Take two Olympic Gold Medallists, 20 VIS athletes, 22 junior sailors and 22 Pacer dinghies at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club for the weekend under the watchful eye of VIS Sailing Coach Johnny Rodgers and you have two days of the most intense and competitive sailing Port Philip has seen in a while.
The VIS athletes were instructed to find themselves a crew for a weekend of Pacer sailing. Rather than a conventional coaching camp of class based training the sailors were out of their comfort zone especially for those athletes returned from the European circuit, the move from a 49er to a Pacer with a junior crew is tough on the mind and the body. Melbourne provided some beautiful Spring weather with sunshine and a good breeze. Race Officer Peter Taylor ran as many short races as possible with 15 completed over the course of the weekend and the majority of sailors being black flagged at some point.
To add a little more pressure and intensity Sydney Olympic gold medalists Tom King and Mark Turnbull were at the camp, but rather than coaching from a RIB they were skippering a Pacer each, giving all the sailors a chance to watch and learn but also go head to head with the Olympians on the water.
Speaking in the eveing King and Turnbull gave the sailors a very different perspective of their on water performance. Mark Turnbull while impressed with the sailors and 'saw lots of potential' added 'now we just need some aggression'. The following day Tom King found himself on the recieving end of some of the new found aggression as Alison Dale sailing with Julian Sasson rolled him on the start line and as King recalled 'I let out an expletive not directed at Alison but myself' as he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
29er sailor Tess Lloyd found the weekend hard work but having the opportunity to sail against two Olympic medallists was a huge learning experience 'just observing them on the water, how they sail upwind tactically was amazing'.
Being out of their comfort zone enabled some crews to gain a good deal of respect from their skippers as Simon Merritt commented 'there are crews up at the top of the fleet'. As for the opportunity to sail against Olympic medalists, Merritt commented 'just being able to watch and listen was invaluable but to see them jump in a boat having not sailed in a while and be highly competitive was a fantastic experience'
But what of those who were asked to crew, particulary the lucky ones who crewed for the Olympians. Laser sailor Tash Van Rennes crewed for Mark Turnbull which was an incredible experience and gave her an insight into the differences of how she treats her races as she goes out to the race course and what Mark does in the same situation, a fantastic learning opportunity.
The boats were supplied by Sorrento and Yachting Victoria and to minimise any difference in the boats the sailors changed boats three times during the weekend and if anything proved that 'it's the sailor not the boat' it was that it didn't matter which boat Tom King was in he was always at the top of the fleet.
In summing up the weekend Tom King talked about needing to have the right routine in life as well as sailing to be able to perform at your best, indicating the committment and dedication required to reach the pinacle of sailing - an Olympic gold medal.
Mark Turnbull commented that this type of regatta is a very valuable experience as you 'get very good at sailing your specific boat, but doing this type of regatta puts a different perspective on things'. Many of the sailors agreed, with 49er sailor Will Phillip and 470 sailor Sam Kivell making very similar comments when asked about what they would take away from the weekend.
No doubt all the sailors experienced an incredible weekend of sailing designed to push them to the limits in a situation that was out of their comfort zone. We look forward to the upcoming ISAF World Championships, Sail Melbourne, National and Youth Championships and wish all Victorian sailors the best of luck and good sailing.
Thanks go to Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club for sponsoring the camp.
To find out who beat the Olympians results are available via the link http://www.sscbc.com.au/site/yachting/event/39901/overall_1_1.html