Diego Botín: “San Francisco imposes, the wind and the fog make it difficult to handle the boats” | Sports

Diego Botín, left, at the wheel of the Spanish SailGP F50, on its debut, in Sydney.
Diego Botín, left, at the wheel of the Spanish SailGP F50, on its debut, in Sydney.Ricardo Pinto for SailGP (Ricardo Pinto for SailGP)

The world of sailing is not kind to its sacred cows: Burling, Slingsby, Ainslie or Spithill, myths of the America’s Cup, leaders of the teams that command the SailGP regattas. If both the organizers and the press give them cane, they have much less regard for Diego Botín (Madrid, 29 years old), who for three months has been piloting the Spanish SailGP boat —a competition for national teams—, ninth and last classified from the third season. Questions such as “Aren’t you disappointed that results haven’t improved under your guidance?”, “Are you struggling not to be last, is it important not to be last?” Spanish?”, “Will Xammar be the skipper again?,” and so, questions that the young 29-year-old Cantabrian, Olympic sailor with the 49er in Rio and Tokyo, and probably also in Paris 2024, silver in the World Cups of 2020 and 2022, he responds with aplomb. “Now I have a bigger responsibility,” he says. The continuity of Spain in this sort of Super League of sailing does not seem to be in danger, says the great skipper, Russell Coutts, but the demand is maximum. “I am delighted with the opportunity.”

Ask. You were the flight controller of the Spanish F50, Jordi Xammar’s second, when in February, the owner of SailGP, Russell Coutts, fired Xammar overnight and appointed you…

Answer. It was a bit out of the blue. It was not the team’s plan at the time. It was a very strong shock for me and for the team. From there we have gone through quite powerful situations and I think that this has also made us put the team in a very good line.

Q. Powerful situations? Crisis, psychodramas or everything?

R. We didn’t have a chance in the first event to go on the simulator before the competition. And I stood in the position of drivers in Sydney, which is a bay where the wind usually blows. But there is also a lot of traffic and very difficult conditions, especially to start driving an F50. They are boats that go very fast and have a very large blind spot. And that, when you don’t have things mechanized, complicates it.

Q. Too much for a debut?

R. I have been very out of my comfort zone in the first two events. And Thursday was the first day that we were able to train with space and with little wind. It has been a very hard start.

Q. Has the relationship with Xammar been very touched?

R. We haven’t talked much. We have been together in Hyères, we have both won in our categories [semana europea de la vela olímpica en el puerto francés, Botín, 49er; Xammar, 470]we have talked about the Olympic campaign, but we have this topic a little apart from our conversations.

Q. I suppose that, as in F1, all the drivers have the ambition to grab the first wheel, but that they are not tripping either…

R. Exactly, it’s a bit like things in SailGP. It is a difficult situation, but between Jordi and I there is a lot of respect.

Q. The SailGP season was not going well, is anything already a positive step?

R. When things don’t quite work out, sometimes you decide to change to straighten the path. We want to fight for the top positions, which is also what will help the most to trigger other things, for the team to last and be healthier. That’s where the focus is.

Q. And the fourth season is going to start with encouragement?

R. Yes, totally, on top of that it starts very soon in Chicago. Now, in San Francisco, we are playing an important event for us. It’s the last time we’re going to compete before next season. It is also the first event with me where we have training races. It is our opportunity to give a twist, we have more confidence in the boat, we can push.

Q. Here in the San Francisco Bay, which is a mythical place of the America’s Cup 10 years ago, the territory of the founders of this race, there is more responsibility. Do you know the water, the winds…?

R. San Francisco is imposing because it is where the first America’s Cup was held with this concept of boats [catamaranes con foils]. The conditions are usually strong and cold wind, very dense, with the fog that comes from the Golden Gate. And they are complicated conditions, especially when the current goes against the wind, because in addition to that cold and strong wind, a wave is added that generates the current that makes it very difficult to handle these boats. For regattas it is spectacular.

Q. In the future, do you see yourself in this? Will the Olympic campaign take up more time?

R. These foiling classes fly in the ocean with giant waves. In 10 years I don’t know what will happen, but today these races and regattas, indoor, speed, Olympic sailing call me much more. I am where I want to be and here I see myself. I don’t look far, we focus on the present.

Q. Will the 49er do well in Marseille at the Games?

R. The feelings we have Florian [trimmer en el F50 y compañero en el 49er] and I in the Olympic campaign are very good. They have also changed the rig of the 49, the sails and the mast. This has caused a bit of a revolution in the 49ers fleet. We are adapting very well, we are happy with how things are going. We have a very strong team that supports us. We trust to fight for the gold.

Q. Does Olympic gold matter more or a victory in SailGP?

R. It’s very different, but all super important. We have been dreaming of Olympic gold since we were seven years old. It has always been the priority of my life, but SailGP is also incredible. It is a dream to fight with these eminences. Getting the team to succeed would be the best reward for the job.

Q. Do you feel the responsibility to make SailGP more global, to interest Spain, to get sponsors?

R. I think SailGP has all the ingredients to take off. The concept is ideal for this sport to take a step forward in the professional world and do something great.

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