From oars and lakes to rudders and seas
by Daniel Smith on 7 Dec 2013
Australia’s Sarah Cook is no stranger to international competition and racing on the water in pursuit of Olympic dreams.
Smith-Cook Faultless - ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup - Melbourne
Cook, who spent ten years in the Australian Rowing Team, has swapped 2,000 metre dashes in a boat of eight to sailing up and downwind in the Women’s Two Person Dinghy, the 470.
The tall 28-year-old recently celebrated her one year sailing anniversary but her physique immediately caught the eye of one Australian sailing hero who saw a match made in heaven, 'I met Elise Rechichi, my helm, back in London at a sushi train of all places at the London airport when we were leaving the Olympics,' commented Cook.
'I’d just competed in the women’s eight for Australia and met Elise randomly. It just so happened that she was a after a new crew and apparently when I stood up she said it was love at first sight. For her having a tall crew is the most important thing and there I was.'
Rechichi had a fresh slate with Cook who entered the sport for the first time in an Olympic event, 'I’d never sailed, I literally did a learn to sail course last September and got into the 470 for the first time in October. It’s been a very steep learning curve. It was nine months in the boat by the time we got to the Worlds in La Rochelle. We learnt a lot in those nine months but we were really happy with how our international season ended up.'
Cook knows what it takes to become an Olympian. Ten years of hard work and dedication resulted in her representing Australia at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.
Both Olympic sports require certain physical and mental aspects and Cook has enjoyed the transition, 'It’s so different to compare the two sports,' she said. 'I’ve literally transformed myself I feel from one kind of athlete that you have to be for rowing to a sport that’s so highly technical and tactical. There’s just so much to know not only on your tasks and what you’re doing in the boat but then in terms of strategy and fleet racing on top of that.'
Rio 2016 is firmly in sight for Cook but she doesn’t plan on making any more changes for Tokyo 2020, 'I’m definitely going to stick with the sailing,' she added. 'I’m loving the sport and I think a big part of that is having a change and learning something new. It’s such a great opportunity for me to have the challenge of transforming the kind of athlete I am from a rower which is one end of the spectrum to a sailor at the other.'
At ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne Cook is competing with 2013 ISAF Youth Worlds 420 gold medallist Carrie Smith after Rechichi pulled out on medical grounds.
The duo got off to a wonderful start, taking the lead on the opening day but have slipped to fourth with only the Women’s 470 Medal Race to go.
Cook concluded, 'We only had one sail together before this regatta and Carrie has come from 420s so it’s a big challenge for us to connect as a team but for her to learn to sail the 470 as well.
'She’s doing an amazing job. We’ve had some good races and some not so good races but all in all we’re enjoying this week.'