Ahead of the SSL Gold Cup, training in the highly technical and demanding SSL 47 yachts is vital. Bringing together a group of individual sailors to work as a team requires exceptional coordination and precision. This is where having the SSL Headquarters at Grandson, Switzerland on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel comes into its own.
In June SSL Team Czech Republic, SSL Team China and SSL Team Bermuda took to the water to get that valuable training in.
SSL Team Czech Republic Captain Ondra Teply explains what it’s like to bring the team together, and how managing the squad has its challenges:
“It’s nice to be here. And we are happy to be back on the boat and again improving our skills in such a nice boat. And generally we are enjoying our time here. We were forced to change the squad a little bit as our helm from last year qualification is expecting a baby, so he won’t be able to participate in the finals. So we’ve brought in Martin Trcka, who is really experienced in big boats as well as being an Olympian in the Laser class.
“Coming from running an Olympic campaign in a singlehanded boat, it was something new for me to be able to put together a team of 11, 12 members. So, it was challenging in the beginning, but I was happy since last year we managed to qualify for the finals. The team is working good together and it’s a joy.”
Sailing is growing fast in China, so for SSL Team China Captain Lijia Xu, who won Laser Radial gold at the London 2012 Olympics, the SSL Gold Cup is a great opportunity to build the team and promote keelboat racing within the country:
“I feel very honoured to be the Captain of SSL Team China because I feel I have the responsibility to promote sailing in China, but at the same time to bring more of the best sailors in China into the international level or onto the international stage to compete and learn from the top sailors in the world. Hopefully there can be more communication, more involvement of Chinese sailors in future at international events.”
Building a team for the SSL Gold Cup requires a lot of skill, making sure that each sailor is in the role which suits them best, as SSL Team Bermuda Captain Rockal Evans explains:
“I feel very lucky to be fortunate enough to be here. We have a very good sponsor that gave us the opportunity to come here to Grandson for training. Our goals for this training session were to work up the new members of the team and doing a bit of swapping in and out, so different people doing different roles.
“We have a new coach on board who puts us through our paces and is getting us up to speed as they know the SSL47 a lot better. We have four members here for the training that did the qualifiers with us last year and we have three new members with little keelboat experience on this level.
“I feel very honoured to be the Captain. The SSL Gold Cup gives our nation the opportunity to go up against the world’s best and for us to show how Bermuda has some really good sailors. If we’re given a level playing field that we can perform on the world stage.”
Continuing on the importance of the SSL Gold Cup itself, SSL Team Czech Republic Captain Ondra Teply concludes:
“It’s nice that people are actually realizing how big this event is and give it the importance, also in the Czech Republic where sailing is not as popular. It’s a great opportunity for us as we are coming from the lakes and we are having the opportunity to sail against the best teams and countries which are have many more sailors.”