SailJuice Xpress
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Tuesday 21 April, 2009
One of the intriguing stories of the new Olympic cycle is the return of Chris Draper who, after winning an Olympic bronze and two World Championships, retired from Olympic campaigning before he'd even turned 30. Now he's back on the campaign trail, and we ask him what's going to be different this time...
Over the past couple of years Chris Draper has got married and forged a career in professional sailing by stringing together a number of projects including steering an Extreme 40 catamaran for Oman Sail and most recently doing the windspotting job for Team Origin at the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series in Auckland.
So, why the return to Olympic sailing? SailJuice spoke to Chris to find out his plans....
SailJuice (SJ): Chris, you've done a lot of different things in the sport over the last couple of years. Why are you going back into Olympic sailing?
Chris Draper (CD): I had become pretty miffed with the sport towards the of the last Olympic cycle. I'd lost motivation, and so I decided to explore different avenues, and the stuff I've done has done that massively. Doing the Extreme 40 and America's Cup stuff has made me realise how much there is in the sport, and how exciting it is. Now I'm going back into the 49er, prepared to give it my all.
SJ: Before we go into that, what was it like going up the rig of an America's Cup boat for Team Origin?
CD: It was a heck of a lot of fun, going 100 foot up in the air. I was standing in for Rob Greenhalgh [his 49er crew's brother] who was already committed to doing the Volvo Ocean Race with Puma. I'd talked to Ben [Ainslie] about opportunities to sail with the team, and because this opportunity came up Ben gave me a call and I dropped everything to give it a bash. It was very good fun, very interesting to work with Ben and Bart [Andrew Simpson] and [Iain] Percy. There were some pretty amazing sailors on that boat.
SJ: Yes, well, you're not too bad a sailor yourself though, are you?
CD: I got on there not knowing anything about anything, and it became apparent to me very quickly that my 49er experience was irrelevant.
SJ: Then again, a lot of 49er sailors seem to end up going up the rigs of Cup boats - sailors like Adam Beashel on Emirates Team New Zealand for example...
CD: I think maybe it's because you're trapezing up there, even if it's a hundred feet up! One of the things is getting your head around the heights, it took a long time to stop my leg from shaking, but really it is just like trapezing. Adam was very helpful about how to manage it up there. I'm used to sailing boats that are pressure oriented. Like the 49er, with the Cup boats the angle changes so much on the pressure. But it's pretty difficult to interpret the wind from up there. It takes a while getting used to gauging distance and working out how long the wind will take to reach you.
SJ: What else did you learn from the Auckland experience?
CD: Working with Bart, Percy and Ben how they manage their sailing - that was the most interesting thing. They're very close knit, they know what one another want, they sail with an incredible maturity. I learned a lot from just being a part of that group and the way they communicate.
SJ: Now you're back into Olympic campaigning after a two-year 'retirement'.  If you'd lost motivation before, how do you reignite that passion for sailing the 49er?

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