Many of the Finn sailors in Santander got a surprise when they saw the 2012 Olympic Silver medalist on the list of competitors in the Class. And they ask can he do the same as in 2009, when he won the worlds, after not having sailed for a year. Story by Dan Ibsen, www.sail-world.com
The Norwegian sport psychologist, Willi Railo years ago wrote a book and lectured many top elite sports men and women – the theme was "Best when it counts" – and basically it is about how you make a top performance, being motivated and believing in yourself.
Jonas Hoegh-Christensen – one of the great profiles in Danish sailing and Danish sport – expressed it this way to Sail-World the day before the start in the Finn Class:
"Motivation comes to me, because I love sailing"
Of course Jonas has to be fit, the boat and the gear must be top quality, the technique in the boat must be perfect – then he can concentrate on the strategy and tactics. But if the motivation is not there, he cannot make a top performance.
As Olympic sailing in Denmark is not professional, the love for the sport and the sailing environment is Jonas' most important motivating factor – and that could be the deciding factor for winning, even if the starting point is not the best.
It is crucial for Jonas that he enjoys what he is doing – and therefore another comeback is now the reality, even if it isn't sure, that it will end up with an Olympic campaign for Rio.
Sail-World talked to Jonas just after a training session Sunday afternoon, and the last measurement checks of some of the equipment.
Jonas' Finn hull is from 2004, the mast is the same which broke and was repaired and used in the Olympics 2012, the sails were developed in 2008 and the design has been adjusted a little, but it is a standard sail everybody can buy. It will be interesting to see how the class has developed, or if the boat and equipment is still competitive.
Most of the sailing world followed and remembers the battle between "Big Ben" and "the Great Dane" in Weymouth, where Jonas was in the lead from the beginning, and ending with equal points in the medal race, and sailing a match race in the back of the fleet. Jonas has been fully concentrating on his business career and private life, and has not sailed since august 2012.
When and why did the idea about competing in the worlds come up?
"The Danish Sailing Federation came to me in the spring and asked if I was prepared to participate in Santander, and consider another Olympic campaign. At the same time there was a need for a success story in Denmark, as there was, at this time, a lack of top results in other classes – it came during this summer – but we must continuously secure that sailing performs as a world class sport in relation to our elite organisation Team Denmark. And I could maybe also help Danish Sailing to get Quota Place for the Olympics.
"My desire to sail again in the Finn has always been there,but must be combined with my personal life and my job. Therefore it took some months before I took the decision, on 8th August."
Did you have special demands to the federation?
"Of course I have had some special demands, if I should do it again. One thing was that I wanted to have physical support of one of Team Denmark's best physical trainers, Jarl Jacobsen. We work well together, which is super important to me, when I suddenly need to gear my training up from almost zero to twice physical exercise every day. I had to get back into shape quickly, but without being injured, I am after all 33 years old now, and it is old for a Finn dinghy sailor. I've had a single injury in the process, but we have handled it."
"Another requirement has been, of course, that I can do it with my coach from 2012, Kristian Kjaergaard as we have a superb companionship and cooperation, and when we started again, it was almost as though it was only three hours since the 2012 Olympics ended."
"Kristian is really talented, and he has developed further since, with more responsibility and knowledge as head coach of the sailing association. He got a lot out of the last campaign, and he is even better now. When you have to be together so much it is of great importance that we have known each other since 9-10 years of age. We have sailed with and against each other, lived together, traveled together and experienced and enjoyed sailing together. "
"Since the beginning of August I have sailed four days down here some weeks ago, which is not much. And though I've been here a week, there have not been so many training sessions, as it has been very light wind conditions since I came."
"As I said, I love sailing - and this World Championship was a good opportunity for me to get up and running again – and to do it at the coolest scene we all have, this ISAF Worlds for all Olympic classes, is just great."
"My conclusion was in early August, I have the opportunity to do it again, and I will try. But already now it also shows that it is difficult to combine with my job - for example, I have a company conference call Monday morning at. 11.00 - and start going at 13.00."
Can you make a "2009'er" - you did it back then - we'll see you at the top of the box here?
"The fleet is, in my immediate perception, stronger than it was then, but when I've been out sailing down here, you also get the impression that the sailors might still not have moved forward too much. It is difficult to assess. The sailors have become stronger, they sail really well and many are working intensively to develop their equipment and technique. But sometimes it can also go the other way or development stops."
"The weight of the sailors is also less, because it has paid off in a number of key events. Many have also focused on that Rio would be in light winds, but the test event showed otherwise, it might as well be mean and strong winds. The sailors are also very tall, and I am among the small ones compared to many of the top sailors. A Canadian sailor, who is regularly with the country's basketball players, is the second tallest in that group. It says something about the younger sailors in the class now."
A "2009'er" (in Denmark) describes Jonas comeback after the 2008 Olympics, where the result fell short of his own and others' expectations. The boat was shelved, no more sailing, it was perhaps the final as top sailor - but the World Championship was going to be organized in Vallensbaek/Denmark, and Jonas had promised to compete in the event. The boat was prepared shortly before the event, only a few training sessions before, he was not in shape and had sore muscles after all the first races, which was not in the top. Suddenly Jonas looked like another person – his motivation came strongly back - and in the latter part of the regatta he sailed a great series and won both to his own and others' surprise, his second World Championship gold medal. The first one in 2006.
What do all the others in the class when you suddenly stood down here?
"It has been really good to meet them all again, I have been very welcomed, lots of good talks, a very good experience for me. It's a great class that is "full of war" on the water in every race, on shore we are friends, and there is a great atmosphere in the class. But the others were obviously surprised - when I suddenly appeared - out of thin air."
Can you get an Olympic campaign to fit in with the rest of your life?
"I was recently married, and it changes the course of one's life, and there will of course focus on our obligations to each other and our future together. When I said yes in the beginning of August, I thought it would work, but development has been that the daily life and work since then, is difficult to combine and it is not as easy as I thought. It may change, and I will see. I would like to sail the Olympic Games in Rio, but not at any price. Privacy and work will have the priority."
"I sail this event because I love the sport of sailing and the life around it. If it becomes apparent that it is possible to sail an Olympics, then that's great. If not, other things are more important in my life now I am 33 years of age."
Jonas Hoegh-Christensen's sailing career - highlights:
Olympic silver in 2012 - Olympics 2008 no. 6 - Olympics 2004 no. 9
World Championship gold in 2009 and 2006 - World Championship bronze in 2012 and 2008 - 2007 World Championship no. 4
Close to 2 years as no. 1 in the ISAF world ranking
Many gold, silver and bronze medals in the ISAF World Cup events since 2002.
Danish Yachtsman of Year Performance in 2006 - 2009 - 2012