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Grandmaster Flash

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 13 Aug 2023 15:00 PDT
Ben Crafoord with Jacob Marks - 2023 29er Worlds © Digital Sailing

The message. Are you with me? Anyway, it simply came in with, 'Get on this JC. Aussie boys, including son of Carl Crafoord, leading 29er Worlds with five bullets and a third out of a fleet of 206. Windy conditions. Hopefully they can keep it up.'

Important info in its own right, for sure. The friend who sent it has five worlds to his name, so he certainly knows the pointy end from the blunt. The thing was, I already was on it, even if that was from a wider kind of angle.

Enthusiasm permeated everything for young Ben Crafoord and Jacob Marks. In an interview conducted after they were leading, the whole thing may as well just said, 'Bring it on'. They would finish in a magnificent seventh place overall, with the finals not proving as lucrative as their fleet racing, and less breeze not entirely to their liking.

Still, it's a cracking effort for the Year 11 students from Sydney's The Scots College. This is a school that has done very well in teams Racing, no doubt a reflection of the Director of Sailing's efforts, Beau Junk. Crafoord is just about to turn 17 and Marks will have to wait until 2024 to make that particular milestone. Crafoord is also a helmer at the CYCA's Youth Sailing Academy in the Elliott 7s, which all goes to serve that he's into fleet racing, match racing, and just about anything where he's learning. No wonder he's on the water so much...

Of course, the only thing to ask is, What's the dream? "So the end goal is just to progress and get bigger, get stronger, get a bit older, and then hopefully represent Australia. If it comes to the Olympics, then hopefully I can achieve that."

As for education, well the self-confessed maths and science junkie reckons, "Something to do with engineering."

Reflecting on the interview we just mentioned, Crafoord added that he thinks it was Marks who said 'fresh to frightening', and just how much they were enjoying it and the accompanying seaway, but mostly that, "....the conditions really suited us."

Crafoord attributes Junk with his desire to stay in sailing from the Optimists they had in Year Five, stating "I really connected with my coach."

Junk has definitely been instrumental in young Crafoord's programme, and now he and Marks go back to both being skippers once more, as they take on the 49er. "The main thing with Jacob and I is that we were both so committed. Finding someone that's got the same commitment level as you is half the job. So once we realised we both had the same end goal in mind, we worked really hard."

Crafoord just had his first session in the craft with Finn Rodowicz (from the 18s) as his for'ard hand. "Beau's been super helpful in encouraging me to get straight into the class, and providing boats. I just enjoy skiffs. I enjoy going fast, and I think they're just a great boat to race in."

Reflecting on now moving up a gear to the 49er, Crafoord said, "I think it's always important to be moving forward. There were a lot of people at the worlds that had been there last year and moved backwards in position. Many in that had been in the top 25. Right. I don't want to try and live in the past, instead improve on the little things. I think you've got to move forward in big ways."

Talking of Marks, Crafoord said, "We'll always remain training partners and always spend time together. The yellow bib at the Worlds was pretty special. We'll be at Sail Sydney and Sail Melbourne in the 49er, just learning heaps and working hard."

Bank of Mum and Dad (and some great sponsors too!)

Surname says it all. Legendary father, Demi-God uncle, and his mother, Lanee, represented the USA in the windsurfer at no less than four Olympics. Possibly even easier to check off the things 14-year-old Joel Beashel hasn't yet won, rather than count up those he has.

Joel Beashel and Logan Radford have sailed together successfully, with a Flying Ant Championship just one of their accolades. They finished a brilliant fifth overall at the 29er Worlds, which included Youth, Junior and Open sailors. As Adam said, "I could have sailed with Joel."

Alas, as Adam highlighted, that's not the point. Kids want to beat kids, and learning a craft is just as important as beating everyone in your own country to earn the right to be the sole Aussie flag waver in your class. I am blessed to have had the kind of exposure I have enjoyed watching individuals and crews achieve that standard. Many thanks to all of you, past and current, for said engagement. Unforgettable.

World Sailing's 2023 Youth Sailing World Championships is at the end of the year in Armação dos Búzios, Brazil. Only, the Green and Gold won't be there, which apparently many other teams were happy to learn at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy after the 29ers concluded.

Adam Beashel said, "It's quite devastating for them. Their youth pathway has just been taken away from them. They are now sailing 16-foot skiffs and other things. What happens to all these 14-year-olds into the next three or four years if it doesn't get reinstated, and they miss that opportunity in life."

"The majority of them are training and want to go to the Youth Worlds, not the 29er Worlds. They want to be with a whole bunch of 15 to 18-year-olds who are all on the same wavelength, where you're having fun and all competing against each other."

"It's terribly sad if somebody of Joel's skill doesn't get a crack at an Olympic berth."

Not that long ago you'd travel to Sydney on a Sunday, and they'd sail against 30 skiffs. Now it is more like three or four 29ers, because no one's sailing the class anymore."

"They need to learn. Australia's starting to lose their touch with speed sailors because everyone's become a one design sailor, by just forgetting and not learning how to actually just go fast."

"I don't know where Joel will end up now, but I know his dreams. Two years ago, before all of this happened with the youths, he wanted to play around with the youths, follow that program, get into a 49er, and go to the Olympics. No point now trying to beat three, when you can be in a development class like the 16s and sail against 30 crews."

"Anyone can enter a 29er Worlds. You don't have to get selected or be part of anything. You just rock up and go. You don't learn the pressure of only one person/crew getting the spot. The point being, it's all about making yourself a well-rounded sailor for all sorts of things and one of those things is learning how to deal with the pressure of getting the one spot and then trying to win one of three medals."

"Joel's a lot about enjoying the learning process, and learning as much as he can. That's the fun side of it for him. It is testing and it's good. It's what we need. There are kids that are already deterred and walking away from the sport. You need a big pool to choose from and you've just really got rid of a lot of aspirants."

"It's just gotten really confusing for them. What do they do, and how do you get them going along to do what they aspire to, whether that's Olympics or whatever. Many are all looking at the option of, well, let's go skiff sailing.

"They'll, they'll actually pay us to go sailing and it help us. We won't need our parents in a year or two's time with their funding, because the skiff clubs will look after us."

"Was a time when you did an Olympics campaign to get noticed, but now the skillset that you're getting from the Olympic Classes isn't what's needed in the America's Cup classes and so forth anymore. Those America's Cup teams are looking at Moth sailors, not 49er sailors."

"The kids are already wanting to know how to foil and sail those type of things and learn that stuff. Sailing 'spots' are limited, of course. I would imagine there's been a huge uptake in either aeronautical engineering or mechanical engineering, and that will continue, as it will be another string in the bow in order to go sailing."

Count 'em up!

The Australian Sailing Futures (ASF) program is the feeder or development level for Australian Sailing. It is about successfully supporting the progression of targeted athletes along the Performance Pathway into the National Squad, and then ultimately the Australian Sailing Team.

There are some very skilled sailors in this lot, and many demonstrated this at recent class Junior (U23) World Championships, ahead of the all-in Worlds at Den Haag.

ASF 49er pairing Jack Ferguson and Jack Hildebrand have certainly been a firebrand. Skipper Jack Fergusson said, "It's been an interesting year for us. We only decided to start sailing together in April, and it was all hands on deck to prepare our teamwork, skills and logistics for the Euro summer."

"We kicked it off at the Allianz regatta. It was a great regatta to get back into racing, with a slightly smaller fleet than normal. We realised that needed to do a lot more tuning with the new gear, as this was the first time we had really used the North V6 main."

"After a break where I did some Mothing, including the UK Open, Worlds and Foiling Week, and Jack did some work for SailGP and sailed in the 18-Footer Euros, we were energised and motivated to get back into racing the 49er together."

"Our preparation into the Junior Worlds in Travemünde showed lots of promise. We brought on board a coach, Marc Chapon, and unlocked some new speed, technique and grit going into the regatta. This paid off, and after a great battle with the Maltese/French boat we came away as 2023 Junior World Champions."

"We have high hopes for this World Championships and are keen to race against the best. From here, we really don't know what the future holds, but we'll keep pushing hard in all aspects of our sailing and see what results we produce."

Sarah Hoffman sails with Archie Gargett on the Nacra 17 foiling cat. At the recent 49er and Nacra Junior Worlds they finished in second place. Australia's Ruben and Rita Booth won Gold, with fellow ASF sailors Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown taking the Bronze to complete the clean sweep.

Hoffman said of it all, "After a successful Junior Worlds we are looking forward to applying those lessons to a bigger fleet here in The Hague. This will be a great event with some tricky conditions, including waves and big tides, which will make for some great racing."

"We are looking forward to the opportunities and lessons that this event will give us that we can apply to future events, as we campaign toward the Paris 2024 Olympics and beyond."

"So far we have really enjoyed the summer European racing season, having competed in Palma and Hyères, as well as more recently on the Baltic Sea at Travemünde. When we are at home, we train on Sydney Harbour and Lake Macquarie with a smaller Aussie squad, so being able to experience European fleet sizes has been a great opportunity."

"After this event, we will be heading home for the Aussie summer for training and competing in Sail Sydney and Sail Melbourne."

Sophie Jackson and Angus Higgins are in the 470. Jackson said, "After we finished Palma/Hyeres/Euros Mar-May we headed back to Australia and have spent the winter targeting our weaknesses identified in those earlier regattas, training with some of the other junior teams in Adelaide and Melbourne.

We got a few decent days training in Belgium with our New Zealand training partners last week to get used to the conditions on the North Sea. Looking forward to getting into racing!"

Jack Marquardt on the iQFOiL Windsurfer commented during the lead up to the Worlds that are on currently, "I would say this season has felt much shorter than last. After an injury interrupted Australian summer, I came to Palma and the Euros feeling a little underdone. Since then I have done lots of training on Lake Garda, but recently not with the regular training partners. So this event is shaping as a big unknown. Still hopeful that all the Aussies can perform quite well."

Say that again. Slowly.

Ah yes. The big show...

Adam Beashel opened up this thread earlier on in this ditty. On the eve of the 40th anniversary of sport's greatest triumph, no discussion about pathway would be complete without stopping by here.

John Bertrand AO Chairs the Women's selection panel, and John Winning Jnr Chairs the Youth selection panel of the Team Australia Challenge.

Bertrand commented, "We're down to the final 20 from an incredible pool of talent from all around the country. We're now doing psych tests to better understand the individual's profiles, including of course comparability within a new team environment."

"The flight simulator will be commissioned at the end of this month, and is then available for training."

Whose line is it anyway?

At the other end of the scale is David Henry, who is closer to 80 than anything else (78 if you're into counting). He was even up the mast when I first reached out to him, just to highlight that age is no impediment.

He and co-skipper Stephen Prince took out the two-handed division in the recent 400nm Sydney to Gold Coast race on Henry's Sydney 36CR. They even beat David's son, Rupert, sailing in the very slick Lombard 34, Mistral, with Greg O'Shea, and this pair know way more than a thing or two about going for a yacht. Just as the last Hobart and Osaka proved...

Reflecting on the whole sport for life thing, Henry commented, "As long as you live, and you're keeping your heart open to it, I think the more you learn and the more you benefit."

I've always said you can teach someone how to sail in about five minutes, but the art of sailing is a lifetime, and you certainly get reminded of lessons you might have learnt a while ago and forgotten. Henry concurred, saying "Exactly. That's right. I think it is a sport for life. Not everybody enjoys it. Some people don't like the water and it's lot of work, particularly if you own a boat, and a lot of responsibility."

So what's our sport's most endearing aspect? "I think sailing has got a very wide range of technical aspects to it that interests me."

"If you take a ball sport, and I'm not denigrating them, but it's a narrow field. I'm sure a golfer would tell you that you can never learn everything about every course, and you've got to be really good at what you do, but it's pretty much the same thing, just trying to get a bit better at it all the time."

"With sailing you've got navigation, sail making, boat maintenance, gear set up, and so forth. There are a lot of aspects to it which attract me." And remember, Henry is doing a lot of it two-handed.

"I started actively ocean racing in my 20s. You've got to sacrifice, I think, to keep it up all your life, by which time you've probably got at least a dozen close friends who are all good sailors. You need that confidence in your crew. Shorthanded racing sort of simplifies it all, and you have to have all good people on board, don't you?"

So what was it like to beat your son, who's pretty handy at the two-handed thing himself? A very magnanimous Henry the Senior said, "His boat's a foot shorter than mine, and in the light I've got a chance. If it was being blowing hard, Rupert would have got so far away from me that it'd be very hard to make up your time."

"I'm very happy to get the win. I had a good crew, we tried hard, and we were successful that time."

As a consequence of it all, I was left seriously pondering the validity of the somewhat throwaway line - 'If only the young knew and only the old could.' Except they all are. So just who thinks up these sayings, anyway??? Honestly...

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's sites 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 Sail-World.com

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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