Malta 49er Team Sail and Drive Steadily

Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 5:58

By Wilfred Sultana

The training backdrop changes but Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg race with a clear vision of gaining experience to attain their ambition. (Photo: Lago di Garda by Kurt Arrigo)

Doing things in a half-measure way, whether in business, love or sport is bound to lead to failure and disappointment. Maltese sailing youngsters Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg, or Malta49er team, are doing their utmost to avoid such situations. In fact they have been ‘full time sailors’ for the past twelve months, professionally training striving to make one of the 49er Class twenty places in the forthcoming London Olympic Games set for July of next year.

The boys spent the whole of March in Palma de Majorca training for the Trofeo SAR Princesa Sofia MAPFRE. Around 170 boats representing 53 nations participated in the 42nd edition of this famous regatta, one of the seven events of the ISAF Sailing World Cup. This was the 3rd in the series of the ISAF World Cup but the 1st European event of the tour. Here the Malta49er team were doing their first time regatta and racing with all the top boats since last summer. Sebastian and Benji were not too pleased with their performance yet they still managed to finish the 22nd country, only one spot away from qualification.

In April the Maltese youngsters moved for some weeks to Hyeres in France for a training period before participating in a regatta in Lake Garda, Italy, held in the beginning of May. Olympic Garda Eurolymp 2011 was not one of the ISAF world cup events but a pretty big international event with 41 nations participating and attracted the best of the Olympic classes in preparation for the London Olympics. The Maltese had a good but frustrating regatta. 22 Boats were racing in the 49er Class and the locals managed to register three top finishes but unfortunately had to retire from 3 races due to an unwarranted accident – a Greek boat crashed into their mast, and even though the Greeks were in the wrong the Maltese still had to miss out on the racing and go ashore to fix the damage. So considering that they had to miss three races finishing 12th overall was quite a good result.

Lake Garda is an ideal training location, as it is always windy over there, so it’s the place to brush up on heavy wind technique. During their Garda training camp the locals’ coach Kolja Volkers introduced another sailor to the Malta49er team.  This was Max Groy, an ex-49er sailor who represented Germany in the 2004 Olympics and was twice European Champion while Volkers was the coach of the German Olympic team – between 2000 and 2008.

“I thought it would be a good idea to ask Max to join and do some coaching for us. It’s healthy to get a different input”, disclosed coach Volkers.

Following the Garda experience the Malta49er team drove, with their 2005 IVECO ‘Daily’ van with the 49er dinghy in tow, some one thousand kilometers up to Medemblik in Holland. Here the appointment was the second event on the ISAF world cup tour.

The ISAF world cup tour is made up of 7 regattas in 3 different continents. Each regatta has all the 10 Olympic classes participating and these are the events where all the top sailors are racing against each other building up to the Olympics. The seven events programme reads: December 2010 (Melbourne AUS), January 2011 (Miami USA), March (Palma ESP) April (Hyeres FRA), May (Medemblik NED), June (Weymouth UK) and also in June (Kiel GER).

Due to logistical implications the locals did not take part in the first two events with their first event in the Sailing World Cup series was in Palma. Furthermore the Malta49er team will also be competing in the Medemblik and the Weymouth regattas.

In Medemblik Malta49er team finished 32 out of 42 boats. Misfortune here struck again when a Canadian boat crashed into the Maltese boat who was constrained to miss two races. They are now getting ready for their biggest regatta in the ISAF World Cup in Weymouth. There will be sixty-four 49ers racing and the goal of the Maltese youngsters is to finish in the top 21 countries.

Yes, Sebastian and Benji are leaving no ‘wave’ unturned to achieve their prestigious ambition where they are enthusiastically backed by 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.

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