BROUWER may be the only woman in Cascais sailing in one of the three 'open' Olympic Classes, but it is a fact she considers merely coincidental, and certainly not something worthy of any special attention.
'I didn't go into the Tornado because I was going to be the only woman in the class,' she explains. 'Being the only woman there I don't want to be treated in a special way - I don't want things to be different because I'm a woman. I choose the class as it is and I just want to be treated like everyone else.'
On the water, there's no question of any compromises, 'Once you're out there on the race course you're sportsmen and you're as competitive whether you're or woman or a man,' she says. However, she does admit that her competitors, 'do try a little bit harder when there's a girl in front on them.'
Looking at BROUWER and GODEFROID's careers, their latest success is perhaps a little less surprising.
BROUWER sailed the Europe for over ten years, winning World titles in both 1996 and 1998 also the ISAF World Sailor of the Year Award in 1998. GODEFROID's track record is equally impressive, having won the Finn Gold Cup in 2001 and an Olympic silver medal in Savannah at the 1996 Games. However, following the Athens Olympic Games both BROUWER and GODEFROID found themselves at a crossroads. After long and successful careers in single-handed dinghies, both had missed out on the Olympic podium and both were looking for a new challenge.
|Racing in Cascais
© David Bell
For most Olympic sailors, their career path follows more of a process of evolution, going from the Europe to the 470, or the Finn to the Star. Revolution is a more apt description of the change from one hull to two, single- to double-handed, one sail to three, hiking to a trapeze and, for GODEFROID, helming to crewing.
'The Star for me is a big Finn and I didn't want to go through that again,' says GODEFROID of the decision to switch to the multihull, 'I thought, that's just the same game again, so I wanted to change.'
Clearly the pair have been more than happy with their choice. They both speak of the boat and the Tornado fleet in the highest terms, although until Cascais, the new path for the pair had not yielded much success. 'We always knew what we started together in the Tornado was going to be a very big challenge and it was not going to be easy,' admitted BROUWER. 'The level in the Tornado is very high. There are a lot of experienced sailors that have been around for more than 20 years.'
A big challenge it proved to be. After two years in the class, the pair's results seemed to stagnate, with them never really seeming to break into the top ten at the leading regattas, and hovering around the #20 mark in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. But all that has changed over the course of the past seven days. Suddenly BROUWER and GODEFROID head into today's Tornado Medal Race with a shot at the World title, just six points behind overall leaders Fernando ECHAVARRI and Anton PAZ (ESP). So what happened?
|BROUWER and GODEFROID at yesterday's press conference
GODEFROID goes into more detail, putting the team's jump in performance down to two key factors. Firstly, he says they have managed to find a balance for the personalities on the boat and secondly, they have concentrated more on racing and less on speed training.
'We're both skippers and having two skippers in a double handed boat - both very stubborn skippers - doesn't make life easy all the time,' he explained. 'We've been fighting through a war to get over all the issues and after a lot of work and a lot of help from different people we've managed to solve all the problems.'
'Suddenly instead of having two people working against each other, you have two people working with each other, and really a team that is bigger than the two people.'
On the second factor, GODEFROID added, 'Before we were doing a lot of speed testing - we arrived here and said our speed is okay - what we need to do is too learn how this place works and what the wind is doing.'
After a week of tricky racing, in which getting your head out of the boat and reading the shifts has proved the key to success, the additional work the team has done on the race course has paid big dividends.
GODEFROID says, 'It gave me confidence in the tactics and I think that's where you can win this regatta - in the tactics. The wind was so tricky and changing all over. It was very hard to find a system in it but I think we found an 80% chance of which side would be good and that was good enough.'
With just one race remaining, BROUWER and GODEFROID have already achieved one of the major aims of the regatta and qualified Belgium for an Olympic Tornado spot in Qingdao. With this already accomplished, even before today's Medal Race they can afford to look back at the event with a great deal of satisfaction. 'It's really, really been great,' says BROUWER. 'What got what we were promised, we'd get - the wind is calling and we're here and it's here.'
And for those still not convinced of the merits of the Olympic multihull, GODEFROID had this piece of advice at yesterday's press conference, 'I think you'll be impressed by what a Tornado can do on a small course. Just take all your friends and have a look because it's going to be impressive!…'
The Tornado Medal Race starts at 16:30 today. You can watch the race live on Sail.TV.
Over 1,300 sailors from 76 nations are competing at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships, from 28 June-13 July in Cascais, Portugal. 'The Wind Is Calling' is the official motto for the 2007 Worlds. The Championships are the principal qualification regatta for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, with 75% of all national places to be decided.
Read our fleet by fleet reports by clicking on the links below:
Finn - Tornado - Yngling - Star - 49er - 470s - Lasers - RS:Xs
For all the news on the ISAF Sailing World Championships 2007 CLICK HERE.