Olympic sailing may have wrapped up, but Paralympic sailing is about to kick off in Rio. One of our Paralympic sailors, Daniel Fitzgibbon, already has silver and gold medals and will be representing Australia at the helm of the 18ft SKUD. A Sydney local who began sailing at the tender age of four, Dan broke his neck while away at a sailing regatta when he was 20 but was determined to keep sailing. Dan’s crew, Liesl Tesch, was a Paralympic wheelchair basketballer before Dan did sailing a great favor and poached her. Dan answered a few of Jess’s questions.
Jess: What is it about sailing that you love?
Dan: I love being out on the water and experiencing all the weather Mother Nature throws at you. I love the fact that as a sailor you have to master all these conditions and knowing full well that you never can totally master them.
Jess: What’s your idea of perfect sailing conditions? Do you have a competitive advantage in any particular conditions?
Dan: I love a good 15 knot northeasterly sea breeze. Starting to depower. In the SKUD we are pretty good at these conditions and above. But as sailing is all about the mastery of all conditions, we are working hard to be good in everything.
Jess: Your list of sailing achievements is long. Can you see yourself doing anything other than sailing?
Dan: I like property development and investment. But I love being on the water, even if it is on my powerboat.
Jess: What do you do to prepare yourself mentally for a big race?
Dan: I like to listen to music and wheel to the Yacht Club if possible. It’s important to deep breathe and relax before a race. If you are tense or rushing you tend to oversteer or overshoot off the starting, making it difficult to hold your lane.
Jess: Any advice on goal setting? Should goals be huge and crazy or realistic and achievable?
Dan: Goal setting is the key to motivation. I set short, medium and long range goals. Trying to achieve these makes me get out of bed each day. Make them big!
Jess: Can you ever see yourself as a cruising sailor? What about keelboat sailing, is that something you’d like to do more of?
Dan: I love being on the water in any capacity. The Paralympic sailing is pretty full on with lots of travel. After Rio, I’m keen to just do fun sailing at the RPAYC. I love keelboat racing and would love to get a J/70 and just sail with everyone else.
Good luck to Dan and Liesl!