Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Laser-focused champion sails to victory

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Former Howickian Simon Small has won a top sailing regatta in Adelaide, Australia. Photo supplied Harry Fisher / Down Under Sail

A 23-year break from sailing hasn’t stopped Simon Small from finding his place on the top of the podium at a prestigious international competition.

Small, who grew up in Howick and attended local schools before moving to Australia, was recently crowned a Masters World Champion at the 2024 International Laser Class Association (ILCA) World Championships.

The former world youth champion sailor returned to the sport in October last year after a more than two-decade break.

A customer at the business he works at in Brisbane learned he used to sail and encouraged him to get back out on the water, even loaning him a boat and the gear he needed.

Shaking off the rust Small quickly went on to take out the Sail Brisbane regatta.

A friend then told him the 2024 ILCA World Championships was being staged by the Adelaide Sailing Club from February 2-10 and that Small could take out the top five.

He took up the challenge and began training in Auckland and Brisbane.

An old colleague served as support crew and his parents chipped in as his funders.

The Sail-World.com website states that on day five of the competition, Small had two race wins in the ILCA 6 Masters category to sit eight points ahead of New Zealand’s Phil Wild.

Small led the series from start to finish and won five races overall.

At the end of the competition Wild was six points behind in second place, with UK sailor and former world open champion Jon Emmett third.

In an online video interview published on YouTube, Small said he’d only been sailing again for four months since his break from the sport.

“I took 23 years off so I haven’t sailed since Sydney [in] 2000. So [just] four months, it’s pretty cool.

“The generosity of the Myer family … they got me back into sailing, lent me a boat for four months, [have] given me gear, everything.

“It if wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be sailing, so thank you to Anneke and to Evert.”

East Auckland local and Small’s father-in-law, Robert Finley, says as a young sailor Small received a lot of helpful assistance from the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club and his parents, Brian and Lynda Small.

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