Lessons from the Champion

Published on July 10th, 2018

Italians Diego Negri and Sergio Lambertenghi are perpetually on the podium, but this year they’ve been on a particular tear in the Star Class. George Szabo of Quantum Sails checked in with Diego for an update.

Any differences this year?
I just think I got more consistent about what I was doing in the past. That gave me a couple points’ advantage.

Before we focused on sailing 200 days per year, six to 10 major events, but in the end there was lots of training and not many regattas. Now I am sailing J/70, Dragon, some Melges 32, and coaching ORC and MOMO Maxi 72 [World Champion in 2017]. I was coaching the J/70 in the Bundesliga, and my guys won the first event.

So now I am on the race course a lot more frequently and getting more experience about the conditions and the different picture that you have on each ocean and sailing venue. One week in the Atlantic, one week in the Mediterranean, and another time on a lake.

The wind is different in each place. Now I am always thinking more about the regatta. This gives us adrenaline like we are all little sharks. Our blood is always awake, and it gives us a good feeling.

Four-time Olympic medalist Valentin Mankin was a mentor.
My sailing philosophy, because I spent so much time with him, is his philosophy. I always try to think what he taught me, as he was with me for so long. He always said to try to solve the problem one by one. Not go for the bullet, but go for consistency.

After a bad start, recover one by one. Do the best you can. If you start and think about passing 10 boats in one shot, this is the way you lose. You start looking at it one by one and it gets makeable and much easier. And, as it is in the training, racing is always about trying to receive some result. Define what it is you will achieve before you start.

Your theory on success without speed.
When I was younger with Mankin, we were working a lot on this concept with the goal to optimize the course. We were using GPS devices in their earliest days, when they were things you put on dogs or kids, to compare our distances.

I was always surprised that you could be faster but not be leading. What was making the difference was making the shortest distance out of the course.

Also when you approach the top mark, if you are in 20th, play in your mind that you want to keep this distance from the leader, and you finish top five. If you play the overlaps, if you over stand, then you go backwards. It is important to sail the tightest course possible when you are in the middle of the fleet. That is making the difference.

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