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Conversations within the sport of sailing - Pieter Taselaar
It is often said how sailing is unique as a sport, where the opportunity is readiliy available to compete against the very best in the sport. Occassionally we get the chance to chat with them too.
(June 10, 2009) Originally from Holland, Pieter Taselaar had been enjoying his J/92 as a member of Larchmont and New York Yacht Clubs, and competing in the Long Island Sound events. But with his kids now a bit older, he had the idea of competing beyond local waters, and getting back to the intensive dinghy sailing he enjoyed in Europe.
When Pieter saw the Melges 32, he took the leap and hasnít looked back. Last weekend, after Pieter and his Bliksem team won a prominent M32 event in Scarlino, Italy, Scuttlebutt checked in to see what he was doing over there:
How long have you been in the class?
This is my second year in the class, and after one year of getting a feel for the boat and figuring out if I really liked it, I decided to step it up and think this is one of the few larger high performance boats which will continue to grow worldwide and attract the best competition.
I firmly believe that in terms of big boat one design racing, the Melges 32 is rapidly taking over from classes like the Farr 40, and if you look at it objectively, it is one of the few high performance large one design classes that is growing at the moment and is attracting a lot of talent.
What attracted you to the Audi Melges 32 Sailing Series in Scarlino, Italy?
After winning the Acura Miami Grand Prix (in March), I had a choice of either doing the East Coast Championship with seven boats participating, or going to Scarlino with 21 boats competing. The Worlds this year will be at Porto Cervo, Italy, and 45 boats are expected to compete. I think in order to be competitive in a class like this (like the Farr 40 was 2 years ago), one has to travel and sail regattas in the world where the most competition is.
The Italians love sportboats and take the sport very seriously and are very competitive so I thought it would be more beneficial to go to Scarlino. I didnít charter a boat but shipped my own boat Bliksem to Italy. I think in order to compete at the highest level, one has to forget about geographical boundaries and look for the toughest racing and competition, and this happens to be in Italy, to a large extent because the Worlds will be held in Sardinia this year.
How would you characterize the kind of racing you found in Italy?
The kind of racing in Italy compared to Miami was fairly similar. The quality of the fleet in Italy is a bit deeper and they are a bit more open to innovations. The starts and sailing in general is more aggressive, especially in boat on boat situations so we adapted our style by really analyzing which the good and bad boats were and tried to stay away from other boats in general and sail our own race. The Italians tend to start focusing on the boat near them and it is easy to get drawn into a match race. We were very conscious of that and really adapted. For example, if the pin end was favoured by only 5 degrees, we tended to stay far away from the pin while in Miami we might still try to win the pin. In terms of race organization it was very professional, as in Miami.
What are the 2009 goals?
Our goal is to do very well at the 2009 Worlds, and we put together a training program that will help us achieve the best possible result. The next regatta will be Audi 4 at Cagliari, Italy and then a training program in Porto Cervo before the Worlds. I think the developments in the class are moving very rapidly and it is important to constantly seek the toughest competition.
I believe next year the focus will be on North America with the Worlds being held in San Francisco, so all our training and racing will be in the U.S. However, by doing the Worlds in Europe now, we will stay ahead of the curve and be in a better position next year to do well than compared to all the boats that only sail locally. We continually optimize sail design, rig tune, etc., and we donít want the Italians to come in next year and win the Worlds in San Francisco. In order to win the Worlds next year in the U.S., I think a multiyear program definitely helps and the European competition in sports boats is very tough.
What do you like most about Scuttlebutt?
I think Scuttlebutt is a highlight to my day every day and cheers me up, reading about what I love most - sailing. I look forward to it every day and it gives a good overview of what is happening in sailing and it mixes serious stories with funny/unusual ones so it always provides for interesting reading. There isnít a day I donít read it and I think you guys are doing a great job.
Bliksem team celebrating their win at Audi Melges 32 Sailing Series in Scarlino, Italy.
Photo at top of Pieter Taselaar by Joy Dunigan - Photos below by Carlo Borlenghi
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