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Our world champion sailors reflect on their Mirror triumph

Following their fantastic victory in the Mirror World Sailing Championships in Tipperary, Ireland, we tracked down the brother-sister team of Ryan and Michaela Robinson to answer a few questions.

The Robinsons are no strangers to the competition. Ryan first crewed for brother Ricky in the Mirror Worlds in Port Elizabeth in 2007.

In 2011 in Australia, Ryan helmed with Ricky as crew and they came fourth. In the same regatta, Michaela crewed for brother Brennan and they came 11th. What made the Carletonville pair’s victory in Ireland even more remarkable was that they sailed a wooden boat, built by Steve du Toit in 2005, against the latest Winder hulls from the UK.

1. Mirror World Champions ÔÇô how does that feel?
Ryan Robinson: Totally unbelievable! Two weeks on and I still can’t get my head around it. It was always a dream, since I started crewing on a mirror at eight years old, and now it has become a reality!
Michaela Robinson: It still needs some getting used to, but it feels amazing!

2. What do you think gave you the edge over your rivals in Ireland?
RR: Perseverance. We never stopped trying, not until the last minute of the last race. You can see that by looking at the consistency of our results. We only got one first place, but the rest were all in the top 10 (except the black flag).
MR: We were very consistent unlike our fellow competitors. We managed to go well in all conditions.

3. How tricky were the conditions in Tipperary?
RR: I can say that the conditions we saw there were some of the strangest I have ever seen, with two low pressures on either side of Ireland. The wind was extremely fluky, making staying in the top 15 tremendously difficult.
MR: Extremely tricky, switchy, and windy. We were sailing an eight-year-old wooden boat against the latest glass fibre boats, and keeping up with them was a challenge ÔÇô but we worked out ways to go fast in the chop. The one race we won was in heavy wind with big chop.

4. At what point did you realise you had victory in the bag?
RR: We went into the last day with all to play for. Three points ahead of second (the Filipinos). Luckily we were discarding a ninth and a 10th while the Philippines team were discarding a 33 and a DNC. We managed to beat the Philippines in the second last race by a few places. Then the last race came with a few boats being black flagged and… we were one of them! This meant that if the Philippines won the last race, they would get the title. While leaving the race area, with our tails between our legs, a friend of ours, sailing for Ireland, came past us and screamed: ÔÇ£Guys you’ve won, the Philippines also got a black flag!ÔÇØ As true as bob, he was right! Michaela jumped straight into the water, and a feeling of total relief flowed over me. Then total elation!
MR: When we saw the Philippines were also black flagged in the last race, and third place was so far behind they wouldn’t be able to catch us.

5. What’s the main thing you will take from this experience, going forward?
RR: Hmm… I think it will be the importance of teamwork in a sport like this. If we had been two individuals on that boat, a goal like this would be unimaginable, but working as a team it became possible. And having a teammate as dedicated and tenacious as my sister is, made my dream come true.
MR: Friendships. I made friends with as many of the competitors as I could. It was amazing how friendly the Irish hosts were. And getting over my weaknesses and being a good team member with my brother.

6. How did you first get into sailing?
RR: Ever since I can remember I have been a part of sailing. My family is full of sailors, so I think the sailing bug must be hereditary.
MR: My parents introduced my siblings and myself to sailing. They say they took me on our Holiday 23 in my carry cot, to sail the MSC regatta off shore Durban when I was two weeks old. I don’t know if that is true.

7. What do you love most about the sport?
RR: I love the life lessons the sport teaches you, the friends that you make and the friendly competition. What’s not to love?
MR: The friends you make, people you meet, the life lessons. I just love sailing.

8. What are your long term sailing goals?
RR: I hope to go as far as I possibly can, maybe a youth worlds medal, maybe an Olympic medal. I will carry on competing until I reach these goals or until the point that I no longer enjoy it because once the enjoyment is out of it there is no point.
MR: I am aiming to be selected for ISAF youth worlds, and try win a medal. I would like to go to the Olympics, and last but not least win Cape to Rio 2014 and enjoy my sailing forever.

9. How old are you?
RR: I am 16 years old.
MR:  I am 13 years old

10. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
RR: Spare time, what spare time? Most weekends I am out on the water, but I do play hockey and I am a compulsive reader.
MR: Most of my spare time on weekends I am sailing, but I also play hockey.

11. What piece of kit/equipment don’t you leave home without?
RR: My pants of course, I thought that would have been the obvious choice.
MR: My hiking pants.

12. Do you have any pre-competition rituals/habits?
RR: The last thing I do is to put my sunglasses on, this kind of says: ÔÇ£Okay, I’m ready!ÔÇØ
MR: Go over all the fittings in the boat. Check nothing will break. And put on the sunglasses.

13. How often do you get to train?
RR: I usually train every weekend. Unfortunately I live too far from a sailing venue to go during the week.
MR: Usually every weekend. Sadly we don’t live near the sea.

14. What’s next for you after this?
RR: I am hopefully participating in the Cape to Rio regatta in January, with the whole family again ÔÇô and in next year’s J-22 Worlds, which are being held on the Vaal dam, with my older sister, Kathryn, and my brothers Ricky and Brennan.
MR: Well, I am currently sailing in the African Optimist Championships in Langebaan, then hopefully, the Cape to Rio in January 2014, with the family. We now own Ciao Bella, and we have been working hard to get her ready for the race.


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