Godefroid is Golden in Marblehead

With many of the competitors already in the area by Sept. 11, the organizers of the 2001 Finn Gold Cup at Eastern YC in Marblehead, Mass., faced a tough decision whether to sail the event in the wake of the terrorist attacks. No one would’ve faulted them had they decided to cancel the regatta, but they eventually decided to carry on. Sebastien Godefroid, 30, of Belgium, was one of the sailors who hadn’t yet arrived in the U.S. and for the last few days before he boarded the transatlantic flight, he wasn’t even sure they would be a regatta. "If it would not have happened, it would have been right also," he says. "We decided we should sail because the Finn class is one where everyone is really friendly; that’s a nice example to set against what happened." While the class was setting an example in international relations--many foreign sailors had to borrow parts or whole boats from other competitors in order to compete--Godefroid was setting the standard for his fellow sailors. On Saturday, after finishing five races inside the top three in a full range of conditions, Godefroid won his first Gold Cup by 4 points over Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland. GPS caught up with the new world champion today as he was packing up his boat for the trip home.

GPS: Sebastien. Congratulations on your first Finn Gold Cup. It's been a long road for you.
SG: I've been sailing the Finn for 11 years, and actually I was looking forward to winning the Gold Cup in 1998 because I was in really good shape and it was in South Africa in conditions I would be good in. But then they cancelled that worlds and it got sailed much earlier in Athens which wasn't good at all. Then I had a serious back injury after that so my results went a bit down. This was the first good one again since then. This is first really big regatta I have won [since my back injury].

GPS: Back injuries can be tough to come back from. Tell us about yours?
SG: It was a triple hernia in a disc. I sailed again after six weeks, but the doctors told me I should even come out of the bed after two months. I forced it a bit there because it was the worlds where I had to qualify for the Olympics. I could sail, but my style was completely changed and, obviously, I wasn't so fast anymore.

GPS: What was the key for you in winning the 2001 Gold Cup?
SG: Here I had really good speed and the conditions were the ones I like. We had light winds and really strong conditions and it had to be someone who was good in very light and very strong and that's what I prefer. I don't like the middle ones because then everybody knows how to sail.

GPS: You struggled a little on the second day finishing 10th and 14th. What happened there?
SG: The second day I had it pretty hard, it was a light day and the upwinds were going more than fine, but the downwind were more than miserable. In total, on that second day, I lost 25 places on the downwind legs so I was getting pretty worried there. I didn't feel so much in control. But once the wind picked up [on Thursday], the first race we sailed with strong wins, I made a mistake and I was able to comeback really well. I didn't make any big mistakes after that.

GPS: Currently it seems that former Finn Gold Cup champs are everywhere, sailing in Volvo, winning the Star Worlds, running the IOC. What are you doing outside of the class?
SG: Actually right now I'm sailing the Open 60s, the trimarans. I'm sailing with Belgian team (Belgacom) and we are doing pretty well. There's one more race remaining and I think we will finish third overall with a pretty old boat. For next year we've got a new boat, so we will try to win the championships.
I enjoy the change a lot. If I would be sailing full-time in the Finn I would get bored. If I would I would be sailing full-time in the Open 60, I would get bored. When you swap from one to the other, you swap from working on your own to working with a team of professionals, and that's really nice.