Peaking At Athens

Paul Foerster, Olympic gold medallist, was honored recently as Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, an award he is sharing with his crewman in the 470 dinghy, Kevin Burnham. The ceremonies took place at the New York Yacht Club, where Jody Swanson was honored (for the second time) as Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.

Foerster, a two-time world champion in the Flying Dutchman class, has also won Olympic silver in the 470 and a silver medal in the Flying Dutchman.

SAIL interviewed Foerster about his very good 2004:

SAIL: What thing(s) have you discovered in your last year of sailing that weren’t
there for you, or weren’t fully there, before?

We got a little more confident in our speed, during the year before the Olympics.
We changed to a new Kiwi CB and a new North Jib, and we won the Spa Regatta. Then, during the month of training before the Olympics, we got even more confidence with our tactics. I started paying more attention in light air, and Kevin and I really got in tune with the shifts in Greece. We also improved in the windy stuff by trying out some of the suggestions of our coach, Skip Whyte.

Results aside, did the sailing itself feel different this year?

FOERSTER: Not really, It was the same old struggle of trying to get better, and dealing with injuries. The biggest difference was that we peaked at the Olympics. Kevin and I sailed our best regatta in Athens, and our practice the last month before the Games really paid off.

SAIL: Have you made any diet or exercise changes that worked (or didn’t)?

FOERSTER: No. I probably ignored that too much. I got injured at Kiel week in June and the injury lasted through the Olympics.
I also had tendonitis in my elbow, and the physical therapists really helped me get through the training and the Olympic games.

SAIL: How do you compete at such a high level and also balance family?

FOERSTER: That was the hardest part. My wife and I had our first baby boy three days before the US Olympic Trials. Fortunately, the trials were in Texas, so I could go home to my family every day. But then I had to go train over in Europe for weeks at a time and it was very difficult leaving them. On top of that, Kevin and I both had real jobs, so we would come back from sailing and go to work for two weeks then leave for a regatta for another week or two and then come back and so on. It was tough, but thanks to my wife and friends we made it through. It was great having my family in Athens.

SAIL: What did you learn from the final-race match race against the Brits? How did
you tie them up so easily?

FOERSTER: I had done quite a bit of match racing and was just glad I remembered some of it.

SAIL: What’s different about Olympic sailing now compared to Barcelona?

FOERSTER: Now the Course is much shorter and you finish downwind. That makes the start and boathandling very important. But the biggest jump you have to make is downwind. You can make huge gains downwind, whereas in Barcelona it was mainly an upwind game. Kevin and I had one race where we rounded the weather mark in the teens and were in second at the bottom mark. This was in a six-knot breeze with not many shifts to speak of.

The Foerster resume:

2004 470 Men’s European Bronze Medalist

2000 470 Men’s Olympic Silver Medallist

1995 J/24 Pan Am Gold Medallist

1992 Flying Dutchman Olympic Silver Medallist

Flying Dutchman World Champion (1991, 1992)

1990 J/24 National Champion


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