Since he finished eighth at the 2008 Olympics, Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic has been doing some serious winning. In the last four years he has won two European titles, four ISAF Sailing World Cup events and countless races at these and other regattas. He has briefly risen to No.1 in the world rankings, and is currently the No. 3. He remains one of the best Finn sailors in the world and a favourite to medal at every regatta he enters.
Ivan, better known as Bambi, first emerged in the Finn in 2005. He took the Junior World title the same year and gradually climbed to the top of international fleet. Since then he has been a regular medal winner, but surprisingly has only ever medalled once at the Finn Gold Cup. He took the bronze in Vallensbaek, Denmark in 2009.
The main reason he cites for this was the number of big breeze venues, as he has generally been sailing at a lower than average weight. In spite of this he still made the medal race in 2010 and 2011, though he was never really in the title race. Perhaps importantly in terms of the Olympics he won the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta in 2010 against some serious opposition.
In 2012, he has worked on his strong wind speed, resulting in a fourth place at the Finn Gold Cup in Falmouth, UK, after a very windy week. He now feels as complete a sailor as he has ever been.
Though awed by the prospect of sailing in Weymouth, he is trying to keep a cool head and focus on the job in hand. "It is for sure the biggest regatta of my life and it is hard to be cool with it. Anyway I think it will be great event and I will enjoy sailing this one like the best ever. This time around the major difference for me it has been much easier. I am older and more experienced and better prepared. I have had great training and my equipment is really good. And in terms of others, let's see what happens on the racing days."
Like many competitors heading to the Olympics he has been struggling to get to grips with the Weymouth conditions, despite winning there in 2010. He says this is perhaps one of the reasons that sailors have favoured training there rather than doing regattas. “We all see Weymouth as a pretty special venue so we are trying to sail there as much as possible. But my preparations are already done so now I will just relax and wait for the gun."
He claims not to have done much in the way of gear development, sticking to the gear he knows best. “I just use ordinary kit and use it as best as I can. I think too drastic equipment changes can give you a headache. I had some softer masts but now found a stiffer one to suit me better, especially in the stronger breeze.” He also thinks the advent of free pumping at 10 knots has had an effect on the rig design. “A bit stiffer mast gives you better power. So yes, there was a bit of focus on that.”
What of the future? “For sure sailing Finn is a great game for me but I will take short break after August. I'd like to do some big boats in the future and then come back in the Finn for Rio.”
“I would like to see sailing becoming a more popular sport and bring it closer to public. I think we need to make it more interesting, lively and faster. Perhaps a more risky game.”
Some quick questions:
What makes you want to compete at the Olympics so much?
Do you have any rituals or superstitions that you do before a regatta or before a racing day?
Yes, many, small ones...
What special qualities does it take to be an Olympic campaigner?
I think it is determination and motivation.
What has been the hardest part about the campaign this time around?
Do you think Ben Ainslie going to win again?
He is great sailor but let's see results on the last day...that is sport.
What gear will you be using and why?
Simple. North Sails and Wilke because I like the feeling when I am using them.
Excluding yourself, pick three of your favourites for a medal?
Vasilij Zbogar, Jonas Høgh-Christensen and Ben Ainslie.
What is the biggest sacrifice you have made to be able to compete at the Olympics?
I gave up all my free time and I have to be away from my family for long periods of time.
Top tips for racing at Weymouth?
Keep it simple and sail fast and smart.
What are you looking forward to the most over the next few weeks?
Enjoying every moment of being an Olympian.
Photos: Robert Deaves/Finn Class