Tom Fitzpatrick speaks to Simon Hiscocks (GBR) Olympic 2000 Silver medallist in the 49er class
<I>You won a silver medal crewing with Ian Barker in the Sydney Olympics. How did this have an impact on your sailing career?</I>
Its very easy to attract fit birds with a medal!
What kind of preparation did you focus on during the last few months before the games?
We made sure that we were down to out target weight, sailed a fair bit with Alistair and Peter and bought a new boat.
What did you sail before the 49er, where and with who?
Early I sailed Lasers then I crewed for Richard Tew in a 505 and crewed in Fireball with Tim Rush and a bit of 18' with Paul Towers who once upon a time sailed with Dan Johnson to win the 505 Worlds, beating Nico, Stotard, Barker and Howie Hamlin all who went on to become legends whilst Paul got married and lived happily ever after. Mostly sailed in the UK sometimes abroad, like 505 worlds but I was to light but had some good fun.
You recently teamed up with top UK 49er skipper, Chris Draper. What strengths do you each bring to the partnership?
We are just finding this out as it is still very new.
What are your expectations for the upcoming 49er World Championships in Hawaii (14 - 22 June)?
Sun good wind and some great racing. I am not putting down a score - far to much pressure
What advice would you give to other 49er sailors who aspire to winning an Olympic medal in Athens 2004?
Go sailing enjoy it and occasionally think a little about what you are doing.
What is the best thing you like about 49er sailing?
Fast, exciting racing, friendly sailors and relatively cheap.
What are the most important factors for success in the 49er?
Good boat handling is essential, after that its the same in any other class, speed and good tactics.
You have some of the toughest competition in the world, at home in Great Britain. Do you train together as a team and share knowledge about the 49er?
We try to, sometimes it is difficult, but generally it works and we often have a good laugh
How often do you train on the water?
Maybe 3 - 5 times a week
How important do you think fitness is for the 49er, and what fitness program do you follow?
It is important for the crew. The helm must also be a little bit fit. Sailing the 49er a lot seems to sort out the fitness. It surprises me when I go out on a bike as the 49er sailing keeps / gets you very fit.
What do you think is the optimum crew weight for a 49er?
May be 150 - 155. I think that there are maybe 2 very narrow bands 148 - 15something and 153-4 - 156. Basically anything above 148 up to a weight where you can still dip, and any thing up to 155 where you go wings in.
There were 40 boats at the 2001 UK National Championships in Weymouth. When and where will the 2002 Nationals be held and is this regatta open to teams from other countries?
Last year we decided that the nationals would be in Weymouth again as it is the best venue for skiff sailing, probably in the world? The regatta is open to any one and people should come to it. If lots of people come then it is always possible to organise some training or more racing to make the ferry trip worthwhile.
Explain the main alterations you make to a new 49er to make it 'race ready'?
In Great Britain Dave Hall from Ovington has been doing a good job of making the changes standard, such as rope halyards and trap wires, quality British made ball bearing pulleys etc
I guess the main thing is 'sika flexing' the centreboard slot, we tried other stuff in the slot but it is a nightmare to get the board up and down, sika flex is the stuff !
What improvements (if any) would you make to the design of the 49er?
How many masts do you use per year and how long do you think they last before going soft?
I like the boat as it is, no more rocker or stuff like that. Get rid of the wing width and weight on the back, everyone wings out and lead off, that makes the boat lighter straight away. It would be nice to have a lighter mast but I don't like change as it is so expensive. It is not buying a new mast that is expensive but the devalue that it puts on spares and older boats. It isn't really fair on the majority who sail 49ers at weekends etc.
Do you make all your own halyards and wire rigging?
halyards yes wire rigging no.
Would you like to see any change to the format of the racing?
Get rid of the 25knot rule and leave to discretion of race officer. Some events it is ignored and we have a good blow off, others like Spa we sit and twiddle our thumbs
Maybe try some longer races. I think the courses are good, if you introduce mid gates it makes it less tactical and more boat handling orientated. Perhaps some long distance racing not at the worlds but at Grand Prix or fun events. Organising events to make for a tour would be good so its possible to travel from event to event for may be 2-3-4 weeks. It is good for sailors from other continents.
Do you plan to compete in the Athens Olympic Games?
I do but there are 4 other teams who would answer the same question in the same way.
If so, how do you plan to improve on your previous campaign for the Sydney Olympics. What are the most important elements you will focus on over the next 2 years?
Now I have a new team we will try to sail a lot and get good team work.