In Comes The Ex-German Olympic Team Coach!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 0:45
Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg: The boys from Malta looking ahead to another exciting year of preparation.

Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg: The boys from Malta looking ahead to another exciting year of preparation.


by Wilfred Sultana

November saw Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg, making up the young Malta49er team, back to a solid training schedule which started with the presence in Malta of the Hungarian 49er national champions who shared a week of intensive training with the locals and were extremely satisfied with their visit: “These were definitely the best conditions we have ever experienced. Yes, Malta really is an amazing venue for sailing,” remarked Hungarian sailors Balazs Haidekker and Demeter Nobilis.

December turned out to be most rewarding for Sebastian and Benji because it brought into their path Kolja Volkers who between the years 2000 and 2008 was the coach of the German Olympic team.

In his first visit to Malta Mr. Volkers, well acquainted with 49er sailing at its highest level, focused his sessions on high intensity training and a lot of boat handling, through maneuvers, tacking and gybing. An exercise aimed to stress the importance and value of the Communication aspect was sailing the 49er blindfolded; this really pushed the boys to ‘feel’ the boat – sounds funny but no, when having to sail a boat blindfolded, I believe it is not!

Well it’s no surprise that after a week of such an ‘ordeal’ the young sailors were truly dead! Exhausted but truly the effort was rewarding not only for the experience gained through this appointment but mainly because Mr. Volkers became amply interested in the Malta team campaign that he has committed himself to be the Malta49er personal coach for 2011. Both Sebastian and Benji are looking forward that this partnership will hopefully extend up to and for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Apart from a few days off over the festive period it was ‘business as usual’ for the young professionals who work to keep up the intensity of both their technique and endurance levels. This means spending 7 sessions, of nearly two hours each, a week on the water, and 6 sessions a week in the gym working on cardio and core strength. With such an intense training schedule, it is important that the lads have to fit a lot of eating around their daily routine where on a good day they burn about 3,000 calories more than average!

Mr. Volkers believes the locals are progressing satisfactory based on their current form and since he first saw them sailing at the European Championships in Poland last year and moreover their development during their week of training in December. The German coach will be back for another week of specialised training at the end of January following which the locals will go through some three more weeks of training on their own before they ship their boat to Palma de Majorca.

The Malta49er team plan to move over to Palma de Majorca for the whole of March racing with foreign teams, training with their coach and getting ready for the first European event of the ISAF Sailing World Cup which will be hosted in Palma de Majorca between the 1st and 10th April.

2011 promises to be an exciting year for Sebastian and Benji. “Our progress from where we were last year is quite outstanding and hopefully we can keep moving forward at this pace especially since we have now budgeted for a week of coaching with Mr. Volkers every month”, remarked Sebastian.

Gold at the Olympics is the ultimate sailing objective of the two Maltese youngsters who could only cope with the hefty expense of maintaining a professional level of play thanks to their team of sponsors, namely, EC English Language Centres, CISK Excel Beer, RLR Yachting, Yacht Help Ltd, and Big Exhibits as well as other contributors such as The Creative Partners, Body Works and Kurt Arrigo.

What is the qualifying procedure for the London Olympics 2012?

There are 20 places excluding Great Britain for the 49er class. The first 15 will qualify in the 2011 49er World Championships, being held in December in Perth Australia. The remaining 5 will qualify at the 2012 49er World Championships, to be held in Croatia in May.

Presently Sebastian and Benji do not have the funds to compete in Australia, so they are aiming to qualify in May 2012. However the locals still hope they will be able to raise the funds to go and compete in Australia at the end of this year!

Luck always favours the brave – the input and dedication of the Maltese youngsters deserve to be thus referred to and hopefully find enough support to make it to Australia.

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