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28 March 2007, 04:00 pm
GRABOWSKI On The Victory Trail
Maciej GRABOWSKI
Maciej GRABOWSKI celebrating the silver medal at the 2006 Europeans

Olympic Solidarity

For Maciej GRABOWSKI (POL) 2007 could be a defining year. After receiving funding from the IOC's Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, the Polish Laser star starts the European season better prepared than ever, with Cascais and the ISAF Sailing World Championships firmly in his sights.
At 29 years old, GRABOWSKI is a veteran of two Olympic Games, finishing seventh in Sydney and then 11th three years ago in Athens. He has an impressive track record including the European title in 2001 and the runners up spot last year. However, that European title and a 2003 win in Kiel aside, major titles have eluded him and his record at World Championships is surprisingly poor. Last year he finished the season off with an impressive fourth at the Olympic Test Event in Qingdao, before coming in 39th at the Laser Worlds in Korea.

With over ten years on the ISAF Graded Laser circuit, he is one of the most experienced hands in the fleet. In this Olympic campaign he will be looking to combine that experience and his talent with the extra training resources that funding from Olympic Solidarity provides, to take his sailing up that crucial final notch in his search for World and Olympic success.

GRABOWSKI's principal focus this year is on the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, Portugal. There his aim will be threefold: secure Olympic qualification for his country; take a big step towards securing his own spot in that Polish berth; and World Championship glory.

Tried-And-Trusted Approach

As he looked ahead to 2007, his formula for success was to take a tried-and-trusted approach and build upon it.

'Having finished the 2006 season with the Polish Nationals, which I won, I figured that I would really like to repeat the same thing I did in 2006. I spent the first two months of 2006 in USA, Florida racing and training and it really paid off later. So this winter I managed to start it a bit earlier.

'I took off to Miami at the end of November and spent all the time until Christmas sailing in Fort Lauderdale and Clearwater. Well before that we'd agreed with the Canadian team to do some work together this winter and we started together from the very beginning of the first training in Clearwater.'

GRABOWSKI and the Canadian team were also joined by the USA's top Laser sailors Brad FUNK and Andrew CAMPBELL to train in the predominantly light winds at Clearwater and more variable conditions at Fort Lauderdale.

Back To Miami

Following a break for Christmas and New Year, GRABOWSKI returned to Miami to join up with the Canadian team again and make his final preparations for the ISAF Grade 1 Rolex Miami OCR. The size of the training clinic increased, as the group was joined by some of the biggest names in the Laser fleet including the current world #1 Paul GOODISON (GBR), reigning World Champion Michael BLACKBURN (AUS) and world #2 Tom SLINGSBY (AUS) - a trio described by GRABOWSKI as, 'All at the top of my list of guys to beat.'

The time spent in Miami was well rewarded when racing got underway with GRABOWSKI consistent right through the regatta despite the varied conditions and extremely strong fleet. 'All that training paid off during the regatta. I finished sixth, a bit disappointing as a result itself, but was pleased with my performance in all conditions.'

An OCS in race 7 dented his medal hopes, although he still lay in second place overall after the first day of gold fleet racing. However, with the Medal Race approaching, a 'huge mistake' when he played the left side of the course for two beats and lost out to the majority of the fleet going right, left him with a 41 on his scorecard and ended any realistic chance of victory. He recovered well and a strong Medal Race left him just 22 points off the winning total of Gustavo LIMA (POR).

Cascais Preparations

Following a short break after Miami, GRABOWSKI switched his focus to the ISAF Worlds and the likely conditions in Cascais as he headed to Cabarete, Dominican Republic for two weeks of strong wind practice.

'The place appeared to be even more beautiful than I was told with perfect sailing conditions for Laser sailing. Again we had a good group of guys, just to mention Matias DEL SOLAR from Chile, Marc DE HAAS from the Netherlands, Jeremy STEYAERT from France and a few others, so the training was very intense.'

With the Nortada in Cascais often bringing winds gusting up to 30 knots, ability in heavy airs is going to be crucial to success at the Worlds this year. For GRABOWSKI, this period of training was ideal preparation, 'I believe that, especially in terms of preparation for Cascais Worlds, Caberete has a lot to offer to Laser and Laser Radial sailors. Incredible sailing conditions, wind ranging from 15 to 30 knots, huge waves, warm water and lots of sun is like a dream come true for a sailor. I wish I could go back some time soon.'

Palma Awaits

Since Miami and training in Caberete, GRABOWSKI took some time out of the boat to concentrate on preparing physically for the intense European season ahead. With the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy now just a few days away, he is back on the water training in Palma de Mallorca, Spain for his second big test of the year.

Last year Palma proved a highlight for GRABOWSKI as he secured a comfortable event victory with a second place in the Medal Race. He will be looking for more of the same in 2007, he as looks to refine his Miami performance, maximize the rewards his extra level of training has provided and launch himself towards glory in Cascais.

Twenty sailors have been selected for Olympic Solidarity scholarships for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Find out more at www.sailing.org/olympicsolidarity.

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