Malta 49er’s back on the water

Friday, November 26, 2010, 12:55

by Wilfred Sultana.

Following a four-month exciting and tough euro-trotting experience, training on and off the water, and racing in top level events the young Malta49er team made up of Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg have been in Malta since August relaxing, earning some money and getting back into their fitness.

During this ‘break’ due to injury Benji couldn’t participate, but Seb crewed on Jaru for the 31st edition of the 606-nautical-miles Rolex Middle Sea Race. Unfortunately Benji had to pull out at the last minute but Sebastian was part of the new J133 victory – 3rd overall in IRC, 1st in class on IRC and 1st overall in ORC – definitely a great success.

Yet, Sebastian (23) and Benji (21) still share that common aspiration, challenge, and dream – Gold at the Olympics – which is their ultimate sailing objective. Thus in the first week of November Malta 49er were back on the water sharing seven days of intensive training together with a Hungarian team whom they met while on their European tour and whom they won over to come to Malta.

A beautiful span of Mediterranean sky and sea enhanced with the sails of the Maltese and Hungarian 49er dinghies during their training.

A beautiful span of Mediterranean sky and sea enhanced with the sails of the Maltese and Hungarian 49er dinghies during their training.

Balazs Haidekker (21) and Demeter Nobilis (22) are the Hungarian national champions and have been sailing the 49er for two years now. They have the same aspirations as Malta 49er but not necessarily for 2012 since they are still studying and therefore sailing part-time.

The young Hungarian sailors drove from Budapest to Vienna and flew down from Vienna to Malta. They brought their own mast and sails but Sebastian and Benji lent them their boat.

But how important is training with other teams?

“Even though there is a lot that we can work on by ourselves such as boat handling and technique, it is very important to train with other teams when working on speed and mast settings. One needs a pacer in order to judge what works, gives you better speed, and what doesn’t, since in sailing the 49er there are a lot variables on the boat such as rig settings, sheet tension, the list goes on and the set up keeps changing as the conditions change. So speed testing is always an ongoing process, even amongst the top teams,” explained Sebastian.

It was a tough daily training schedule indeed. Ben and Sebastian continued with their fitness programme on their own: cardio in the morning and core classes in the evening. Besides they trained with the Hungarians for 3-4hrs on the water per day and spending another hour on land looking through video footage and debriefing.

But how come the Hungarians go for Malta for their training?

“We are a slight level above them so it was a good chance for them to sail with a faster team. Besides, the sailing conditions in Malta are ideal over the winter considering that they normally sail on a lake,” related Benji.

What were the impressions of the Hungarian visitors of Malta as a winter training destination?

“We loved it here and could not understand why more northern Europeans were not using Malta as a training base during the winter months”, exclaimed Demeter Nobilis. “Apart from comfortable temperatures Malta presents very varied wind and sea conditions, which make your Islands a great place for training, in all type of possible race conditions; varied wind strength and a lot of variation in sea state. These are definitely the best conditions we have ever sailed. Yes, Malta really is an amazing venue for sailing,” remarked Nobilis

So, Malta 49er are back riding the waves besides focusing on organising next year’s campaign, budget, fundraising, logistics, etc.  A positive factor of their campaign was the confirmed support for another season from their team of sponsors.  This means that EC English Language Centres and Yacht Help Ltd are again their main sponsors with other major support being extended by the Malta Tourism Authority and by CISK EXCEL, Malta’s first low carbohydrate beer.

Furthermore a month of solid training leading to Christmas is planned with a German coach coming down for a week’s training camp to be followed by a British 49er team and their coach for another week.

So things certainly seem to be progressing boldly for our young sailors, especially in comparison to where they were this time last year!

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