Aussie sailors prepare to take on the Worlds
A container loaded with Hansa boats is coming from Australia to Medemblik. Two Perth sailors said they would only come to the Netherlands when the container would be fully loaded, luckily for them, six other sailors from Australia were also planning to race the 2016 Hansa Worlds. All of these sailors have a different story and are excited about the competition.
“I’m training with the dinghy division on Sunday afternoons at the Royal Perth Yacht Club. Our Liberties are leaving in March for Medemblik, so we will be using 303s until we leave for the Championships ourselves”, explains Perth sailor Tracy Odiam about her preparations for the Worlds.
Tracy got to know sailing when she was about 9 years old. She sailed most weekends with her dad, and was always interested in steering the boat. “I started Hansa sailing 5 years ago, 2 years after a motorbike accident left me a paraplegic. It was my first activity outside my home after this accident. My friend encouraged me to try. I finally relented and went along to Sailability at Royal Perth Yacht Club”, said Tracy. Now she is racing and getting better and better in this class. After a 16th place during the 2012 Sydney worlds she came in 7th in the 2014 Australian Nationals. For Medemblik? “I hope to do as well as I can and have a great time”, says Tracy.
Her friend and sailing buddy Genevieve Wickham also started sailing when she was young. “When I was 12, I was invited to sail by a friend who needed crew for her Mirror dinghy. After a few years my friend switched to a 420. Unfortunately I couldn’t join her because I wasn’t the right size”, said Genevieve.
For Genevieve the next step turned out to be just like Tracy – via Sailability. “In 2001, I had a stroke which was followed by surgery for a cerebral aneurysm. I awoke 2 weeks later without the ability to walk, read or talk”, Genevieve told us. After four years, her formal rehabilitation was completed and she needed some interest, so went back to sailing. “I was fortunate not to lose any memory, so my basic sailing experiences and skills all came back. It has been one of the best post-injury decisions I have made and the close-knit sailing community have been very supportive and understanding of my specific challenges. They also showed great patience – they explained everything with drawings to ensure my experiences have been very inclusive. Who could find a better medium to relearn language and apply it”, said Genevieve.
Mainstream vs disabled sailing
Through their own experiences, both Perth sailors have come to know the relationship between mainstream sailing and disabled sailing. “The Hansa Class suits my specific needs, since I only have use of one arm and I can sit comfortably and work from the left side. The Hansa Class is one of only few classes for me that I could consider sailing in mainstream competition, except perhaps a modified boat with a suitable seat”, says Genevieve. Tracy never thought she would go sailing again. “The Hansa Class is great – it enables people who never considered it being possible to get in a boat and discover the fun of sailing all over again.”
Some of the Australian sailors are competing in the Hansa Class for other reasons. Mike Darby is one of those sailors. He is sailing with Chris Symonds in the Hansa 303 two-person. Both are from the southern island state of Tasmania. “I’ll sail with Chris but also support him as he is going to sail in the single-person division as well”, said Mike. Darby has a long history in sailing and even builds his own boats. His first boat was made by his father, a Sailfish – something like a Laser. Mike himself built a Hartley TS 16 in which he won 3 National titles. “Other great achievements in sailing for me are the hundreds of Juniors I’ve trained. In 2015, I sailed in the doubles with a girl with a disability. Now I’m training adults as well and will compete together with Chris in the doubles at Medemblik”, he said.
Chris Symonds has the very rare affliction of Kennedy’s disease which is a very slow acting Motor Neurone Disease. For him the Hansa Class made him the sailor he is today. “I would not be sailing at this level without the Hansa Classes. They provide many others the opportunity to get on the water who wouldn’t otherwise”, explained Chris. Symonds has dedicated a lifetime to the sport that he started when he was 9 years old – 46 years ago.
“In my sailing career, I was twice runner-up in the Cherub Nationals with my wife as crew. In the Hansa Class I was twice National single-person champion in the 303 and runner up in the 303 doubles at the 2014 Nationals in Goolwa, South Australia. In 2015, I was the winner in the 303 doubles at the Nationals in Hobart”, said Chris. For the 2016 Hansa Worlds in Medemblik he is hoping for the best result that he and Mike can get.
Eating as much as possible
Russell Phillips, President of the Australian and International Hansa Class Associations, is also competing in the 2016 Hansa Worlds in the Liberty. At the age of 9 he started sailing and has sailed in different boat types like the Flying Ants, Hobie 16s, Javelins, 16ft skiffs and many more. His greatest achievement is finishing the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. After that he has sailed other offshore classic races and lived on a trimaran for 12 months as well as cruising up the east coast of Australia with his now wife. Now in a wheelchair, Russell started sailing in the Hansa Classes where he won the 2012 Herb Meyer Regatta in San Francisco in the Liberty and in the SKUD18 he won the Italian Championships the same year. In the Liberty and SKUD18 he has competed at Sail Auckland and for 2015-16 he is Liberty State Champion for Victoria. Now he is preparing for the 2016 Hansa Worlds in Medemblik. “I think the event will be a great success and everyone will have a great time. The Liberty fleet that I am sailing in will be the largest Liberty fleet I have sailed in. So I’m looking forward to spirited competition!”, said Russell. “There is weight equalization for Medemblik, so all the lightweight Liberty sailors will need to carry more lead weight. I am preparing by eating as much as possible!”, joked Russell. “Seriously though, I’m getting as much on-water time as I can by sailing the State and National Championships and regular sailing at my home club Melbourne Docklands”, he said.
Russell likes sailing the Hansa Classes because of the Universal Design aspect that makes them an easy boat for anyone to sail. “This class allows everyone to compete – from juniors through to people well into their senior years. One of the competitors at our Nationals this year is 92!”, exclaimed Russell.
The Worlds in Medemblik also has a couple of senior Australian sailors on the water. One of them is Bob Schahinger from South Australia. He is almost 70 and started sailing at the age of 36 in a Hobie 16 catamaran. “I was helping on the committee/start vessel during a national championship regatta where I met someone needing a crew for his Hobie 16. And the rest is history”, he explains.
Bob started sailing and never stopped, and has competed in many regattas and raced across the Atlantic Ocean on an XP44 yacht. In the Hansa Class, he sails the Liberty and Hansa 303 doubles and has been crowned Australian Champion a few times. At the 2016 Hansa Worlds, he is sailing with his wife in the Hansa 303 two-person. “We are preparing by racing 3 to 4 times a week in all types of sailing boats. My goal during the Championships in Medemblik is simply to enjoy myself, make new friends and to sail well”, said Bob. His wife, Deirdre, is preparing herself by training on the water and in the gym. She has sailed since she was a child in many classes like the GP14, Laser, Dragon and Hobie 18. In the Hansa class, she has been a crewmember several times. This time she will be helming the Hansa 303 and so is practicing a lot. “To prepare for the Hansa Worlds I’m getting as much experience as I can at the helm. I’m really looking forward to helming a 303 this event”, she said.
Spending time in Europe
After the 2016 Hansa Worlds, Bob and Deirdre will be staying in Europe for a while. “We are going to spend 3 months in the UK catching up with all my relatives. My younger sister turns 70 in August, so there will be a big party. We are also going to sail on the British Tall Ship ‘Lord Nelson’ from La Coruna, Spain to London in July”, says Deirdre.
Rob Eadie, another Tasmanian sailor, is also going to stay in Europe for a while after the Championships.
In 2013 he was crowned Yachting Tasmania Disabled Sailor of the Year, his greatest achievement in his sailing career. He has been sailing since he was a child and grew up around sailing with his parents. He’s looking forward to the event in the Netherlands, mostly to have fun and meet other sailors. “I haven’t prepared at all for the event, I’m a bit slack on racing compared to other seasons”, said Rob. Eadie won a National title in Perth in 2011, but now he is taking it easy and sails purely for fun.
It seems that most Australian sailors are all looking forward to the event, having fun and just sailing the best they can.