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More than 50%

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 22 Dec 2019 13:00 PST
Team AkzoNobel in Copenhagen - 2021-22 Volvo Ocean Race © Thierry Martinez / team AkzoNobel

Last week's We'll take 50% cast a bit of a spotlight on the ever-changing world of SailGP. This week we can say that it would appear that there is more than a 50% chance that it will be Copenhagen that gets the Danish Round of SailGP for season 2020, and if not, then 2021.

Yet the real turnout came in the form of the Spanish being named as the replacement for Team China. Phil Robertson and his crew had claimed third in the inaugural season, which was a great effort considering they were a development team, along with second-placed Japan.

Immediately, and applying a bit of Sino negotiation experience, had you to wonder if it was all a contractual muddle. This would appear to be the case for there are synergies for SailGP with this market, especially so given Larry's personal and direct associations. You would think there is a fair chance China will be back.

SailGP does like to reward the countries competing, and the Spanish team is not likely to be announced until the end of January. What appears to be likely is that the Spanish team will have 470 sailor Jordi Xammar seriously involved, as all of his family are involved in MotoGP. If we have seen one thing it is that SailGP like to have all possible ties to the top end of motorsport well and truly front and centre.

Xammar's crewmate from the 470, Nicolas Rodriguez, and half the Spanish Olympic team are expected to be on the boat too. They are young, but good, and in the case of the 49ers, quick too. Given the super-short runway, it is fair to think that Phil Robertson and his experience with the F50 could be given a role off the boat, or on it even as Skipper, with a nationality dispensation applied for the Kiwi.

Spain also has a lot of prospective venues that have track records: Santander, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, and Palma (de Mallorca). Determining which venue for a 2021 SailGP event gets support will probably depend on the sponsor's location. For instance, if one of the big Spanish banks, say Caixa, which has its operational base in Barcelona, as they are Catalan, or Santander. For now the banks seem to be favoured, but insurer Mapfre should not be ruled out as they are a long-term supporter of sailing.

All we know for certain now is that the calendar is complete only up until Cowes on the 14th and 15th of August.

SailGP and Moths

Well they are both foilers, and they have both been won by none other than the very friendly Tom Slingsby. I asked him what he could you say about this latest achievement, relative to his whole year?

"It was a great way to cap off a successful year for myself and the teams I race with. I competed in three world titles this year, and I knew I had a good shot of winning all three. It was a bit frustrating to lose the Etchells Worlds by a point and the RC44 by three. I think these really motivated me to put a lot of time into the Moth after we won the SailGP (which was my priority for the year) because I wanted to win the Moth World Championship."

All the changes in SailGP means Sydney will be quite the spectacle. We know you can't do much training, but are you considering different elements given all the changes?

"No changes for us in the Australian team. We will not get to sail until the boats are put together in Sydney, so we just have to be patient, and when we finally get on the water, use those days wisely."

Is it hard to plan your year when the dates are not confirmed yet, or the exact locations for that matter?

"It's very tough planning next year when I don't have locked in dates yet. But that's how it is."

Still on for the Etchells Australian Championship at the Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC)?

"Yes I will be there with Graeme Taylor and James Mayo."

Talking of Brighton then...

Iain Murray, Director of High Performance at Australian Sailing, commented on Jake Lilley at the Finn Gold Cup in Melbourne: "Didn't he come home strongly. Jake has put in so much work, and gets his reward now. I am very happy for him. He has silenced all the critics and made it clear for everyone by winning the medal race. Jake has shown what he can do a number of times before, but has taken it to the next level at the Royal Brighton Yacht Club."

Lilley said, "It was a good way to cap it off. All of my family and friends were on the water, and a heap of people back on shore as well." One of the latter group was coaching maestro Adrian Finglas who gave Jake a big hug, which would have been something to see, as the pair are somewhat diametrically opposed in the height stakes. Lilley said of his great friend, "We started back at the RQ days (Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron) twelve years ago. It was an emotional time, and very special. I am a big fan, and very thankful to him."

The last day offered classic Port Phillip conditions of 20 knots and building from the Sou'west with easily 1.5m plus moguls. They held the racing close to the clubhouse, to which Lilley commented, "So the waves picked up a lot that close into shore. Historically this was my kind of breeze, so it was good to see it back again. This was a deliberate point for Raffa (coach Rafael Trujillo) and I - we wanted to have our super strength back in our armour."

Lilley was also aware that Brighton represented a bit of breakthrough of the glass ceiling that had contained him previously. "There are two parts. A large part was on water, and an even bigger part off it. The on water was fleet management and positioning to deliver consistency."

"Off the water was esoteric inner work. Understanding what makes me tick, how to handle the demons when they present, and how to get the most out of myself daily and weekly. A good Sport Psych (Andrea Furst), and well rounded coach have helped me and made the sailing easier. Being in touch with who you are, and what you're all about - it's meant to be fun and a game we choose to play."

Lilley has had Raffa helping for just over two years, and said, "We click even more now than ever. This feels good and a big step in the right direction, especially in light of the last couple of years. It feels like the start of something big."

"John Bertrand has helped Raffa and I. We have been picking his brain, as he runs his eye over our campaign. He's the only Australian to ever medal in the Finn," Lilley finished with. He will now head to Sweden for Christmas to be with his girlfriend, 49erFx sailor Klara Wester, and her family, after she stayed in the Antipodes to be with him once her World Championships finished.

However, it won't be for long, as Lilley will be back at RBYC to be with JB and Noel Drennan in Triad 2020 for the Etchells Australian Championship.

Bertrand, who is somewhat of sailing's John Newcombe, said "Raffa (who is so highly respected in Finn Fleet) is keen to see Jake in the Etchells with Noel and I for the great boost to his experience curve. It is a real thrill for me to bring people on, and part of the X factor in an Etchells campaign."

Reflecting on that very point, JB said, "It's been a bit of a factory. There was Andrew 'Dog' Palfrey and Ben Ainslie in 2008 when we won the Nationals in Melbourne and were third in the Worlds. Then Doggy, Tom Slingsby and I won the Worlds in Ireland in 2010. In 2016, with Paul Blowers and Ben Lamb it was my second World crown. In 2018 Noel Drennan and Ben Lamb were on board for the Worlds in Brisbane, and now it will be Noel and Jake. I really have loved seeing the success of these guys as they moved on into their professional careers."

"I'm hoping for a big range of conditions, just like the Finn World Cup. This is the best racetrack in Australia, and used to be Olympic selection venue for all of the classes," said Bertrand. Seems to be a sentiment added to by Palfrey, who added that the hospitality, racing and venue are world class.

The Hobart

In So you love your sailing we reflected on the living legend that is Richard Bennett. A snapshot of his exhibition has just opened inside the YOTS Café at the Australian National Maritime Museum. It is easy to find, right down by the water where the five time Hobart veteran, Nicole Shrimpton's glorious 8m Defiance, is parked. Her best result was a third in 1946.

Next to her is Jim Dunstan's Zeus II, which won overall in 1981, and is the smallest craft ever to do so. Her sails back then were by a guy called Hugh Treharne, and her gear was all sorted by another up and comer called Iain Murray. After this year's race look to see the TP52 Bush Paul Group, and the supermaxi InfoTrack hold prime position right outside.

If you are going to Hobart then find your way Hadley's Orient Hotel (right near the dock at 34 Murray Street) where nearly half of his 60 plus image show will be on display. That's got to be worth the cost of a beer. Interestingly, once Canberra Airport has completed it's renovations, there will be five more images on permanent display to pay tribute to the great Brindabella.

This image of Beau Geste by the Living Legend that is inimitable Richard Bennett, was taken from a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter near Tasman Island during the 2017 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Bennett commented about it, "It was the end of the day and my pilot, Bryn Watson, advised that we would have to stop shooting, and return to Hobart if we were to get back by last light. My request was to keep shooting because the light was so good, and the wind was strong. It was a higher priority for me to continue to capture the light, the mood and the action. After all, photography was the purpose of the exercise. We kept shooting until the last light began to fade."

The camera used was a Canon 5Dslr with a Canon 70mm to 200mm zoom lens at 70mm. ISO was 6400. Exposure was f 2.8 at 1/1200th of a second.

"This image would not have been possible a few years ago because it would have been beyond the capabilities of the available technology. It would not have been practical from a fixed wing aircraft because of the need to return to base before last light."

"The Jet Ranger helicopter provided a stable platform and enabled the operational flexibility to find a landing ground on Tasman Peninsula. We landed in a paddock with lights just two minutes before last light. The cooperation of my pilot was also essential."

What you get to know by talking with them is that it meant a drive back to home, then an even earlier start the next morning, with fuel in the truck to get the bird airborne once more.

Will it happen?

Well the forecast looks good so far, but bushfires have already wreaked havoc across the land. You can get up to date information here, but one contingency, should it be required, is to move the start offshore, have just the one line (with flashing lights) with an exclusion zone protected by the water police, and send the divisions off fastest to slowest every ten minutes. Extra distance could be added by placing marks in Storm Bay. Let's hope they do not need it (and our affected areas get a well-earned drenching...)

Right oh - bumper edition today, and there is loads on the site for you to review when you can. Have a great Christmas and holiday period. We'll be here with all the news.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by emailing us. Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat-World.

Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow

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