Written by Stephen Brook
Most of the time, Brin Liddell and Rhiannan Brown are on the same page.
The two 17 years olds, competing in the Sail Sydney Nacra 15 class, have an easy familiarity with each other that comes from crewing together for two seasons and being friends since they were eight.
And sometimes they even finish each other’s sentences.
For both, passionate parents were their entrée into the sport: Rhinnan’s mum first showed her the ropes when she was just five, Brin’s dad campaigned in Tornadoes at the Barcelona Olympics, while his mum crewed on the tall ship Young Endeavour on its world voyage when she was aged 18.
The pair hope to sail all the way to the Youth World Championships in Brazil next December, and the youth spot will be decided early next year.
Brin steers, while Rhiannan crews. Asked how that was determined, Rhiannan replies succinctly, “He was already in it.”
And lest anyone think being ordered around by a bloke is not keeping with the spirit of the times, she explains: “We more work together as a team, both put in input and we work it out together. We never really fight.”
Brin adds: “Mostly we are good. We stay as calm as we can on the water so we don’t have big arguments.”
The pair seem slightly uncomfortable when asked about their ambitions. “This regatta we’d like a podium at least, and to try and get gold,” Brin says, as both give out a small chuckle.
Another chuckle accompanies the explanation of how they fund their sport, which turns out to be thanks to the bank of mum and dad.
Training is mainly on Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle, in NSW. Brin lives in nearby Belmont, while Rhiannan comes over from Gosford on the Central Coast to train over the weekend.
They love sailing the Nacra 15 catamaran as it “goes fast, it’s an adrenaline rush, especially when it’s windy,” Brin says, while for Rhiannan, “it helps clear your head, you get all your stress out from school, out on the water”.
The ultimate aim is the 2024 Paris Olympics, and the crew are familiar with the Marseilles course, and the adversity that can occur on it, after a mishap at the Nacra 15 Worlds in October, where the pair placed 14th.
The pair were leading a race until a snapped centreboard crippled their boat and they fell back to seventh.
“It made it difficult,” Rhianna started to say, “to come back from those breakages,” Brin concluded.
To compete in the Olympics will require an upgrade to the Nacra 17s, but before 2024 comes another Olympic year, 2020, which is more pointedly the final year of high school for both young athletes.
Sailing in Spain and The Netherlands next year while studying for the Higher School Certificate might be a clash of priorities, but not for Brin. “We have started (the HSC),” he confides, “but sailing comes first.”