Climbing up the ladder
Sönke Meier-Sawatzki from Germany seems to be the kind of person who loves progress and constant development and improvement. Today he is at what he calls 30% of the potential with his X-50 and his crew – determined to do better and better, ending up beating the competitors.
Sönke did not start racing until his mid-thirties, where he bought his first boat, a sporty X-382. After that he was one of the first owners of the new and impressive one design boat, X-35. “This was a very difficult but incredibly interesting racing environment. My X-35 is today rebuilt as a cruising boat, but I am still keen on sailing her, usually single- handed in the Baltics.”
“Starting at a relatively late age racing, I have had to hurry up learning how to perform the best, since my competitors do not exactly get worse,” Sönke explains. “Though I started sailing as a young boy, it was completely different from racing. “With my father we fought ourselves all across the North and Baltic Sea in a pure cruising boat, not very fast and athletic. And already at that time I decided that I one day would own a boat perfect for regattas.”
As soon as Sönke was able to swim his father took him out<sailing. Being grateful to the fact that his father introduced him to sailing he has nevertheless had to use quite some energy and good arguments in persuading him that a sportier boat, than he was raised with, will do better. “My father preferred the more robust and safe boats, but I finally think I have his approval today.”
Getting the hang of racing
Back in the X-35 days Sönke was among others introduced to Jesper Bank, who at that time did some training sessions for a group of X-35 sailors in the Baltics. “I was the last to join the group, but learned a lot from these training sessions. One day I told Jesper, that I wanted to improve but needed help. I thought to myself that an OL medallist and America’s Cup sailor would of course be beyond my reach. But I was wrong. Jesper agreed to support me and also introduced me to among others Chris Keene Boye, who still assists me on the X-50 with a certain understanding of me as helmsman. In fact we just have to look at each other to understand a message.” Chris Keene Boye is a sail designer with Elvstrøm Sails.
Today Sönke is primarily racing his X-50 in the Mediterranean Sea, having his X-50 located in Palma de Mallorca. “The local races are simply great, especially the Copa del Rey. Not to mention the great sailing conditions. Regatta sailing means a lot to me. You get to concentrate on one thing with likeminded people all with the same target. It´s fun, thrill and pure enjoyment to me.”
Systematic processing of To Do’s
It becomes quite clear not only once, but many times during the interview with Sönke that progress and development is a natural part of his mindset. “I like to go systematically over the to-do list of weaknesses to improve. I enjoy every single and small progress with a crew that share the same professional approach and willingness to constantly develop. To some extent there are a lot of similarities to my company, though on the boat we are not 270 people but 12 that need to coordinate”. Though Sönke says he is at 30% of the potential with his X-50 his sailing career already counts great achievements. The first highlight back in the mid 90´ies as the overall winner of Kieler Woche, and since then 4th at the World Championships in Bardalona along with a number of great achievements with both his X-35 and the X-50, Copa del Rey being one of the highlights.
“I´ve learned a lot from Elvstrøm Sails and I am not finished yet. We want to achieve more success with the elderly X-50 in the Mediterranean Sea – and I am quite certain we will”. Buying a newer and even racier boat is not an option. “I have a certain bond to Niramo, X-50 who has delivered many good hours and great moments not only on the racing course, but also as a family boat,” Sönke concludes.