We continue our Lockdown interview series with a pair of Vikings, both former DEN National Champs - Thomas Paasch and Tom Bojland.
- When and why did you first start sailing and in what?
Bojland - In 76 – in the Oppie!
Paasch - I started sailing at the age of 6 in the optimist. At the age of 11 I got my fist catamaran, a Hobie Cat 11 (basically a scaled down Hobie Cat 14), and I made my dad added a trapeze to it.
- When did you first become aware of the ‘A’ Class Cat?
Bojland - In 2003. I sailed the 505 worlds in Malmoe Sweden and there was a Marstrom A-class parked in the boat park – had actually no idea of what is was until later!
Paasch - I was sailing at a Hobie Cat 18 regatta in Grömitz (Germany) in 1991, at the same time as the A-Cat worlds where held there. I remember going upwind at what we thought was a good pace and pointing high, and then an A-Cat passed us pointing higher and going faster – quite fascinating.
- Where and at what age did you first get a sail on one.
Bojland - In 2012 (age 49) I decided it was time to try something new after having spent more than 30 years in doublehanded dinghies – saw a picture of an A – asked the local guys (Thomas Paasch etc.) what to buy. Sold my last 505 to a guy in Bavaria, continued to Switzerland and picked up an 'A' at Scheurer.
Went home (it was Monday morning and everybody at work and I wanted to go sailing) – so I actually managed to get the mast up myself – helped by a tree! – went out directly into a thunderstorm, went in again, was shitscared – but the GPS said 18 knots without I even touching the sheet!
Paasch - In the autumn 2005 I bought a Hobie FXone, but I was so fed up with it after a month (too heavy, impossible for me to get up again after a capsize and too much sail area with the spinnaker to really sail fast), so I decided to sell it again and get myself an A-cat.
That’s where I took the initiative to form the Danish A-Class Association, to make sure we could get some spots at the worlds the following year in Sweden.
Fitness and training.
- What is your current fitness routine, and do you have any special diet?
Bojland - Do a lot of pushups – helps the back when you spend your life in an office.
Paasch - None. Usually I’m in shape around October after a summer of sailing, then it’s all down the drain again during winter!
- How often do you sail each month?
Bojland - Depends of weather- can be a bit rough and cold, but about 90 to 120 times a year – split 50/50 between the A and the F18
Paasch - I try to get on the water once or twice a week. This year it’s been a little less. Even though sailing single handed boats has been allowed all the time during lockdown (but no racing), I decided to cut up my DNA F1 and retrofit F1X foils to it, to make it more competitive. That kept me from sailing 3-4 weeks.
- Do you have any specific fixed training regime?
Bojland - We are a good local training group with 3-5 boats
Paasch - Usually I only go out if someone else from the club is going too. We try to find some marks in the area the more or less line up with the wind direction, and we do some short course training.
- Where did you learn your race tactics?
Bojland - On the racecourse – in dinghies
Paasch - I didn’t start racing before the age of 18-19. Back then it was in two man cats, where I was responsible for speed and my crew did the tactics. We sailed together for 10 years and it went quite well. After that I had to find another crew, and soon found that I had to sharpen my knowledge about tactics to stay in the game. Later when I switched to single-hand cats, there was no one else to do it!
- Do you practice race tactics in any way whilst training?
Bojland - Yes – typically when training with the other guys, we find at couple of marks in the right direction, and the we sail one lap, start again and another lap and so on.
Paasch - Depends. If we are only two boats on the water together, it doesn’t make much sense to go separate ways on the course – you wouldn’t know if you are fast or just chose the right side of the course. But if we are more than two, it get’s a little more tactical as well. (By the way, Elvstrøm once said that match racing would be a lot more interesting if you added a third boat – I guess he was right).
- Do you concentrate on specific areas when training?
Bojland - Upwind foiling and finding the right settings on the foils.
Paasch - Currently, I try to figure out the right settings for different weather conditions. It has got a lot more complicated the last couple of years, and the difference between getting it right or wrong is significant.
- Was there a particular technique you found that unlocked something in your sailing?
Bojland - When I got it to foil first time back in the winter 2014/15
Paasch - I’ve been sailing catamarans since I was a kid, which probably has given me a fell for how things should be, without really thinking about it. But when foiling was the new thing, you had to unlearn how things are done downwind, and learn how to react on gusts and lulls in the opposite way. That was strange in the beginning…
- Do you have a regular sailing partner and what do they do for your sailing?
Bojland - Thomas Paasch, Christian Nygaard and Bo Hasseriis are in the training team, and we constantly push each other to make the boat go faster – it had develop so much since I started in 2012. Paasch - We are 3-4 A-Cats that often sail together at my club. Most often 2 or 3 at the time. It’s great for speed comparison and makes the difference between training or just cruising.
- What do you most enjoy about sailing the ‘A’ Cat?
Bojland - As Jeremy Clarkson would say “POWEEEERRR” and “SPEEED” – and of course the ability to have one of the coolest pieces of sports equipment build out of carbon fibre on the planet. Then I, as an amateur, has the privilege to compete against the present BEST sailors on the planet – like team NZ and sail GP guys.
Paasch - Ease and Speed are definitely among the main sensations on an A-Cat. But also coming from strict manufactures one design classes, I enjoy the freedom to change or optimize whatever you are not happy with.
- What was your best sailing moment? (and if you feel strong enough, your worst!?)
Bojland - In general – winning a race at the 505 worlds in 2008 and in the A, winning my first regatta in 2019.
Worst – well, sometimes I am too openmouthed, and back in 2012, some guys in DEN invented a single hand race around on of our many islands – in straight line its 140 nautical miles – They called it “The Ironman of the sea” – but I told the organizer (old F18) sailor, that a single hand race in a 40 foot keelboat with autopilot, navigation instruments, coffeemaker, a kitchen and toilet is a walk in the park and definitely not and “Ironman” – if you did it in an A it was! – so the game was set, they invited me!
First year – very light breeze – after 12 hours only 1/3 of the way – turned the boat around and was back after 24 hours - saying to myself that this was the stupidest thing I have ever done, and I would never do it again!
Second year - very light breeze – after 12 hours only 1/3 of the way – then it became dark, windy and big waves – promised myself that if I survived, I would never do this again – 2/3 of the way wind died completely and visibility dropped to zero because of fog, I was doing no speed for a couple of hours – and after 24 hours I paddled to the beach and called a taxi for taking me to my car and trailer for going home– organizers was a bit surprised to see one of the competitor GPS trackers doing 110 on the highway in the middle of the Island!
Third year – weather forecast did promise some breeze – up to 20 knots – but the first part of the rounding was just a nice run in flat water (I believed)
It turned out that 1/3 of the way – it was a run – but in up to 34 knots and large waves – did not touch my sheet for 2 hours!
Rounded a headland at the same time as the big multihulls, then it was upwind in 20-25 knots – after 2 hours I could not see them behind me anymore. After 8 hours trapezing upwind it became dark and the wind died a bit down (if you don´t know it, I can tell you it’s impossible to trapeze when its dark). But no problem – well there was a single problem – my GPS was out of power, had my backup which was a smartphone – but screen does not work in rain! – but okay – how hard can it be? its just an island and I had a small map glued to the sail of the route and I was 12 miles in front of no 2.
Sailed for some hours – the I suddenly ran on a beach in complete darkness – had no idea of where I was (it turned out that there is a huge amount of small islands around the large one – luckily, they are all made of sand) – and I was lost on one of them.
After 1 hour I managed to get back on the water – get around it and on the track again – unfortunately I lost 2 of the multihulls and finished after 17 hours – and btw – this is not a summer race – it´s in late September so pretty dark a lot of the time in the Nordics.
What have I learned:
1: Tell Paul Larson that this is a “must do” – he is the only person crazy enough to do it.
2: besides that, keeping my mouth shut?
Paasch - I’ve been lucky enough to win two European Championships in the Hobie Cat 14 class, and I must admit victory in a major championship has a great taste. But I was also given the opportunity to race the C-Class at the last “Little Americas Cup” in Geneva, which was a special experience as well.
The worst experience I can think of right now, was the first regatta in “The Green Machine”. I had finished the build of my foiling Nikita and at the first regatta, I was going upwind on starboard and a Hobie Cat 16 on the same race course was going down wind and passed in front of me. He hadn’t seen me, and gybed right in front of me, causing us to crash into each other. Basically my boat got up on the trampoline of the Hobie and we went into a gybe while stuck together. While recovering and accessing the damage (luckily only a few scratches), a couple of f..king idiots (pardon my French) on a Top Cat rammed me and took out my rudder system on one side.
- If something goes wrong in a race, how do you start to deal with it mentally?
Bojland - That’s the beauty about the A – you might be 200 m behind on the last leg because of something gone wrong, but you always have the change if you find the right puff to win it again (or lose another 200 m) But I always tell myself when something is gone wrong “I do this for fun and there is another race next week” – really important to shake bad feelings out of the brain in no time so you can concentrate on getting back on the horse.
Paasch - Once I was crewing on a small keelboat (done it twice – hated it both times), and we lost quite some place on a bad tactical move. The skipper on board was swearing and talking about the incidence for the next two legs, and not really concentrating on sailing the boat. That made me realize how important it is to accept your current position and look ahead and see how you can improve it, instead of getting annoyed about things you can undo.
- What would you sail if ‘A’ Cats were suddenly banned?
Bojland - In Greenland (part of Denmark) there is a saying – Every great hunter has a cool kayak and a nice “wifeboat” (traditional family skinboat). If the cool kayak is banned – I will probably sail the “wifeboat” (F18) full time with my girlfriend.
Paasch - That’s a tough one – on one side the love catamarans and on the other side foiling. It would have to be a class with competitive racing, so probably Moth or F18
- What improvements do you feel could be made to the boats currently and which direction do you think the two divisions should be heading?
Bojland - I think we have very good boats – both classic and open – and the class rules allow “organic development” but only 1 piece of each equipment – that means that pricing is kept down (!)
Paasch - It’s really hard to predict what will be the next big thing. A lot has happened in the almost 15 years I’ve been in the class. The boats have become really strong, foiling has become a lot more stable than in the beginning and speed keeps increasing.
To me the development aspect of the A-Cat is the important differentiator from other classes. If the A-Cat looked like it did in the 60’s, it would have been dead.
- Where is the best place you have ever sailed your ‘A’ Cat?
Bojland - Lake Garda – it is such a blast and upwind foiling is so easy, you feel like a superhero – when you get home, gusty, big waves, seaweed – suddenly everything you believed you were good at is gone!
Paasch - I really enjoyed the Belmont worlds in 2009.
- Who are your sailing heroes and influences?
Bojland - As a Dane – Paul Elvstrom of course. And in the A – all those really talented and also nice guys up in the front like Mischa, Glen, Bundy – and of course “the fastest man on the planet” Paul Larson.
Paasch - Of cause we have our national hero Elvstrøm in Denmark, who not only sailed well but also came up with some great inventions that made a difference for how sailing has evolved.
But in current days it’s gotta be Glenn. I remember my first A-Cat worlds in Sweden, where Glenn at some point was early and maybe even touched the pin end at the start. He had to turn back, do a 360 and started behind the entire fleet. 3rd at the top mark and first at the gate – impressive. Being at the top of the game for such a long time and always very convincing is admirable.
- What single piece of advice could you give to the average ‘A’ Cat sailor?
Bojland - Will change that the to the “Average sailor” – try an A before you die – because you will stay dead for a very long time – you might be scared, but you will for sure smile when you are back to safety! And – when you have turned 50 there is some important rules in sailing!
Rule no 1. There is no limit in how many sails, foils and boats you are allowed to own.
Rule no. 2. If a regatta is more than 2 days it must to be in a nice warm place, with good food and wine and excellent breeze everyday (sorry Germany)
Paasch - Spend more time on the water, that’s where most sailors will improve their results the most.