At the suggestion of French sailing coach Daniel DAHON, the two started sailing the Star boat together. Teamed up for barely two weeks in the Star, the duo won the 2003 ISAF Sailing World Championship in the Star class in Cadiz, Spain. They repeated their performance in 2005 and won the Star Worlds in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In a class that is known to have one hundred boats or more on a starting line at a major championship, Xavier and Pascal have not finished below sixth at any ISAF Grade 1 events since the 2004 Olympics in which they won the bronze medal. In searching for the secret to their success, I was surprised to find that it all goes back to the basics. Years of high level sailing experience; personalities that work well together; great coaching and top of the line, yet stock equipment.
Daniel DAHON is Xavier's longtime friend and coach. Daniel has been coaching Xavier since 1984 when he was sailing a Finn. He was also Pascal's Soling and Star coach intermittently since 1993. Xavier and Pascal met for the first time at the Barcelona Olympics where Xavier represented France in the Finn and Pascal was the training partner for the French FD team. They were both on the French team in 1996 and 2000.
As coach, Daniel's job has been to make sure that the two accomplished sailors work well together as a team and to assist them with tactics. Another French sailing coach works with them on sail shape and tuning the rig. Daniel has been like family to each of them for a good portion of their sailing careers. The two Star sailors live about a 1,000 kilometres away from one another and spend all the time that they can with family and working out. In fact, Pascal does his cardio and weight training with a professional rugby team.
There are advantages that come with being members of the French sailing team. Xavier and Pascal have very flexible jobs. Pascal works as a sports and fitness teacher in a local school about 25% of the time. Xavier has an even lighter work schedule. The two are in excellent physical condition and are nearly exactly the same weight. When asked about the ideal weight combination, they both feel that before the change in the class' weightrules, it used to be beneficial to have a heavy skipper. Since then, equal weight distribution works well. Some of the small fit skippers that have recently joined the class, such as 2006 Star World Champion Hamish PEPPER (NZL) and runner up, Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) have succeeded by hiking hard and sailing with heavy crews.
|© Photo Gilles Martin-Raget - www.martin-raget.com|
The French pair is sailing a Lillia Star and they are using Quantum sails. Their equipment comes right off of the production line. Like many others in the class, when they ask for a Quantum Z4, they get it right off the shelf.
Both attribute their secret to success to focusing on the basics. It's about the people, not about the boat. They work hard at staying physically fit. They sail numerous regattas throughout the year. They enjoy training in Miami during the winter because the level of competition is very high and they get to test their skills against some great American sailors whom they would not see at other venues. To prepare for the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, Portugal they had several extended training sessions in Cascais during the two months leading up to the event, As far their style, these gentlemen get phenomenal starts everywhere on the line and they play a conservative game of chess out on the race course.
Do they expect competition for an Olympic berth in 2008? Earlier in the quadrennial, it would not have surprised them to see Philippe PRESTI and some other countrymen challenge them for the slot. At this point, the French Federation has assured them that if they keep performing to such a high level and continue their training program, they will be in Qingdao for the games in 2008.
Prospects after 2008? There is a campaign left in Xavier as long as he has Skype and a video camera to hook up to his computer and communicate with his family. As for Pascal, he is likely to turn to coaching and start teaching the basics to other sailors of all skill levels.
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.
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