After 12 amazing months in New Zealand as part of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Youth Training Program I'm heading back home to Australia. And what an amazing year it has been. I feel incredibly fortunate to have participated in this world-class programme and leave with a heavy heart having made some lifelong friends, met some incredible sailors and coaches and grown to love all that is New Zealand.
Since arriving in Auckland 12 months ago I have sailed on foiling Nacra's, Elliott 6's, Elliott 7's, Flying Phantom's, Foundation 36's, a Superfoiler, a Stratis SL33, a Welbourn 42 and a YD 37. I have raced in foiling regattas, match racing events, club racing and even an overnight ocean race. I have travelled to Wellington NZ, Noumea New Caledonia, Sydney Australia twice and Perth Australia. Training has incorporated on-water, gym, cardio, physio, tactical and theory encompassing both Saturdays and Sundays nearly every weekend for 9 months.... and I've loved every minute of it. So the obvious question - why would I leave?
Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. I've said a number of times in previous blogs that to be successful you need to work hard, have a clear set of goals and make the most of any and all opportunities that might present themselves. I've been given an opportunity to join the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Youth Sailing Academy and it's simply too good to refuse.
Established in 1993, the CYCA Youth Sailing Academy is well regarded both nationally and internationally as one of Australia’s leading full time sailing academies. With over 500 sailors to date graduating from the Academy, many have gone on to compete in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Olympic Games, America’s Cup, World Match Racing Tour and the Volvo Ocean Race. Using a fleet of ten identical Elliott 7m Keelboats, the Academy also hosts a number of world class youth sailing events, including the Australian Match Racing Championship.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) is one of Australia’s premier yacht clubs and home to what is considered yachting’s ‘Everest’ – the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Located on the iconic Sydney Harbour, the CYCA is nestled along the beautiful Rushcutters Bay foreshore with over 2,700 members.The CYCA was established in 1944 and over the years has become Australia’s leading exponent of ocean racing and sea safety. Its race management expertise is often called upon for other international sailing events such as the Olympics and round-the-world races.
My decision to come home is more than just the Club or the program. It is also an opportunity to join a team skippered by Finn Tapper, one of Australia's rising stars in the world of match racing and a person that I have got to know well in the past 3 months. I was given the opportunity to experience first-hand the Youth Academy program, under the direction of Head Coach Jordan Reece and I also got to race with or alongside a number of Australia's most impressive young sailors; people like Tom Grimes and James Hodgson. The Australian program is set up differently to the NZ program where considerable emphasis is placed on developing established crews with strong team work and cohesion the focus where in New Zealand, there is a greater emphasis on individual performance, where promotion or relegation is based on current rankings. Both programs are considered world-class and are the benchmark for any aspiring young sailor but having finished the year at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron ranked second overall I am keen to broaden my knowledge and experience and try working as a member of a fixed team for a while and see how we go.
Words seem hardly adequate to express my gratitude to all the many people who have made my year in Auckland such a happy one. Special mention must be made to Reuben Corbett, Head Coach at RNZYS; RNZYS and the hard-working staff for their sponsorship and tireless efforts behind the scenes; Doyle Sails for their amazing support of my sailing while giving me a full-time job; all the wonderful people that I have met both in and out of sailing; my family back home in Melbourne; and, of course, all my friends, sponsors and supporters.
I will be spending a short amount of time in Melbourne before moving up to Sydney in May so look forward to catching up with family and friends before I begin the next chapter of this excellent adventure. Thank you so much for your continuing interest and support of my journey and I look forward to returning to New Zealand in the very near future to continue my sailing wherever it may lead.