Martine Grael: Climbing a new mountain

Published on September 26th, 2017

The Volvo Ocean Race has attracted some raw talent for the 2017-18 edition from Olympic sailing. In this excerpt from Seahorse magazine, Rio 2016 gold medalist Martine Grael shares how it’s going for her.

When did you first consider the Volvo Ocean Race… and when were you asked?
I was already interested in the last VOR and what the SCA team put together, but it was clear my goal was the 2016 Olympic Games so I stayed focused solely on that. But when the rule changed to promote mixed crew for the 2017 race I immediately tuned in and started looking out for a good opportunity.

None! I had no idea if I would like it or not so, as early as I could, I went offshore with one of the teams to check that it would actually work for me!

Conversations with your family, brother Marco, uncle Lars, father Torben and coach Javier [Torres]…

Since the announcement of the rule change for mixed teams and then my initial contact with a VOR team, I pretty much asked everyone I knew who sailed for their opinion on the rules, women onboard, ocean sailing, everything really, so I did as much research as I could including watching all the videos. I talked to Javier after the Olympics last year about the possibility of competing in the VOR, in particular if there was a chance to do it with my own team. But that didn’t quite happen.

I assume that [your father] Torben was positive…
Actually, he asked me three times if I really wanted to do this! He made it very clear that there were a lot of sh#tty moments and he wanted to check that I could really balance the good moments enough to make up for the bad times.

You have to be very fit, strong and flexible as an Olympic sailor, but you have a key weight target. How has your training and diet changed for the VOR?
I am pushing harder in the gym than I ever pushed in my life, particularly with the weights. For the 49erFX I was close to ideal weight, so just had to be super-agile and fit. But now I have to focus more on maximising core strength – while trying not to damage anything. Having got a place onboard it becomes a serious responsibility to make sure the strength gap to the men is reduced as much as possible.

However… we expect that Tokyo in 2020 will be slightly windier than Rio so it could still work out really well for me!

AkzoNobel is a strong team in depth and talent. Having now joined them what do you most need to work on?
I’m pretty raw in big boat sailing still, so it will take some time until I can say I am super-comfortable in the boat and that I don’t have to think about everything we do. Right now I have to go over each manoeuvre in my head before I do it, I am still making mistakes. But like any type of racing it’s just about getting hours on the water. We haven’t done a lot of sailing together yet – only two teams have – so it still feels slightly novel to review our improvements after each day on the water.

Full report… click here.

Race detailsRace routeFacebook

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

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