The Italian Slalom sailor Alberto Menegatti (28) is the only sailor, besides Antoine Albeau, who has won a Slalom event this year and who has a slight chance to grab the Slalom World Champion Title. The 28 year-old Italian has been on the PWA Slalom tour for a few years now, but this season it seems that Alberto has his big break through. “Race after race I tried to understand what went wrong and why and afterwards I gave myself the direction I wanted to go. I believe I improved a lot, but have a lot more room to improve still.”
We have caught up with the Italian for a big interview to find out more about his training, his goals, his injury on his forearms and much more.
C7: You changed from Gaastra to Point-7 in the beginning of 2013. Was it the right decision?
Alberto Menegatti: I am very happy to have changed to Point-7 by the end of the year 2012. It was a big change, the sails are a lot different. Everything was and is different. New vibes, new team, I had a good support and the sails were performing really well. I am really happy with the partnership and it really helped to arrive where I am right now this season.
C7: In the past you already had several great races and victories in finals, but it seems that this season something has changed. We see you in almost all winner finals, you won an event and you are currently ranked in 3rd overall. What is it exactly, what you are doing better compared to all the other years?
Alberto Menegatti: From 2003 till now a lot has changed. Back then I was new on the course, I was new in the game. People like Antoine or Björn were just untouchable. Year after year racing against them I got closer and closer and the biggest impact was in 2011 winning my first final at Costa Brava. In your head you always have a bit of weird feelings about those big names. When you are young they are your stars and it’s hard to make the change, to make you believe actually to beat them and to believe to be on the same level. From 2011 on it slowly started to happen, but I was not completely there. And 2012 I got closer and closer. This year, 2013, is the year, where everything came together. I have a much better speed, I see the racing much better and I had a much better preparation. I prepared on and off the water very well this winter. On the water I was training with the Point-7 Black Team, having starts made with Sparky in the bay of El Medano and had proper racing training till a month before the first event. Race after race I tried to understand what went wrong and why. And afterwards I gave myself the direction I wanted to go. I believe I improved a lot, but have a lot more room to improve still. Year after year I realise a lot of things that can be done and I made already better. I already know now what I can work on to improve my racing for next year.
C7: Do you have the perfect size, weight combo for the actual slalom conditions?
Alberto Menegatti: My body is really good for racing, I think, especially for Slalom racing. I have 98 kilos normally and I am 195 cm tall. When it’s light wind I am light and fit and can put my weight outside and when it gets stronger I am still heavy, when I put my weight on to the board. I think I have a good size and constitution and it really helps to get the top speed out of my gear.
Alberto wins the 5th elimination at the PWA Slalom World Cup in Alacati
C7: You had your debut on the PWA tour back in 2003. How much did you improve since then?
Alberto Menegatti: When I started I knew just very little things about Slalom racing and I was hardly passing the first rounds. So from these times to now it really changed a lot. From 2011 it really took a step forward to 2012, and from 2012 to now I really improved again much more. I think from year to year I am getting better and I am trying to solve the problems I have and still believe that I have quite a lot of room to improve. Every year I learn more and more and more and when I think it’s close to an end I still see there is more to learn. The more I learn the more I believe I can learn. I see a lot of improvement ahead of me for 2014.
C7: Do the Point-7 racing sails fit your style better than the Gaastra sails?
Alberto Menegatti: With Point-7 now I have a very good feeling, the sails are very fast and they really fit my style. The sail is very stable and has a very frontal power and when the gust hits it just pushes you forward. I really feel comfortable and I think I have one of the best top speeds. In the jibe the sails gets very neutral and out of the jibe, when I pump it, I have a straight acceleration. I think it’s a very good combo.
C7: Did you test the sails before you decided to go with Point-7?
Alberto Menegatti: My first idea, when I wanted to go to find a new idea, a new way, a new path to change for 2013 was to find the best combo that I could possibly have. I went and tested the boards and the sails together, to make sure that everything was fine. My main interest was to try and get to the top, to the best possible spot and I knew only with the best possible gear I could get this result.
C7: Are you a star in Italy now?
Alberto Menegatti: Well, I am not a star yet! I know more people and I got a bit more known, but there is a long way to get into the star situation. For sure I signed a few more autographs and I am happy about that. I really hope it will get slowly more and more and I will be able to build myself a good image.
C7: Do you train and test a lot with Andrea Cucchi?
Alberto Menegatti: I did train a lot with Andrea Cucchi during the summer. In the beginning of the season I was training a lot with the other team riders of the Point-7 team, with Pascal Toselli, Maciek Rutkowski, and I believe this helped a lot. I spent 2,5 months on Tenerife and I trained a lot with the Black Team, also with girls, like Greta Benvenuti and many other sailors, but my main training was with Maciek, Pascal and Andrea Cucchi, but all the rest of the team is always there. I also was training before I went to Tenerife, in South Africa with my friend Peter and as well with Finian Maynard and Peter Volwater at Lake Garda.
C7: You focused a lot on your fitness besides the training on the water. Are your colleagues trained well or are they missing some basic training?
Alberto Menegatti: I believe everyone has his own way of training and everybody must find the way how to get on the top. I am still trying to find a way how to really reach the first spot, but so far I am improving year by year. It’s not missing basis training, it’s just a matter of time and trying to find your own way of training. There is not a general way that you can just do and make it happen in my opinion.
C7: How does a day of Alberto Menegatti look like, back home at Lake Garda?
Alberto Menegatti: When I am back home and I am fully fit I wake up early in the morning and I try to get sailing at 6.00 am in Malcesine to get, well I say 7.00 am, the North Wind, that I can sail with the 7,2m or 7,8m, sometimes 6,3m. Then I come home, eat, take a break, I take a coffee, I go out with my girlfriend and around 1.00 pm I go back on the board and sail in the afternoon in Torbole. This is mostly 9,5m or 8,6m. This way I can sail with 9,5 to 7,2 almost every day. After that I go home, I chill, I take it easy. I stay most of the time with my girlfriend. Three times a week I also go to the gym and that makes it a very full day between two sessions a day and three times in a gym.
C7: How is your actual level in high wind. This year we had mostly flat water or small waves and light to medium wind at the events?
Alberto Menegatti: I have been implementing high wind training since a few years. During the winter I went to Cape Town or Tenerife and tried to sail on the smallest gear possible in the most windy days. I know that I was lacking in performance in the high wind and I was having troubles. Year after year I have been working on that and year after year I have been improving. In the past two years I improved a lot and I feel very confident in strong wind. Last season I made it in 12th at Sotavento, Fuerteventura and it’s a good result. I believe I could have done even better this year. My sails improved in high wind and also I have been training mostly in these conditions. During the winter I spent every possible moment in this stronger wind conditions. I am sure when it gets strong again I will be in the right place in the right moment.
C7: You had problems with your forearms and had to stop your training for about a month. Please tell us a bit about it.
Alberto Menegatti: Alacati was probably the hardest event I had in the season, because I was really looking forward to it, but 1.5 months before I got a bad injury. I was not even able to hold a pen or just to fill up my car with the petrol. I had an inflammation on both my tendons and it kept me off the water for 1.5 months. I showed up at Alacati with not so high expectations and had no prospective. I just thought to save the season and thought I was lost. I came there and slowly I realized that I was able to perform. And it went very well. So far I am still injured and need some more time to heal. But I think it was just a dream the result I had in Alacati.
C7: Is this injury a result of too much training?
Alberto Menegatti: I have been pushing on and off the water nonstop during the whole winter until South Korea. After Korea I would have needed a break, but I kept on sailing and sailing and sailing. I was sailing 6 to 8 hours a day, every day. I believe I should have give it a break, but I really wanted to come to Costa Brava and do another great result and that’s the consequence!
C7: Slalom racing is still dominated by Antoine Albeau and Björn Dunkerbeck! When will the young generation take over the top spots?
Alberto Menegatti: Names like Antoine Albeau or Björn Dunkerbeck are there forever and they have an amazing experience. It’s really hard to beat them.Year after year we are getting closer. There are a lot of young riders, who are pushing for it and are trying to get there. It’s not so easy, but we are slowly closing more and more the gap year after year. I try my best to make it on the best possible spot. And I am doing ok so far. I am trying and trying and I hope there will be new names for the world title in the next year. This year it will be possible, but very very hard. Antoine has to finish outside the top 8 and I have to win. That’s the only chance for someone else to win the title. We are here at Sylt and we are going to try it.
C7: You are one of a few guys, who has his own fin sponsor with Z-Fins. Is that a big advantage for you?
Alberto Menegatti: Having Z-Fin as a sponsor is a honor and a privilege for me. I am working together with Arnon Dagan on the fins. And day after day, event after event we are developing more and more.We are getting closer to have better fins compared to what we have already. We have the launch of a new fin, the S–. This fin is a softer fin than the previous one and has a bigger range. It’s very good to have a fin sponsor, because I can try to achieve what I like from a fin. I can try to go in a direction, that helps me to get the best result possible. And this is the result that normally allows to have a faster fin on the market than what we have already.
C7: There are no rules on the PWA tour in Slalom. Did it get harder this year? You got attacked several times really hard!
Alberto Menegatti: So far, except for Alacati, Turkey, it was all smooth for me. In Alacati I got quite a few crashes. In one of the finals Julien Quentel took backend and I went down and got from 2nd to 7th. In another race I was fighting for first place with Cyril Moussilmani on the first reach an he just came down on me and again I lost meters. And I had a few other crashes down there at Turkey. It’s hard, because especially in flat water we are all very close and we don’t have to jibe on the swell. So everybody makes his own line and when you go behind, you just try to go in. You have to try to go as close as possible to the mark. From the first days I changed a bit the way of jibing in Turkey. Instead of going around the mark as close as possible I was trying to close and start the jibe as close as possible to the mark. So nobody would be able to actually touch me. I ended up further downwind or away from the mark, but at least nobody could come inside and even when I give 50 cm and try to go in and touch me and take me down. Because this will cost you all.
C7: Cyril, one of your Starboard team colleagues, almost sailed you down in the 3rd final at Alacati. You just avoided a crash.
Alberto Menegatti: Well, I was coming from a bad start and I had a 18 and 7 and this round I was realizing that I can win. We had a few restarts. I was 2nd in one and I was first in a few of the restarts. I felt really good speed, but had not the best start on the important valid one. I had a spinout on it. Close to the end of the leg Cyril was just ahead of me, but he was not enough ahead to try and come down. We are getting close to the mark and I knew I had the inside of it because he was not enough in front of me and Questel was just behind me and below. I did not expect him to come and he came full power down wind. There was nothing I could do. I tried to avoid and save as much as possible, which cost me quite a bit. But that’s the game, he is in the same team, but everyone wants to win. Nothing I could do. I was pissed at that moment, but that’s the game. We have to go tight, to keep going, keep pushing and go forward. You can not really be pissed off, when something happens. If it happens more than one time with the same guy, then ok, it will be different. This time it happened and I had to go on!!
C7: You were winning the fifth final in front of Antoine Albeau at Alacati and you knew that he will win the event, when he finishes 2nd. Were you disappointed, when you finished the final race in 1st, but you were not able to win the event. You just lost by 1,4 points!
Alberto Menegatti: I arrived with no prospective and no real ambitions to Alacati. I just came to save the year. I did not really believe that I could have a good event, because I did not train and was not fit. Everything was not on my side. When I won the last final and I saw Antoine Albeau was second, I was hoping that I had some chances to win, but it was a great moment anyway, because someone would have told me some days before the event I would have a second place it would have been a dream. I was super happy anyway and I was super stoked. I don’t believe anybody can really understand the situation I was physically and emotionally before the event. The 2nd place was just amazing! I am sure I will have a lot more times to try and win an event!!
C7: What was the biggest success for you so far, the victory in South Korea or the 2nd place with your injury?
Alberto Menegatti: Both events were unexpected. I came to South Korea and wanted to do my best, but did not believe to win. And when it started well I started to believe in it. And it was a great surprise and a great shock, it was amazing. I was in shock after it happened. After the event in Turkey I was not in shock. I already won an event. I kind of knew I can do it. But I was injured and was not sure, if I can finish the event. At the moment I think South Korea was a much bigger feeling. The result in Turkey was a lot harder. It was probably the bigger success at Alacati to me!
C7: How will you prepare for Sylt? You still can win the title, if you win and Antoine is not in the top 8.
Alberto Menegatti: So far I could not really prepare for the last event. I got a great result, but still need time to recover. I would have needed a few more weeks before Turkey to recover. I tried to train as hard as I can in the gym like running or go for exercises for the legs, but the upper body needs a break, a proper rest. I know I still can win and I know I need to win and Antoine needs to do a 8th or 9th. I will try to fight as hard as I can. Actually I feel better and ok for racing.
C7: Do you like Sylt for Slalom racing?
Alberto Menegatti: Sylt is not the place I like most because of the weather. It’s normally quite cold and I don’t like cold weather. Besides that the conditions are ok . I like them. Last year I got a 2nd and a 3rd, what I remember. And I crashed and missed one start. I did not have a good result at all last year, but I had the chance to do good, if everything went fine. This year I am ready for it and I believe I can have a really good result after it.
C7:What’s your longtime goal in Slalom racing?
Alberto Menegatti: I would like to be World Champion and I am going to try to push hard until I will be. And then I will try to hold on to have the best possible result ever. I am pushing and pushing and finally I will be able to achieve these results. I think I can go on racing for a very long time. I think until 35 or 40. I still have quite a few years ahead of me.
C7: Thanks for the interview and good luck for the rest of the event in Sylt.