From 19 to 22 March, world-class sailors will be battling it out in the Extreme Sailing Series here in Oman. Tom Robertson talks to the Skipper of the Red Bull Sailing team, Roman Hagara
What do you enjoy most about competitive sailing?
It’s definitely the element of competition. I like to win and to perform at the highest level. I love the tactics, technique, and teamwork, as well as the fitness and mental strength that are required. Everything needs to be perfect to win a race.
You’re originally from Austria. A landlocked country and world-class sailors isn’t a combination that would readily spring to mind for many people. Can you briefly describe how you got into the sport?
Austria is famous for skiing, but it’s also a great summer holiday destination with many beautiful lakes. I grew up by a lake and started watersports early as a child with surfing at the coast in other countries. After that I moved into professional sailing when I was 12 years old. We may not have the best training facilities in Austria – but we are placed in the middle of Europe, so it’s not difficult to reach the top sailing spots for training and competitions.
What do you enjoy about the Extreme Sailing Series, compared to the other events that you’ve competed in, such as the World Championships and the Olympics?
Stadium racing right in front of thousands of spectators is a real thrill. I also enjoy the challenge of racing against the best sailors, from all classes, on the planet. There is no other competition in sailing that’s happening at the moment where all the superstars of the sport participate. The ability level is incredibly high.
And how do the boats used in this series compare to the Tornados you’ve raced previously?
The Red Bull Extreme 40 is a catamaran that’s double the size of the Tornados I sailed before. The boats we race in the Extreme Sailing Series are also ten times heavier and are crewed by five sailors. Overall, the Extreme 40 is a lot more difficult to sail and is much faster. On the small courses we race here in Oman, it’s actually quite difficult to end a race without a crash.
Throughout your years on the series, is there any one race or year that particularly stands out for you, and why?
Last season in Florianopolis, Brazil, was especially memorable. We won two races in a row in the most difficult, challenging conditions ever. The wind was reaching up to 28 knots and we really raised our level compared to the other teams. Some of them were struggling with the strong wind. In fact, the SAP Team from Denmark actually capsized. On our boat, we came to realise that we could be one of the strongest teams in windy conditions. We had a lot of fun.
After the first race of the 2014 season, your team is in sixth position in the rankings. Without giving too much away, what’s your strategy for reaching the top-spot?
Better communication on the boat is a must. We’re also developing our ideas on how to make the boat go faster. It’s all about speed.
We’ve focused on health and fitness recently in Y Magazine – how do you physically train for the demanding Extreme Sailing Series races and do you adjust your diet in any way?
I train by running, cycling, and using a rowing machine. Normally I’m to be found in the fitness centre every day. We also have a personal trainer joining us at training camps. I guess I actually spend more time in the fitness centre than on the extreme 40!
As far as my diet is concerned, I don’t eat meat, but love seafood so I don’t really follow any particular eating regime. I suppose I eat what I like but always ensure that it’s fresh and healthy.
You’re also a Sport Director for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. Can you tell us a little more about that and what you hope to achieve in this role?
It was four times America’s Cup champion Russell Coutts, Hans Peter Steinacher and myself, who invented the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. It is the first and, we believe, only pathway for the next generation of sailors to test their skills at the highest level and to get into America’s Cup racing. We invited sailors from all over the world to participate in qualification events, choose the best young sailors out of the team and organised the main competition for right before the America´s Cup final.
The competition was a great success and the feedback from today’s young guns of the sport was great. We won’t stop supporting youth sailors and will continue to work with them in many different ways.
What advice do you have for any amateur sailors looking to take their sailing to the next level?
Stop working and start training. It’s really important to spend as many hours as possible on the water, to set goals and sail against other highly competent crews. That will increase your skills and technique.
When you’re not at the helm, what do you do in your spare time to relax?
I travel a lot, hang out in my house on the lake and just enjoy being near nature. I also like photography and try to capture all my trips and adventures on camera.
In 2011 I spent one extra week in Oman and did a road trip around the country. What a beautiful and peaceful place this is.