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Olympic moments abound

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 16 Feb 2020 13:00 PST
Mount Fuji rises in the distance. In the foreground is the 2020 Summer Olympics sailing venue in Enoshima, Japan © Perfect Vision Sailing

The Summer of Sailing around Melbourne's Port Phillip has been quite the big deal. How cool would it be to have Australia represented in the Laser, Radial, 470M, 470W, Finn, 49er, 49erFX, and also Nacra 17 at this year's Tokyo soirée? Well pretty spectacular, really.

Now as for the multitude of events that have gone on all over the Bay since early December, perhaps no-one can sum it up better than the Great Man himself, one John Bertrand. "Port Phillip Bay is one of the finest race tracks in the world. In times gone by, all of Australia's Olympic selection trials were held exclusively on the Bay. With a 30km fetch, all conditions are expected from light to full-on 25 knot sea breezes, and everything in between."

"I've been watching the Olympic classes competing in their respective World Championships.... Finns, 49ers, 49erFX, Lasers and Laser Radials. I've been blown away with how good these sailors are. Fit, strong, agile, the modern Olympic sailors are true sailing athletes, both male and female. The level of sophistication of boat handling is incredible. As I tell people, to watch these crews operate is like watching poetry in motion. There is clearly a step up from Rio. And over time they will only get better. Higher, further, faster, it is a beautiful thing!"

We have had the Men's 470 and the Laser announced, but that leaves six of the eight to go. I would expect the Nacra 17 to be done really soon, the skiffs not too long thereafter, and perhaps the Finn and Women's 470 may all be put into a grand press launch. Awesome, even if somewhat highly unlikely... (Read: not going to happen, BTW.)

That then leaves the Radial, and with their World Champs around the corner, you would think that one Mara Stransky has the prefect opportunity to head back to Enoshima, a place where her Grandmother's compass around her neck can certainly point her in the right direction to find.

Finn star Jake Lilley has been at Geelong watching his girlfriend compete as part of the 49erFX fleet, but more importantly for us, just completed a significant training camp ahead of that. He is also doing both the NSW and VIC Etchells Championships over the next month. The former with the reigning Australian Champions, Magpie, and the latter with the Great Man JB and Grant Crowle.

Laser representative Matt Wearn had yet another great regatta, finishing in second place. "No, there is not a lot left in the tank," he commented as he reflected on the strong breezes the championship had been conducted under. Looking towards the future, the fit gun sailor was keen to take it to the top step of the dais, after his third second-place in a row. He certainly has the eye of the tiger about to pounce on the prey, and said, "We have identified a few things to look at, so we'll go away and deal with that before touching base with the fleet once more in Europe, ahead of and including the European Championship (which he has won previously), and then we're on to Tokyo."

Michael Blackburn is the Australian Sailing Team coach in the Laser, that have just wound up their 2020 World Championship. "It has been a very strong showing by the entire squad." Probably been one of the windiest Laser World Championships we have had in a while, and it has shown up with the big boys being up the front. This is especially so with Germany's Philipp Buhl, who has had a good personal best for him.

As for the Australian squad, Blackburn added, "Wearny has done really well, and he can work on some things which we know about. Luke 'Swifto' Elliott was the stand-out performer, with a seventh place overall, which is a personal best for him. He's been on the cusp for a few times, and has just pulled it all together here. He's been carrying a shoulder injury all week, and even had to have an MRI the other day, but he's finished it out well, and now has the doctors to look forward to this week as they try to work out what's going on."

"Tom Burton will go to Europe to do a few regattas (including the European Championship), and then carry on with the rest of the squad. Mitch Kennedy placed 27th from 124 boats. He is a great character to have in the squad, and we've certainly loved his Queensland nature to provide a balance with his humour to other people's seriousness. All in all, we have a good bunch of guys who have leveraged off and also helped each other immensely."

"We also saw some great results from Finn Alexander at the beginning, when he was leading and then in the top five, finishing in 28th place. His fitness could well hold the key there, as to power, even body mass. He'll get a lot of encouragement out of those early results, which he recorded in stiff breezes. He hit on the correct strategy, started well, and the results followed," said Blackburn in closing.

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John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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