Another fantastic fortnight of match racing back home in Australia finished with a fifth place at the Warren Jones International in Perth, fourth place at the Hardy Cup in Sydney and a plethora of new information to process leading into 2019.
My journey began with an 8 hour direct flight from Auckland to Perth two weeks ago for the Warren Jones International Youth Regatta. Arriving the day before the team, I had the chance to catch up with family in WA, an opportunity I would not normally get, which was great. Sunday saw the arrival of my teammates from Sydney, ably led by our skipper Tom Grimes, and our first chance to get some practice in the Foundation 36 yachts. These identical boats, supplied by the Regatta Organisers, are significantly larger than any other yacht that I have raced in on the Match Racing circuit. Sailed with 5 or 6 people, depending on total crew weight, the focus was on establishing strong teamwork, clear communication and an understanding on the boat limitations. With stern warnings from the Principal Race Officer and the risk of losing your damage deposit, all competitors vowed to take great care on the water; a promise that quickly evaporated in the heat of battle. The event itself was contested by an International fleet from six countries and was classified by World Sailing as a Grade 2 event ensuring an extremely high standard of competition.
The City of Perth and the Royal Perth Yacht Club turned on a fantastic event, with light winds in the morning becoming more predictable in the afternoon under the influence of the Freemantle Doctor (sea breeze). The racing was predictably close with crew work and decision making the difference in the end. We finished in a credible fifth position overall, which is not too bad given that our crew hadn't sailed together before and three of us had never sailed the Foundation 36's. After learning how to sail the boat, I really enjoyed its simple layout and the challenge of match racing a bigger boat. Our focus was on minimising errors in the crew work so that Tom was able to keep his eyes out of the boat. Our best races came from being decisive, efficient communication, keeping it simple and getting into a controlling position early. I really enjoyed the event and hope to come back next year a little wiser and more experienced. I would especially like to thank the whole crew: Tom Grimes, James Hodgson, Max Paul and Ben Vercoe for inviting me to race with them and Jordan Reece for his coaching, management and logistics in getting us all there.
Following the conclusion to the event we all bundled ourselves onto the 'red-eye' for the flight back from Perth to Sydney, arriving the day before practice at the Hardy Cup, hosted by Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on the beautiful Sydney Harbour. The event was raced in Elliott 7's, a boat which I now feel pretty comfortable in, having competed in a number of events in this class over the past 12 months. I also had a change of crew, back racing with Finn Tapper and the team that I competed with at the Musto International event prior to Christmas.
A total of 34 races were held over four days in classic Sydney summer sea breezes occasionally gusting to 20 knots. The conditions were extremely shifty, common on Sydney Harbour, and distractions abounded with Black Hawk choppers cruising the skies and SailGP's F50s flying past the racetrack in preparation for their own event next weekend. The all-international final went to the Kiwis for the fifth time since it's inception with Nick Egnot-Johnson and his team from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron taking the win over the Chris Weis-skippered Del Rey Yacht Club team from California. James Hodgson, my fellow crew member turned adversary from the Warren Jones International finished third with his team, beating us in the Petit-Final 2-1 after some aggressive racing and some gear failure. We came away with a fourth place over four International and a number of interstate teams. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed racing with Finn and our team of George Richardson, Jake Liddell and Cole Tapper and look forward to sailing with them again in the near future. I would also like to thank Jordan Reece and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia for their outstanding support and Finn for inviting me to stay with him for the duration of the event.
After returning to Auckland to resume work before my next event, the Nespresso Youth International Match Racing Cup from February 21-24, I have had some time to reflect on my return to Australia and the match racing circuit as a whole. While it is widely acknowledged that the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron program, under the guidance of Reuben Corbett, is one of the leading match racing development programs in the World it is also clear that one of their main rivals is the Youth Sailing Academy program at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Both clubs have outstanding pedigree, being the catalyst for many leading sailors competing in major events all over the World and I consider it an honour to have been invited to represent both clubs in the past 12 months.
Reaching the pinnacle of any sport is not only about hard work and natural talent but also being in the right place at the right time and making the most of the opportunities that come your way. It is with this in mind that I approach 2019 with a determination to continue to learn, develop and improve my craft, expand my skills on a variety of high performance yachts and above all, enjoy what I do to the fullest.
I have some very exciting news to announce in the next few weeks so stay tuned.