Certainly, Toni Rivas is one of the most successful racers in Europe. With several Olympic trainings behind him, he returns to the fray to face Rio 2016 aboard the new mixed class Nacra 17. He will do this with a former Olympian from Beijing in the 470 class, Laia Tutzó. In this interview to aBoatTime, Toni explains his plans for Olympic sailing and cruising.
Why did you choose to make the Olympic campaign in the Nacra 17?
I have had a deep desire to participate since the time I almost made it to the Beijing Olympics. We work very hard for a long time, but missed off finishing the campaign with qualifications for the games after Medemblik 2007. Nevertheless, we continued to work as sparring partners of Fernando Echavarri and Antón Paz until the games they won. I think we did a good job and learned a lot during that final stretch, from how to prepare a race so different and special to learning about the Olympic Games. I want to take advantage of that enthusiasm and experience, in the boat most similar to the Tornado in the current Olympic modules.
What is the Nacra 17 as a boat?
Despite the fact that it is a catamaran, it substantially differentiates from the Tornado. It is a smaller boat with a bigger sail in relation to the jib and spinnaker, which are actually quite small. The foils make the main difference, a curved dagger board. These provide an innovative design to the boat, though they also contribute to an unsteady behavior. It is very easy to fly and to nail the bow. You have to be extremely careful about the timing position of the jars. As beam’s length is less, the maneuvers are quite fast and ease a game of tactics.
Your boat is mixed, what do you think?
That was ISAF (International Sailing Federation)’s decision, which I think has not been too successful once more. At least, that’s what we think most sailors. They had to design a boat specially prepared for it, which limits involvement. It seems that, primarily, the crews doing better are those with the standard arrangement of girl-skipper and boy-crew, simply due to a physical issue. The work of the crew is very demanding and there are countries that have rejected the other possibility. Nevertheless, we believe that we can be competitive going with the boy-skipper and girl-crew pattern. Though, the issues influencing this decision on an economic and social level should also be assessed. Overall, it is more difficult and expensive.
Sofia was your first race in this class along with Laia Tutzó, what conclusions did you gather into racing?
Our first contact was in Palma with the class. We arrived with a few days of sailing and it showed. Every day, during the race, we improved in terms of trim and boat control, but there was an evident difference with the leading crews. All the crews that went in front of us outstripped us particularly due to their higher training time, boat control and the setup which was great. This difference between crews will be shortened quite fast and certainly within a short period the tactical and strategic part of the race will highlight the differences as in the other classes.
What are your short and long term goals?
Our main goal is to participate at the Olympics in Rio, though we aim to be in the top 8 countries of the World Championship in Holland this July. We know it will be tough and we have to work hard, but we are willing to do it. Now we have a little setback with a shoulder injury that Laia has from the last days of Sophie, which keeps us from competing in Hyeres French Week next week.
What does it take to make a good Olympic campaign?
I’d say the most important thing is good planning and optimizing the time you invest in it. For it is essential to have time and resources. It all comes down to having the financial means to carry out the campaign with collaterals, and unfortunately the current economic climate is not the best. The sport has not dodged the current crisis and is much more difficult to get the resources needed. We are trying to give a more attractive approach to sponsors returns, so that companies’ investments result a little more tangible than they have up to date.
Besides Olympic sailing, in what other projects are you sailing?
For several years, I have been trying to reconcile the Olympic sailing with the sailing cruise. Clearly, the Olympic project needs priority, but it is very interesting to be updated on other big boat projects. At the end of the day, sailing at the highest level has a lower life expectancy than cruising and it is important to open up future doors. I try to mix important Mediterranean cruise regattas, with other important monotype races such as J80, Platú 25, Melges 32, which are very similar to sailing, with large fleets racing in real time.