The 30-year-old Dane, who has competed in two round-the-world races in an illustrious career, leads his country into its first ever SailGP campaign – and kicked off the season with an exhilarating racing in Sydney last month.
With just 20 hours training on board the boat, the Danish team faced a huge challenge to compete with the world’s best sailors on a tricky race course Down Under.
We catch up with Nicolai to find out what he’s learned from that first event, how it feels to be racing a flying boat at almost 100km/hr, and look ahead to the rest of the SailGP season.
What have you been up to since the end of the Sydney event?
We’ve been at home, but working a lot and debriefing as a team. We’re analysing all of the action from Sydney and there's so much stuff to learn.
We’re improving all the time but we have a lot of work to do and we’re definitely not struggling to fill out our time – we have a lot of data and knowledge gathered in Sydney.
From the team launch event in December 2019, your calendar was pretty full-on…
It has been crazy to say the least. We started putting the team together and learning about the boats in November and in January we actually had to implement it ourselves on the boat, training for a few days in New Zealand.
From there, we pretty much jumped straight into Sydney, where we suddenly had to race against six other F50s on a really tight race course. So it's been full on the whole way but we’ve been trying to hang on and learn as quickly as we can.
For sure, Sydney was exciting and lining up on the first start line at almost 50 knots is an experience I’ll never forget. I think you really have to experience it to understand just how full on it is and how much you have to work together as a team to make it happen.
You went into the first event with just 20 hours training on board the boat, compared to years in the case of some of your rivals. How tough was that?
It was a big challenge. In reality, there was no way we were ever going to be fully prepared in the circumstances, and we're still far from the potential of these boats.
In that situation, you have to accept pretty early on that you can only do as much as you can do and you’ve just got to run day and night to catch up, because every minute you put in to learning about these boats and how to sail them, you will gain speed.
What’s the most important element in sailing these boats fast?
It all comes down to teamwork – these boats are impossible to sail unless you work 100% and become really coordinated. For me, it’s like driving a racing car, but you’ve only got control of the steering wheel, not the accelerator or the brake. Everything has to work together.
Watch or re-watch the full interview below.
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