Friday, 8 January 2010

Italy's Andrea Bonezzi is the King of the Contender Class

2010 Contender Australian Championship, Jono Neate 2nd (AUS), Matt Mulder 1st (AUS), Andrea Bonezzi 3rd (ITA). Image copyright Suellen Hurling.

by Rob Kothe

Yesterday the Pre-World event for the 40th Contender World Championships wrapped up at Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Brisbane. The Pre-Worlds, the 2010 Australian titles, were won by Queenslander Matt Mulder, ahead of Jono Neate from Melbourne. Third was the King of the Contender Class Andrea Bonezzi and the undisputed favourite for this event.

Bonezzi started sailing the Contender single handed trapeze dinghy in 1984 at age 15 and now 25 years on he is the current World Champion with seven World titles to his credit. Tomorrow he will be aiming for number eight on Moreton Bay's Waterloo Bay course.

We asked how did it all happen?

'My dad (Vito) has been building boats for almost 40 years', he replied. 'It started as a hobby and he always liked to build. Even when he was young, he was always doing little model yachts. It's probably in his genes; he's from Cremona where Stradivarius violins were made. He has the passion of a craftsman and he's very fast and he's very talented.

'When he first saw Contenders racing in Italy, he said 'I'd like to build those, they have nice lines and the trapeze makes them interesting.' He still builds them; he's probably built over 200 by now.

'When I started sailing my dad built me an Optimist, then by the time I was 13 I was ready to switch to the Contender.

'I was quite big when I was young and I was quite heavy for my age, so I had enough weight for the Contender and as I was quite good on the Optimist, it was not difficult to get into Contenders and be competitive.

'The first races I did were about '83; I was 14 when we had it in Italy in the '84 Worlds in Riva Del Garda. That was my first Worlds.

'Actually I have a similar background to Matt Mulder, (the 2010 Pre-Worlds Champion) because his dad is a boat builder and he started because of his dad. Both he and I started the same way in a World Championships as a very young boy.'

(Matt sailed his first Worlds in 1988 at age 15.)

Andrea continued 'He's very talented. We have been friends since we spent a little time together in Austria when he went to the '94 Worlds. I have not forgotten he beat me then.

'The Contender is a unique boat, sailors can be between 75 and 95 or more kg and still be competitive and the trapeze on the boats really makes the difference; it makes older people younger.

'It's good that old people can go sailing on dinghies because what happens normally is you get too big boats. Where does it say that your age should be equal to the length of the boat?

'It's more like a sport when you go sailing in dinghies; because it's you and it's not 20 other people and where you might be just a passenger.

'Experience plays a really big role in Contenders because they're different to other boats. We have a lot of vang to use and it's not a strict design like a Laser, you can put quite a lot of 'you' into your boat.

'The experience of an older sailor makes a difference. For example a good tactician is more important than a good tacker.

'Of course a young sailor will still make a difference. I'm not sailing as fast as I was ten years ago but I know what could break in the boat and I can fine tune it. If you go sailing and you know you're not fast, you kind of know why, whereas ten years ago you wouldn't have known.

'I've never sailed here in Brisbane before but it won't take me too long to get used to it. When you're younger it might take you a little bit longer.

'I'm quite experienced, so I've been sailing in a lot of places and I adapt well and I can survive in light wind. It all depends on my weight. If tomorrow I lose 20 kilos, then I'll be really good in light wind. I used to be really, really good on the downwind and reaching when it was light but now lighter sailors are faster than me.

'I was 93 kilos in Fremantle and now I'm pretty similar to that. But I will reveal my weight after the races. I've always kept it secret until the end of an event; otherwise it's an advantage you give to other sailors' Andrea concluded.

However Bonezzi concedes he should have won more titles.

The 39 year old Italian sailor finished by saying 'When I think back I've thrown away more than I won, really. I have a lot of seconds and thirds. Most of my Championships I won with one race to spare and I know I lost four or five in really stupid ways. But you get smarter as you get older, so I have more wins in me yet.'

Contender Worlds 2010

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