By Nia Jerwood
Last week Monique and I competed at the 2019 470 Worlds in Enoshima, Japan. The worlds was a highly important event for us as it was our chance to qualify Australia a place at the 2020 Olympic games in the women’s 470 event. The first eight places were given out last year at the Aarhus World Championships and six more places were available at this event. Monique and I had a disappointing worlds last year finishing 25th, upon review we knew we had to make a few changes to our campaign to achieve the qualification this year.
We have been sailing the 470 together for three years, traveling the globe and competing at international events. We have discovered life on the Olympic circuit to be a tough yet rewarding experience. I will have spent 165 days this year away from home by the end of this trip. When we are at home Monique and I are training five days a week off Freo with Belinda Stowell, and we are in the gym at WAIS four days a week on top of our own personal fitness and strength sessions. Of all the places we have been sailing there is no doubt that we have the best sailing conditions in the world on the waters off South beach!
The first day of the worlds brought very little wind and strong current, which meant the fleet, could not make it to the top mark by the twenty-minute time cap. Through the rest of the event the wind seemed to increase steadily by two to four knots each day so that by the last day of the event we had sailed in every condition. Being Freo girls it is well known that we enjoy a bit of breeze, we have been working very hard the past year to become more rounded sailors and improve our speed in the lighter breezes. The second day of the event brought two races in 5-8 knots, our training clearly paid off as we raced close to the front of the fleet posting a 7th and 12th.
On day four of the event we were thrown a curve ball and were taken to the protest room by two boats both in contention for the national qualification. The protest room is a terrible place to be and you never know which way the outcome will go. Thankfully the evidence we gave and the video recordings made by the jury were enough to clear our names and dismiss the protests. There were three races scheduled for the last day of racing. Due to the large fleet size and small point separation we decided to race without knowing the points. However this wasn’t the case for our family and friends, who were watching the tracker back in Australia and Wales. We apologies for giving you and our coach Ruslana a couple of grey hairs after the last start! We didn’t mean to put on a show but sitting in 11th going into the last race and having a disaster of a start does make for interesting racing. Before launching our team mates Chris and Josh reminded me that I didn’t need to be able to walk the next day as long as we made it to the medal race I wouldn’t care about how much my legs were hurting. We fought hard in that race to pass boats on every leg pulling it back to a top ten result. We got back to the boat ramp unsure of whether we had made the medal race or not and bumped into Arthur Brett who told us back home Thor had done the math and we were through to the top ten!
The medal race was pretty exciting, however we were unable to out race the Brazilian team who finished the race in second to move up into 8th. We did we cross the line enough places in front of the Chinese team to maintain our 9th place overall. We had achieved both our goals of qualifying Australia and qualifying ourselves a place in the Australian Sailing Team.
Unfortunately for our parents Monique and I chose one of the most expensive sports to pursue our Olympic dreams in. Flights, accommodation, entry fees, sails, boat transport and equipment costs tally up to a hefty amount. It has been very tight financially over the past year due to our result in Aarhus however our desire to reach our potential meant we still needed to compete at all the major events this year. Additional financial support from Fremantle Sailing Club along with WAIS and the Ron Tough Foundation allowed us to complete all the regattas we needed to this year and ultimately be able to achieve our goal. Monique and I are proud to represent Fremantle Sailing Club, and want to express our thanks to the Club for the on going support for our campaign towards Tokyo!