Malta 49er one of eight for 2011 Extreme Sailing Series

Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 12:00

by Wilfred Sultana

Dreams are normally associated with sleep, unless these are daydreams, but with less than 500 days to go for the London Olympic Games, Maltese youngsters Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg or Malta49er team, as they are known within the sailing circles, have to remain wide awake if they want to attain their dream.

Yes, time is ticking fast and come July 27th 2012 Malta49er have to make one of the 20 places in the 49er class in order to achieve their ultimate sailing objective – Gold at the Olympics.

For Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg it is never a dull moment while at sea. (Photo: Kurt Arrigo)

For Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg it is never a dull moment while at sea. (Photo: Kurt Arrigo)

January was most active with another heavy week of intense training under their German coach Kolja Volkers followed by three weeks of further training on their own so important to maintain a professional level of play.

The Malta49er team next serious competitive test is in April, between the   2nd and 9th, when they race their first regatta of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Palma. For this reason Sebasion and Benji shipped their boat and equipment to Palma de Majorca where they will be spending the whole of March training with other foreign teams improving their sailing technique and physical fitness.

While the boat was in transit Sebastian moved over to Antigua where on the 21st February he raced the famous RORC 600, the Caribbean version of the Middle Sea Race -  a 605-mile  race through the Caribbean islands including on route the active volcano on Montserrat. Here Sebastian crewed on a very fast fully pro boat called Jazz where they managed 4th place.

Over the past five years the world of sailing has had a sensational exciting new attraction which is looked upon as an upshot of the legendary America’s Cup. The event is called the Extreme Sailing Series, born from the global incentive to make sailing a more popular spectator sport attracting some of the world’s best skippers, large audiences, global media, and an ideal commercial vehicle.

For the Extreme Sailing Series of 2011 the 49er world association decided to include, for the first time, 8 teams on this tour. Malta 49er has been chosen to be one of the group of 8 and will be competing against teams from Great Britain, USA, Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Ireland.

Malta49er team will be competing on the European circuit of the 2011 programme which will be made up of four events.

These events each running for five days will be held in Cowes UK (6-13 August), Trapani Italy (14-18 September), Nice France (28 Sep – 2 October), and Almeria Spain (12-16 October).

“This has been very exciting news for us and a chance to really raise the profile of our campaign. Even though it is not part of the Olympic circuit, it is a very high profile sailing event given a lot of media coverage where the racing actually takes place amongst masses of spectators”, remarked Sebastian Ripsrd.

“Yes, this is an unbelievable opportunity, and we are now working hard on the fitness and planning the logistics of including the Extreme Sailing Series into our programme”, commented Benji Borg the other member of the Malta49er team.

Naturally qualification for the 2012 London Olympics is the Maltese youngsters’ ultimate aspiration and any other competition or sailing opportunity is looked upon as an additional experience of quality in attaining their main goal. Supporting Sebastian and Benji on this exciting and intense mission are a 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.

Yes, 2011 is unfolding into a series of thrilling episodes of satisfying sailing opportunities and challenges yet Sebastian and Benji are still keeping their fingers crossed for a big moment in their current calendar of events – the 2011 49er World Championships being held in December in Perth Australia where 15 of the 20 places for the London Olympics 2012 will be decided.  Their only hindrance is funds!

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