Five questions for George Szabo and Mark Strube
2009 Star World Champion George Szabo and crew Mark Strube won a Star bronze medal last month at French Olympic Sailing Week, after a brief hiatus from competing together, and claimed the #2 spot on the Trials Tracker. The road to Weymouth is lined with international racecourses, such as Miami, Fla., Palma de Mallorca, Spain and, most recently, Hyeres, France. Although the path has had its bumps and turns for Szabo and Strube, the duo is clearly focused on 2012. The Medalist caught up with both athletes to discuss lessons learned, what equipment they have selected, and what their game plan will be for the first of two selection events, Sail for Gold, in June.
Medalist: Congratulations on winning bronze. Why was this event important to you?
George Szabo: We are working on getting our equipment ready for the Trials. We know what boat we will use, and need to choose a mast and the suits of sails. We are getting closer to having final selections for everything.
Mark Strube: Being a World Cup, the event is important because we were racing against the top guys in the Star and we showed we could be right up there with the best.
George Szabo: Having broken our good mast at the last event in Palma, we rigged and raced with a new mast for Hyeres. Masts can be slightly different, and we spent the regatta getting the new mast up to speed. It takes some time, as the shrouds and forestay stretch at different rates, and the spreader angle moves around every day – until the mast finally settles in.
Medalist: There has been lots of attention paid to Mark’s recent hip arthroscopy surgery, the recovery process and how it has affected your overall training. What has the recovery been like and how are you feeling?
George Szabo: The biggest accomplishment, for our team is Strube’s hip recovery. Only a month ago, it was still difficult for him to walk. Now, we are seeing his strength and speed increase regatta by regatta.
Mark Strube: My flexibility and strength are coming along just fine. The first event for me was Palma and I couldn't move around as fast as I would have liked, I was about half-speed. Hyeres was much better for me.
Medalist: Only the top 10 Stars from week of racing qualify for the final Medal Race. That’s a huge accomplishment in itself; however, you went into with a solid shot at the podium. Describe the medal race highlights.
George Szabo: Focus on the basics: Get off the line and to the favored side. Neither of which went well for us as we rounded the first mark in last place. Strube kept us focused on going fast, and in pressure on the (downwind) run where we gained into the fleet.
Mark Strube: We knew to get on the podium we had to beat Diego (ITA) boat for boat and not let a few of the other teams beat us by too many boats. Our start was pretty average and we had to tack early on putting us in a bad spot. We took some transoms. The racecourse was very close to shore and it was pretty shifty. At the first weather mark we were dead last. On the run we noticed the pressure was coming offshore and we did a bear away to stay in it longer. Our teammates Andrew Campbell and Ian Coleman had a situation with another team and were fouled, forcing the other team do their penalty. We passed two boats on that run.
The second beat, not much changed, but we got a little closer. Luckily for us when we rounded we had good pressure. The guys who gybed early were stuck in a hole. We passed a few more getting us to fourth. Just before the finish line, the two French teams got in a luffing duel and we were able to sneak in ahead of them to finish in second for the medal race. We missed the silver by one point, but were happy that we got on the podium.
Medalist: What were your strengths, as a team, in this regatta?
George Szabo: Lots of things worked out well. Starting, tactics and onboard communication are all heading in the right direction.
Mark Strube: I think we stayed focused in every race. Knowing the numbers and getting great input from our Coach Leandro Spina. Starting has also come a long way. Minimizing mistakes and working on speed. George does a good job driving if I can keep him from distractions.
Medalist: Any lessons learned and how does this event prepare you for Sail for Gold, USA’s first Olympic Team selection event?
George Szabo: Keep practicing. Strube will be coming to San Diego for a few weeks before we head over to Weymouth. Hours in the boat are key.
Mark Strube: I think what we learned most about is our rig setup. Time on the water is the most important thing.
Medalist: Anything else you want people to know about your campaign, your training, etc.?
While in San Diego I’ll do some more rehab and get to the gym to work on fitness. As always, we welcome any donations to help fund our campaign. The Euro is up!
Top and bottom photo: Dave Johnson; podium photo Jean-Marie Liot DPPI/FFV