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Interview: German sailor, Gilbert Brietzke, on sailing the Musto Skiff

by International Musto Skiff Class Association 25 Dec 2021 14:20 GMT
German sailor Gilbert Brietzke © Michael Frock

With the Musto Skiff Worlds now confirmed for Germany over 21st to 26th June next year, we took the opportunity to interview German class sailor, Gilbert Brietzke, to find out more about his journey into sailing and what he is aiming for in the Musto Skiff class for next season.

Gilbert is currently a member of Segelclub Walchensee e.V., which typically offers thermal breeze in the range of 11-17 kts, and occasionally in the range of 16-25 (sometimes beyond), with extremely flat water.

Now aged 48, Gilbert has been sailing since 2011, but prior to this, he had two memorable sailing experiences just by chance. At the age of 17 he was a crew on a 20m yacht from Bremerhaven to Norway and back with an 11 people crew aged between 17 to 24. Then, at the age of 19, he did a 2-week travelling dinghy tour along the water inlets of the German coast on the Baltic Sea (close by island Rügen).

In 2010, some 20 years later, these early experiences in his teenage years inspired him to find a way back to sailing, and now he is not only enjoying his Musto Skiff but standing for the German Class Chairman role for the 2022 season.

Q: How long have you been sailing for?

I have just finished my 11th sailing season.

Q: When did you start sailing the Musto Skiff?

I think I only really started to sail the Musto Skiff within the 2016 season, so 2021 was my 6th full season sailing the Musto Skiff.

Q: What were you sailing before this?

I was sailing the Contender.

Q: What attracted you to get a Musto Skiff?

While the Contender was still a valid option in the north of Germany back in 2015, in the south of Germany only a few Contender sailors were active at that time. A clubmate let me try out his Musto back in 2015 in 12-13knots of breeze. I immediately liked the light-handed, balanced feeling of the Musto Skiff upwind, and I grasped the higher fun potential for both upwind and downwind when comparing it to the Contender.

Of course, I also noticed that it is definitely more challenging than sailing the Contender, especially during manoeuvres. Moreover, back in 2015, I really wondered how the Musto can be at all handled in rougher conditions with more difficult sea state/waves and high winds. However, back then there were 4 active Musto Skiff sailors at Walchensee, including Frithjof who went on to become World Champion in 2017 - so it was a perfect setup for getting into the class.

Q: What do you find most challenging about sailing the Musto Skiff?

  1. Handling the boat in rough sea-state
  2. Not always being able to see other traffic when going downwind. (e.g., in surfer and kite surfer spots or when sharing race courses with other classes).

Q: What do you find most rewarding about sailing the Musto Skiff?

It is just an awesome agile boat that you need to juggle through wind and waves. It gives you honest feedback and is just exiting and fun to sail. Its single handed, so you really get the 'full' feeling. It is not a sluggish battleship, so the sense of speed that you feel is also really great.

For my own sailing ability, I would characterise it as follows: In 3-4 bft it is just fun, while still easy and forgiving. In 5 bft it is absolutely amazing, but not too forgiving downwind. Finally, in 6 bft it is still beautifully thrilling in flat waters... however, in more open waters in heavy breeze, it very quickly becomes comparatively brutally thrilling and it becomes very challenging not to nose dive!

Q: What surprised you the most about the Musto Skiff?

I was astonished at how important boat balance can be - how much the boat stabilises when you keep it flat and going. The boat is really responsive!

Q: What are your goals and targets for next season?

If the pandemic situation allows, I will try to participate in most events of the German calendar, as well as selected events of the Swiss calendar. I will also try to have a few days at Lake Como or Lake Garda.

Q: Where is your favourite place to sail the Musto Skiff and why?

Dongo - Lake Como. It offers a high chance of perfect conditions for good boat speed - strong breeze with manageable sea-state. Dongo is also a relaxing camping situation.

Q: What advice would you give for anyone else considering the Musto Skiff?

When not coming from other true skiff classes (or even then!), the Musto Skiff is a boat that is truly challenging to sail. In your first season you are likely to need to dedicate a lot of your spare time for practice. Once you master manoeuvres, in say >15 knots of breeze, it is always thrilling and fun at the same time. But until then, you need to have a certain youthful physical fitness and stubbornness to compensate/overcome your initial challenges - this is especially true if you do not have a skiff background.

My advice is to try to get connected with other active Musto Skiff sailors and the class association. They will give you hints and advice on how to improve your skills. Also, participation in the regatta events provides really high value for a freshman in the Musto Skiff. Sailing on different waters is always a very good way to train since conditions potentially differ from what you are used to. Also, it is safer than when you are on your own.

Certainly, we keep a healthy sportive competition in the events, but at the end of the day, even in competitive international events where the competition is at a really high level, we are more sailing together then 'against' each other. I think for most of us, it is more about sharing the experience, the fun, the sailing moments and also having food and drinks together ashore rather than a merciless competition.

Regarding waters: in my opinion the boat is not that suitable for smaller waters with extremely shifty winds or quarry ponds. Consider choosing larger waters as your training base, it is likely to be worth the potential extra effort and travel time.

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