Lockdown Interviews - Carolijn Brouwer
Next in our Lockdown Interview series is one of the World's truely great sailors. The Olympic and World Sailing legend Carolijn Brouwer.
- When and why did you first start sailing and in what?
I first started sailing in an Optimist at my local sailing club in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. I wasn’t too keen on sailing at first but its where my family spent the weekends. I used to get my brothers 2nd hand optimist when he got a new one. I spent more time on shore polishing the boat as an excuse not to have to go sailing. It was only when I started beating my older brother in the local Sunday club racing that a light switch flicked and all I wanted to do is go sailing.
When we moved back to Holland my mum gave me a bike and a hockey stick and pointed me to the hockey club. But two weeks later (early February) I was sailing an optimist wearing a drysuit, gloves and a beanie for the first time in my life.
- When did you first become aware of the ‘A’ Class Cat?
At the 2008 A Class World Championships in Belmont when we spent the day in a rib watching Glenn Ashby clean the fleet.
- Where and at what age did you first get a sail on one.
I was going to say just prior to the 2015 A Class Worlds in Medemblik when we made a road trip to Sopot where we spent a week setting up and testing our new Exploder A cats.
But it was actually during the 2009 A Class Australian Nationals in Wangi Wangi just around the corner from us. Darren was competing and I was hanging around being trolley dolley when someone was so kind to offer me a boat and Chris Cairns lent me his super soft mast and off I went for my baptism of fire.
I didn’t sail one between 2009 and 2015.
Fitness and training.
- What is your current fitness routine, and do you have any special diet?
At the moment I am training at home. We are lucky to live where we live and we have a lot of outdoor play area for running and riding. For the rainy days I have a concept2 rower and I’m currently trying to beat my 2000m PB from just before the start of the Volvo Ocean Race with Dong Feng Race team…I am still far from it.
We also did a bit of DIY and built a pull up and dip bar in the garden. So we have a pretty good set up for a home gym and try and do some sort of circuit every morning.
I don’t currently have a special diet but I am trying to keep my weight up for the A class!!!
- How often do you sail each month?
Not often enough!
With the current situation we weren’t really allowed to sail. Now that restrictions have been eased we try to get out on the water one day every weekend but even that is not always the case. So definitely not doing as much sailing as I would like to…I guess a lot of people are in the same situation…
- Do you have any specific fixed training regime?
At the moment I’m not in training for any particular discipline or event so I’m just trying to keep healthy and fit. I mostly enjoy doing a very varied training so I don’t get bored. I don’t really enjoy lifting weights unless I have to. But I enjoy doing a lot of cardio/endurance training like boxing, rowing and riding. And I like doing any body weight exercises and mix it up a bit.
- Where did you learn your race tactics?
I would say I learned my race tactics by trial and error during the course of my sailing career.
It started in the optimist at a relatively basic level. Then I guess it progressed on in the Laser Radial and Europe as they often have large and very competitive fleets. When I switched to more high performance classes, you have to adapt your tactics to more apparent wind sailing which was the case in the Olympic Tornado.
- Do you practice race tactics in any way whilst training?
Sailing is very much an experience sport, with more hours on the water, preferably racing, you are going to get more practice. You remember the good decisions you took and you learn from the bad ones. The most important thing is that you have to be able to keep your eyes out of the boat. So you have to be confident and comfortable with your speed, technique and boathandling to focus on your tactics and race strategy.
Sailing is a very complex sport and there are a lot of different aspects that have to be right to make it work. In my opinion its almost impossible to sail a perfect race. The winner of a race is the sailor/team that has made the least amount of mistakes.
- Do you concentrate on specific areas when training?
What I used to practice in my Laser is sailing for 20 sec concentrating on just technique and boatspeed, then the next 20 sec just looking out of the boat to the water, to the sky, to boats around me. And I would keeping switching back and forth. This drill seems a lot harder foiling around on my A at high speeds!
- Was there a particular technique you found that unlocked something in your sailing?
To me sailing is very much a feel thing but you have to be able to adapt to sailing different boats that require different skills and technique and thus give you a different feel.
- Do you have a regular sailing partner and what do they do for your sailing?
I am a very lucky girl to have Darren Bundock as my (sailing) partner although I spend most of my time trying to keep up with him and generally get left behind. In the A class, especially when foiling, I believe you always have to have a buddy. Because we reach quite high speeds, things can also go bad very quickly. Having someone out there with you that has your back, is very important from a safety point of view.
Also with the A being a development class and quite technical, its always good to have someone to learn from, to bounce ideas off and test things out on the water.
- What do you most enjoy about sailing the ‘A’ Cat?
Never a dull moment in the A !! I enjoy the speed and the adrenaline that comes with it. I like the fact that it is a development class, you never sit still, there is always something changing to try and make the boats better and faster. It’s a big learning curve. And I like the people in the class. The diversity in the class is great. The competition is fierce but the comraderie amongst the sailors and families is special.
I just wish there were more girls in the A class!
- What was your best sailing moment? (and if you feel strong enough, your worst!?)
My best sailing moment in the A was actually not that long ago just out training for the day with the boys up at the lake (Lake Maquarie) when for the first time I felt like I really mastered the upwind foiling.
My worst was probably only a few weeks later when I ran aground at the same lake. Usually I’m trailing behind the guys so if they gybe away from a shallow I know not to go any further. This time I was ahead and went too far!
I was very lucky the bottom was soft and I didn’t do too much damage. The foils are quite critical and fragile in a way so you have to be careful.
- If something goes wrong in a race, how do you start to deal with it mentally?
I used to get really angry at myself and that got me pumped up and I would then start to sail aggressively to make up the points lost.
But when you sail in a team that is not always an approach that works. So I have learnt to remain calm and press the reset button only look ahead and never ever give up. I can’t change what is behind me. This approach started working a lot better for me and it is how I approach bad moments in my sailing.
- What would you sail if ‘A’ Cats were suddenly banned?
I would be pretty disappointed! Maybe the Moth? But I love cat/multihull sailing so I would possibly jump into an F18. Although non foiling, it’s a fun boat and also has great people in the class.
- What improvements do you feel could be made to the boats currently and which direction do you think the two divisions should be heading?
I guess any changes that would reduce costs is always one to think about but also a tricky one to deal with in a development class. It would be nice to make it more accessible somehow for the younger generation.
- Where is the best place you have ever sailed your ‘A’ Cat?
Lake Maquarie of course!
The A’s love flat water so a lake often makes a good choice. I haven’t sailed my A in that many different places in the world yet. In fact Holland, Poland and Australia are the only three countries.
I did really enjoy sailing in Sopot in Poland (in the summer), beautiful place and beautiful people!
- Who are your sailing heroes and influences?
I don’t really have sailing heroes but someone that has inspired me in my life is Magnus Olsson. Not only for his achievements in the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race but mainly how he approached life with a never give up attitude and an infectious smile on his face.
My father also had a big influence in my growing up. He was always my sounding board when I needed to share or bounce ideas or dilemmas of someone. He was also testing and pushing my thinking to make sure I was always taking a well thought decision.
- What single piece of advice could you give to the average ‘A’ Cat sailor?
Don’t focus on results too much, enjoy the ride and always make sure you end the day with a smile on your face.