Last week marked the end of my first Senior World Championships, and the final event to conclude my two-month trip in Australia. Another windy week which was a positive – I knew it would show me clearly what the gap between myself and the best senior Laser sailors in the world was. My windy weather sailing has come on a lot since arriving here in December and I’m feeling much more comfortable competing in 25 knots of breeze and beyond (the limit for racing Lasers here).
The first three days of the event were qualifying races to rank competitors into three final fleets - Gold, Silver and Bronze. Followed up by three days of final series racing in those fleets so that the winner of Gold fleet would be crowned the 2020 World Champion. As this was my first senior men’s worlds, I didn’t have much idea how to pitch my expectations, but I felt at the outset that making silver fleet would have been quite a success. Unfortunately, after three days of grueling conditions, I fell short of that aim and was stuck in Bronze fleet (This doesn’t mean I get a bronze medal, unfortunately). Through the qualifying races I showed moments of great sailing, and something I had identified to work on in these tough events here was my starting. Throughout the Worlds my starting was really decent, and I am happy that I have made strides in that area against such fierce competition.
But an area of my sailing I can go away and work on is my upwind legs, keeping the tempo high for the whole beat (first leg of the course). I found I could match the top guys for pace straight off the line and in some cases out-pace them. But when races were going on for an hour or more we were enduring 20-minute beats. By the last quarter of the beat, I found I was starting to run out of puff against the leading group. On one of the three-race days I fell out of the car once I got home as my quads refused to work anymore!
As a learning experience, this was second to none. I finished the event 98thand now have to get back to Bristol to continue the final part of my master’s degree. Having a little break from heavy Laser sailing until the degree is completed in the UK summer will be a good thing - I have a fair amount to catch up on after this two-month break!
Overall, I have massively enjoyed my mini gap year to Australia and it has been great to spend some time with my extended family on this side of the world (managed to get three generations to one dinner!). They have been hugely supportive towards me, letting me stay with them, and use their cars and vans. I’ve even been inducted into surfing by my Melbourne cousins, copping a black eye in the process. On a serious note, while I have been enjoying my sailing and experience over here, the catastrophic bush fires were an unwelcome backdrop. The loss of life and property in Victoria and New South Wales was a stark reminder that there are things that are far more important than Laser sailing. It makes me even more humble and grateful for the opportunities that I have had.
The Victorian Bush Fire Appeal can be found here: https://www.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal