Every now and then, as a journalist, you end up shaking hands with a giant. At the weekend I met someone who has accomplished almost everything you could want to do as a sailor. Torben Grael won medals for Brazil in five separate Olympics. Between the years 1990 and 2000, he finished on the podium of World Championships every year bar 1996, 1997 and 2000. In 1996 he was busy winning an Olympic gold, and did the Whitbread Round the World Race the year after. In 200o he was presumably too busy winning the America’s Cup with Team New Zealand and pocketing another bronze at the Olympics to find time to win a Worlds.
He won his first Brazilian National Championships in 1976, his most recent in 2004, and won another 33 in the middle somewhere. 35 national titles in 28 years.
Winning every single leg from here to the finish would yield Puma 28 points – meaning Grael and crew would have to finish fourth or worse in every leg from Galway to drop a place overall. With a 13-point lead in the Volvo Ocean Race, as skipper of Ericsson 4 it looks like he’ll be adding the world’s biggest ocean race to his trophy room pretty soon, at the third time of asking.
A podcast of the interview will be up on Afloat.ie early this week.