Exmouth’s Stevie Morrison in action off Miami
11:58 30 January 2014
© Richard Langdon
Day three (29 January) of the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami proved a washout, with rain showers shutting down the wind and making racing impossible across all of the Olympic and Paralympic classes on Biscayne Bay.
After a two hour postponement on shore, sailors were sent out to their race courses in the hope that the breeze would fill in ahead of the expected band of showers, but it was not to be and all fleets returned to shore by mid-afternoon having seen no racing.
Thursday (30 January) should see a change to some windier conditions, which will provide a useful test for the new 49er partnership of Stevie Morrison and Chris ‘Twiggy’ Grube, competing in their second World Cup regatta in Miami this week since teaming up in November.
Exmouth’s Morrison and former crew Ben Rhodes, two-time Olympians and former World Champions in the men’s skiff class, called time on their 12-year partnership in October, with Rhodes now forging a coaching career.
But Morrison still has Rio playing on his mind and teamed up with Grube, who formerly crewed for Stuart Bithell, two months ago. The pair finished fifth at the Sail Melbourne World Cup regatta in December, and are poised in the same position after three days of racing in Miami.
“Ben and I came to the end of a fairly natural progression,” Morrison explained. “We felt we’d given it everything we could and were at different stages in our lives – we’re both a bit older now, Ben’s got a family coming and obviously it’s well known he’s put his body through an awful lot to try and keep sailing and keep himself at the top end of things. He didn’t want to hurt himself any more and I think that was the right decision so we called it a day.
“We looked into other things but I still love sailing and I still thoroughly believe that I’m good enough to compete at this level and I enjoy competing at this level. You wanted to see something different, and without being rude to Twiggy, he’s different, in the nicest possible sense! He’s six foot four and 73 or 74 kilos which is something a bit unique.”
After such a long-standing partnership with Rhodes, Morrison admits it has been ‘weird’ stepping into a 49er with someone new.
“That was one of the things that Twiggy and I talked about when I started. I said to him that I didn’t really know how I was going to be and every manoeuvre might have been ‘that’s not how Ben did it’ or ‘who’s Chris..?!’”
“It’s been very weird, but in many ways you find yourself in a bit of a comfort zone when you’ve sailed with someone for so long. You don’t necessarily need to talk about things as much because things just you’re used to working easily together – things are just instinctive and natural. That served us very, very well. I’ve got nothing but pride for what we achieved together and I think Ben was the most fantastic 49er crew you could have wished for.
“But sailing with Twiggy gives me the chance to start again, and question everything,” the 35-year-old continued. “It makes me look differently at me, and my roles in the boat are very different already. What I do in the boat is quite different, and what Twiggy would do compared to Ben is quite different. The way we do things does need to be a bit different because of our relative skills.”
Grube, 29, grasped the opportunity to sail with Morrison when his partnership with Stuart Bithell came to an end. Grube and Bithell had teamed up at the beginning of 2013, but with both sailors new to the demanding high performance boat, and with Bithell suffering an injury last summer, time was running out for them to forge a successful unit ahead of Rio.
“It’s an amazing opportunity with Stevie – he knows the boat inside out and back to front. It’s a new partnership and it’s exciting,” said Grube of his new “It’s a different prospect with Stevie. Mine and Stuart’s sailing was hard because we were both trying to learn how to sail the boat. Now at least one of the roles is sorted so how we fit together is what we’re trying to work out and that’s something which is going to take time. But ultimately we’re both good sailors and we believe that we can do it.”
At this week’s ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Morrison and Grube have made a steady start, picking up all top ten results in their three races so far. Morrison admits that the week is about more than results at such an early stage of their partnership.
“I think this week is about clarifying the roles,” he explained.
“I think if it’s light we’ve already shown in Australia and here that we’ve got an awful lot of potential. If we see the forecast go above the 12 knot range then we’re on a very, very steep learning curve. It’s just about being realistic.
“It’s very easy to have high expectations because that’s what you’re used to doing. In the light wind days I think we need to have pretty high expectations, and if there’s a bit more breeze then we need to be realistic and take it as a learning opportunity.”
Whatever the result from this week, the pair is looking forward to some solid training time together after this event and before the start of the European racing season.
Morrison is excited about their prospects. “We’ve got some fantastic backing from UK Sport and the British Sailing Team, and we’re lucky to have a personal backer in BTG as well, who are a company a bit like us really – new and expanding rapidly hopefully.
“We’re working very closely with them and it gives us the opportunity to do what we need to do and that’s leave no stone unturned.
“We believe and expect that we can be the best in two and a half years. We need to be doing that. It’s a great opportunity to get more racing here, learn more lessons, do it when we can do it and learn when we need to learn.”
Racing at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami continues for all classes on Thursday 30 January, with medal races for the Olympic classes scheduled for Saturday, February 1.
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