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That sinking feeling

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 15 Mar 21:00 GMT
I left a boat here, somewhere... © Photo supplied

As the world slides further into the pandemic that is COVID-19, I could not help to wonder if Australia and the Pacific could be set to be the epicentre of world sailing for a little while. Minimal risk thus far, and policies and procedures in place (by and large) to stem the tide for as long as practicable, as it were, do contrast with the vast array of cancellations and postponements occurring all over the globe.

So without holding the de rigueur mass gatherings on shore, and whilst at sea on a clean boat, a lot of Oceania is kind of the best sort of place we have to offer right now... Indeed I spoke with one person to ensure they had this sort of possibility inside their thinking as we move forward, given that a 'state of flux' is about all you can say relative to the minute-by-minute thinking and analysis required right now.

Alas, every one of us is going to feel this crisis either directly, or in the very least by the economic impact the grand scenario Corona virus is going to deliver. Two examples come to mind directly: sales of Corona beer are off markedly, despite it having nothing to do with transmission, just sharing a name; and here in Australia there have been fights in supermarkets over toilet paper - I mean really...

The next element was to ensure that we found some positives to look at, rather than rattle off the vast array of regattas and boat shows now either removed from the calendar all together, postponed pending future developments, or the subject of much speculation and rhetoric.

So with all of the above in mind, just prior to the postponement of the 470 World Championships in Palma de Mallorca, and before they had to scramble to get on a plane home before Spain closed down any further, I was fortunate enough to speak with Australian Sailing's High Performance Director, Iain Murray, and half of the reigning Men's 470 World Champion crew, Will Ryan.

Murray commented, "Last Worlds ahead of Tokyo, so it is an important event. Palma is a unique place with good, open water, and as such provides for excellent practice for Japan. It is also important to keep progress towards 2024, with proper planning and strategising in all classes, so that we can hit the ground running with a solid team for 2021, and this is all part of it."

Note here that Australia had sent Chris Charlwood and Amelia Catt to be part of the mixed 470 fleet that plays directly into Paris 2024. "We know where we are going in 2020, and this is all about the foundations for 2024," added Murray. Being at Geelong recently for the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Worlds was certainly a treat, and there were several countries with good squads there. "We need to have athletes in squads and programmes running now, so as to be effective in 2024," concluded Murray.

Speaking with Ryan ahead of what would end up being their last training session in the Balearics was definitely a delight, and it was easy to reflect upon their super-impressive three in a row in Japan last year, and podium position more recently at Miami. "I feel really lucky. Mat and Victor have so much clarity, so much certainty. Our plan was set four years ago, and everything that happens is another step along the way. Our satisfaction comes from doing what we set out to achieve."

Already the Corona virus was a factor in every discussion, and none different here, but the team were there to work on things they had reviewed after Miami in "...the colder weather, as it is not Summer yet. There are nice waves and a nice sea breeze on offer that is stable not vulnerable. You can find the subtleties, pick something and demonstrate your skills. Palma rewards those who have done hard work."

"Competition is still a big draw card, where you get your jollies, for Mat (Belcher) probably even more so, and it is really good to watch him - the competitor inside. Victor (Kovalenko) wears his heart on his sleeve, and I used to be in awe prior to sailing with them. It is not a secret - experience is crucial. We aim to control our own destiny with the execution of performance we know we can do."

"You have your skill set and decision making process and then chase consistency, which comes with experience. You are racing yourself first of all, and then everyone else after that. The marginal gain stuff is what I really like. I watch and enjoy many other sports and learn from them," said Ryan in closing.

In that very last paragraph could well be some of the answers for what we, as a race, must now face in order to get our own Gold Medal. Just saying...

Mark Jardine, our Managing Editor, believes that now could be the time to reconnect with your local sailing club, just to get out on the water, "When we're in our sailing dinghies we are mostly well over a couple of metres from our nearest competitors, but can still interact with them in a friendly and social manner. The post-race bar chat may be off the cards, but we're all going to need something to relieve stress in these times. I went out for my first race of the new season at Keyhaven Yacht Club in the UK on Sunday and it felt so good to get away from it all for a couple of hours."

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the site for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it below.

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Finally, keep a weather eye on Sail-World. We are here to bring you the whole story from all over the world...

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

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