The youngsters at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship had a special treat at their evening debriefing on Wednesday, with Olympians Torben GRAEL and Santi LANGE talking part in a Q&A session.
You could hear a pin drop, when five-time Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winner, Torben GRAEL
(BRA) started speaking to the group. He was asked to give a speech on his sailing career but in his unassuming way he told the kids he would rather have a chat with them about the subjects on their minds.
There was no shortage of questions from the eager sailors and their coaches. The first question started proceeding of nicely, when GRAEL was asked how he got into sailing. "It all started with my grandfather, he was Danish and he had a 6 metre classic yacht, Aileen,"
said the hero. "I learnt how to sail on it and then he bought me my first boat, which I loved but after I moved to the south of Brazil because my Father was in the Army I started playing tennis more than sailing!"
He soon got back into sailing back in Rio and at the beginning was not an ambitious sailor. He started out just trying to win the local regatta, which he did, then he tried his hand at the Brazilian Nationals and then finally the World Championships, the rest as they say is history.
GRAEL is the highest scoring Brazilian Olympian to date and still holds the highest number of Olympic sailing medals of all time but despite this amazing feat he is a humble man. His advice to the young sailors was to have fun and practise, "When sailing becomes your work it's not good, you have to have fun. Of course you have hard days on the water but these moments always look better after they have passed."
What was your best day sailing? "My best sailing moment would have to be when I won my second gold medal in Athens. Ok it wasn't my best day on the water but it was very special to me. It made sailing the most successful sport for Brazil in the Olympic Games. But I have to say sailing downwind in breeze on a big boat is great."
"The Volvo Open 70 boats are the most fantastic boats around. Also when you are sailing offshore, with big waves and don't have to come back, you will get some great sailing. 600 miles in 24 hours was pretty fun!"
When GRAEL's great friend Santiago LANGE
(ARG), the ISAF Coach at this year's championship, was asked what he most admired in GRAEL, he said it was his loyalty and friendship. Explaining how GRAEL has sailed with his best friend Marcelo FERREIRA
for over 20 years together, which in sailing is pretty rare. He also pointed out that Ericsson 4 was the only crew in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race not to have a crew change at all, "That says something about what he is like as a person and a sailor."
He described his second Volvo Ocean Race campaign as having a perfect set up, with months of training and preparation, but this also made it very stressful. "A lot was expected of us. There was a lot of pressure to perform when you get that opportunity, but we did our homework and luckily it worked."
"But Brasil 1, my first campaign was different, as no one had any expectations, it was the first time I had done it and for most of us onboard. We started late and short of money, when it's your first time there is no pressure to win, so it is so much easier."
The questions still kept coming after over an hour of conversation covering the America's Cup, his dislike of meetings and how you cope with the responsibility of 10 lives offshore but finally finished with a question from the British Virgin Islands team. "So Torben after all this talk of tactics and winning, can you tell me which way should I go up the beat tomorrow, left or right?"
Cue the laughter and then unsurprisingly the wait for him to give up one of his precious winning secrets!