Clearing hurdles while chasing dreams

Published on March 13th, 2020

Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance have their sights on the Olympic Games, with the sibling pair seeking to represent Canada in the 49erFx Women’s Skiff event. But as they work on their skills in the boat, there are plenty of life lessons on the road as well.

When they woke up on March 12, ready to fly that day to Spain to train and compete in the Princess Sofia Regatta, they saw the news for how the regatta had been cancelled due to health concerns. With their boat at the shipping docks in Barcelona and the entire trip paid for, they are trying to figure out the best and safest options moving forward.

When chasing dreams, overcoming adversity is needed as Antonia shares in this report:


I can sympathize with Caleb Paine’s disastrous trip as we have experienced our share of unfortunate events in the “traveling with sailing gear” genre. Despite our best efforts to mentally prepare for what may occur, we got bit again while travelling this past month to the 2020 49erFX World Championship in Geelong, Australia.

I’m an FX crew and my sister/skipper was flying from a different city. I flew solo from the east coast of Canada… with sails (weighing 36 kg, 9′ x 8″), mast (33 kg, 11′ x 8″), and a ginormous suitcase (1 ton). While Halifax to Sydney was a breeze, I had to switch airlines and terminals in Sydney.

Picture me getting off a 13.5 hour long haul into 38 degrees Celsius. Normally, you can take a shuttle bus between terminals, but I had to schlep to a taxi stand, mowing over people with my gear, and beg a guy in a maxi cab to take me five minutes. Since Sydney has a $50 minimum cab fee from the airport, that trip ached.

Once I got to terminal, my airline (Jetstar) wouldn’t take my gear, so I had to bring my stuff to another terminal to buy a brand new Qantas plane ticket. Picture a sweaty zombie making it to the ticket desk like it was a desert oasis. I got there in the end… for $400 extra.

The trip home also had its share of travel trauma. At 4am on the day we were supposed to depart together, the plan was to make it to Sydney for our flight to Canada, leaving at noon. I ordered a cab to pick us up, but the car was too short for the gear. Georgia took the cab to make our flight to Sydney at 6am.

She did end up making it to Sydney, checked her bag in with Air Canada at terminal 1, and came back to terminal 3 to wait for me to land. I had to wait an hour and a half for a maxi taxi to take me to Melbourne Airport. I got to Sydney at 10:45am; got the sails and mast at 11:10am, got into a cab at 11:20am, got to the terminal at 11:25am, but found no Air Canada agent.

Georgia went through security to see if something could be done, and in the absence of a solution, took the flight home without us (feeling now that the gear was a family member). As I sat upon my throne of luggage (yes, all the sailing gear all to me, again), I bawled, but once I closed the pity party, I put the equipment in airport storage and shamelessly sat on Bondi Beach for a day.

Two days later, I tried again, arriving at the airport four hours before my flight, thinking I had everything under control. I was so wrong. United Airlines refused to take my gear, saying it was too long and could not be taken under any circumstance. No one would help me.

I asked so many people if there was a cargo company in the terminal. There turned out to be a small kiosk all the way at the back of the terminal. The man started to sweat when I asked him to get the stuff to Canada. So for 1000 AUD, my mast and sails went, via British Airways, the opposite way around the world. As for United, who I called ahead and made sure I could fly with… last time I fly with them.

That experience was so unbelievably stressful. I couldn’t physically move all of my luggage at once, yet I couldn’t leave it unattended without security giving me crap (and they did, twice). My back was broken by the time I got home. It was a Mr. Bean skit gone so horribly wrong.

However, I had some saints help me along the way though, like the guy at Sydney airport who helped me for an hour in 40 degrees, bringing my cart down the elevator while I took the mast down the escalator. Or the woman at airport storage who felt so bad for me that she let me off paying $200 for an extra day. Or my parents for helping me get home.

Anyone else have stories like this?

Editor’s note: To share your road warrior stories, send to editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com.

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