When I arrived in Brisbane I was quickly reminded how hot and humid the place is. Stepping out of the airport was similar to walking into a sauna. I went straight to my Airbnb and met my hosts who were very friendly. The next day I met up with the other Laser guys and we hit the water for an hour or so in a glamour seabreeze after setting up in the morning. I also trained the next day with Tom and Mitch who didn’t make it out the day before in some really light winds which was a really good wake up before the event. I knew the conditions in Morton bay weren’t suited to my strengths so I knew this regatta was going to be a battle all the way.
The first day of the regatta was a shifty southerly wind and I found it hard to get to the top mark in good stead. I had some good downwinds though that put me back in the game each time and allowed me to minimize the damage. After the first two races I was back in 7th and knew I had a fight on my hands. The next two days gave us a mixed bag of wind with the final day before the lay day (new years eve) producing a strong storm wind and only one race.
When the regatta picked up again after new years day we had no racing at all on the first day with a complete glass out and several hours waiting for wind on the race course. The race committee needed to make up races now so the next two days had three races a day in moderate to strong south easterly’s with some nasty chop and changing current. The last day of the regatta was really hard work with long upwinds and not many tacks needed, making it a real speed day. As the regatta went on I slowly ground down my competition but it was too little too late with the top three guys sailing a very consistent regatta. Once again I finished 4th (for the third time this summer)! Each regatta was very different from Sail Melbourne to Sail Sydney and the Nationals and each time I had different people in front of me but I just couldn’t get myself onto that podium.
After the nationals I flew to Perth for five days to attend a friends wedding. It was great to see some of my oldest friends after six weeks on the road and enjoy being back in the dry Perth summer air. It was a short-lived stop over though as before I knew it I was back at the airport and on my way to Brisbane again, this time for something completely brand new.
On a side note last year I achieved a five-year goal for me. When I first started campaigning in 2013 I had the dream of one day making it to Gold status with Qantas which would mean I could use the lounge. The dream was finally realized after my flight home from Japan and I can now enjoy the fruits of the converted Qantas airport lounge. It’s made my like so much nicer with the amount of time I spend at airports and it was nice to see a small goal like that come true.
Back to my sailing I had retuned to Queensland to compete in the Australian Finn Nationals. I haven’t raced much in other classes and I’m trying to expand my knowledge in sailing. The idea started in Melbourne kind of as a joke but when Jake Lilley offered for me to borrow one of his old boats I jumped at the chance. So one thing lead to another and after doing some training in Sydney with the squad boys here I was in Brisbane ready to race. We had a real mixed bag of wind conditions with mostly light and shifty winds. I had some good moments but overall I felt I didn’t sail very well and missed a lot of opportunities to place better. Upwinds were a grind for me and downwinds I was flying being 15kg lighter than most of the competition. On the final day of racing I was in 5th place and I had only 2 points to the competitor behind me. The wind had come up and we had 15-17 knots of breeze so I had to work especially hard to stay in the game. At the end of the day my downwind speed pulled me through and I held onto 5th place with only the national team competitors in front of me. It was great to hang out with a different crowd and learn from Raffa, the new national team coach for the Finns. What made my time even better was that I got to stay at Ash Brunnings house (my old team mate and coach) and before I left I knew all there was to know about his latest passion, Bitcoin trading.
You would think after doing four regattas back to back I would have had enough but the day after I got back I was down at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club early in the morning racing in the Jess Cup, a warm up match racing event for the warren Jones International event happening next week. The Jess cup was sailed on BW8’s a popular Perth keel boat and our team (Swift racing, not my idea) was made up for Mark Spearman: Skipper, Rome Featherstone: Main, James Stuart: Bow and myself on trim. I was originally on main but we found it faster if Rome and I swapped places. We improved as a team through the round robin and qualified for the semis with only two losses.
In our semi we faced Ethan Prieto-Lows team and won in the best of five series 3 – 1. This set us up for a final with Will Bouldens team in a strong 20 knot seabreeze. He won the first race but we bounced back to win the next two. The in the critical fourth race we broached on the run through a gybe which cost us the race and left it all to the final race. We sailed really well as a team though and with a great pre-start we had control all the way and won the regatta 😀
Two days later I was at freshy again at 7am to help transport the Foundation 36ers we were racing down to Elizabeth Key for the Warren Jones. Getting under the bridge was interesting, seeing how you lower the mast then raise it again. We trained all afternoon and most of the next day working with the RFBYC coach and our newest crew member Damian Garbowski. As the 36er is quite a bit bigger than the BW8 you need more crew members and it was a lot of fun working with the team to find the best crew positions for each of us. Damo is one of the crew who won the match racing world title in China and I was keen to learn from his experience in big boat racing. After some struggles in training we made some major changes moving myself from main to pitt, Jimmy from bow to main and Damo from pitt to bow. This allowed us to have the best people in the best positions so we could perform which is what I liked most about the team, we were all were willing to adapt to get the most out of the boat and our talents.
We did two round robins with the other 11 teams over four very long days in shifty, gusty and frustrating conditions. You could never count a team down and out because the wind could flip and gift them the wind at no notice at all. Also with sand bars and beach all around it was a regular occurrence for teams to run aground while waiting for their start sequence. The Warren Jones, just like the Jess Cup, was going straight to semi-finals so after the round robins only four teams would make the finals racing on Friday. It was going to be really tight for us to make the cut off with the first three teams safe in the semis (Boulden, price and Anyon). In our last session of three races as long as we won them all and the Dutch team lost all theirs we would make it. But after winning our first race we lost a nail biter to Connors team. We were shattered after that loss but our coach Ben came up to us after and said if we win this last race we will make it on a countback with the Dutch. By now it was 7pm at night and the sun was already over the horizon. In the last race of the round robin in the last bit of wind and light we managed to sail very tense but solid race to make the semi-finals. We were all stoked and even though we were packing up in the dark it made the last four days worthwhile.
On the last day of racing the four finals teams met at RFBYC where Boulden, as the winner of the round robin, chose to race up in the first semi-final. The wind was very light and shifty and borderline racing conditions but with a big crowd watching and time getting away the race committee raced us anyway. We just weren’t as good as will in this light condition and he beat us soundly in both pre-starts to go to the finals. We were disappointed especially after beating him only a week before in the Jess Cup. But we had the petite final to race against Anyon and a third place to try and win. By now a light seabreeze had filled in and we crushed Anyon in the pre-start both times to win both races and place third in the event. I was a bit disappointed but seeing as we beat many established match racing teams with a bunch of fill ins it was probably about where we should have placed. That night we had a nice celebration at RFBYC and if felt good to have wrapped up a long summer of racing with a good bunch of friends.
The next day I was at WAIS doing a specialist breath enhancement camp with the other WAIS sailors before I drove home to Esperance to have some down time. Now I write this on my last day home before I drive back to Perth and brace myself to compete in another completely new boat, the Viper 640. The World Championships is on at SOPYC and I’ve been asked to be tactician on a boat. I couldn’t say no to an opportunity like that. I’ll keep you updated.