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 Livorno, followed by the Rolex Giraglia Cup 2017, 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 Palma de Mallorca, 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 Voiles de St. Tropez, 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 Offshore race that starts in Livorno, passes through Pisa, Corsica and ends in Punta Ala, 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 Voiles de St. Tropez race, which is made up of multiple coastal regattas during the span of several days.
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 Offshore 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 Offshores or windward/leeward races.
Offshore 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 Upwind/Downwind 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.
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 Offshore 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 Yachtworks by the lead by Lourenco Gama, and that leaves us always at ease about the engine and equipment and that, never fails.
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 Palma de Mallorca, 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.
Note for JLpress Editor’s Chief:
JLpress it’s gratefull for the help of Fred Kossack in the translation of this text.