A brother-sister pairing is hoping to make the Hunter region proud at this year’s Olympic Games.
In July, Lake Macquarie locals Jaime and Will Ryan will embark for Tokyo as part of the Australian sailing team.
Influenced by their grandfather, the duo began sailing in their youth.
Will started at age 11 at the Toronto Amateur Sailing Club, going on to compete at the 2006 Youth World Sailing Championships.
Jaime’s interest in sailing began at 15, commenting that after following Will from yacht club to yacht club she thought she “might as well get into it myself”.
The gifted sailor added she and her brother were “spoilt” growing up sailing on the lake, which offers the “best conditions” for training for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The pair both represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Games, competing in the women’s and men’s 470 class respectively.
Jaime managed a 15th place finish, narrowly missing out on reaching the Top 10, which would have given her the opportunity to compete in the medal race.
Will brought home silver for the Australian team, and said he was “immensely proud” to finish in the medal positions.
“The Rio 2016 Olympics was a pretty special experience and I came into a squad that already had a vast amount of experience and had come up with winning the gold medal at the London Olympics,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“I was a new component to that team.
“That whole four-year journey to that [Rio Olympics] was really a pretty intense rollercoaster the whole way along.
“For myself, we probably weren’t totally happy with our performance.
“We were just such fierce competitors that we set ourselves this ultimate bar that’s up so high.
“That’s part of the drive to continue on towards Tokyo, to make amends for those tiny little things that we know better.
“And, that’s what makes it exciting”.
Jaime added Rio 2016 was an “amazing experience” and the energy and buzz of Brazil was a highlight.
“Probably our performances in the sailing were a bit disappointing, but from that you get a lot of lessons and a lot of drive that’s taken me forward towards the next Games,” she said.
In Tokyo, she’ll compete in the 49erFX class and Will in the 470.
The pair explained that the 470 division is a development class, in which teams can work themselves to optimise the boat’s performance, whereas in the 49er class, parts are more standardised.
As part of the crew in the 49er class, Jamie and her partner will hang off the boat on a trapeze to power the boat through a short course.
Will, on the other hand, will hang off the boat on a trapeze while someone sits in the boat to steer.
He said his 470 division was “more tactical”, whereas the 49er class is more fast-paced, as races are only 25 minutes long.
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the pair being unable to train with their normal partners due to the constant border closures that occurred throughout 2020.
Jamie’s Olympic partner is Melburnian Tess Lloyd, and Will’s teammate of nine years Mat Belcher is a Gold Coast native.
The Ryans have lacked the slew of events in the build-up to the Olympics that helps sailing teams refine their race-craft.
Remaining in their own COVID bubble, Jaime and Will decided to train together on Lake Macquarie.
Will explained the past year’s experience helped them “get through those tough months”.
“It was pretty crazy for us,” he said.
“The press conference where our selection to the team was announced was the beginning of COVID really ramping up, and most of the questions in that press conference were about COVID – and if we think if [the Olympic Games] is going to happen.
“When Jaime and I did get back here at the lake, we had a great opportunity to train and sail together, which was really cool.
“We realised that we’re probably in a stronger position than some of the other people, and we just had to make the most of it.
“I guess that’s the approach we’ve just been rolling with since.
“It was certainly a unique situation, and for Jaime and I we were just hugely fortunate to live in the same household — in a great location like Lake Macquarie.
“We decided, why don’t we try and sail together; just make the most of it and see what skills we can learn in our boats.”
Jaime added the experience was a learning curve for them both, and the unique preparation for Tokyo was “character building”.
“We’re still facing a lot of uncertainty in our planning,” she said.
“The next regatta we were planning to attend has been called off.
“So it’s still challenging, and we’re still definitely operating in a different way to what we’re used to.”
With months of early morning water sessions, team briefings, and coffees still to come, the pair said they’re excited to get back on the start line and compete for the Australian team.