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Experience pays as young Aussies battle shifty conditions at ILCA 7 Worlds

by Lisa Darmanin/Australian Sailing 27 May 21:53 PDT 23-28 May 2022
Finn Alexander - 2022 ILCA 7 Men's Worlds © John Pounder

A young Aussie ILCA 7 squad has fought bravely on another challenging day of shifty conditions at the World Championships in Mexico.

Decision making is proving to be key with the wind shifts occasionally oscillating and rewarding a more conservative strategy, while at other times it is more one-sided and favouring the brave.

The rise to the top of the 'older-guard', Jean-Baptiste Bernaz (34), Tom Saunders (29), Pavlos Kontides (32) and Tonci Stipanovic (35) shows the role experience is playing in this event.

Rafa Trujillo has been coaching the Australian ILCA 7 squad in Vallarta and has been pushing for them to get off the start line in good condition, but noted they struggled with the shiftiness of today's racing.

"Today we had different conditions with the wind left at the start of the day, and we were expecting a right shift but it was not a persistent shift," Trujillo observed.

"The boys were not timing the pressure very well and struggled to put together a good first race. The second race was a more typical sea breeze with a 20-degree shift and a nice 11 to 13 knots.

"They all arrived at the top mark in the top twenty but Finn was the only one to make the most of it. Finn played the shifts a little better in the second upwind and connected the pressure well, moving from 13th to seventh, 'Swifto' (Luke Elliott) lost out a little bit and Ethan lost a lot of places." Trujillo finished.

Twenty-three-year-old Finn Alexander was the only athlete from the Australian squad to move up in the overall rankings with the sailor from Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron sitting in 14th overall.

The Aussie squad is of course missing the experienced head of Tokyo gold medallist Matt Wearn, who has left Mexico to continue his recovery from an illness contracted at the Hyeres regatta last month.

Watching from afar is Australian Sailing Technical Director, Michael Blackburn who is keeping close tabs on the racing and the squad's performance. Blackburn has seen these young sailors develop over the past couple of years as they made their way into the extremely successful Australian ILCA 7 Squad.

"Finn is learning and adapting well each day and is getting a good grip on the start line details, combined with good speed," Blackburn remarked.

"Swifto (Luke Elliott) has suffered from some start line inaccuracy in the regatta so far and that's contributing to his scores bouncing around. He has great speed, but is struggling to find the space to use it."

Blackburn knows that experience is everything in a fleet as competitive as the ILCA 7 and suggests that this is where the young sailors may be struggling.

"Ethan won't be pleased with where he's at (42nd) and I'm sure he can identify some key areas to improve. I think he's in his third Worlds and experience counts for a lot, I believe all the top ten would have 5 to 15 Worlds' experience behind them."

The final day of racing will be held tomorrow with two more races scheduled for the sailors to make their mark in Mexico.

Full results available here.

Australian Sailing Team (AST), Australian Sailing Squad (ASS), and Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) entries:

ILCA 7 (126 Boats)

14th - Finn Alexander (ASS) 20, (23), 20, 6, 9, 7, 15, 3, (45), 7 - 90 points
35th - Luke Elliott (AST) 1, 32, 32, 3, 14, 25, (45), 35, (56), 23 - 172 points
42nd - Ethan McAullay (ASS) 34, 16, 26, 4, 22, 17, (41), 35. 42, (BFD) - 202 points
44th - Sam King (ASF) 24, 13, 28, (47), (38), 27, 32, 19, 31, 33 - 206 points
76th - Zac Littlewood (AST) (DSQ), 26, 21, (BFD), 51, 35, 2, 10, 16, 42 - 203 points

Matt Wearn (AST) - DNC (withdrawn from competition)

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