Wollmann siblings sailing into unknown
Cecilia Wollmann believes the strong bond she shares with her brother Michael could be their biggest asset in the Nacra 17 event at the Pan American Games.
The siblings begin their campaign at the Yacht Club Peruana in Paracas today, where they will be among a strong fleet of 12 competitors in the performance catamarans.
Cecilia will helm the multihull boat with Michael serving as crew, the pair switching to the Nacra 17 about 2½ years ago as they bid to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next summer.
“There’s a bit of bickering every now and again, but we know how to calm each other down and know what annoys each other,” Cecilia said. “We can kind of read each other well and it’s easy to communicate with each other.
“If we need to organise things, we can just yell down the corridor [at the Bermuda team apartment at the sailing venue] and see what the other one’s up to.”
Cecilia, 21, is by far the more seasoned of the pair, having represented Bermuda at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and the previous Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015.
However, the mixed crew boat is a very different beast to the Laser Radial in which she sailed at those competitions, although she does have experience helming catamarans as part of Team BDA at the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017.
“I was a bit small for the Laser Radial, so it was quite hard and challenging in a way, plus the Nacra 17 is a mixed boat so me and my brother could sail in it together,” said Wollmann, who finished 34th in Rio and twelfth in Toronto.
“I also did lots of sailing in the catamaran at the Youth America’s Cup and really enjoyed it.
“It just made sense to jump in and try the [Nacra 17] with Mikey.
“The boats are quite different and Mikey is new [to major international events]; he’s quite excited.”
Cecilia is cautiously optimistic about their chances of a successful Pan Am Games and admits they would have liked more time honing their partnership in preparation for the regatta.
“We haven’t raced too much in the Nacras [because of school commitments] and there are a lot of countries here that we haven’t raced against,” she said. “It’s going to be new for both of us.
“Things can go wrong quite quickly in these boats. However, there are also lots of little things you can do to make you go faster. It’s about learning about those little things. A centimetre here or there makes a big difference.”
Michael, 19, travelled to Rio and Toronto to support his sister while helping her prepare for those events as her training partner.
He agrees that the transition to the catamarans has been challenging but believes they are starting to feel at home in the new Olympic-class boats.
“It was great being in that environment [at the Olympics and Pan Am Games] when I was so young and it’s great to have reached this level,” he said.
“It’s been a big transition but we’ve been doing this for a few years now.
“We’re more used to this boat than we would be if we were back in the Laser Radial.
“Ceci does the steering and I do all of the ropes and sails; all of the power stuff.
“I enjoy it; it’s fun and fast. We’ve done a bit of training in [Weymouth] England and we competed in Miami at the World Cup Series Miami [where they placed 24th].
“The goal is to be at least within range of qualifying for the Olympics.
“We need to finish as one of the top two North American countries to qualify.”
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