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Making waves: Rohan Veal

Making Waves is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of trailblazers, adventurers, innovators, pioneers and people who are doing good things in boating, fishing and recreational water sports.

Rohan Veal at the 2003 Moth Worlds in Les Sables, FranceToday, we’re talking with Moth World Champion and World Sailor of the Year finalist Rohan Veal about fast boats and keeping cool under pressure.

Are you part of a sailing club?

Yes, I’m a member of Sandringham Yacht Club for keel boats, Black Rock Yacht Club for dinghies and I also do some races with the Offshore Racing Club of Victoria.

How did you get into sailing?

My dad used to race at Black Rock Yacht Club, so I spent a fair bit of time there messing about in boats.

Tell us about your first sailing experience.

The first boat I sailed was a Sabot at Black Rock Yacht Club. I remember being cold and wet most of time as I didn’t have suitable clothing, but I saw it as a challenge to overcome.

When did you start competing in moth sailing?

I graduated from RMIT University in 1999 when I was 23 and brought my first moth dinghy almost straight away. I’d been wanting to sail one since I was kid.

For the folks at home, can you quickly tell us what moth sailing is and why you love this form of sailing?

In short, it’s Formula One on water. Picture one person, one sail, going very fast and skippering a very hard-to-control vessel. It’s heart-racing stuff and it’s what attracted me to the moth class.

What’s been your proudest boating moment to date?

Winning two Moth Class World Championships and being a finalist for World Sailor of the Year twice.

You’ve competed in a few countries around the world, where is your favourite place to sail?

I think Lake Garda in Italy and Port Phillip Bay are great as the wind is usually strong and consistent. The Whitsunday Islands are also nice to race around. The dream is to sail around the Bahamas one day.

Could you step us through how you feel before a race and how you channel that energy to perform?

I am generally very calm and try to conserve as much energy as possible before the race because I’ll need all of it on the race track. I find it’s very important to control my breathing and heart rate, then switch my mind into a ‘race-winning’ mode so that I only focus on flawless manoeuvres/trimming and positive outcomes.

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what three things would you take and why?

I’m quite practical, so a Swiss Army knife, fire-starter kit and a swag would be on my list. This way I’ve got the survival essentials covered.

The boating world is full of whacky nautical terms. What’s your favourite one and why?

A ‘fro’ is a very short way of saying a ‘Fractional Code Zero’ which is a special non-masthead reaching sail used on race yachts.

What scares you on the water?

Only big sharks when windsurfing on the coast.

Where is your favourite place to sail in Victoria?

Geelong is pretty good as the water is always flat, but Black Rock has the best wind on the bay.

Where are your favourite boating facilities in Victoria and why?

Sandringham Yacht Club is very hard to beat because it has everything there and it is extremely well managed.

Where are your least favourite boating facilities and how would you improve it?

Mordialloc. However, I am happy to hear the Victorian Government has prioritised this as one the first facilities to be upgraded with new funding.

You must have had some awesome sailing experiences, tell us about the most memorable one.

Being hit by an 80-knot squall while racing at the 420 (type of sailing boat) Nationals Competition in 1998 at Black Rock was insane. Our sails shredded and there were boats and sailors scattered all over the bay!

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into sailing?

Don’t waste any time, just head down to your local yacht club and join the learn-to-sail program. Invest in good gear that will keep you warm and dry and go rip it up and have fun on the waves.

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