On the road for Gold

Thursday, May 27, 2010, 0:35

by Wilfred Sultana

Sailing and the wind complement each other beautifully yet the wind is such a determining element that it makes or breaks sailing and sailors’ aspirations.

In fact it was a ‘break’ sentiment for Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg, teamSeb&Ben , when on Saturday 17th April they tried to sail their 49er dinghy around Malta in a bid to break the current record of 4hrs 50mins currently held by J125 type yacht Strait Dealer.

Unfortunately the weather turned out to be a lot lighter than expected. “We even postponed our start from night to eleven in hope of the wind picking up to what it was forecasted to but no such luck.  Well, we hope for better luck the next time around”, declared Sebastian.

But certainly there was no time for the young sailors to mull over their round Malta experience for the racing schedule ahead was demanding and overall highly important in their intense current training programme which stretches from April up to August taking them to France, Italy, Holland, Germany, Poland and England. There could be some other events in Finland, Hungary, Italy and even the UK Nationals however these are not confirmed yet.

TeamSeb&Ben – where the sea is their playground and their home! (Photography: Kurt Arrigo)

TeamSeb&Ben – where the sea is their playground and their home! (Photography: Kurt Arrigo)

 In fact teamSeb&Ben left for France immediately after their round Malta attempt to get to Hyères for the Semaine Olympique (25-30 April). The other racing commitments are; Expert Olympic Regatta in Garda, Italy (12-16 May),  Delta Lloyd, in Medemblik, Holland (26-30 May),  Kiel Week, in Kiel, Germany (19-23 June),  European Championships in Gdynia, Poland (05-10 July) and the Sail 4 Gold in Weymouth, England (9-14 August).

 Definitely a professional approach by Malta’s young sailors who are intensely applying at great depth the 3 main ingredients which bring about a successful campaign – i) Equipment (ii) Time on the water (iii) Coaching.

Sebastian and Benji are travelling from event to event in their 2005 IVECO ‘Daily’ van with the 49er dinghy in tow and plan to arrive at their destination at least a week before the event. Incidentally while on this European campaign their means of transport is also serving as their living quarters – the youngsters converted the van into a camper and are living out of the van which they equipped with the basic needs; fridge, two hobs, beds… well, comfortable enough.

On arrival at an event’s venue they follow six days of intensive training – starting at eight in the morning with a warm up (30 min bike ride plus stretch) span, at ten they go for two hours of training on the water with other teams, and again at three in the afternoon another two hours of training on the water with foreign teams.

 Then they take one or two days of rest before the event depending on whether conditions, where if it is forecasted to be windy they would normally take at two days off.

 A challenging and strenuous programme yet crucial to the Maltese sailors to compete on all the European World Cup events and the European Championships which are the one of the qualifiers for the Olympic Games.

 Regattas consist of five days of racing with four 1-hour races per day reaching a maximum of 16 races. On the last day, in order to decide the medalists, the top ten protagonists go head-to-head in a single race, an encounter which counts for double points.

 Competing at these events there are normally 50 to 100 49ers teams besides participants in the other 9 Olympic classes. Thus at each event there could be around 600 teams from most nations.

“This season we are not expecting any glorious results, namely because we are very inexperienced in this boat. Most of the top teams have been campaigning for between 5 to 10 years,” observed Sebastian.

However, these events are very important to the local boys who are using them to gauge their progress which at the moment is considered “quite satisfactory”. Before the event teamSeb&Ben normally  identify the teams that they expect to beat, the teams that are on par with them which they will battle to beat, and the teams which are out of their league and would signify a vast improvement if they do beat them.

Presently teamSeb&Ben are using a boat which is seven years old and is some 7kg heavier than the weight limit (minimum 74kg) – a little heavy and slow compared to the newer ones, so they won’t be right up there. In fact as they go through these events they are assessing their standard and identify those areas they need to work on more.

However with adequate sponsorship secured new equipment has now been purchased and will eventually be delivered in the first week of June. In fact at the end of their racing in Medemblik, Holland, Sebastian and Benji will fly home for a few days to sort out their new gear further to meeting and announcing their main sponsors so indispensable for their massive ambition.

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