Editors Note: Congratulations to US Star skipper Mark Mendelblatt and crew Brian Fatih who will represent the US at the2012 Olympics.
I don't practice as intensely as some people do. I'm not the kind of person who can go sailing everyday, but that happened when I started sailing professionally. It's easy to burn out, but I always enjoyed the competition and matching up against the best guys—that always kept me going.
Now, my life is a balance between family and sailing. I'm married now and my wife, Carolina Borges-Mendelblatt [a competitive windsurfer], is super involved with my campaign. I guess I'm not burning out because I'm not sailing too much and things are going well, both on the water and at home, so it's a good balance.
What chapter of your sailing career has been the most fun?
College sailing! It's a time when you do lots of racing, you make friends and you have a good team around you. And, there's nothing to worry about—the equipment is there, waiting for you, so it's easy.
What's your favorite college-sailing memory?
The top moment was when we won the Team Racing Nationals at Old Dominion in 1993. I teamed up with skippers Nick Trotman and Josh Adams and our crews. The final day of racing was in heavy air and we were up against Navy; they used their heavy-air crews, while we were sailing with our same teams. It came down to the last race,which we won. For me, it was that race, that day-winning that regatta!
You've sailed AC boats and maxis—what gravity pulls you to the Olympics?
I always wanted to participate in the Olympics, so I give it a try every four years. Sometimes I have a better chance than others, but I've been fortunate to have always been one of the top guys in one of the Olympic classes. I've done five Olympic Trials, winning two and losing three. It's a big challenge, but if you can go to the Olympics, it's a big honor.
What triggered your matriculation from Lasers to Stars?
I always wanted to sail Stars and I was getting a little old for the Laser—I think I was 31 or 32 when I switched. I had sailed a lot in double-handed boats before, so sailing with a crew wasn't new. Still, sailing with someone else is always a challenge, and you have to work together. My crew right now—Brian Fatih—is an easy-going and hard-working guy, and we get along really well.
Lasers are so simple and Stars so complex when it comes torig adjustment-how have you approached this problem?
I've gone through phases where I've gotten really into tuning, but it doesn't seem to pay off. Now, I keep it as simple as possible. I don't adjust much throughout the wind range; I just try to set up the mast so that it's straight—side to side—and get the rake right, but that's it. I didn't make one shroud adjustment-nothing, we didn't change a thing-during the whole Perth regatta.
I understand Doyle Sailmakers is developing your sails for the Olympics. Is the association a long one?
I've known [my sailmaker] Jud Smith for a long time through Etchells sailing and I've always respected his work. I started using his sails in 2008. Since then, we've made a lot of improvements and done a lot of testing, and I've had no reason to look back. It's been a really good experience.
What advice can you offer other Olympic hopefuls?
Any sailor thinking about an Olympic campaign needs to think awful hard about whether they really want to devote that much of their time and money on it. It's a big undertaking if you want to be successful and actually go to the Olympics, let alone have a chance at medaling.
How about your favorite Harken/McLube products-anything that you'd recommend to other aspiring Star sailors?
HARKEN: My favorite Harken product is the 57 mm Carbo Double Ratchamatic® block, which I use for my mainsheet. I can set it at different tensions so that in light air downwind, the ratchet doesn't engage-this helps me feel the mainsail.
McLUBE: Our favorite McLube product is the new antifoul polish. The boat stays much cleaner than the old polish we used to use, and when we keep the boat in the water during regattas there's far less growth.