An interview with two nature talents
Hans-Peter Steinacher is about to take off for Italy. The season is under way. These days, he’s the Red Bull rep in the Extreme Sailing World Series, the most prestigious regatta next to the America’s Cup. Has anything else changed? “Teamwork,” says Steinacher. He’s now part of a team of four. Aside from himself and Hagara, there’s a bowman and a trimmer on board, seasoned characters from New Zealand and England. Without them it would be impossible to handle the seven-meter wide, 14-meter long and 20-meter high carbon multi-hull yacht.
If the world’s ten best teams sail aggressively past the buoys at up to 85 kilometers an hour in a narrow area, says Steinacher, “then our team members have to be mind readers.” Perfect understanding is required, a sequence of steps you could follow in your sleep. “You have to be insanely well-attuned,” says the Olympic champion. “You have to test your physical limits and at the same time keep an eye on your own boat and on the competition.” No easy task, over five days of competition with up the threedozen races. “We win together, we lose together.”
You have to be insanely well-attuned, you have to test your physical limits and at the same time keep an eye on your own boat and on the competition.
The Extreme 40 Catamaran, a training version of the competition model, is anchored outside the Grand Hotel at Zell am See. The boat rocks gently on Lake Zell; Arab tourists circle the double-hulled giant in their electric boat, their curiosity piqued. Meanwhile, Marlies Schild has returned from the Hochkönig training slopes. A dinghy takes us out to the buoy. Like spiders, we crouch on the deck of braided sails stretched between the two hulls. The sails are set but the wind is mild. Only once does the windward hull rear up; the Tornado pitches to the side.
A momentary thrill, just enough to give us the idea of how hard it can be to sail this half-million-euro boat. And anyone who ever pulled like mad at one of the sheet ropes or a winch understands why every maneuver in rough seas is as challenging as a 100-meter dash. Bursts of energy, positions changing at the speed of lightning, sails unfolding around the mast as if by magic. Marlies Schild crouches, suspended over the water, and watches the spectacle with some skepticism. She’s not one to hand over the reins to others.