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Thank God he didn't - Interview with Matt Wearn in 2023

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 27 Mar 13:00 PDT
Matt Wearn - ILCA European Championships © Thom Touw Sailing Photographer

It was at a World Cup, and they were ISAF events in those days. So that dates it immediately. Like 2014, actually... ILCAs were called Lasers then, as well. That pretty much means everything changes, it is all just a matter of timeframe. 12 months can be a heartbeat in some instances, and an eternity in others. That's just the nature of it.

At any rate, back at Sandringham Yacht Club, in December of 2014 I got to meet a strapping young West Australian lad. Incredibly personable and quite worldly already, especially considering his years, Matt Wearn was a delight to speak with. Since that time I have been blessed to be able to reach out and learn of his journey, both trials and tribulations, as well as joys and euphoria. He's a pretty handy sailor, after all...

In a piece at the time, I looked at what was then a serious question, and it is what gave rise to the very heading of this ditty, because I for one am utterly delighted he didn't. And yes, we all know I am completely one-eyed when it comes to Aussie sailors.

The question was size and weight, with several souls about the place expecting he would end up in the Finn. Hindsight being all it is, we can very much be appreciative of the fact that he didn't get into the heavyweight boat. Phew. This is what he said then:

"I started in Optimists back at the Royal Perth Yacht Club by doing a learn to sail course. This is where I fell in love with the sport and got right into the competition aspect of it. The drive built from there and I had a short stint in 420s before getting into the Laser 4.7 for six months and then into the Radial and finally Full Rig. I might be at the upper end of the Laser bracket and everyone thinks I should buy a Finn, but I don't think it's that bad. I have a few more kilos to go before I have worry about that."

"I sit pretty happy at the 82-83kg mark, so I do enjoy the stronger stuff, but light airs is becoming a stronger point and I don't mind what I am sailing in, as long as I am out there in it. The way the points are sitting at this regatta I am not sure I knock Tom off, but I'm also pretty clear of third, so I will just have go out there and attack it, give it my best shot and not do anything silly or increase the chance of gear failure with too many gybes before the start," added Wearn in 2014.

A third place at the recent ILCA European Championships is just one of many podiums at this important annual regatta, which has been such a happy stomping ground for him. Ahead of the glorious Trofeo Princesa Sofia from Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, it has been pretty obvious that Wearn (now an OAM recipient) is loving his sailing again. "It's been really nice to get back in to racing over in Europe. The Euros was a good opportunity to shake the rust off, and I am keen to get stuck into it in Palma. It always offers great racing."

Understatement may seem too severe a word, and laconic belies the fire in the belly of this sailor's sailor, who is undeniably one of the best sports in the business. Like any seasoned champion, Wearn can now pick and choose a bit, rather than show up for every race that ever was. I mean, you have skill when you can win an Olympic Gold Medal with a race to spare, you know.

Still, it is a crazy world now, and I was wondering what it was like having a shortened Quadrennial for Marseille, or whether it actually seemed long after the one-year turbo package that was Tokyo V2.0.

Wearn responded by saying, "It certainly feels like it has gone and come around very quickly. A bit hard to believe at times that the Games are only just over 12 months away, especially after missing most of last year due to illness. It hasn't come at a bad time for me though, considering the success from Tokyo, but I do feel for the younger guys and girls who have one less year to find their feet in the fleet.

"I am just looking to have a consistent and solid year at the top of the fleet, and to hopefully walk away from the Worlds this year a happy man."

The last part of statement is quite significant, for a World Championship is the one title that has remained elusive, to date.

So there it is. It's a big regatta, and as Wearn has said, it means many things to different crews, and time would appear to be of the essence. Relative to all that, the Australian Sailing Team's Technical Director, Michael Blackburn said, "I'm excited that we've got the full Aussie team in action in Palma.

"All have been working diligently over the summer, and it's been many months since the majority have raced against a full fleet, so they're eager to compete with the best. Fresh off a tough European Championship, the ILCA men and women are ready to learn from their experience and achieve more."

It is a massive turnout from the AST, Australian Sailing Squad, Australian Sailing Futures and Australia itself in the build up to the 2023 Worlds and to qualify in as many classes as possible. In the mixed 470 we have Nia Jerwood & Conor Nicholas, as well as young Sophie Jackson & Angus Higgins. The mixed Nacra 17 has five Aussie crews:

Jason Waterhouse & Lisa Darmanin spearhead, with Jake Liddell & Lucy Copeland, Brin Liddell & Rhiannon Brown, Archie Gargett & Sarah Hoffman, as well as Rueben & Rita Booth.

The men's skiff is also five crews strong with Jim Colley & Shaun Connor looking to stay ahead of The Great Tom Burton OAM & Max Paul, as well as Tom Needham & Joel Turner. David Gilmour & Simon Hoffman, along with Tom Cunich & Miles Davey all have significant pedigrees and results to make this terrific viewing.

The women's skiff is no less interesting, and arguably even closer. Tess Lloyd & Dervla Duggan, Olivia Price & Evie Hasseldine, along with Laura Harding & Annie Wilmot are featured in an AST video you can see here.

Wearn is part of an eight sailor ILCA 7 armada. Ethan Mcaullay, Stefan Elliott-Shircore, Zac Littlewood, Luke Elliott, Finn Alexander, Sam King and Will Sargent complete the picture.

The women's ILCA 6 has an incredible six entries, comprising Zoe Thomson, Mara Stransky, Casey Imeneo, Paige Caldecoat, Elyse Ainsworth, and Sylvie Stannage.

The Formula Kite has Hector Paturau and Oscar Timm representing the Green and Gold, while the brilliant Breiana Whitehead looks to power on from a stellar 2022 that included a seventh place at the Worlds and sixth at the Euros. Lisa Darmanin wrote a great piece about Breiana.

The iQFOiL boarders comprise of Grae Morris, who knows how to win a race at the best regattas, along with Harry Joyner, Jack Marquardt, and Stephen Allen in the men's division, whilst Sam Costin represents the ASS in the women's event.

That's a lot of sailors, and it is just the one country, so you can imagine it is a big deal. Best of luck to all, happy racing, and smile ashore.

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all.

Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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