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RS Feva: Simon Cooke reflects on Kiwi World Championship win

by Michael Brown/Yachting NZ 30 Jul 2019 20:59 PDT 31 July 2019
World champions Simon Cooke and Oskar Masfen (NZL) - RS Feva Worlds 2019 - Follonica - Italy © Elena Giolai / Fraglia Vela Riva

Simon Cooke was one of the world's best 470 sailors at the turn of the century and last week rolled back the clock by winning another world title. Simon writes about his experiences at the RS Feva world championships and the rewards of passing on his experience to a younger generation.

It was a really good feeling to win the open title at the RS Feva world championships in Italy recently, and a pretty special achievement to share with my crew Oskar Masfen.

The win took me back to Olympic 470 sailing days, when I competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and then won the 2002 world championships with Peter Nicholas.

Sadly, I stopped dinghy sailing at my peak, so I feel I could have won more world titles when I was younger. But I’ve been involved in sailing fairly extensively since then, particularly in coaching or doing tactics and helming in big boats. I knew I could still do well when I teamed up with Oskar, although that wasn't really the intention.

It's an interesting story how Oskar, who is 11, and I formed a partnership. It all started at last year's Etchell world championships in Brisbane.

Oskar's dad Anatole mentioned that Oskar wasn’t enjoying the Optimist, so Andrew Wills suggested that maybe I should sail with Oskar initially to keep him in sailing and start him off in double-handed boats.

Our first event was last year's Sir Peter Blake Regatta at Torbay, when we had a blast and quickly formed a good friendship. Oskar’s ability to learn and progress has been amazing.

We quickly noticed Oskar needed to get stronger, so he’s been at the gym ever since with noticeable benefit in the boat.

Oskar does everything, I just do the main and helm. Many coaches mentioned how good his trimming was and this was a big factor in our success and ability to catch up in our bad races.

I’m hopeful that his crewing becomes instinct but he’s still got a few more years to develop and learn. Although our Feva partnership has come to an end, we are considering teaming up again so I can help him transition into a more high-performance youth boat.

It will be interesting to see where the Nacra 15 world championships are in a couple of years in case there's a good opportunity to continue his development as a crew but, in the meantime, he'll continue to sail the Feva with another, younger skipper.

I think the Feva is a great class for me to pass on my experience and I can see myself involved in it for a number of years.

The Feva is an ideal early double-handed, one-design boat and I’m hopeful other open crews join the class over the coming years and help bring in a new group of double-handed sailors for New Zealand, especially with the RS Feva world championships to be held here in 2021.

I’d really like to team up with my son, Ashton, for next year's world championships in Travemunde, Germany, and by 2021 swap roles with me crewing.

Last week's world championships were incredible. For me, Italy is a pretty special place for sailing anyway, but the opening ceremony was amazing and it was a real buzz to be getting ready to go out each morning with 200 boats.

It was a real adrenaline rush to be racing at a big event again, when having to make good starts and decisions was critical, and it felt like I was 25 years younger.

I also really enjoyed helping the other Kiwi sailors and I wish I could have done more for them. It took me back to the days a decade ago when I coached 420 teams, and many of those sailors are now our top Olympic campaigners.

I enjoy passing on my experience and I guess I’ll be doing that more ahead of the 2021 Feva world championships in New Zealand.

The key to our success was the work Oskar and I did before we arrived in Italy. Detailed planning and preparation was a huge part of our programme.

I lost 6kg, which was part of our plan to be fitter and stronger than we were in New Zealand. Oskar was at the gym each week and I clocked up 100km in the fortnight leading up to the event.

We stripped as much weight as we could out of the boat and came up with a clever system to control our jib depth and twist settings more accurately.

Oskar’s downwind trimming was exceptional. Many coaches commented on this and it was something we had been working on jointly in New Zealand.

It was also really advantageous to train with the other New Zealanders in both Auckland and Follonica. Blake Hinsley, Nick Drummond, Josh Hyde and Zach Fong were a huge part of our success and I’m sure we assisted in their results.

It was just a shame Josh and Zach weren’t able to continue their qualifying success into the finals, but I’m sure they’ve gained a lot of experience.

I'm now in Japan in my role as Thailand's double-handed coach ahead of the 470 world championships in Enoshima. There's always something going on in sailing, even the opportunity for an old sea dog like me to win a world title.

[If you are in New Zealand and would like a great deal on a RS Feva that has only sailed a few races click here ]

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