Australian 49erFX squad and the Path to Paris

New teams, a new coach and new equipment have been the keys to unlocking Australia’s quest for success in the 49erFX class at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The squad, which is comprised of experienced Olympians and emerging talent, competed overseas this year with a mindset to learn as much as possible under their new Spanish coach Victor Payá.

Payá, who relocated to Australia in late 2021, has a firm belief in working together in a productive training environment and then leaving the competition for regattas.

The 2020 49erFX World Championship winning Coach shared, “We’ve managed to set a good dynamic for the squad, setting boundaries on and off the water.

“We are isolated from the world here in Australia. We are three boats so we can work together or by ourselves, and ten out of ten times I would choose to work together.”

As the teams are all fresh pairings for this cycle, “This year was about building up a good base, communication and technical speed. Now we are going deeper into tuning and racing mentality, racing skills and creating a playbook,” he explained.

Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine CREDIT Beau Outteridge
Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine CREDIT Beau Outteridge

London 2012 silver medalist Olivia Price, who returned to Olympic sailing this year, has teamed up with 19-year-old Evie Haseldine from Drummoyne Sailing Club. Price has enjoyed being back in the team and the pair has already made a splash internationally, winning bronze at the World Cup in the Netherlands back in May.

“Victor has created an environment where we can all make mistakes and learn from them. It’s much quicker to progress having more heads thinking about the same problem than just yourself or your team. I’m enjoying the sailing and the team dynamics as well,” commented Price

Tess Lloyd and Dervla Duggan CREDIT Beau Outteridge
Tess Lloyd and Dervla Duggan CREDIT Beau Outteridge

Tokyo 2020 Olympian Tess Lloyd chose to continue her Olympic journey in the 49erFX, finding her new teammate Dervla Duggan, in February this year. The Victorian’s passion remains high, “I love how there are many different elements to the FX. I enjoy working as a team of two and being able to share the experiences out on the water with someone else.

“I really enjoy the fast decision-making that is needed as a skipper and of course, the speed of the boat,” finished Lloyd.

Laura Harding and Annie Wilmot paired up in the uncertain times of 2020 as sparring partners for the Tokyo-bound team of Lloyd and Jaime Ryan. The team undoubtedly made the most out of that opportunity and placed a promising 16th overall at the 2022 World Championships in Harding’s first international season.

Wilmot observed, “We’ve had a lot of great moments but most importantly we’ve had a lot of not-so-great ones too; it’s all part of the game. The biggest lesson comes down to how we operate together as a team.

“We know we have a lot more in us, and we’re excited about the next season ahead to be able to show what we can really do.”

The Australian squad will be visiting a variety of locations to train throughout the summer to undergo valuable testing of the new 3Di sails, develop boat handling skills and fine-tune their racing mentality.

The 3Di sails were introduced for the Paris 2024 Olympics to achieve consistency, longevity, and durability in sail design. The sails are made using a full-sized moulding construction process that utilises composite materials.

Whilst the Australian squad have used the new black North Sails over the past season, as opposed to the old mylar design, there is still considerable development required to get the best out of the new equipment.

Following a big domestic training block, the squad will head over to Europe in early 2023 ahead of their first chance to qualify Australia for the 2024 Olympic Games. The 2023 World Championships in August in the Netherlands is where the first ten nations will be awarded an Olympic berth.

Words by Lisa Darmanin

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