Make the worlds your oyster

After being involved in several world championship campaigns, Nick Hutton proffers a handy check list

SO you're off to the worlds! Well done. All the hard work has paid off and you have been selected in a team to represent Australia at a world championship. What a fantastic opportunity to take your sailing to a new level, to make lifelong friends and to experience different cultures.
Chances are you have about four or five months to get organised. Plenty of time, you might reckon, to get it all together. Do yourself a favour. Start now. There's a lot to do. And while training is very important, most of what you read here will have little to do with boats or water.
First decision. Do you go? Well this article assumes that you will go, and you can take it from someone who has seen dozens of young Australian sailors go to junior and youth class world championships. If you can make it happen, then you must. You will never forget the experience.
Once you have accepted the offer to join the team, there are many more decisions to make. The following paragraphs offer some guidance that you may find useful in getting the best possible experience and result that you can. These notes are not primarily about saving money or doing it on the cheap. TyCharter or not?
Some classes are so well organised that all the boats at the worlds are chartered and you take your own sail/s, and perhaps foils, ropes, etc. The Laser and Hobie variants are good examples. This is a brilliant way to do things and removes a range of hassles. It is also usually quite cost-effective.
You will also have your own boat to train in right up until you get on the plane.
Unfortunately this is more often the exception, and most sailors going to a worlds need to determine the availability of charter boats, the cost and quality, and what you need to provide. To charter a boat at, say, a 420 worlds, will probably cost you about $2500 plus damage deposit and insurance.
It will probably cost about $15,000 return to send a 40ft container to a European port. There will be additional costs for road or rail freight to the regatta, and perhaps a crane to off-load the container at the regatta, so unless you have a good number of boats going to the Worlds, charter may still be the more cost-effective option.
Of course, price is not everything, so ensure that if you are chartering, the boat is as good as the one you have at home. It will probably be new, but will probably not be the same builder as yours, so make sure you will be happy with the boat.
An advantage of having a container at the worlds is that you have safe storage for your equipment and something of a team “headquarters” including your own changerooms and workshop, provided the container storage is right on-site. You can also take any amount of spares and tools, something which is more difficult if you have to take everything on a plane as baggage. Beware, however, as there can be a fee for having a container out of circulation for a couple of weeks, so check with your freight forwarder.
Your boat will be in transit for probably six weeks prior to the regatta and six weeks after, if you are sending it to Europe or the Americas. This can be something of an inconvenience for training, and for regattas before and after the Worlds back home in Australia.
Your freight forwarder will tell you all about costs for quarantine and customs inspections, port charges, land transport in Australia and overseas, and a handy document called a carnét which allows you to “export” your boat and not pay any duties, provided you “re-import” it after the regatta.
Carnéts are obtained through the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce which manages this for Australia. There is a small deposit on each boat, refunded upon the boat's return to Australia, and a fee of a few hundred dollars. Be sure to obtain the actual rate of duty in the target country, usually only a few per cent of the value of the boat, rather than paying the default deposit which is 50 per cent. Also ensure the value you state on the carnét matches your boat's sum insured as insurers will look at the carnét in assessing the loss of a container in transit.
Avoid the temptation to smuggle cheap goodies back to Australia in the container. Fines are huge, prisons are such ugly places and it gives other yachties a bad name when you get caught.
A final note on containers. Pack with great care. Freight handlers are not too fussy about the gelcoat on your new Ziegelmayer 470, so you need to be. Solid racks built to fit neatly in the container, and secured by strong straps are the norm, although some people sling their boats from the roof of the “box”. Whatever you do, make sure it is bulletproof, especially if rail is in the transport mix. The rhythmic rocking of a train will undo knots, nuts and even your tiedowns!
Insurance and documents
It can be difficult to obtain insurance for charter boats, or your own boat in a container and at the regatta. The Yachting Australia website has information about this type of insurance, so if your regular broker or insurer is unable to find insurance for you, check the YA site for a suitable option.
Make sure you have a boat measurement certificate, personal travel insurance, boat insurance (check NoR for insurance values), YA membership, class association membership, charter boat deposit receipt if applicable, and any other relevant documents.
Getting there
There are as many flying options as there are people these days, so shop around. But do it early, as bargains dry up as you get closer to the regatta. Most regattas are held in peak holiday seasons and cheap seats can be hard to find.
In some of the smaller classes it is possible to take your best sails on the plane with you as sporting goods, rather than sending them off in the container for a four-month round trip. British Airways has seriously reduced the types of sporting equipment allowed as passenger baggage and it is likely that other airlines will follow suit, despite the protests of surfers, skiers, windsurfers, sailors and the like. Read their baggage policies carefully on their websites.
Many people include a holiday as part of the regatta travel arrangements. If you have time, this can be an enjoyable way to celebrate your performances or drown your sorrows after the regatta. It is less of a good idea to holiday before the regatta. Being a tourist can be stressful and can expose you unnecessarily to dodgy tucker, water-borne bugs, “play” injuries and the like.
Don't forget to get a passport (duh!) and check whether you need a visa for the country where the regatta is being held or en route. Visas can take from weeks to months to prepare, so don't leave it to the last minute.
Check the Australian Government website for travel warnings on target countries.
Where to Stay
So, we've ticked off the boat, the plane fare and travel docs. Now, how about a bed for the regatta? Some regatta organisers list accommodation when circulating the notice of race, ranging from five-star hotels to camping. If not, contact some local class association members for tips. Your travel agent may also be able to help, as can Wotif.com and other web booking services.
Proximity to the regatta venue is important. Google Earth can help here, as statements by accommodation providers about distances from A to B can be optimistic. “Five minutes away” would need an FA-18 in some cases!
If you are going to the regatta as part of a team, it can be very convenient for everyone to stay at the same venue, particularly as hiring a mini-bus is often only marginally more than a car and can manage a far larger payload. Make sure you have the right licence for the vehicle. An International Licence is necessary in some countries. Check with your local motoring body.
Tucker
Look for accommodation options that allow you to prepare your own food, and check the proximity of shops and supermarkets. Don't experiment more than necessary with the local specialities before the regatta. It can be hard to hear the start signal from the loo!
Make sure you eat at least as well as at home and stay hydrated. Bottled water is a wise option in most countries. Some teams send slabs of bottled water in their shipping container. This may be unnecessarily cautious, but could be better safe than sorry. And leave testing of the local brew until presentation night. Alcohol dehydrates better than most.
Take a small esky or cooler bags to send out in your support boat.
Support boat
It is highly desirable to have a support boat. This can also contain a coach (more on this later) or just a roster of parents/spouses/whatevers to make sure you have spares, food, water, etc out on the racetrack.
You will probably be spending a much longer period on the water each day than you would at local club races or nationals. So as well as good rest each night, you need plenty of quality food and a good hydration program. This cannot be stressed too much. Dehydrated brains make bad decisions. Dehydrated bodies function poorly.
Medicines/medical
A good quality first aid kit should form part of your equipment. You may need a letter from your GP for some of the medications in it, depending on which country you are visiting.
A list of over-the-counter or prescription sea sickness medications legally available in Australia have been cleared as not containing prohibited substances by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and so are OK for use at sailing events. This clearance does not extend to preparations supplied by your mate at the club or via the internet, so be careful to only use products purchased through pharmacies in Australia. Check with your local yachting association for the list of specific products submitted to ASADA.
What to wear
Check the weather conditions at the regatta venue and dress accordingly. Sounds easy, doesn't it. It is easy to get caught. Mid-summer days can be quite cold in the UK, Northern Europe or North America, often dropping to low teens or single digit temperatures. Likewise, it can be 38 degrees in Mumbai in winter. And it is always 30 degrees in Singapore!
Big breezes and big seas affect the amount of keeping warm necessary, as can long days, early starts and late finishes. Make sure you have enough kit to stay warm and comfortable for a long day on the water. And the next day. And the next day. And so on…
Washing out the salt in fresh water each night is also a good plan. Sitting around all day in hiking shorts full of yesterday's salt can be very unpleasant. “Gunwale bum” may not be in the medical dictionary, but it is real nonetheless.
If you are flying your clothing to the regatta, leave your dinner suit in the wardrobe in favour of extra thermals and wet weather gear. Better to be under-dressed on trophy night, than cold every day.
Sails
Don't forget that your boat will probably need some new “clothes” as well. Don't leave your order to the last minute as you will need to give your sailmaker time to adjust them after the first few outings, and they will need to be measured before departure. If chartering, make sure you know what mast you will be using as this will affect the cut of the sails.
Coaching
Most sailors or sailing teams these days have a coach. They can be an Australian-based coach who travels with the team, or a local appointed for the benefit of local knowledge.
While the addition of a coach can stretch the budget a bit, the right person will more than pay for themself, improving the experience for all concerned. An Australian-based coach may be preferable, being able to work with the team prior to departure.
While there are no hard and fast rules about expenses and payment, it is normal for a team to meet the travel and accommodation expenses of a coach, as well as pay a per diem to cover food and living expenses. It is also normal to provide a coach boat. This can be chartered at the venue (expect to pay circa 100 Euros/US per day plus fuel) or sent to the regatta in the container. Don't forget insurance.
Again, preparation is important here. There may be a limited supply of boats at the venue, and it could be first in, best dressed. Do your research early. It may be possible to hire a boat from a neighbouring yacht club or a class association member.
Yachting Australia's Youth Classes International Coaching Support Guidelines, published on the YA website, sets out information on applying for financial assistance to provide coaching for youth and junior classes. This covers most if not all of the youth and junior classes that hold a world championship, and provides a significant level of funding. Check the submission closing dates for your year of competition.
Senior classes may qualify for YA's International and Recognised Classes funding, a results-based grant payable when results are on the board. Details are also on the YA website. Youth and junior classes that take advantage of the youth coaching funding do not qualify for the I&R funds as well.
Some sport and recreation departments also have some grants for sports people travelling to world championships so make sure you search their information thoroughly.
You will almost certainly need to take an Australian or AUS flag as an identifier for your coach/support boat to be allowed on the course. Your driver may also need a local permit or licence. This should be in the NoR but don't assume too much.
Team leader
Most world championship organisers prefer to deal with one team leader for each competing country. It is much tidier if a single team leader is appointed early in the planning process. This does NOT mean they do all the work in preparing for the regatta, but it does mean that all the information gathered by the various parties are channelled through this person to other team members, shipping lines, the regatta organisers, etc.
Then when bulk bookings are called for, or funds need to be collected and disbursed, there is someone to make sure everything happens.
Don't forget to thank them after the regatta. They will have almost certainly done an enormous amount of work on your behalf.
Team uniform
This can be the fun bit. Looking good at the opening ceremony builds confidence and sense of “team”, often lacking in such an individual sport as sailing. Uniform swaps form a very important part of the culture of youth and junior regattas. TyRemember, you need permission from the Government if you want to use the Coat of Arms. Information about this is available from the YA website.
You may need your Australian flag here too.
The big trip
At last everything is done. Your boat is waiting in Kiel, Phuket or San Francisco. You have your uniform, your sails have just gone through the “nuisance baggage” check-in, and the Flying Kangaroo is doing a few stretches on the runway. Luckily you're on the Emirates flight at the next gate.
Now all you need to do is sail. Look forward to meeting new people and trying new things. Represent AUS with pride, good sportsmanship and good manners. And have fun.

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