Crowdsourcing Performance

As the Olympics loom, the Danish 49erFX squad finds strength in numbers.

With three teams in the top ten of the ISAF World Rankings, Denmark is doing something right in the 49erFX. Ida Marie Badd Nielsen and Marie Thusgaard Olsen, who recently won bronze in the 49erFX World Championship, credit the team’s success to its openness in training and tactics.

“We have meetings before and after every practice to discuss plans and technique,” says Olsen. “If one of us has a question, we ask the others. Often, others will have the solution. We’re really open in our squad about what we learn, because we all have the goal of winning the gold at the Olympics. Our way to do that is by working together and sharing all of our knowledge.”

Nielsen and Olsen regularly train with Jena Mai Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen, as well as Maiken Foght Schutt and Anne-Julie Schutt. They’ve made the effort to train with athletes from other countries, as well, but they’ve found the results weren’t quite the same. “Often, we feel like they’re not all the way open compared to our teammates,” says Olsen. “They will always tell you if you ask specifically, but they won’t just tell you something if they know it.”

During a training session in Argentina, Olsen and Neilsen were struggling to keep their heel angle steady when jibing in choppy waves. “We found that if we made our jibes very slow, it was much easier to keep the heeling stable all the way,” says Olsen. “Anne-Julie was struggling with that as well, and when we came in she asked me what I was doing. So, I told her that Ida said the heeling is more stable if we do it super slow.”

Neilsen and Olsen agree that sharing such information contributed to their success at worlds, and to the rest of the squad’s solid performance.

All three Danish teams have a shot at competing in the Olympics in Rio next year. While the country is qualified for a berth, Team Denmark is in the middle of their individual trials. Though they’re competing directly with each other for the coveted spot, they continue to focus on team unity.

“We think that we will get an extra edge over Italy and Brazil from working together as a group,” says Olsen. “We try to sail as many high-level regattas as we can in between, so that we can have as much practice as possible. We’ll also continue to train in Rio, but our focus is on our training and trials right now.”

In the end, whichever team is selected for Rio, another team will stay on as a sparring partner for the Olympic team. “The goal is to medal for Denmark, and continue as a group,” says Neilsen. “Whichever team it is, that’s the object.”

Denmark represented well at the Worlds, with three of the top ten teams in the 49erFX fleet flying the Danish flag.