FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jake Fish, US SAILING Communications Manager
Marni Lane, USSTAG Communications Manager
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (August 12, 2009) - It was quite a comeback for US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ (USSTAG) George Szabo (San Diego, Calif.) and Rick Peters (Barrington, R.I./Venice, Calif.), who, after finishing 54th out of 86 boats in the first race, climbed their way to the top to become the new Star World Champions on Monday. For some sailors, knowing the first race would become their drop score can wreak havoc on their mental endurance, but Szabo and Peters persevered and grabbed a bullet in the second race of the 2009 Star World Championship in Varberg, Sweden. The new champs had a chance to reflect on their accomplishments with US SAILING. Here is what they had to say:
- How does it feel to be the new Star World Champions? Describe the moment when you realized you won.
Szabo: “It’s taken a few days to sink in. Lots of people met us at the airport last night and it was great to bring the trophy home to show many former Star Champions. We worked hard for so many years and it paid off. I can’t describe that moment.”
Peters: “It’s Incredible. I had almost given up on it for me. It’s hard to believe. We realized it was our regatta to win on the first beat when all the other players went the wrong way. We knew which way to go from the onset. We stuck to the game plan... I cried my eyes out when we won.”
- How do you feel to be on the same trophy as Lowell North, Torben Grael, Magnus Liljedahl and Mark Reynolds?
Szabo: “It is exhilarating to know that we are on that trophy with so many great sailors. Feels like I made a huge accomplishment in my sailing career.”
Peters: “I had actually done some hands on restoration for the trophy at one point. I had it in my bedroom, and wondered what it would be like to win it someday. And now, it has actually happened. I think we are the first real Star sailors to have won it in a while. Other competitors are pro sailors racing in Stars. We sail the Star because we love it.”
- How did you feel after that first day? How did you mentally psyche yourselves up for the next race?
Szabo: “That was a weird one, but I wasn’t worried. We went right that first race, and even if the shifts were going right, the left was paying. We knew we had the speed and I thought we could still get into the top ten. We had a long talk after that race to go over what we were doing well, and what we could do better. We got off to better starts after that, and things fell into place. We were not focused on winning, but just concentrating on making the small details better.”
Peters: “It wasn’t the race we should’ve sailed. We are better than that. It was tough to swallow, but we rolled with it. We’ve won these types of races before. We didn’t go in thinking we’d win. However, the second race was when the magic started. We went right, and it’s hard for George not to go right being from San Diego."
- The Star fleet is known for being talented and strong, and this event was competitive. What were your strengths this regatta? What gave you an edge?
Szabo: “We focused on the details, and had some good races together lately. We were comfortable with our speed, and continued to work on our downwind speed. Everything lined up for us in this event. It was a difficult regatta. All the best were there competing. It was a very deep fleet. Makes you feel that much better to know we beat the best.”
Peters: “The fact that both of us are into the Star class really helped. It was karma, coming back for us. Both of us put a lot of effort into it. We really take pride in the fleet.”
- You said it was a tactical regatta – could you please elaborate?
Szabo: “They were long courses, and we needed a lot of boat speed. Going to the right really paid off. Pre-race prep work was critical, and our Mark Ivey was very helpful with that.”
Peters: “We had great boat speed. As a sailmaker, George is one of the best at making the boat go faster It was a one way race track, and that worked in our favor. They were all left hand turns in the oval and we just stayed in the groove. It was the kind of regatta where you had to tack on your friends or they were going to beat you. You need to take somebody out and grab a lane. Start well and tack as soon as you could was the plan. In the second race we won, we ducked more than half the fleet to get to the right. That’s when the racing started for us.”
- How did the Americans show strength as a team at Star Worlds?
Szabo: “I don’t know how we all did so well this year. We’ve got excellent sailors on this team, including some fresh new talent. Our coach was working hard every day, briefing us, and making sure we were prepared.”
Peters: “It’s awesome how we all came together. We got a bunch of guys sailing different boats for different sail makers. We buried the business aspect of it, and sailed together. We were there to beat the world. George and I were onboard with it. Mark Ivey should get the coach of the year award. Magnus [Liljedahl] did a great job pumping us all up."
- What are your goals for the future? Will you campaign for a spot on the 2012 Olympic Sailing Team?
Szabo: “It would be great to go to the Olympics. We’ve got other events to prepare for in the meantime.”
Peters: “I’d love to go to the Olympics someday and win a medal, but I’d also like to be a good father and good friend. We are campaigning. People had been taking bets on how long we’d stay together. We’ve been through a lot together. I am very competitive and he is very skilled. Sometimes we balance each other out. I was mad we didn’t win at the trials in ’96. We finished outside the top ten after winning pre-trials. It was hard sailing together this year. We came close to winning a lot of events. We could get to the top of the fleet, but couldn’t quite win it… We finally went for it.”