Being surrounded by the sea, Malta has had a thriving sailing community stretching back to the time of the Phoenecians, but currently, two Maltese young sportsmen are making a bid for the Olympics in 2012 in London. Benji Borg, 20 and Seb Ripard, 23 are two young Maltese competitive sailors who have a dream of Olympic Gold, sailing in the 49er class.
Both Benji and Seb started sailing at a very young age. Seb comes from a family with a legacy of success in the sport. His grandfather, John Ripard, represented Malta in the sailing events in the Rome Olympics in 1960 and crewed a yacht with his brother.
Both Seb’s father and uncle are keen sports sailors and are skippering a J-133, The Jaru, in this year’s Rolex Middlesea Race on October 2010. Seb and Benji will be crew members on The Jaru for this prestigious sailing event that attracts the yachting fraternity from around the globe.
Seb started out at age 7 by sailing in the Optimist class, in fact, Seb sailed the first Optimist that was brought to Malta. An Optimist (Oppi) is a boat that’s nicknamed the bathtub, due to its small size, and is aimed at youngsters aged 7-15. Seb had a good deal of success and continued sailing at school in England, where he captained his school to victory. At University in Southampton, he started co-crewing a friend’s 49er, a skiff dinghy that’s the recognized model of boat for the fastest yachting event at The Olympics. In 2009, Seb and his friend entered the World Championships and finished in 11th place, albeit in the oldest and heaviest 49er there.
Benji also started out young and by the age of 13, he was Malta’s National Optimist class champion. He represented Malta at the Small Nation Games and won joint Gold. That same year he placed 5th in the European Championships in Croatia. He then moved up to the Laser Radial class and again won Gold at The Small Nation Games. Moving up another class to Laser Standard, Benji realized that he didn’t have the physique for the discipline and jumped at the chance when Seb called out of the blue to team up on a 49er.
The boys have been working hard over the past few months and will be training throughout the Winter. In coming months, they will be competing all over Europe in the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) World Cup. These events will take them to the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Poland. In 2011 they will be training in Malta/Europe, competing in the ISAF World Cup (Australia, USA, Europe) and then hopefully qualifying for the Olympics at the Perth 2011.