Sinem Kurtbay sailed as a child on the Turkish national team. Now he is aiming for an Olympic place for Finland in a demanding and swinging Nacra 17 class sailboat.
Cheerful the voice answers the phone from Lanzarote in the Atlantic Ocean.
Sinem Kurtbay is not on a Spanish island on a holiday trip, but in preparation for next year’s Summer Olympics.
The Finnish-Turkish sailor wants to be in the best possible condition if the Olympics are held and if he gets there, because that is not yet certain either.
Qualifications for many other Tokyo Olympic sports have been suspended due to the corona pandemic. So far, Finnish sailors have three safe places: Kaarle Tapper (Laser standard), Wind-Pet-Sirén (RS: X) and a ground position in Laser radial where the inland qualifier won Tuula Tenkanen.
Finland still has a chance to get places in Tokyo in Finnjoll, 49er FX and Nacra 17, and possibly also in men’s RS: X and 49er next spring.
Kurtbay sails with his partner Janne Järvisen with Nacra 17 class. It is the only Olympic class to compete in mixed pairs.
The last Olympic qualifiers in the class will be in Mallorca at the end of March. There is one place in the European quota that has not yet been allocated. 20 boats, or 40 competitors, will be taken to the Tokyo Olympic waters. The corona pandemic and the omissions of other countries may affect the choice.
“Getting to the Olympics isn’t easy in this class,” says 29-year-old Kurtbay.
“My best friend sailed and I wanted to try what it tastes like.”
Gastina the job is to keep the boat moving, skipper Kurtbay takes care of the tactical side.
Born in Savonlinna but raised in Turkey, Kurtbay is a natural talent. He started sailing at the age of seven at the Istanbul Yacht Club.
“My best friend sailed and wanted to try what it tastes like. Admittedly, he quit soon after I started. Then I was on the Turkish optimistic national team, ”says Kurtbay.
Kurtbay moved to Finland with his Finnish mother and Turkish father at the age of twelve. In Finland, he joined the NJK (Nyländska Jaktklubben) sailing club.
Kurtbay can be considered a world citizen. His mother is the head of international affairs at Aalto University, his father is an architect and his grandfather was an ambassador.
Multilingual Kurtbay attended an English-speaking high school in Finland and moved to Copenhagen School of Economics at the age of 19, where he was 3.5 years old.
“My master’s studies are still in progress, and I also speak three of those several languages fluently. So Sweden and Spain are going like that, and I also know Denmark to some extent, ”says Kurtbay.
“Dangerous situations and injuries often happen.”
Previously Kurtbay competed Silja Kanervan with the 49ers in the X class, where they finished 17th at the 2013 World Cup. In 2016, the couple tried for the Rio Olympics, but Kurtbay was injured before qualifying.
He flew in a strong wind with his knee hooked against the boat. The corner of the boat hit the patella tendon of the knee. Kurtbay could not bend his knee. Getting around the boat was awkward.
“It was even harder to compete in the qualifiers. I tried to sail in the qualifiers while standing, but nothing came of it, ”Kurtbay says.
There are also accidents on Nacra 17 class boats. The boat travels hard, up to 50 miles per hour. Below are the carrying wings, the so-called foils, with which the boat rises out of the water when the speed is sufficient.
“Dangerous situations and injuries often happen when someone has fallen into the water and struck themselves, usually in the rudder behind,” Kurtbay says.
There is a lot of force in the sails, which can lead to strain injuries to the back, elbow or shoulder.
Heather praises Kurtbay as a brave and insightful sailor. The duo’s collaboration began when Kanerva began aiming for a 49er-class Olympic place in Rio.
“Sinem was phenomenal, and he grabbed the species really quickly. He is temperamental and lives in the race with emotion, ”says Kanerva, who works as a lawyer.
“It’s really hard to change sailing buddies.”
This Kurtbay was at the World Cup of the year Axle Central with Nacra in the 17th class ninth. Keskinen replaced the original gastia Järvi for the whole of 2019, which recovered from a back injury at the end of 2018.
“Nacra is a very technical class and I was forced to continue sailing. I called Axel, and he came along the very next day. It’s really hard to change sailing buddies. Janne is more of a meditator and Akseli is physical. Now I’m trying to go to Tokyo with Janne. ”
In October, Kurtbay was still seventh in the European Championships with Keskinen.
“It’s great that Axis dared to leave my sled. He was really quick to learn. ”
Kurtbay says he is proud to have done well with different crews.
“Few sailors change guys. The boat is bouncy and you have to know how to move. The guy needs to understand how and where I am directing. There is not a second time at sea to think or communicate. You have to move instinctively. ”
In sailing, Kurtbay has ambitious goals. In addition to the Tokyo Olympics, he wants to permanently redeem a place in the world top ten in the Nacra 17 class.
“When training abroad, it’s important to have good training buddies.”
To Finland Kurtbay will not come until Christmas, after which he will return to Lanzarote before the spring Olympic qualifiers.
Internships abroad are expensive, but it is essential if you are going to succeed. Sailing in domestic waters is not a treat for the top athlete in the winter.
In the spring, due to the coronavirus, Kurtbay trained exceptionally in Finland, for the first time in three years.
“When training abroad, it’s important to have good training buddies,” Kurtbay says.
Lanzatrotella Kurtbay and Järvinen’s training buddies are a Spanish Nacra 17 class couple. They already have the Olympic venue redeemed.
Kurtbay has two Nacra 17 class boats, one of which is in Finland. The boat costs about 30,000 euros. Spare parts are also needed for the boat.
“Sailing is an instrumental sport. It easily costs us 10,000 euros a month for the Lanzarote camp. Even if there were ten types to help, everyone would have something to do, ”Kurtbay says.
One big cost is the coach’s salary. Kurtbay is coached by a Dane Allan Nørregaard, who won the 2012 Olympic Bronze in London in the 49er class.
“Allen joins the boat himself when the need arises. He sees what I’m doing. We practice every day. ”