Victory Challenge sailors Magnus Holmberg, Stefan Rahm, Lars Linger, Magnus Augustson and Mikkel Røssberg have been awarded Swedish sailing's finest prize, the Gyllene Ankare (Golden Anchor).
Though they didn't have much time to celebrate after hearing the news - they're on their way out for a training session with Victory Challenge in Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, part of their preparations ahead of America's Cup.
But they did have time to pose for a quick photo on the deck of the training boat `Cristina', previously Black Magic boat NZL 38. It's only three months since the same men (except Mikkel Røssberg, who is Danish) were named Sailors of the Year in Sweden. They drank champagne at the base then.
Four of them are training with `Cristina', Team New Zealand's former winning boat from the Louis Vuitton Cup ahead of the 1995 America's Cup: Magnus Holmberg as helmsman, Stefan Rahm as tactician, Magnus Augustson as pitman and Mikkel Røssberg as genoa trimmer. Lars Linger is genoa trimmer on Örn (SWE 63) today, where Jesper Bank is helmsman and Mats Johansson tactician.
This in-house racing and testing will continue today and tomorrow. The days start at the gymnasium with physical exercises at 6.30 in the morning and finish no earlier than 7 in the evening. In the meantime, there's no time for celebrations, only dinner and sleep, especially as there was training on Sunday as well. Especially not today. It's past seven in the evening when the Swedish America's Cup boats are towed in the for the night and it's dark outside. Magnus Holmberg is then on his way to the weekly planning meeting, with Mats Johansson among others. It's nearly nine in the evening before they're finished, just before the press release was to be distributed. Gym at 6.30 tomorrow morning all the same?
"Definitely", says Magnus Homberg and adds: "But I'm not finished for today yet."
The five men were awarded the Trygg-Hansa insurance company's Gyllene Ankare for their victory in Swedish Match Tour last year. This put them at the top of the ISAF World Match Race Rankings, a top position that skipper Magnus Holmberg has retained during most of the last twelve months. "It's really nice to get some attention and it's an acknowledgement for the efforts the team has made in match racing during the last two years", says Magnus Holmberg.
In the final standings of last year's Swedish Match Tour, they were ahead of Prada's Gavin Brady, Team New Zealand's Bertrand Pacé, Alinghi's Russell Coutts, Team New Zealand's Dean Barker and OneWorld's Peter Gilmour. All of the closest placings in Swedish Match Tour are skippers or helmsmen taking part in America's Cup that is starting with the Louis Vuitton Cup on October 1.
The Swedish Sailing Association wrote in a press release:
"Magnus is focused, well-prepared and systematic with an extraordinarily strong drive and analytic ability. He is also a proficient and respected team leader of his crew and shows that it is possible to combine a family life with match racing at the highest international level. Magnus is a very good example for everyone in Swedish sailing and a worthy winner of the Gyllene Ankare for 2001."
More than anyone else, Magnus Holmberg has personified Swedish match racing during the last decade. Schooled with E-dinghies, 470 and Soling, with three Olympics and several European and world championship medals under his belt, he concentrated his efforts to 100% on match racing during the nineties. In 1994, he took the initiative for the successful Swedish Match Cup and the big breakthrough came in 2001 when he secured total victory in the round-the-world Swedish Match Tour, also started on Magnus's initiative, before the final leg at Marstrand. "The Sailing Association focuses on the Olympic classes, as it should, that's why its nice to see them involved in a prize for match racing, which is outside its normal focus", says Magnus Holmberg.
The Gyllene Ankare, the prize awarded today, also includes 30,000 Swedish kronor (almost 3,000 US dollars) that Magnus Holmberg and the jury jointly donated to the creation of a national youth team in match racing. The prize has been awarded since 1945 to the most meritorious representative of Swedish boating in all categories. Pelle Petterson, the man behind the Swedish America's Cup challenges in 1977 and 1980, has received the Gyllene Ankare. Göran Petersson has received the award for his work as judge and chairman of a number of judging committees in international sailing, among them America's Cup 1987, 1988 and 1992.
"It's a fantastic idea, it's really about time", says Magnus Holmberg.
The award will be presented at the Swedish Match Cup in Marstrand, Sweden, in the first week of July. Both of Victory Challenge's helmsmen, Magnus Holmberg and Jesper Bank, with the crews from the Swedish America's Cup challenge will be making their only Swedish appearance there this summer. Otherwise, all efforts are being concentrated on Auckland, New Zealand, and the preparations for the world's most prestigious sailing trophy.
The Gyllene Ankare jury includes representatives from the Swedish Boating Union, the Swedish Cruising Association, the Swedish Powerboat Racing Association, the Swedish Sailing Association, KMK (Royal Powerboat Club), the Royal Swedish Yacht Club KSSS and the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club GKSS.