Smooth sailing for Max Salminen in quest to repeat Olympic success

Four years ago Max Salminen (SWE) was on his way to a gold medal in Weymouth Bay, sat in front of Freddy Lööf (SWE) in their Star class boat. He is now trying again for Olympic glory in Rio, but this time will be in a boat by himself, sailing the Finn.

The only Swedes to have won medals in the Finn are the Finn’s designer Rickard Sarby (SWE) ­– who won bronze back in 1952 – and Lööf, in 2000. Salminen says to join them, he would be in great company. “It's a dream that has been chased for four years now, which is not a lot for some, but I have really given it my all.” He was well suited physically to the Finn at nearly two meters tall and weighing 98kg.

Since he made the decision to do it all again, the 27 year old says it has been an upward curve. “When I looked at 2012, I thought how am I going to be able to win another one? So I made a plan for my progression, and of course you have to advance faster in the ranking the first two years, while expecting that the last places are harder to conquer.”

“So I said in 2013 I'll be top 20 in the world, and I think I finished seventh at the Europeans, but some were missing. And in 2014 I'll be top 10 in the world, and I was 10th at the Worlds that same year. And I'll be top five in 2015, and so I was in Takapuna at the Finn Gold Cup. And that would lead me to a top three in 2016. It’s been a nice progressive curve.”

He says the two campaigns are quite different. In 2012, “I came in pretty late to a ready set-up. This time around I had to build it all from scratch. On the other hand I feel that the experiences from the last campaign have made me a lot wiser, and will I go into this Olympics with much more routine.”

For the Rio campaign, “I pretty much filled the empty space Daniel Birgmark (SWE) left in the group.” Birgmark sailed the Finn for Sweden in 2008 and 2012. “I was really fortunate. I would have had a much harder journey on my own. And as soon as I could afford it I hired Dayne Sharp as coach. After a seventh place at the 2013 Europeans I got more funding and could look around for a coach. Tapio [Nirkko (FIN)] felt we had a lot of the pieces in place such as the material and the sails from WB-Sails, in Finland, so we needed a coach who was specialised in boat on boat tactics. But I have to say I was impressed how quickly Dayne caught up with all the material and technical parts of it.”

He says the final preparations are going to plan. “I am very happy where I am today, because it's been a long journey to get to where I am, with changing class.”

When in Rio he has been training out of the Iate Clube Rio de Janeiro along with his training group of Nirkko and Jonathan Lobert (FRA). “It's been really convenient. It's a great club where you can find all you need and it's really close to where we usually stay in Rio. We did 14 days in Rio from the end of June until beginning of July, then home for a week then a short visit to Garda, to eat good and spend a lot of time sailing downwind and then pack and go for the big one.”

He estimates he has spent around 150 days in Rio. What has he learned in that time? “That's what we are about to find out isn't it. I think it is always hard to put in to words. Maybe what I've learnt in Rio I could have learnt somewhere else as well. But why take the chance. It's a pretty special place where you race closer to high land than most places. There are a lot of local effects to learn.”

“I think you have to be an overall sailor. You race both inside the bay close to land on almost flat or choppy water. And the next day you're out on the ocean with huge waves.” He says his strengths will be, “speed both up and down and then hopefully that my time spent there will help me take good decisions on the race course.”

“Mostly it has been smooth sailing, I have to say. But the nature in Rio is something, it is so much more wild in Rio. I have never seen it rain as it rains in Rio and I have never seen as big waves as we've had in Rio.”

But he has already set his sights beyond Rio. “Absolutely I am thinking about Tokyo as well very much. But I would like to try sailing something different and faster as well. Then see how to weigh the two with my time.”

– Robert Deaves

M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts
M.O.S.S Australia