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Alex Matias Kossack: “We are confident and we have good hopes this year!”

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Text by Joao­La­mares | Trans­la­tion by Fred Kos­sack
Pho­to by ©JLpress/JoaoLamares and Giuli­et­ta Sail­ing Team

Giuli­et­ta Sail­ing Team left Cas­cais on May 12th for yet anoth­er Mediter­ranean rac­ing cam­paign, com­posed of 4 large regat­tas.

With the first race sched­uled to start May 31st, Alex Kossack’s team will begin their Mediter­ranean tour, by rac­ing the 151 Miglia regat­ta off , fol­lowed by the , a race that went very well for the team last year, and is due to start June 9th off the Coast of San­re­mo, St ’Tropez and Gen­o­va

Then after a month to recov­er strengths and fine tune the boat, the team will head off to , where for the sec­ond time they will race the Copa Del Rey (King of Spain Cup). At the end of Sep­tem­ber the team will again line up for yet anoth­er start, this time the famous , being the team’s first pres­ence in this famous race.

After a long over­haul this spring, where sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments were made to the boat’s keel, mast, elec­tron­ics and sails, as well as a decrease in weight, which result­ed in more speed and bet­ter con­trol upwind, the team departs for this tour in the Med with renewed expec­ta­tions in improv­ing their already very good per­for­mance.

We spoke with Alex Kos­sack for a bet­ter under­stand­ing of what has been done and to what extent this can help Giuli­et­ta Sail­ing Team on this cam­paign.

Jlpress: 2016 was the year Giuli­et­ta Sail­ing Team made strong bets with its inter­na­tion­al rac­ing cam­paing. What is the bal­ance of this tour in  the Med?

Alex: Yes, it’s true, our deci­sion to do only inter­na­tion­al races in 2016, after the good expe­ri­ence we got in the 2015 edi­tion of the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race and in this par­tic­u­lar case the deci­sion to do the 2016 cam­paign only in the Mediter­ranean was much more pos­i­tive than we had antic­i­pat­ed.

The 2016 cam­paign start­ed well, with a 5th place fin­ish in the com­bined result of the Rolex Giraglia 2016, a regat­ta that had 310 boats on the start­ing line, then a 12th place in the Copa del Rey in Spain, after being rammed by anoth­er boat and unable to par­tic­i­pate in 4 of the 11 races, and final­ly the 6th place in the 2016 Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race in Mal­ta, a regat­ta we rode in the front of our class most of the time and that escaped us due to the lack of wind, we did pret­ty good, I would say.

2016 was a real­ly good year, we had an excel­lent cam­paign, in a very com­pet­i­tive uni­verse com­pet­ing with the top of rac­ing boats. For this rea­son we decid­ed to con­tin­ue the cam­paign in the Mediter­ranean in 2017, this time even more aggres­sive, where we will do 4 races, two that we already did in 2016 (the Rolex Giraglia and the Copa Del Rey), where we learned a lot about the style of Regat­ta and the tech­ni­cal and com­pet­i­tive lev­el of our oppo­nents, and we will debut two new races: The myth­i­cal 151 Miglia, an race that starts in , pass­es through , Cor­si­ca and ends in , a regat­ta that in May already had 215 entries, all top boats with more than 80% pro­fes­sion­als in the crew. Then in Sep­tem­ber, we will make the famous 8-day race, which is made up of mul­ti­ple coastal regat­tas dur­ing the span of sev­er­al days.

Team Marina Cascais Giulietta | Photo by team

Jlpress: After a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment, that gave Giuli­et­ta a new keel, new mast and elec­tron­ics, new sails and changes to the hull, what are the expec­ta­tions for this new cam­paign in the Mediter­ranean?

Alex: One of the big advan­tages of the 2016 cam­paign, in which we raced very com­pet­i­tive and wind­ward / Lee­ward regat­tas, was the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see how our boat runs, how it per­forms and how it sails, com­pared to oth­er boats and how we per­form as a team, with regards to the oth­er boats.

Whilst with the crew you can eas­i­ly solve the prob­lem by chang­ing posi­tions on board, recruit new crew mem­bers and a lot of prac­tice, with the boat, the changes are a lot more com­pli­cat­ed, hard­er and require oth­er lev­els of invest­ment.

We are very lucky with the boat that we have, because due to the expe­ri­ence we have with it, and the improve­ments we have made through­out the years and its ver­sa­til­i­ty, it can be eas­i­ly mod­i­fied and adapt­ed to the dif­fer­ent types of regat­ta we race, be it s or windward/leeward races.

races, are races that favor beam reach­es, reach­es and down­wind points of sail, and for this, the boat uses dif­fer­ent sets of sails and is set up dif­fer­ent­ly than it is for speed races, like races, where we have a greater need to sail upwind effi­cient­ly and for this the sails are dif­fer­ent and weight dis­tri­b­u­tion on board is also dif­fer­ent.

It’s a lit­tle bit with cars, where a car set for speed is dif­fer­ent from a car set for endurance because the races are dif­fer­ent and the require­ments too.

Since we can­not have a boat for each type of regat­ta, ours must be adapt­ed and changed eas­i­ly and fast accord­ing to the type of regat­tas.

This is where we invest­ed and decid­ed to change the boat. We changed and improved the com­po­nents that are more impor­tant and com­mon to both types of regat­ta, com­po­nents that until now either favored one type of race or the oth­er.

In the end we have increased the ver­sa­til­i­ty of the boat, and due to this, we have increased our expec­ta­tions for the cam­paign that begins now.

But as in all things, we can only see the effect of our invest­ment after the regat­tas start and we are in the heat of them … but yes, we are con­fi­dent that it was a good bet and we have good hopes this year.

Giulietta Sailing Team | Photo Jlpress/JoaoLamares2016

Jlpress: With regards to the crew, are there changes? Do you have any news with regards to this?

Alex: Our crew is well known for not hav­ing major changes since 2012 and is prac­ti­cal­ly and almost always com­posed of the ele­ments. This helps us with the com­mu­ni­ca­tion on board and our expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of the boat.

The core of the team remains unchanged, Juli­eta Kos­sack, myself, Miguel Nunes, Car­los Leitão, Fred Kos­sack, Tia­go Jesus, Hugo Rodrigues and Dio­go Pin­to

Last year an old­er mem­ber, David Grade, joined us for the races, name­ly the Rolex Mid­dle Sea Race, and he replaced Ruben who now has a more restric­tive pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ty. Also last year we used Matilde Melo in the Giraglia and the Copa and Dio­go Macha­do Pin­to was also admit­ted into the team, Dio­go in the mean time joined the core of the team and is now a fixed crew.

This year, Matilde can not race, so we had the need to recruit anoth­er ele­ment. Matilde left and João Maria Pri­eto entered. Joao will debut in the Rolex Giraglia in June, and will then con­tin­ue to the oth­er races with us.

How­ev­er, the core remains unchanged. These are the 8 that can­not fail to any race, the ones that con­sti­tute the min­i­mum crew and are there­fore ded­i­cat­ed to 100% to our rac­ing sched­ules…

Jlpress: How dif­fi­cult is it for a 100% Por­tuguese team (every­thing in Giuli­et­ta is made in Por­tu­gal from the boat and sails to all the dif­fer­ent com­po­nents, includ­ing the crew), to main­tain par­tic­i­pa­tion at this high com­pet­i­tive lev­el?

Alex: Well .… it’s not that easy, but with ded­i­ca­tion, we can do it!

There are two fronts to tack­le  here. One front is the regat­tas them­selves, due to the aggres­sive­ness of our sched­ule of events and the regat­tas we opt­ed to do, (above all because of the dis­tance of places where we race and the num­ber of days we are forced to be out in terms of spend­ing) is not easy, and on the oth­er front, the boat itself.
In what logis­tics are con­cerned, from the trans­port of the boat from Por­tu­gal to Italy, France, Spain, etc. to the races them­selves the chal­lenge has been hard.

The boat fer­ry is expen­sive, the trav­el expens­es are too, and of course, a crew to be effec­tive, has to be well fed and well slept, oth­er­wise the per­for­mance and the com­mit­ment dimin­ish.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly we have few sup­ports, the ones we have help, but they are not enough, and this part, which is so sig­nif­i­cant for a project like this has cre­at­ed some dif­fi­cul­ties.

In terms of crew, we do when pos­si­ble, reg­u­lar prac­tice days. The team does week­ly phys­i­cal train­ing and the boat is mod­i­fied and adapt­ed accord­ing­ly.

The fact that it is 100% Por­tuguese does not decrease at all our chances, and is by no means a hand­i­cap. That part is actu­al­ly a help­ful thing.

Tech­ni­cal­ly rely on the ever-help­ful help of Del­mar Conde and his two sons, Rena­to and Gil, who are always avail­able to help us and ready to mod­i­fy the boat as we require or request. Basi­cal­ly, in terms of boat, only they are allowed to mod­i­fy it and we only use them for that. This is sacred. They built Giuli­et­ta and know it inside out as well as I do, if not bet­ter.

As for the sails, it would be almost impos­si­ble for us to do it with­out the help and ded­i­ca­tion of Pedro Pires de Lima and Velas Pires de Lima, who not only makes us new sails each year but is also con­stant­ly design­ing, mod­i­fy­ing, alter­ing and improv­ing them , because the rat­ings and rules change all the time, and each time we change some­thing on the boat or the mast we are forced to make new sails or mod­i­fy them. He is a big help, indeed.
For the mechan­i­cal main­te­nance, we rely on the spon­sor­ship from by the lead by Louren­co Gama, and that leaves us always at ease about the engine and equip­ment and that, nev­er fails.

For the cos­met­ics, we have and of course we have the sup­port of , who has been help­ing us and sup­port­ing us since 2011.

It has been very dif­fi­cult, but we have suc­ceed­ed.

Jlpress: After the large price increase on regat­ta fees in Lis­bon, what do you pre­dict fot the future of Por­tuguese sail­ing?

Alex: Well, this is a “mild” top­ic for me, at the moment I am just a mere observ­er.

We stopped rac­ing in Por­tu­gal since Sep­tem­ber 2015 because we are always abroad. So this issue does not affect us, at least for now. The races that we do in Por­tu­gal are to prac­tice or test changes in the boat, and we only do a few far and between.

As I under­stand it, there was an increase in the cost of regat­ta entry fees, because sud­den­ly the author­i­ties think there the a need for mar­itime polic­ing, which has nev­er been need­ed and makes no sense. Now, apa­prente­ly it has to be paid, increas­ing the cost of race reg­is­tra­tion fees.

Also, I believe, if I under­stood cor­rect­ly, the FPV had entered the nego­ti­a­tion process and were try­ing to resolve the mat­ter ami­ca­bly with the Port of Lis­bon, and there were already some news about the issue.

I con­fess that I have not paid much atten­tion to the mat­ter, but I am of the opin­ion that all these restric­tions and impo­si­tions can jeop­ar­dize an activ­i­ty that is already in itself at high risk, not only because of lthe ack of sup­port, but also because of the costs inher­ent in the activ­i­ty . It is an activ­i­ty that is seen as being elit­ist and there­fore easy prey.

I am not real­ly favor­able to sub­sidy-depen­dence, on either side, but I also think that over-tax­ing to allow sub­sidy-depen­dence is not the solu­tion.

Abroad, and in teh Med,  the costs of rac­ing are exor­bi­tant and orga­ni­za­tions usu­al­ly receive spon­sor­ships from big com­pa­nies like Rolex, Vol­vo, Mapfre etc. . But these spon­sors require rig­or and great media expo­sure, with large media teams and cov­er­age at all times. This expo­si­tion has paid off to the spon­sors and works, as more and more com­pa­nies are seen spon­sor­ing the great World races. The expo­sure does pay off for them.

In Por­tu­gal this is nowhere to be seen! We con­tin­ue with our typ­i­cal pet­ty small­ness, and instead of try­ing to help, we tend to sink more. Every­thing is reversed; Instead of try­ing to enrich the com­mu­ni­ty, so that col­lec­tive­ly the lev­el ris­es, in Por­tu­gal the exact oppo­site is done, it seems that they are keen on favor­ing the descent of lev­el, I real­ly do not under­stand it.

Abo­rad, the tourism bureaus, the tourism offices and the munic­i­pal­i­ties where the regat­tas are made, are always present, and active. From San­re­mo to , pass­ing by St. Tropez etc. , because with this they gain from the sales of hotel beds, the occu­pa­tion of the mari­nas, the local com­merce, etc.

They have already real­ized that with this every­one wins, the local author­i­ties invest in the activ­i­ty and we see boats pour­ing in the regat­tas with num­bers of boats above 300 reg­is­tered, with an aver­age of 15 crew mem­bers per boat this rep­re­sents a local occu­pa­tion of 4500 peo­ple for one week! We are talk­ing about a Mil­lions of Euros  of prof­it in  the area, the space of a week, in exchange for some invest­ment.

In Por­tu­gal, well … let’s tax, it’s eas­i­er this way …

Maybe we live in dif­fer­ent worlds, but in real­i­ty?? I’d rather run abroad.

More about Giuli­et­ta

Note for JLpress Editor’s Chief:
JLpress it’s grate­full for the help of Fred Kos­sack in the trans­la­tion of this text.

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