Tornado Class Secretary Andrew Dowley interviews the first female Tornado World Champion Nahid Gaebler. Marked as the greatest sporting experience of her life he gets her views on Tornado sailing and the upcoming Olympic Multihull decision.
Nahid, thank you for taking the time to sit down with me.
You are a big promoter for women sailing in Multihulls, how has the reaction been so far from other women sailors since the last ISAF meeting?
Nahid Gaebler - Team Gaebler
I have had great response and feedback from mixed teams and I see many women who want to follow our way, especially now when a mixed multihull could become an Olympic discipline. Already we have many women in Multihull Sailing, and they enjoy the flights with these fast boats.
I have also spent time talking with women from Laser, Surfing, 470 and youth classes. If the mixed or open multihull gets back to the Olympics, many mixed teams will start a campaign, now when different genders will get the unique possibility to sail together and not always sail apart.
So a new era in Olympic Sports will start soon?
Yes and the spectators, media and sponsors will love it. With the new Speedsailing Events and our new Sailing Arenas we get even closer to the crowds. They want to see women in sailing and not a solo men’s sport. The young girls and boys, they love the modern style we sail and they stay at the promenade and watch our action.
They all have the dream to sail and fly with Multihulls and realise an Olympic Dream. We will motivate them to start sailing on a Multihull.
If things stay how they are currently it looks like we will have a Mixed Multihull back in the Olympics. You currently have many mixed teams in the Tornado ranking. How do you feel about that?
Yes, 20% of the top 10 are mixed teams, in the German ranking its 40% and most women are crewing. No one can tell me it’s too hard for a women to crew in a Tornado, I hate this discussion. The women love to sail a real F1 boat like a Tornado for the Olympics. Why should the women, who sail on top level have a handicap, just because some think in the old fashion way of women. Elvström sailed with his daughter in the Olympic in 1984, which was a big sensation back then.
The average young person has become taller and heavier since then, and the women dare to fight for their opinion and dreams.
What do you think about mixed sailing in the Olympics?
I think it can color up our sport a lot. To have mixed sailing within the Olympics can be a real attraction to promote our sport. Multihull Sailing can be the Formula 1 of the summer Olympics and get the youth, spectators, media and sponsors that Olympic sailing needs.
I still believe that having an open discipline would be better, because many male teams still want to sail together and to get as many countries to sail Olympic Multihull as possible. The funny thing is, the ISAF in 2008 on the Olympic Games website called the Tornado 'Mixed', which meant it was the open discipline, where men and women can sail in the same class in the position, they choose to fit them best.
I think this is the best, because I do not think that a woman has any problems competing with the male teams, we all saw that in Travemunde last year at the Tornado World Championships. Sailing is not only a question of muscles and weight; it is mainly a mind sport. Otherwise would we as 'oldies' and too heavy not have a chance against the young teams.
Some men say it is too hard for a woman to sheet a Tornado Gennacker and Mainsheet, what do you think of that?
Sorry, I totally disagree this is completely wrong. We are talking about Olympic sports and real women Athletes and not just leisure sailing. I work two to three times a week weight training for my arms and upper body, we train three to four days a week on the water. All this give my muscles enough power to handle the sheets for six or more races a day in all conditions. Women like to have the same sporting challenges as men.
Have you made any technical changes in the boat?
Yes, we have made some changes such as bigger sheaves in the boom and double automatic ratchet blocks at the gennacker. I can sheet the sails with one hand at 25knots, with the new sheets and blocks sheeting is much easier. The technique we use is advanced and very simple to control. We innovate the equipment the way it works easily in all wind conditions.
For the past two years you have been sailing together with your husband Roland. How does it change your life?
It changes our life completely. My dream suddenly came true, after being coach for the best Tornado teams in the world from 2004 to 2008 not only are we winning many races, but we also enjoy the friendship with all our friends, with whom we spar against and sail test with. It's the speed of the Tornado and the adrenaline with the artistic sailing in the trapeze, which give us the great enjoyment. Since we have been sailing together we have triple our media value and sponsor budget. The media and sponsors love mixed sailing, we are getting connected to a larger group of fans.
What do you say to other women who want to start Multihull sailing?
Just come and make a test sail. The multihull is easy to helm and crew. You fly the hulls from three knots on and you'll really enjoy the ride above the waves. The Tornado is very well balanced in all wind conditions, the double trapeze gives the adrenaline you need in your life. For me it’s a great sport and I will invite the women sailors to sail with us any time. You get on my Facebook site and ask for the ultimate sailing experience on a Tornado. Do not be too shy and come to us, it’s the perfect boat for women sailing. We already sail with girls and boys from the Optimist class on a Tornado. Once they have done it, they have the dream to sail such a boat.
ISAF plans an Evaluation for the Olympic Multihull. What do you think about this?
Yes, it’s okay but why do we need this? All of the top Multihull sailors know that Tornado is the best proven formula and is a worldwide well-known brand for Olympic Sailing. The boat has the best quality and the media love the action the Tornado delivers. Why should the ISAF want to risk this with a new boat? If we make an ISAF Evaluation event, it should be a real one.
The best boat should win but it should be an Evaluation Trial on the water and not made on paper. Real Olympic Athletes should test the boat and decide what materials they want to have in the future. For me, there is no other way to choose a 20 Foot Multihull like the Tornado. Only this brings the action in the Olympic Arena and allows sailing in all conditions with races starting on time, what the media want.
What do you think about the new designs in Multihull?
I think a light boat with slim hulls is the only way. But much more important is the quality for the tough Olympic racing. If the ISAF and IOC do not want to have any surprises or material disasters, they should go straight to Tornado, this class is made for the Olympics. The Tornado Design still wins all open Multihull races. The boat is extremely fast in all wind and wave conditions.
Many Sailors and MNAs think the Tornado is too expensive?
This is completely wrong, they should look on the balance of what a four year Olympic campaign costs and not at the single price of a boat. And in this case, no other boat can beat a high quality one design Tornado. The fact the Hagara/Steinacher used the same boat for three Olympic games shows how good the boats are. We won the Tornado Worlds with three year old jib and gennacker and a six year old carbon mast. Even with older boats the Tornado has a very good resale value.
ISAF believe many nations cannot afford high technical sailing?
I understand, what they say but I really do think, they should look to the campaign cost and not at the single price of a boat. That way, Tornado sailing is very cheap. The Tornado Class will try to supply boats for free for sailors from emerging countries. We just need the contacts and the class gets a boat and a sponsor for them. But in the same way, the ISAF restrict us with only 16-17 spots at the Olympics. It is very hard to motivate sailors from emerging countries, if there is only limited entries at the Olympics. It would be better if we would talk about this question first and then invite more nations. The things are not as simple as they look.
I believe that this year you will also compete in new race formats?
Yes, we have a very creative group of sailors who have already invented a lot of new events. This year we will make another big step forward to make sailing a primetime spectator and media sport. We open new Sailing Arenas around the world and present the new style of Tornado Speedsailing. We expect to get a new record in media value and in numbers of spectators. These Speedsailing Races are a win-win situation for all participants and our sponsors are very happy. This way we re-finance our sport and yes, we can live from it. We are professionals.
When you are not hanging off the trapeze what do you do?
I am a teacher for Economics at the Int. Business School IBC in southern Denmark. Besides that I train horses and enjoy biking. We live in the country side and this gives me a lot of different activities.
What are your ambitions for the future?
We want to go to the Olympics in 2016 as a mixed team on a Tornado. Already we have found good sponsors who will support our campaign. We follow our dreams we sail and fly with our Tornado into a great future.
Nahid, it's been great chatting to you. Thank you very much for the interview and good luck in your races this year.
Team Gaebler website