Nothing beats jetlag better than doing a bottomjob on your sailboat. A week after we have returned from the Netherlands, our Anna Caroline is back in the water. It is great to feel the normal boat-movements again. We are moored at the Collector Jetty of the Fremantle Sailing Club and enjoy the early morning sun with a cup of tea in the cockpit. Nearby we see the large club-buildings; these clubs are very big here in Australia with all sorts of activities, catering, functions, etc. There is a separate building with a little beach, where there is lots going on today. We see dozens of dinghies in all shapes and sizes; all getting ready to be launched. The chatter of childrens voices is louder than the hum of cars who bring more dinghies to the grassy area. We look at each other. “Shall we go and have a look?” says Wietze with his camera in his hands. Of course.
We walk on the terrace of the clubhouse for youthsailors. “Olin, don’t forget your watch” we hear in Dutch. We look up in surprise, because you don’t expect to hear Dutch here. When we react in Dutch, Esther Poiesz looks up in surprise too. As soon as Olin has his racing watch around his wrist, she has time for a chat. It turns out that today is a big day: the clubchampionships are being held. A little worried we look at the sky: the wind is already very strong. “Yes, they’ll have to work hard today” Esther comments. “But are you really going to sail with all the boats? Also the Optis with the little children in them?” I wonder. “Yes”, she replies. “Basically, we always sail here. Of course we are out there with a lot of coaches and volunteers to keep an eye on everybody”. She points at a few large RIBs with the markers for the racecourse hanging on them. “We can use all available help with these strong winds” Esther says. “Would you like to come?”. She doesn’t need to ask that twice!
Minutes later we leave the harbour. At this time in the morning there is quite a chop already. It is picture-perfect: the bright sun, the white foam and the azureblue water. It doesn’t stop to amaze me. But we have to work. The startship is ready and the track needs to be marked. Roger, Wietze and Esther place the markers and anchors at the right location in the water. With a big smile Esther shows her secret weapon: a stick with a bit of rope on it to check if the windangle relative to the startship is OK. All the work is done with confidence and skill; we are very impressed. “It seems as if you have done this before?” Wietze asks. “Ah, well” is her very modest reply. When we keep asking, it turns out that Esther has many years of experience in organizing the largest regatta-event in the Netherlands with hundreds of boats participating. After they moved to Australia, she just kept working as a volunteer.
We would like to have some pictures, but that is too difficult in the bouncing RIB. I jump on the startship and play ‘on board reporter’. The crew on the startship hardly notices me: one class after the other starts and the wind blows everything around. A classflag suddenly blows from its line: that’s how strong the wind is. I’m constantly in awe. Not only dinghies, but foiling kites zip past. Four very large RIBs whizz around to help and coordinate where necessary. After an hour I see Wietze, Roger and Esther pass in their RIB. An Optimist is hauled on board and they tow another one. “We’re going to bring these in” they gesture. Later I hear that Olin’s rudder pin broke. What a shame, he was sailing so well.
With the wind still howling in my ears I step on the Collector Jetty a few hours later. Wietze and Esther are drying their clothes in the sun. On my way to them I meet two young athletes
and congratulate them with this beautiful day. “Are you coaches here?” I ask. Yes, they are. A little later Thor Schoenhoff joins us. He nods at the two I just spoke with. “How nice that you have met our two worldchampions already.” Huh? “Yes, Alistair Young and Romë Featherstone have been very successful in the Laser and 420. And in the clubbuilding you must have seen the pictures of Luke and Tessa Parkinson. Amazing achievements they have made. At the moment we have 16 worldchampions and Olympic medallists”. “Only this club?” Wietze asks surprised. Thor is the headcoach and he takes some time to explain it to us.
Ten years ago Arthur Brett started here as coach. He is a very talented Laser-sailor with numerous trophees to his name. He started an ambitious coaching-programma and soon talented Laser-sailors would come to join the programme. The club invested in the facilities and the results were very good. So more sailors came, more successes and so it grew. Thor smiles: “I was one of those sailors and I spent every moment I had on the water. Two years ago I became headcoach”. The club aims at attracting young people to sailing. Every month a few children can start in a programme in which they can familiarize themselves in the fun and skill of sailing. If they like it, there are all sorts of options to continue. “We can help everybody: from the children who just like to play around in boats to the very fanatic who go for gold”. It turns out that there are people who are a member of two clubs: they train here in sea-conditions and on the Swan River. Esther adds: “yes, my husband Marcel sails a Laser on the river”.
I glance at the rows of brand-new RIBs and the two large startships that are ready to go. Thor sees it and he says: “we don’t use that every day. The Australian Institute of Sport takes their talents here to to train”. “And Marit” he grins. Marit Bouwmeester? He sees our surprise and explains: “Teams from Japan, Poland, USA, Denmark and the Netherlands train here too and they pay for using the facilities. Sailing here is challenging with different windstrengths and directions in one day. You can always sail here, so it is very efficient. And because of the reef that is a few miles out, we only have windwaves here and no Southern Ocean swell”. Wow, it is amazing how everything adds to the perfect picture here.
I’m looking for Esther. She is a bit further on the grass, doing something on Olins trailer for his Optimist. Wietze goes and has a look. “Yes a rivet broke and I need to fix that” she says with a riveter in her hand. Olin stands next to her with a look on his face like ‘my mother can do everything’. And he is right: a few moments later he rides his Opti and trailer to the storage area. I look at Esther and think: ‘a beautiful sailing mother and a championsclub. Perfect’.
Written by Janneke Kuysters aboard Anna Caroline during her World Circumnavigation
Fremantle, Western Australia, June 2019
(This article was published in Dutch on the website www.zeilen.nl with the title ‘De zeilmoeder’)