day after Kiel finished I was jumping on another plane, not for home though but for Trieste, Italy. I landed at midnight and met Paul Gilham of all people to pick me up. I was headed to Koper, Slovenia to coach the Finn Silver Cup (U23 World Championships). Jock had contacted me a month before asking if I could come and coach and I jumped at the opportunity to coach senior athletes at a world title. I got in at 1 am, found my accommodation and crashed before getting up early and finding my coach boat. Straight away I was into a week of coaching a regatta, talk about hitting the ground running.

Some good views…

and scenery 😉

Slovenia was great! I’d never stayed there before and it really impressed me; sunny, clean and nice people. It wasn’t even that crowded. We had a bit of an adventure in the rib down to a coastal city called Piran where we went for diner then realized we were out of fuel and couldn’t get home. All part of the job.

Piran from the North

Piran from the South

Rib parking spot for dinner

After the Silver cup finished I was off again and in a rush. I left the night of the regatta on bus trying to get to Zagreb and so begun one of the craziest few days of travel I’ve ever done. To start the bus was late by and hour. I then waited in Trieste for another 90 min for the next bus then finally hit the road at 11pm. From there I had to cross the border out of the Schengen zone when I was well over my visa time. Bit stressful at 2am in the morning getting off the bus and walking across the border to get your passport stamped but I made it through all ok. I arrived in Zagreb at 3am and was walking around a bit trying to find my hotel. Luckily, I made it and had a nice 4-hour sleep. Then I hit the road again headed to the airport. From Zagreb I flew to Dubai, then Dubai to Perth. I had 20 hours in Perth to sleep and repack my bags before I was on the red eye to Melbourne. From there I had the morning flight to Narita, Tokyo to land just in time for Super Typhoon Jebi to hit the coast. I landed ok but the train to Tokyo was very delayed so I didn’t make it to my home until 11pm. What a way to spent 4 days of your life!

Windy coaches regatta

Somehow, I made it without getting sick, losing a bag or missing a connection. Once there I was very happy to be back with my Japanese family. Why am I in Japan I hear you asking? I was there to compete in the Olympic Test Event. All 15 of the top 15 from worlds was there as well as 25 of the top 30. It was set to be a tough event and I was well under prepared. Some teams had been out there training for weeks, when I rocked up I went straight into a two-day coaches’ regatta in 20 knots of breeze and big waves. I thought I had no chance but I surprised myself and finished near the front a head of a lot of good sailors. Even though my body was broken from it I had some confidence going into the event.

Not that performing in those conditions meant anything. Come day one of the regatta the wind had completely changed again and we had shifty offshore winds with strong tides. I wanted to redeem myself this event and show that I could perform in a gold fleet equivalent fleet and make up for my poor gold fleet performance in Aarhus. I held my own for the first two days then the wind went very light. We got one race in on day three and it was my best race finishing 4th. The next day was even lighter and I held in to get a 14th and moved to 7th overall. The final day we had three races planned and race one I got 4th only to learn after finishing that the race was abandoned!!? This messed with my head a bit and the next two races didn’t go so well. Only after we got to shore after a very long day did the first race get reinstated as a mistake by the race committee. This helped me overall but I missed the medal race by 1 point. Once again, I had fallen down at the last hurdle. But this was different. These conditions have always been an Achilles heel of sorts and to finish 11th in that fleet was a great outcome. To keep things in perspective Pavlos who won the worlds three weeks ago finished 14th! That’s just how tough Laser racing is these days.

Elliot and I battling it out

Other than the sailing my host family took me to a baseball game and I even got a few nice surfs in with some left-over typhoon swell pulsing around. I really love Japan and my family there and it was sad for everyone when I had to leave. I can’t lie though I was excited to finally be going home after 4 months on the road. It had been a much longer trip than expected. Now I have two more weeks of coaching before having some down time in this part of the off season. All to soon I’ll be back in Sydney and back to work getting ready for the summer regattas.

Talk soon

/Swifto

Trains, planes and training camps

After my time at home it was time for me to get back into training, not that it really ever stopped. I was still on my bike and in the gym at home but now it was back to Sydney for a three week camp from the start of June. The first two weeks were with the Aussie boys alone and it was wet, cold and dark most of the time. Actually it was the coldest and wettest winter I have ever spent in Sydney which made it some character building stuff. Luckily I managed to bring some of my golf clubs over with me so got to spend a little bit of my down time working on my swing (golf has become one of my little hobbies that I want to get better at, it’s nearly as frustrating as sailing is). For the third week of training the Kiwi boys came over and we ran a little regatta with about 10 boats. We had a range of conditions including some of the windiest weather I have sailed in for the first two days which made things pretty entertaining.

When the camp wrapped up I flew back to Perth for a total of four days before I jumped on a plane again headed for Brussels. From there I picked up the team van and rib from Wannes’s house and drove the 1000 km’s to Aarhus broken up over two days. The trip went really well and I didn’t really have any problems which was amazing. All of Europe was having one of the hottest summers in history with sunny skies and dry weather. It’s both great and also kinda scary. When I got into Aarhus I met up with Sam at the boat park straight away and we ended up going out for a quick sailing session together which was nice. We were there to do a training camp as well as a mini regatta with a bunch of the top teams to try and get used to the conditions in Aarhus. Mitch and I had an Airbnb in the city which was great (it was a nice airy penthouse apartment) and somehow Mitch had ended up upgrading our car from what was supposed to be a Ford Fiesta to Audi A4. Things were going well 😀

Something I think all of us Australians have noticed since we’ve been here is how good looking and fit the Danish people are. Everyone is tall and lean and something I think that might add to that is the fact that eating out is incredibly expensive (I paid $15 for a flat white and some banana bread once) and their gyms and really cheap and good. Fitness World is a big chain of gym over here, all of them seem to be really well equipped and they only cost about $20 a week! Fair to say they’re doing something right but I don’t think I could live somewhere where a coffee is $8.50.

Expensive but good

The training went well in a mix of conditions and the racing was tough with about 60 entrants in what was mostly gold fleet. I was holding into the top 20 until the last day when I got given a double black flags on the last two races. Bit frustrating but I’m glad it happened then and not in the regatta. I took some valuable lessons away from that event but was ready to leave Aarhus for a break when it was over. Luckily we had organized to go to Lake Garda for a bit of a holiday and fitness block. Mitch and I nearly had a major when we got to Billund Airport when we learnt we hadn’t told the airline we were bringing bikes with us and they weren’t going to let us on. Yikes!! Luckily we managed to make a few last minute calls and we got them on with no extra charge. It was a long day of travel though, flying through Frankfurt before arriving in Verona then catching a shuttle to Riva arriving at 1 am. It was so good to be back though, my 6th year straight coming to Garda. We cycled nearly everyday, I windsurfed twice, gymed hard, walked up to the church and I even went foiling on Wannes waszp, my first time foiling on the lake. The 10 days flew by though and before we knew it Mitch and I were on the road again headed back to Aarhus. Bus, train, bus, flight, flight, bus was the combo it took to get back. Another 12 hour day to cross the continent. We figured we could have been halfway home in the same amount of time it took.

Once we got into Aarhus we parted ways as I was staying in the team hotel and Mitch was staying with Greg out of town a bit. Since then it’s been all business, sailing nearly everyday, trying to minimise distractions and focusing on what’s most important. My regatta boat is good and all my equipment is how I want it now. The wind has been quite tricky with this unusual summer still continuing but come the first day of the regatta it looks like we will have the more normal Westerly winds. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easier, probably quite the opposite actually, bringing flat water and massive shifts across the race course. I’m as ready as I can be though and I know I’ve done the work on myself required to perform. Now I just need to go out there and do it. I can’t wait! Two days to go now.

I’ll keep you updated,

/Swifto

Learning from my mistakes and coming home…

Recalibrate
riˈkalɪbreɪt/
verb correct a situation; make something right
The World Cup in Hyeres did not go well for me. This venue has challenged me since I first competed here in 2013 and every year since. I really thought with the good time on the water in Palma I had made some good improvements that would help leading into France. Unfortunately on the last day before I left Mallorca I found out some bad news about my equipment and had to make a rushed change in Hyeres. I’m not going to blame that for my result because I hate people who do that but it definitely had an effect on my confidence leading into the regatta. Mix in some really high expectations, difficult conditions and a red hot fleet probably means the result I got was deserved. I did have one fun race at the front of the fleet on one of the lightest wind days but I didn’t have any consistency in my results and felt like my decisions were being dictated by the fleet not the other way around.

How it feels sometimes

Having said that everything not to do with the sailing was fantastic. Kenno and I had a great pad overlooking the race course. Only problem was it was a 25 min ride from the club including a 3km climb to the house but we just treated it like a good cool down at the end of the day. Pre-regatta I also did one of the best rides I’ve ever done in Europe and that’s saying something. Will, Euan, Dave, Andrew and I all went out into the hills on a beautiful sunny morning before the sun got up and I saw some parts of the region I had never seen before. To cap it all off I got a delicious almond croissant for breakfast with the boys afterwards.

The view from our place in Hyeres. Early morning start for my ride

Tasty treat after my morning ride 🙂

The night before the medal race a bunch of us headed out to the go kart track and got some laps in which was epic. The next day we had the most efficient pack up the team has ever seen and before we knew it we were on the road within hours of the medal race finishing. Mitch and I drove the van while Blackers, Tom and Finn drove the small hire car to a city called Montellier. Somehow my navigation and kenno’s driving beat the other boys to our hotel despite them being in a small car and us lugging the van and rib around. We weren’t sure what to do that evening so I picked out a pirate themed restaurant nearby that was recommended as the thing to do there. Must say it did deliver with pirate waiters, a proper pirate sword fight and pretty good food.

Quick top change on day one with coach Tristan

The next day we drove on and made it to our destination, La Rochelle. This is a special place in Europe for Kenno and I as we both raced here back in 2011 for the very first time and we couldn’t wait to be back. We had plenty to reminisce about in the car and both had a strong sense of nostalgia rolling into town. Mitch had booked an epic apartment right in the heart of town and due to Jez no longer being on tour with us we had space to burn. This was the last event of the trip, the European Championships and I was desperate for a good result. Another boat change at this venue left me feeling a little shaky though, especially it being a european boat but I thought of it as good practice for the worlds (were charter boats are mandatory) and thought nothing more about it. I was determined to make this work either way. Another change for this event was a new coach. Tristan has been selected to coach Mitch, Finn and I at the world championships and was using this event as a test to make sure we were happy and compatable with him. Luckily for me T-bone and I go way back to my early years (including being in La Rochelle with me back in 2011) so safe to say I was pretty excited to get to work with him.
On the water:
I started well but not well. My first race was a 5th but I was given a BFD and I think it was deserved. After that hiccup though I raced well to finish qualifying 8th from the 160 strong Laser fleet. I couldn’t maintain my consistency for the finals racing though and unfortunately slipped back to 17th overall to finish my European trip. I struggled to find my way to the front of the fleet and even though I had some good comebacks it wasn’t enough to chase down the leaders. It was a step in the right direction though and gives me some a path to take going forward.
Off the water:
The experience I had off the water in La Rochelle was as good as it was on.  My friend Sake had been living in La Rochelle for nearly two years with his French girlfriend and was fluent in the language which enhanced our experience to no end. He showed us all about town, showed us the best cafes and restaurants and made the whole trip feel like we were really living there as well. The town markets were literally on our doorstep and every morning we wondered down to buy fresh fruit and bread. To cap it all of Sara, Mitch’s girlfriend, had arranged with me to come over to Europe early to surprise him. The look on his face when she showed up was unforgettable and having her stay with us for the event was really lovely and a good distraction from the racing.

Mitch and Sarah at our favorite cafe Mason Merling

Before long we had packed up and for most of us this meant hitting the road to Paris to fly home. Mitch and Sara stayed on to enjoy a holiday in Bordeaux and beyond while Finn and I jumped in a car and convoyed with Blackers, Tom and Tristan. Since being back in Australia I’ve bought my first car which is exciting and I came straight home as quickly as I could which is where I’m writing this from. This weekend I go back to Sydney for the next phase of preparation for the Worlds which is the biggest event of the season. I’ll keep you updated.
/Swifto

Not the start I wanted but maybe the one I needed…

The whole trip to Mallorca went so well, it went almost too well. Being gold with Qantas has made life a dream at airports. I get the privilege of using the lounges anywhere I go and for the first time ever I got a shower at my stop in Dubai on my way to Barcelona. It was epic! Spent the in a hotel with Richo in Barca before jumping on a 20 min flight to Mallorca. All my bags made it, I got into my Airbnb smoothly and all was looking good.

The boys (Mitch and Wearny) showed up a day later after driving from Belgium with the team van and trailer. Spent a sunny Monday morning setting up my boat then hit the water for a quick session. I sailed everyday from Monday to Friday as well as getting a few good training rides in. My speed was proving pretty good and I was at the front more than not, especially in the big breeze. I’ve found a new gear in my heavy wind sailing which is exciting. Everything looked great.

Then the regatta started. Now I’m not going to say things went poorly or anything like that. I actually felt like I was sailing really well but with a massive 183 boat fleet in three fleets and only 4 races to make it into finals you had to have some single digit scores on your card. I didn’t. Some mistakes and poor execution at critical moments paid me bad tenfold and I finished a brutal qualifiers in 78th. Ouch! Unlike other years though where a result like this would normally carry a lot of negative emotional baggage I took it in my stride and continued trying to carry out the highest standard I could each day. The weather turned from light and fickle to 20-25 knots the next day and although it sucked to watch the gold fleet go at it in conditions I do well in I made the most of my time in silver fleet and got two wins.

The wind turned a bit mixed for the rest of the event and I worked as hard as I could on what I needed to work on, mainly starts and first beats. I finished up second in silver fleet. Obviously not what I wanted but I’m taking away some valuable lessons in what I need to focus on and how I need to focus to do well. This time I just didn’t put my energy in the right places.

Can still smile even when in silver fleet

After the event I watched the medal race and went to diner with the team to celebrate Wearny winning the regatta. I took some time to debrief appropriately after the event was done then as tradition states hit the mountains for some cycling. We had a great group to ride with and the sun shining so I started big and did 124 km with over 3000 m of climbing. It was an epic day and I only ran out of fuel on the last climb. From the time we left the cars to the time we returned was over 9 hours. We drove home in the dark and all went to Cuban bar for some rollos (sort of like a rolled pizza). The next day we did the lighthouse ride which I had never done before. It was stunning but I was definitely feeling the fatigue from the day before.

After I had cleared my head on the bike it was time to knuckle down and get back in the boat. There was a great group of South Americans training daily so I joined in with them and punched out some good hours on the water. I’m up to my fifth day on the water in a row today and I’ll do one more tomorrow before I jump on the ferry to Barcelona on Wednesday to start the drive to Hyeres on Thursday. The World Cup in Hyeres is one of my target events for the year and I’m aiming for a top 10 finish. This seems really far fetched now after this first event but I am fully confident that if I bring my A game it is within my reach. Let’s just wait and see…

A World Title and a training camp

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.

Us second from the pin. Tight one design racing, got to love it

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.

Nick Jerwood lit up on day one. We were hitting over 20 knots on the downwinds

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.

Us in second place with the white kite

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 😀

I’ll keep you updated,
/ Swifto

Summer 18′ Part 2

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.

Wearny and I training pre-nationals

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.

Just after a race on day 2

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.

Top mark rounding in the Finn Nationals

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.

She’s a big boat

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.

Crossing the line in the Jess Cup

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 😀

Swift Racing Team

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.

Mid race at the Warren Jones

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 Warren Jones podium teams

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.

Meeting the locals in Lucky Bay, Esperance

Summer 18′ Part 1

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 🙂

Pre cycle in Perth

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.

Racing in Melbourne

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.

Tight racing in Sydney

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.

/Swifto

A five month reveiw

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.

Training Camp, Sydney – Smile or grimace? Definitely a grimace. Light wind training on middle harbour, Sydney

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.

Training Camp, Enoshima – Light wind concentration

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!)

Training Camp, Enoshima – It hurts! Fist windy session back to Enoshima and it was a big one. 25 knots with big waves = sore legs

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.

Training Camp, Italy – (Left to right) Sam, Mitch, Myself, Jeremy, Finn. Halfway down the ever popular Tenno Climb with Lake Garda and Riva in the background

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.

Largo Di Tenno – Kenno and I having a swim in our cycling kit

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.

Split, Croatia – (Left to right) Eliza, Mitch, Sam, Jeremy. Sam teaching the crew how to make an aeropress

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).

World Championships – Day 2 race 3 on the second beat. About to tack.

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.

World Championships – Gold fleet-Race 9 on the first run. Good gains moving into 6th by the bottom mark with JB and Tommy in the background

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!

World Cup Gamagori – Last day of training before the event. That’s the yacht club in the background

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.

World Cup Gamagori – About to roll into one of what feels like thousands of tacks I did this regatta

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.

World Cup Gamagori – A good example of just how light it was a some points

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.

Japan – On the bus past Mt Fuji. This was the first time I had ever seen the top

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.

Tokyo – Shibuya crossing in the evening, the times square of Tokyo. The final stop on my tour of the city with my host

Enoshima Olympic Week – Taking a sponsor out for a sail before training. Cold day and plenty of wind but I think she had fun 😀

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/

Looking ahead to a great summer

See you on the water,

Swifto