Please select your home edition
upffront 2024 February soft shackles LEADERBOARD

In Rarefied Company

by Mark Jardine 6 Feb 20:00 GMT
Matt Wearn crosses the line to win the 2024 ILCA 7 Men World Championship © Jack Fletcher / Down Under Sail

Winning the ILCA 7 Worlds is one of the pinnacle achievements in sailing. Winning it more than once puts you in rarefied company.

Until now, in the 50-year history of the Laser / ILCA 7 World Championship, just seven sailors have multiple world titles in the class: John Bertrand (USA, 2), Glenn Bourke (AUS, 3), Robert Scheidt (BRA, 9!), Ben Ainslie (GBR, 2), Tom Slingsby (AUS, 5), Nick Thompson (GBR, 2) and Pavlos Kontides (CYP, 2). That's quite a list.

Matt Wearn has just joined this list, which puts him amongst these legends, and it was by no means easy. The 152 entries at Adelaide Sailing Club saw a range of conditions, and after the second day Norway's Hermann Tomasgaard led the charge, but Wearn kept knocking in top results to take the lead on day 3. Great Britain's Micky Beckett kept the pressure on, just a single point behind Wearn after day 4, but the cream rose to the top, with the penultimate day, held in 25+ knot winds, proving decisive.

Going into the Medal Race with an 8-point lead, Matt then proceeded to find a clear lane at the start, leading at every mark, crossing the finish line first. That's how to win in style.

He's now gone back-to-back, winning both the 2023 and 2024 ILCA 7 World Championship titles, and he's the Olympic champion in the class, having won gold at Tokyo 2020.

Big wind sailing in a singlehanded hiking dinghy is tough. I can't count the number of times I've gone upwind, wishing the rounding mark closer, then trying to catch my breath for the first half of the downwind leg while trying not to get into a death roll.

At the top end of the sport there's no time to relax. The downwind legs are just as physical as the upwinds, and all the time you need to keep your head in the game to think tactically. The manoeuvres and kinetics on board need to be second nature.

We spoke to Matt after the Worlds to find out how he's developed his skills:

"I owe a lot of my hiking fitness to the base that was built through my early years in the boat. I was fortunate enough to be guided by Arthur Brett on what the right technique is, and have continued to use these philosophies through my entire career. This, I believe, allows me to be more efficient from a physical sense, which in turn keeps the heart rate lower and allows me to think clearer, especially at the back end of a 20 minute upwind. Obviously time in the boat and years of sailing in those types of conditions also gives you a great advantage when you need it."

The class itself, and strict one design sailing, means you can't lean on a technical advantage. At the big championships you don't even sail your own boat as the equipment is supplied, as Matt explained:

"The one design nature of the class means you are on an equal playing field. The fact that when we go to major events the boats are supplied, so you have to be able to adapt to the small variances, brings the best sailors to the top. The simplicity of the design, with minimal ability to change anything, means that you have to be on top of your tactical decisions due to everyone's boat speed being the same."

Being an Olympic year, sealing this win is a huge confidence boost ahead of Paris 2024, but also frees up Matt to work on any aspects of his sailing ahead of the Games:

"It's amazing! To win the Worlds last year and stamp my authority at the top of the fleet again was great, but to go back-to-back and also in an Olympic year feels amazing! It's so important to get good results on the board early in the year so you can concentrate on fixing what needs to be fixed pre-Games without the results pressure."

It is ominous indeed for his fellow competitors when the best is already looking at how to get better. Matt Wearn has truly entered the pantheon of greats and is the man to beat in Marseille when the Olympic ILCA 7 racing starts on Thursday 1st August.

Mark Jardine and Managing Editor

Related Articles

Back with a vengeance
Categorically been on the Mixed two-handed offshore bandwagon from the beginning Categorically been on this bandwagon from the beginning. Flag bearing, card-carrying, full-blown trumpeter. Mixed two-handed offshore. You might argue it had a wee false start, but it just was a bridge too far at the time Posted on 26 Feb
We chat with Tom Morris on the Allen stand
At the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show Tom Morris of the Youtube channel Mozzy Sails talks to us at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show 2024 about developing fittings with Allen for his RS800, his favourite block, the America's Cup and more! Posted on 26 Feb
Celebrating 25 years of Rooster!
We speak with founder Steve Cockerill at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show Mark Jardine speaks with Steve Cockerill, founder of Rooster, on the 25th Anniversary of the innovative sailing clothing and chandlery company. Posted on 25 Feb
1948 Olympic Firefly wins Concours d'Elegance
At the RYA Dinghy and Watersports Show For the judging of the Concours d'Elegance, Mark Jardine, Editor of, was joined this year by the British Sailing Team 49er crew Fynn Sterritt, who has been selected for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Posted on 24 Feb
Oldest video footage of 18ft Skiffs
A look back into our video archive, from 1939 to 1987 With the JJ Giltinan 18ft Skiff Championships starting next week, it's a great time to look back into our video archive, from 1939 to 1987, to see some of the oldest footage of skiff sailing in Australia. There are some gems! Posted on 23 Feb
It's a wrap!
In sailing we have a lot of plain white hulls In sailing we have a lot of plain white hulls. Let's face it, when everything looks the same, it does make things a bit dull. The end of February is a dreary time, so it's time to talk about boats which brighten things up. Posted on 19 Feb
You try doing it one-handed!
Lynn Steward has carried on dinghy racing, despite physical challenges Lynn Steward races the only Challenger trimaran at Wigan St Helen's SC, and frequently jokes with the able-bodied competitors in the PY fleet crossing the finish line ahead of her: "You try doing it one-handed!" Posted on 18 Feb
Small Packages
You know? It is all about really good things You know? It is all about really good things. In sailing, two of the best attributes have always been fun and participation. Some would argue that these may have slipped off of late, but perhaps, it is more about finding a suitable offering. Posted on 13 Feb
Ben McGrane's Tips for Winter Handicap Racing
Keep going in the winter for some of the best racing of the year! Ben McGrane is a serial competitor at winter handicap events. They offer hardy UK sailors the opportunity to continue to compete through the winter months, and with the introduction of the Sailjuice series, the events have continued to thrive. Posted on 13 Feb
A+T 500 series Wind Sensors
For the highest accuracy and faster response A+T Instruments may be a name that needs introducing to you in the world of performance marine instrumentation. They are a group of highly qualified engineers who are taking a no-compromise approach to constructing the best sensors and instruments. Posted on 9 Feb