Monash students Charlie and James take on the sailing world at the Junior World Champs
"What a trip! With my partner James Grogan, we set off on a 5 am flight in mid-August for a three week trip through France to compete at the 49er Junior World Championships in Marseille - the location of the 2024 Olympic Games.
Having only sailed a 49er for close to seven months, this regatta was due to be our first international regatta in the class and our third regatta overall. Having trained five to six days a week continually in preparation for the event, we set off excited and keen to put our skills to the test and gain a better appreciation for the boat.
Arriving in Paris, we travelled the city for a few days exploring museums, parkland and monuments before continuing on our way to Marseille via the TGV bullet trains. Arriving with a plethora of sailing gear and equipment we had the arduous task of finding our way around the city with little more than the friendliness of strangers and bikes.
We arrived to our charter boat but no mast - the first in a series of miscommunication with our French counterparts. However over the next week, we managed to train over 22 hours in five days learning about the sea state, speed testing and new equipment setup, before having three days off due to strong winds, allowing us to explore the calanques and mountains of Marseille.
Forecast to be a light wind regatta, the predictions soon changed just as the regatta began. The first day began as an offshore breeze filtering between the mountains - around 15 kts - with extremely short up-winds and down winds (around eight minutes total), which made for intense racing and a tough start to our racing, where mistakes were costly.
Meanwhile day two was postponed for around four hours until racing kicked off around 5 pm in extremely light winds: 1 - 4 kts. Combined with a current and an unstable cross swell, racing was challenging. However with great speed which hallmarked our regatta, we were first on the final lap of both races when they were abandoned due to lack of wind.
Being the last day of qualifying it was pivotal to have a good performance, so as to gain a spot in gold fleet. It was due to be around 20 - 30 kts all day, however our halyards snapped just before the first warning signal of the day but a quick fix allowed us to race all races and only start ten seconds late. With four capsizes in four races, the day was very tiring but overall successful in having us qualify for the finals.
The penultimate day of the regatta started in a consistent 30 kt breeze with steep waves. Unfortunately for us, we timed out of the first race, being unable to keep the boat upright downwind and the second race was abandoned whilst we were in second, due to the entire fleet being capsized with the exception of us, with everyone finding it near impossible to bear away, sail downwind or gybe. Our choice of no kite nor any gybes in the first session kept our boat together for the second session of the day in a slightly more protected location. Able to get two quick races away we scored two fifths which was the second most consistent result for the day given the multitude of capsizes.
On the final day of racing, it seemed near impossible racing would be had with the big breeze having picked up from the day before, with all classes except ours abandoned earlier in the day. Just shy of our regatta finishing time we were sent out, however with many struggling to make it out of the harbour, racing was close with a small fleet. Although a few capsizes were had by all, it was another successful day and again we finished the day higher up the leader board than any previous day, coming 15th overall.
Having had a phenomenal experience overseas and gaining so much experience and knowledge in such a short time, we are so grateful for the opportunity!"
Congratulations to Charlie and James on a great effort! #monashpride #bleedblue