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Human Interest

This Article Last Updated: Oct 14th, 2010 - 15:13:49 

Seahorse Magazine Article on Scheidt/Prada
By Lynn Fitzpatrick
Jan 14, 2008, 13:43

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Reprinted with the permission of Seahorse Magazine.


Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget.

Lynn Fitzpatrick catches up with Robert Scheidt, eight-times Laser World Champion, 2007 Star World Champion and winner of the Qingdao Olympic Test Regatta…

SH: What finally prompted your transition from the Laser to the Star?
Robert Scheidt: I had fulfilled myself in the Laser [sic], and there are a lot of reasons to sail the Star. It is a strong class in Brazil, the best sailors in the world have gone through the class, plus we get fresh people in from the Finn and the Laser classes all of the time. The boat has a lot of power and a lot of sail area. Tuning is really important. You can make big gains downwind and I had good downwind sailing skills in the Laser. In the Star you have to be mentally tough and you must work very hard.

SH: But how did you set about fasttracking the technical details?
RS: I’ve been sailing Stars off and on since 2001. Initially, Alexandre La Piscino lent me a boat to sail in Brazil. At the end of 2004 Bruno [Prada] and I really started sailing properly together in Lillia 8127, including the Star Worlds in Argentina where we finished sixth. We were really happy with our performance and so we decided to make the commitment. What really helps is the class being so healthy in Brazil. With local training partners and good regattas in Rio, Ilhabela and Sao Paulo, we were able to get to a good sailing level quite quickly. We also had some great training sessions in Germany
with Polish coach Andy Zawieja. And we learnt a lot studying other Star sailors. Torben [Grael], of course. Mark Reynolds and George Szabo have been great, plus Xavier [Rohart] and Iain Percy. But the key was working with Zawieja. He opened up our understanding on the technical part of tuning a Star. We could look at pictures and see the difference in the adjustments we were making in the boat.

SH: And your timing agenda…
RS: We decided on an Olympic campaign in 2005. We knew that the Brazilian trials would be tough, but Bruno was fully committed because he had done four Olympic
campaigns in a Finn and wasn’t really motivated to do another. I had accomplished everything that I had wanted to do in the Laser... so the timing was right.

SH: Did you need to change your training routine very much?
RS: Sure. The Star requires a lot more work ashore than a Laser. You have to check the boat, the shrouds and the sails all the time. In the Laser fitness is the key thing. It requires a lot of time in the boat. In the Star the key is to have productive sailing hours; we will spend two to two and a half hours in the boat doing manoeuvres, doing short races and taking pictures. But rarely more than that.

SH: Do you share a fitness programme with Bruno?
RS: Bruno lives about 20 minutes away. Usually we meet after lunch and sail for two to two and a half hours. We work on our fitness programme together one day a week,
but Bruno has other fitness – and also business – responsibilities for the rest of the time.

SH: You won the Pre-Olympics in Qingdao in a new Mader rather than your previous Lillia…
RS: The new boat was based on ideas and modifications we developed with Juan Kouyoumdjian. We arrived in Qingdao six days before the regatta, which was cutting
it close. We did not expect to win... In 2005 Juan K came to me and said he was designing a new boat and thought that I would be interested. He was considering changes to the hull, the rudder and the keel. We worked with Juan starting at the beginning of 2006. We gave him feedback and they made modifications. We had a lot of discussions by e-mail and Skype about what I felt in different conditions. It’s good. The first boat was ready only at the end of last year and we brought it to Brazil to test. I’m glad that I am doing it because I am learning a lot about the technical aspects of the boat. What also helps is that Juan is a Star sailor also; he sailed the boat we had in Brazil at the Europeans. Juan and Mader both focus on the details.

SH: How will you decide whether you sail the Lillia or a Mader in the trials?
RS: Right now we only have one boat! We have a Lillia in Brazil – the boat we won the worlds with in Cascais. But we will have a new Mader for next season and so we will have to make a choice… To make the decision we must sail the new boat and test both together. The boat we had in Qingdao was a big improvement over the first one we had. It was strong downwind and not so strong upwind. Now we need to fill that gap… Juan will be taking care of the modifications!

SH: And they are…?
RS: Mostly some keel work and a little work on the hull.

Yet more plaudits for Robert Scheidt (right) and his Star crew Bruno Prada as they top the podium at the ISAF worlds in Cascais. Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget.
SH: How do you feel overall about the new Mader?
RS: The boat surprised me. I had never sailed it in heavy air and was pleased with its performance. We were fifth or so around the weather mark in the heavy air race, and then made gains throughout the rest of the race. And had we had more time in the boat, I think that we would have known how to make it go faster in those conditions.

SH: And your main changes when it started to blow in the final days?
RS: The rig! The last day, I am sure that everyone tightened their uppers and used more rake. We put the Quantum Z-4 main back on and used a North jib, which really performed well.

SH: How have you gone about your rig and sail development?
RS: We have done a lot of work recently with John Dane in LA before the US Trials, which John won, and now we are planning some sail work with Vince Brun in San Diego. We are also watching Iain [Percy] and Flavio [Marazzi], who are testing backstays mounted right at the back of the boat. The system has been tried before, a long time ago, but never proved reliable enough. Of course it means less compression in the back of the mast. It has its advantages, but there have also been problems gybing, especially in heavy air. Rather than trying new configurations, we are more concerned to identify enough stiff masts that are also well enough built; primarily we use Emmetti masts plus some new lightweight Italian poles.

SH: Let’s talk about the challenges of sailing in Qingdao. Some of the teams feel that what they learned about health and sports fitness considerations in Qingdao is as important as the sailing aspect…
RS: As Brazilians, we may be better adapted for sailing in those conditions than others. It’s hot, humid and polluted. But Rio in the summer is worse than Qingdao! It was similar in Savannah where it was also hot and humid. We’re used to the heat and to breaking into a sweat when we’re rigging the boat. As far as food goes, I stuck with normal international food. I ate most of my meals at the hotel. It’s best to keep to the routine you have at home. Bruno did pick up a bug and was on antibiotics for several days, but we were lucky in that the one day he was really sick it was so light that we didn’t race.

SH: If you go to the Games will you consider reducing your crew weight for Qingdao?
RS: I don’t think we will lose weight. Overall, it is best to be at the weight limit. If it blows over 12kt you need the weight in a Star. Bruno is a heavy crew and it is good to put a lot of weight forward. But our own trials will be tough. They are in February near Rio, in open water where you can get any kind of conditions from light air with chop to heavy air. The conditions could range from Qingdao to Cascais! I expect that there will be eight to 10 boats at the trials. We have a very healthy fleet in Brazil. Torben [Grael] and Marcelo [Ferreira] will be there; Alan Adler, the past world champion; Gasto Brun; Peter Ficker; Lars Grael – there will be good competition.

SH: I spoke to some Star veterans in Qingdao and one of them said that he never thought he would rather come up against Torben than someone else from Brazil. Is your goal to beat Torben and Marcelo?
RS: We’ll sail our own regatta. We’ll sail as best we can and they will sail as best they can. With 11 to 14 races, the focus will not be on them unless things get tight towards the end. Before then we have winter training planned here in Brazil with Mateusz [Kusznierewicz], after which we go to Miami for the Bacardi Cup and then the Worlds.

SH: And can you do both the Star and the Laser Trials?
RS: Yes. The Brazilian Federation decided to hold the Star Trials one week before the Laser Trials. It’s not much time to go from one boat to the other, but I will try. I don’t expect my form to be great. The Olympic dream is always there, but my focus is the Star. I haven’t done much in the Laser since the Pan Ams. I still like it. On a day with really good conditions I may go out, but I won’t let it distract my attention from the Star.

SH: And longer term…
RS: We are fortunate to have contracts and obligations with our sponsors right through 2008, including a Brazilian bank, a phone company, a pharmaceutical group, an English school and an airline! A full programme through 2008 will give me time to think. But I am aware that the Star is a great base from which to move into bigger boats…



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