Christian Binder, since November 2008 helmsman, tactician and team manager of Team Austria in the RC44 Championship, is one of the most, if not the most successful sailor in Austria. He took part in the Olympic Games twice, won the Austrian Championship in the classes Laser, 470er and Soling 20 times, was Vice European champion in Soling and 15er Jollenkreuzer, European Champion in Soling and Surprise, Central European Champion IMS, and was sailing at the International Grand Prix Circus as helmsman of the TP52 "C-Quadrat" for two years.
Anarchy Challenge caught up with him at the RC44 round in Gmunden/Traunsee, AUT, on May 28, after an exhausting day on the water. The interview was done in German; while translating we tried to stay as close to the original as possible.
Q: How was sailing so far, here on lake Traunsee?
CB: Yesterday we were satisfied. We have lost all the races, but we were satisfied that we achieved the things we intended to do, that the maneuvers worked, that we didn't have a big problem at the start, this all worked quite well. Today was not so good, today was more frustrating, but maybe because we put more pressure on us, saying 'o.k., we want to win one or two races', what would have been possible. We surely didn't deserve it, but we could have had a bit of luck once or twice, and then it would have worked.
Q: The wind was rather tricky today.
CB: It's been very difficult, but from the sailing perspective this was not the problem. I have not followed the other races, but I don't think that this was crucial. If one covers a side well the race can always be won.
Q: What are your plans for the fleet races?
CB: We want a bit more for the fleet races, let's say 6th or 7th place.
Q: Why RC44?
CB: The idea emerged during the first Austria Cup, when we had a mixed Croatian-Austrian team. René Mangold and Christian Feichtinger wanted to continue. It took a bit of time, then they bought a boat, and this is how it all cam into existence.
Q: What makes this series so attractive?
CB: There are many attractive things. One thing is the boat. This is the main thing. It sure is the best boat that I've ever sailed. It is extremely demanding for the crew, for the helmsman. The maneuvers, I mean, there are really experienced sailors on the boat, we sailed TP52 for two years, and we're fighting here with the maneuvers, so it is obvious that it is really very, very difficult to bring the boat over these short courses. Second, there are the crews that we compete against. It's fun to sail at this level, even if we, as beginners, often get the short end of the stick. But there's nowhere we can learn as much as in this class, and we can use this in the future, not only for the RC44, where we can say 'well, we will advance', but also for sailing life in general we will surely learn a lot.
Q: Is there a special preparation, a special training necessary for the RC44?
CB: Absolutely. For the RC44 a physical preparation is necessary. It's all very, very demanding physically.
Q: More than in other classes, e.g. TP52?
CB: Yes, There are 14 crew on the TP52 and only 8 on the RC44. The courses are very short, many maneuvers are done, it's clearly more demanding than a TP52.
Q: In sailing, what is most important for you?
CB: The most fun for me is having a good crew spirit, and while sailing that the things work without the need for too many commands, that all happens by itself, automatically. For this to work, a long time of cooperation and a lot of training are needed. We are rather far away from it at the moment, because everything is new, but we will try to get there.
Q: How much time do you spend on the water with training? CB: Unfortunately too little. We all have jobs, most of us are self-employed, that's why we can "steal" the time, that's fortunate, but every hour counts in private and in business life. Until now we have 25 sailing days since November, it's o.k. For me, this is my job, I'm a sailmaker, and it's a good combination. It's a super presentation, very effective in advertising, it fits rather well. It's easier this way, easier to bring in line with the business.
Q: What about a sailing youth program in Austria?
CB: The sailing association has a very well working youth program, as well as the local associations. The problem is always when the kids become 16 or 17 and want to leave home for the big, wide world, that there's not enough money anymore. Sailing is extremely expensive, and the advancement won't work most of the times. The second point is that there is a lot of frustration, because the competitive level until now - it's becoming better - simply is not very high with the youth at 16 and 17. Then they come to international regattas and finish second to last. And after two years they are fed up and quit.
Q: Is the sponsor situation tense in Austria? Especially in sailing as a marginalized sport?
CB: I think the sponsor situation is not only tense at the moment, it's non-existing, except when there are contracts from last year. But I am sure that now there will be a turning point, that the situation will calm down, and that the sponsors that are not extremely affected will invest again in sailing, like before.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to the Anarchists in Austria, Germany and worldwide?
CB: I'm not too often on this site, but every time I can spare some time I go there, it's quite interesting.
We will keep our fingers crossed for the fleet races and the rest of the season. Thank you very much for this conversation.