Youth World Sailing Championships
On July 17, I embarked on a journey to compete in the ILCA 6 Youth World Sailing Championships and to test my skills against the world's best.
A few months prior, I had sealed a spot in the Australian ILCA 6 Youth Team to go over to Houston, Texas. We arrived a week prior to the start of the competition to get our boats ready and test the conditions that we would be facing in the upcoming week. Texas was different; it was hot every day, and it was a busy part of town, and it took a little while to get over the jet lag and get used to Texan culture.
I took the first day of training off because I was tired and dehydrated, so I wouldn't get a good session out of it. This was the first little hurdle: I reset my goals for that day and ensured everything was ready for the next day to ensure I wouldn't miss any more hours. The next few days were filled with little sessions to not tire us out before the event but still see the conditions.
On July 23 we had measurement and a practice race. Measurement involved making sure your boat was legal and making sure it was even competition for the 213 sailors. Measurement is similar to the parc fermé concept in Formula 1. The practice race was the first time we got to see everyone together, and it would give us an idea of the routine for the next week. The mindset going into the race was 'no regrets' which was good and bad. After all, we couldn't get a clean start away because everyone was pushing the limits. The opening ceremony began, and now we were ready as we could be to roll into tomorrow for a big week of racing in a consistent 17 knots of wind forecast every day.
I felt consistent and a little surprised by my pace. It was nice to see I could battle in the top end of the fleet since we had been stuck in Australia for two years. My upwind speed was good, consistently being top 10 to the top mark in a fleet of 50, but lacked pace on the downwind, which cost me places each time. I managed a solid result in the two races that day, but was in a good place.
The breeze was still up, and I was just trying to get into a rhythm to carry through the week. I was a little tired and missed a few opportunities here and there but still managed a consistent result which was nice to see. The breeze was consistent so you can fluke results. My results were consistent over the four races, so that meant I had a good pace.
On the final day of qualifying, I was sitting right on the edge of gold fleet and managing to keep in front of the other Aussies. I put in a good performance again, getting top 20 results and top 10 to the top mark, but the goal of getting into gold fleet kept me pushing. I was really tired, but I was so close so it was worth pushing this hard.
In the first race of the day, I got a black flag as I was over the line when the gun went. I was angry and annoyed. This meant I had to carry a score of 53 points, and that cost me a spot in gold fleet. By the end of that day, I was equal on points with the guy ahead of me in 52nd. The top 52 went through to gold. In my head, it wasn't worth it. The black flag had cost me my chance to race at the very top.
I had put all my energy into getting that spot, and to be so close and miss it by a small margin threw me off. In that moment I had lost my hunger to perform. But we were only halfway: I needed to try hard to reset, but that kind of mindset takes years to perfect. That night I couldn't sleep and kept thinking about what I had just lost, but then I had to switch. I was now top-ranked in silver, but this expectation would fail me in the end. I now set out to win.
This would be my worst day of sailing in the regatta. I just wasn't in the race, and I wasn't focused like the other days, yet I still expected to get better results. Statistically, I should be able to beat everyone I was racing against, but that day I couldn't even pull a top 20. I felt like quitting, but I had to remind myself that I was there to learn. Before going, I had never raced out of Australia, and I went there for the experience and to learn. Still, seeing the pace I had on the first few days, I knew that I could race competitively and set myself expectations to achieve that. But in that mindset, I had lost what I set out to do.
The tropical weather set in, and we sat all day waiting for the rain and lightning to clear; it never did. This gave us all a chance to rest and reset by talking to everyone and just having a laugh, something that I had been struggling to do in those past few days. Looking back, this was probably one of my favourite days, because I'd forgotten the expectations I had set for myself. It meant I could just relax and appreciate what I was doing here.
No regrets. All of my original goals had been thrown out the window, so today was a day just to see if I could get over my expectations and get back onto the foot I started the regatta on. I felt better within myself but still couldn't get the races I had liked. My starts were poor, and I wasn't a hero in the races, but I felt better and found that I had some much-needed pace. My upwinds were better, and I found a rhythm that I could use on the downwinds. The last race was a good feeling; being able to cross in front of most of the fleet was nice, but it didn't last too long with a shift coming from the opposite side of the course. It ended up being one of the better results of the finals series but nothing compared to the start. The other Aussies also struggled to come up with the pace on that last day but had a better end to the regatta than I did.
The feeling I felt sailing was the relief of what I had done and achieved; whatever the result was, my hands and my body could get a well-deserved break, and I could go back home and see everyone. I didn't need to wake up tomorrow, get back into the baking sun, and get back into that same rhythm. It is a bit sad that it is done now and that I can't add to what I've done, but in a way it's nice, and I can step back and reflect.
Overall it was a good experience, and the things I learned weren't something you could learn back at home, so in that sense I am happy. My coach didn't care about the results, which comes with experience. He would say you need to focus on the process and areas you think you can optimize, and that will bring results; something I have now got ingrained in my head and something I can bring to my upcoming events.
- 71st Overall - Youth Men's
- 14th - U17 Men's Athlete
- 3rd placed Australian in Youth Men’s