More Yachtsmen of the Year
The champagne bottles opened at Victory Challenge's base in Viaduct Harbour in Auckland earlier today, following word from Sweden that helmsman Magnus Holmberg, and his colleagues Stefan Rahm, Lars Linger and Magnus Augustson have been made the Sailors of the Year 2001 in their home country.
The Swedish America's Cup challenge's whole crew was present to take part in the toast for the prestigeous award made by the Swedish Sailing Federation.
All four winners say it came as a surprise: "The distinction goes mostly to sailors in the Olympic Games-classes," commented Magnus Holmberg. "It is very rare that anyone outside those classes become Sailor of the Year," agreed Magnus Augustson.
Stefan Rahm commented: "The reason that I'm surprised has nothing to do with our achievements, but that Fredrik Lööf has had such a fantastic year," says Stefan Rahm. (The Olympic Games bronze medallist in Sydney Fredrik Lööf won gold in both the World Championship and the European Championship in Starboat 2001.) "I also thought that there were others that had done somewhat greater things," confirms the fourth winner, Lars Linger.
The distinction is given out to the sailor or sailors that has/have made the best achievement in sailing races. The Sailing Federation has given the Victory Challenge sailors the prize for their total domination of the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour, the world cup series of match racing. They won the season 2000/2001, and this year are again the season. Since August last year Magnus Holmberg and his team have been ranked as number one in the world for match racing..
All four of them - along with their team-mate Mikkel Røssberg (who cannot become the Sailor of the Year in Sweden, as he is Danish) - have taken gold in World Championships during their careers. Three of them have also become the Sailor of the Year in Sweden previously: Stefan Rahm 1991, Magnus Holmberg 1992 and 1995, Magnus Augustson 1999.
"I was nominated 1992, but I was mostly sailing with foreigners at that period," says Lars Linger. Among others he sailed with Russell Coutts, with whom he took gold in the World Championship.
But, is it possible to combine the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour with preparations for the America's Cup? "At least so far," says Magnus Holmberg. Conveniently the next Swedish Match event will be raced on 12-17 March in Auckland , where Victory Challenge are currently training.
In fact several top sailors in the Louis Vuitton and America's Cups later this year are also taking part in the Swedish Match tour. These include Russell Coutts, his successor in Team New Zealand, Dean Barker and Peter Holmberg of Oracle Racing. Standings currently show Magnus Holmberg, Peter Holmberg and Dean Barker as number one, two and three.
"It is terrific to take part of the tour and to prepare for America's Cup," says Stefan Rahm. "Before Victory Challenge we only did some sailing between the competitions. Now as professionals we are sailing extremely much, but there are not so many chances for competitions during the preparations for the America's Cup, we get that element from the world cup."
Victory Challenge's base in Auckland