Jun 29, 2011

F18 Worlds Preview: Olivier Backes Interview

Photo: CVBErquy - Olivier and Arnaud Jarlegan at Erquy - World Champions 2010

The 2011 F18 Wolds are coming next week at Lake Balaton, Hungary, and the current F18 World Champion helm, Olivier Backes, tell us his experience on last year campaing with Arnaud Jarlegan (who is racing with Christophe Mourniac in Hungary ) and why he can´t be racing this year worlds.
Olivier and Arnaud Jarlegan had an impressive run in 2010 ending in a World Title at Erquy. They showed that you need to train hard to achieve great things, but talent is also a key.
This Engineer, right now race at top level as a hobbie (double b) and you may think that in 2010 he just "took 2 weeks off and grab the 2010 F18 Crown" , but read on to realize that there is some serious sailing background in Olivier's career.
A good reading to understand the background story behind their World Title- Needless to say their entire F18 (1 year) rush campaing can be found here in CSN
- CSN:Tell us about your racing background on Tornado and when you started sailing.

Olivier Backes: I was 7 when my parents moved to the mediterranean coast(close to Marseille), I started sailing during my holidays in every kind of boats available at the local club.
From there on, I spent most of the weekends and holidays sailing, I just loved to be on the sea enojoying while all the beaches where crowed of people.. I started racing in optimist at the age of 9, then Windsurf and at 14 I finished with a silver medal on the French national in my age category.

Afterwards I went back to sailing dinghies, sailed for 8 years
in the Europe class before the Laser at the games in 1996. In Laser I got the European Youth champion title in 1991, and the World Champion Title in 1993. Sailed two more years in the classr, and I was the training partner in Atlanta Olympics, but I was struggling in the strong winds because of my weight.
The French Federation proposed me to sail the Tornado Class which suited my weight better, and from then on I never stopped sailing cats.
It's too hard then to go back on a slow boat!

In the Tornado Class, I sailed 3 olympic campaigns:
Sydney 2000 : 5th at the 1999 Worlds and was qualified for the 1999 Test Event, but missed the trials for the OG Athens 2004 : European Champion 2002, Silver medal at the 2002 Worlds, Silver Medal at the European 2004, and 4th at the games.

Beijing 2008 : Where I won the 2006 test event in Quingdao, but missed the trials for the OG.
- How come you guys with Arnaud made such a successfull adaptation and rapid entry to the F18? You were sailing with him on the T too? Did you entered previous F18 Worlds as Arnaud?
Well, we were just lucky :-) Arnaud was in the Tornado French team, but I never sailed with him. In 2010, Arnaud asked me to race the F18 French Nationals, because is helm couldn't race the regatta, by then I hadn't sailed since I stopped the Tornado in 2007.

It was quite a challenge because I arrived the first day of the regatta. The boat was ready, Arnaud was well trained, and we managed to immediatly well communicate on board, and won the event!
Then in September 2009, Alex from Sail Innovation proposed to sponsor us for the 2010 season, Alex goal was to win the 2010 Worlds with his sails!
When we started I just couldn't think it was possible, as in the F18 there are many professional teams, I was out of racing for 3 years, and we had only 6 days per month to train together, as I was working in Marseille. We went to Britany on the weekends to train when the weather was good.

There was no secret, we were lucky that we didn't need to work too much on the onboard communication, we both had a good background in catsailing, especially Arnaud in the F18 class, and we worked on the sails to make then easy to sail in allaround condition.
Arnaud had already sailed 4 times the F18 Worlds, I hadn't.

Maybe we had less pressure than the other teams, as we both have a job, sailing is a hobbie, we sail for pleasure ! (My note: OK....so they better don´t train full time)
- When the SI project was rising I asked Alex how come the team targeted to be world champs in such a short frame time? Did you know you had something special with Arnaud as a crew and with the sails at the beginning ?
OB: Not at all, I hadn't sailed for 3 years, I knew Arnaud hadn't stop, but I had no idea about the performance of the sails. I just said to Alex to stop focusing on the Worlds, that we'll just train to sail our best, but I din't want to get the pressure on my shoulders. By the end we made it !

- I saw a comitted team and you guys flying with the Cap on some Dutch regatta that made me wonder, and following your preparation on the blog I bet on you boths as the 'Dark Horses'. Now that you are a 'White Successfull' one, how does it feels to be World Champ on the F18, that right now is the biggest and most important multihull class?
OB: Our first event was the Dutch National end of september where we finished 3d with the Capricorn, just behind Darren and Misha, this result was motivating as we sailed together only for 8 days ! In July when we won the worlds it was just fantastic !!
Thanks to Alex and SI for this great adventure !!
- You tested almost every F18 before selecting the Wildcat, it was on personal feeling from the crew (Arnaud and you) or it was just it was performing better in pratice races than the others designs at the time? OB: Not really, at the French National 2010, when I sailed for the first time on a F18, it was on Arnaud's Nacra. Then when we join the SI team, we raced on Alex's Capricorn, but we thought it was a too big risk to sail the Worlds with this boat as it nosedive very fast on downwind.
Photo: Pierrick Contin
At the Paris Boat Show in December, we saw the C2, wich was the new Capricorn, it looked good, with more volume, we tested it end of the December, we were the first ones to sail this boat, it seemed to be a good boat , but it was not ready yet, there were a few things to be fixed, and we didn't have the time to spend in boatworking, as we both had a job, and the little free time we had we wanted to spend it on the water, so we choosed the French F18 from Hobie Cat, the Wildcat.

- I was glad to see the features applied on the Phantom and reading about your philosophy as racers to focus on the course and conditions instead of having a super sensitive performer racing machine. How does the Phantom feels in gral but mainly in high wind and chop??
OB: Well I sailed only 6 days on the Phamtom in Carnac, but the first feelings were great, the boat is much safer downwind than the Wildcat in strongwind, because of the volume, and seemed quite powerfull in the light medium wind.
In choppy conditions the boat reacted very well. Leading Carnac after the first day, with such a little training on the boat, showed the boat was competitive.

- How you forsee the F18 class rules in the future? Do we need future changes to adapt to newer innovations of lighter boats and curved boards? OB: I don't have any background in this class, so it's difficult to say, I don't think F18 class needs many rule changes, it's a class where professionnal teams and amateurs can race together.

Photo: Pierrick Contin

- In 2006 you were here in BA for the T Worlds, I remember seeing you guys training when we were testing our 1st Racecats F18s, in fact I clearly remember passing with the spi with one hull high up in front of you and the support boat, not many cats at the time, just the 50 Tornados from abroad. How did you felt about our open river conditions ?
: Although the water was brown, I loved sailing in BA. I've been training there the first time in 2003 with Santi Lange and Roman Hagara, we had perfect conditions, and a great Club in San Isidro (CNSI).
I came back in 2005, and then for the Worlds in 2006. We had all types of wind conditions, but most of the time a good 15 knts Sudestes in the afternoon.
- Why you can´t race this Worlds? I thought you were a full time Catracer...
I've never been a fulltime sailor (except my year in the army in 1996 when I sailed full time). Very few sailors are full time catracers. During my Olympic Campaigns I managed to get a half time job, since 2007 I'm working full time as an Engineer in the French electricity company. Last year I managed to take some holidays to race the Worlds, but this year it was not possible for me to take holidays in July!

- Are you involved in any AC project? any of the French teams has called you guys? would you like to be part of one if not? OB:
I've been contacted, I might be involved, but nothing sure yet.
- Are you still going to race in the F18 ? how about the Olympics and the Phantom flying project? you'll need a good french female sailor though!
OB: I'll be able to take holidays in December to sail the Europeans in Canarias with Arnaud. I can't wait to see the Pantom flying, it should happen soon. It would be great to have such a cat for the next Olympics. It will be more attractive for sure.
I don't think it was a good decision to have mix team, now we have to deal with that.
I stopped olympic campaign, because it was too hard to work at the same time, you need to be a full time sailor to managed to get a medal! For that you need a big sponsor, and this is hard to find.-
-- Copyright Catsailinews.blogspot.com --
F18 Worlds 2011 , Lake Balaton, Hungary

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