Ripard and Borg – dream, ambition and challenge

Monday, January 18, 2010, 13:37

A dream is an exclusive occurrence which relates to one’s own ‘reality’ where the body, mind, and spirit unifies. An ambition is the desire to attain power, superiority and success. A challenge is the opportunity to engage in a contest as of skill and strength.

Well quite a philosophical introduction to the determined objective of two young men whose acknowledged past and resolute present promise well to an exciting future.

Sebastian Ripard and Benji Borg, two well known young sailors, share a common aspiration …..Gold at the Olympics. These two youngsters simply have passionate devotion for sailing where they have achieved individual triumph in their childhood adventure; attaining success and gaining experience.

Ripard and Brog during one of their training sessions

Ripard and Brog during one of their training sessions

Sebastian Ripard, aged 24, hailing from a sea reputed family, was only seven when he had his first taste of sailing and today enjoys a remarkable sailing credential which includes; Helmsman of the Year (1997), Optimist National Champion (1997 to 1999), Optimist Europeans: 24th  Overall and 1st Maltese (2000), 1st Overall in Rolex Middle Sea Race on Jammin, J109 (helm/trim) (2002), 1st  UK School Team Racing Championships (2004), 1st in Class and 2nd Overall in Rolex Middle Sea Race on Artie, J109 (Co-Skipper) (2006), ISAF Worlds in Laser class (2007), 1st Malta Match Racing Championships (Straight Dealer Cup), 1st Scarlino Match Race (Grade 4), 3rd Brindisi Match Race (Grade 3), 4th J80 UK Nationals, 18th J80 Worlds (2nd British boat), 2nd J80 Class at Skandia Cowes Week, winning Skandia Young Skipper of the Year, MOC Gold Sports Award (2008), 2nd Hayling Island 49er Open, and 11th Bronze Fleet at 49er World Championships (2009).

Benji Borg, aged 20, is also grateful to being born in a sailing family where he too recalls going into sailing at the tender age of seven, today having attained impressive podium calls; Maltese Optimist National Champion (2002/2003), an 18th place at the North Garda Youth International Week Optimist (2002), Gold Small Nation Games – Malta – Optimist (2003), 5th European Championships Croatia – Optimist (2003), Sportiv Tas-Sena (2003),
Maltese Laser Radial National Champion (2006), 26th – Hyeres Europa Cup, 3rd – 56 Trofeo Ciutat De Palma – Laser Radial, Gold Small Nation Games – Monaco – Laser Radial (2007), 21st Gold Fleet – Laser Radial European Championships, 20th – Laser Radial Europa Cup – Scarlino (2008) and 8th Small Nation Games – Cyprus – Laser Standard (2009).

Both these young sailors are eagerly driven by Olympic dreams and hungry for success despite all the obstacles to face mainly that of hailing from a small Island like Malta.

I had a chat with Sebastian who was the major instigator behind this adventure.

What made you choose Benji to be your partner in this project?

As a young kid on Optimist I never competed against Benji since he was three years younger, however even at that age it became apparent that Ben, more than anyone, had that desire to achieve and commitment to follow through with his goals. His achievements so far have clearly proved that hunch of mine right: two gold medals at the Small Nations games and a 5th in the Optimist European Championships. So I always knew Benji had the talent and the commitment. Physically (height and weight) he is also very well suited to the boat. However most importantly early on when discussing the idea of doing a campaign I could tell that if he put his mind to it he would approach the campaign with the commitment and determination that could keep us pushing hard through the tough times.

Why did you go for the 49er dinghy in the Olympic circuit and how many classes there are?

Both of us are physically best suited to the 49er. It is the most high technology of all the Olympic class and thus represents the direction that sailing is moving in. Being the fastest and most high performance of the Olympic classes it is also very enjoyable yet physical to sail. I felt this challenge and reward inherent in the boat would be a key factor to keeping us focused on our Olympic challenge. There are 10 Olympic classes 6 of which are for men and 4 of which are for women. Laser (M), Laser Radial (W), 470 (M), 470 (W), Finn (M), RSX Windsurfing (M), RSX Windsurfing (W), Star (M), Women Match Racing (W), 49er (M)

You plan to spend a number of years as professional sailors to prepare the right way.  What sort of sponsorship are you seeking for such an expedition and how many years of preparation you are envisaging you would require?

A successful campaign is dependant on funding for 3 main reasons: i) Equipment (ii) Time on the water (iii) Coaching

A medal winning campaign is usually around 8 years, in the sailing world most medals are won be athletes who already have one Olympic experience under their belt. Obviously we believe that we have a chance at a medal in 2012 with the right preparation otherwise we would not be competing. But we will be at our full potential come the games in 2016.

So we are looking at 6 years that we need to approach in a dedicated and professional manner, this means: full time sailing, competing on the world cup circuit with decent equipment, and an intensive coaching programme. We fell that we need to spend €30,000 annually on our campaign in order to fulfill the necessary criteria that could prepare us for a successful Olympic campaign. Most foreign teams are spending between 40,000 to 60,000 € annually.

Besides sailing would you be following any special training and any other food programme?

Sailing, on the water training, should be about 3 four hour sessions per week. Off the water training is equally intensive if not more so. We have a dedicated team at Body Works who are providing our off the water training and food programme. Off the water we are currently in the gym twice a day from 7-8.30 in the morning doing cardio and from 7.30-8.30 in the evening doing strength and core stability, with one day off a week. The physical preparation that we are going through can gives an idea of the 49er’s intensity.

Do you expect to be challenged locally for an Olympic place?


We do not expect to be challenged locally because at the moment there is no other Maltese team training on the 49er but more importantly I cannot think of anyone with the determination that the 49er requires. I would love to be proved wrong because it would be nice to have someone to compete against locally but the 49er is a very demanding boat and I don’t think there are many up to the challenge. 

Do you have a coach or technical advisor?

We have a small group of people who are already helping us, in fact I have calculated that the generous help which we have received in kind is already worth around 10,000 Euros, and that figure will probably reach around 40,000 by the end of 2012.

We already have professionals helping us with our fitness programme, our marketing campaign, and general over seeing of the campaign. Peter Valentino Jnr, Small Nation Games Gold Medalist, has taken up the challenge of coaching us and we are also receiving a little help from our old Optimist coach Jean Paul Fleri Soler. We are also planning quite a few training camps abroad.

Yes, absolutely striking qualities of being young and vigorous where a dream, an ambition, and a challenge are so discerning in the mind and heart that the body response skilfully and stoutly – Good luck boys with the Gold Rush!.





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