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Grass Roots

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 10 Apr 14:00 PDT
Grass Roots indeed - from little clumps whole lawns can grow, especially with the right conditions and a bit of care... © John Curnow

You won't have to go back to far into our editorials to find words like participation, inclusion, and juniors. Especially so from our Managing Editor, Mark Jardine. Primarily that's because they're not merely subjects for us, but rather relate to deeply felt desires and attitudes stemming from an ingrained passion for our sport.

So it certainly did not fall short on us that four young souls from a Training and Development Program took out the Asia Pacific Final of the Sailing Champions League a bit over two weeks ago. You simply have to love it when somebody does something emphatically. And this is precisely what 17 year olds Jack Eickmeyer and James Jackson, along with their 19-year-old crewmates Lily and Tilda (Matilda) Richardson did. To ensure there was an exclamation mark and elephant stamp applied to their result, they won the both the U22 and Open categories against some fancied rivals.

It now means that the Mornington Yacht Club members get to go to Travemünde in Germany for the a crack at the world title from July 23-26. All crews are made up of two males and two females, and all race the same boats to see who comes away as the Best Sailing Club of the Year. Well, there's one for the pool room, right there!

Now on the face of it, you might be lulled into thinking they should have nailed it, and certainly their form at the regatta backed up that theorem as well. Jackson was named last year's Australian Youth Sailor of the Year, Eickmeyer is Victoria's top Junior in the Laser, and the twins have represented Australia in the World Youth Championships before that pesky Covid thing emerged.

Yet here's the kicker, and probably the reason we are so much more impressed with this talented group. When it did not go so well originally, they did not yield and skulk off. Rather, they dug deep, found a whole heap of gumption, resilience, and determination to bounce back.

Doh!

To appreciate exactly what that means, one has to go back and look at their history, both jointly and severally, which Jackson was happy to oblige us with. Jackson, who is the Skipper, is 17 turning 18 in June, and doing his final year of secondary education. "Yes. Certainly busy, busy, and it is hard to find the right balance with sailing with all that is going on. I sailed Optimists at an amateur level, jumped out and went into 420s in the local programme, and then in 2019 went to the 420 Worlds to build skills etc, with the 2020 Youth Worlds being the target, but we missed it by one point."

"I am now looking to get in to anything I can, and even had a look at the 470. I am a Victorian Institute of Sport member, and am keen to look at an Olympic pathway." BTW, the O word hovers around this group a bit... "Next year maybe some more 470, and for now just training locally, getting school completed at the moment, and then sail whenever I can."

"The scope of the MYC Junior program has meant we have sailed against the best at home, which has been wonderful, and the club have also really done us well with funding too. Just cannot say enough about them."

"Jack is the same age as me and we have sailed with each other since the Optis. He also sailed 420s, did the Laser Worlds at Sandringham Yacht Club in 2020 in the Radial, and has been successful. He has a Youth Worlds qualifier event coming up, and is very keen to get the spot to go to Den Haag (The Hague) for the Youth Worlds from 8-15 July."

Now here's commitment!

"The twins were in Optis, and then moved from Albury/Wodonga to Mornington in 2016 to pursue their sailing dreams." Huge shout out to Mum and Dad at this point as well...

Jackson continued, "They jumped into the 420, dealt with some injuries, and recovered, subsequently qualified for Youth Worlds in 2017, and 2018, and then in 2019 went to a 29er, ahead of getting into the 49erFX. Early 2022, and it is all FX for them. Soon they'll be off to Kieler Woche, and the FX Junior Europeans in Italy. It is all part of them doing the futures programme, so for them it's travel, travel, travel..."

"In 2020 we did the SCL and individual things. In 2021 I pushed for Mornington to be the host, and we all teamed up, with just the one training session prior to the event. I got the tiller, probably due to me pushing the whole thing a bit, so we worked into our roles somewhat naturally. I am happy to steer, but always keen to learn, and the notion of driving a boat with an Ace was very appealing. At any rate we started well, by did not go so well thereafter!"

"For 2022, we decided to give it a real go, confident in each others skills, and we are certainly a cohesive crew. We went to Southern final in Geelong, really wanting to win, which we did, and that meant we could go the regional final in Newcastle. To be honest it was important for us to redeem ourselves and 2021 was a bit embarrassing. So we really needed to show them what we could do."

"The RS21 is very similar to a dinghy, so it is not too different for us. Kite retrieval is a bit challenging, but the girls definitely make us look good. All the 420 skills help a lot, and then Ace sails from the skiff just completed the picture. Thanks to our team and the club for making the win at Newcastle possible. We all have jobs at the club - Jack works in the restaurant. Lily, Tilda and I all work in the junior programme when the timing suits."

"Thanks especially to our parents for the very obvious reason - i.e. would not be possible otherwise", said Jackson in closing.

The brave new world has begun. And how, it would seem. To anyone doing anything from a midweek OTB jaunt to a transoceanic passage we simply say, YeeHaa. Do your prep, keep a weather eye at all times and push off...

So let's go for a yacht. Indeed!!! Meanwhile, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into Sail-World.com

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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