Human Stories: Roman Hagara on Barcelona

Roman Hagara, Skipper of Red Bull Sailing Team, shares his memories and experiences of Barcelona.

Thursday 31st May 2018

Few people will achieve as much in their lifetime as Roman Hagara.

One of Austria’s most famous and most loved sailors, double Olympic gold medallist in the Tornado class, two-time World Champion, five-time European Champion, America’s Cup competitor, celebrity, mentor to aspiring young sailors, and skipper for Red Bull Sailing Team in the Extreme Sailing Series™.

A household name; a global success, the 52-year-old sailor has a wealth of experience. A man well travelled, a plethora of countries visited and cultures encountered throughout his career affords him a knowledge and wisdom unobtainable from books, thanks to a job that takes him around the world.

But of the many cities visited, one stands out. Barcelona.

The cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia has played host to many a famous sporting event, but it is the 1992 Olympic Games that Hagara so fondly remembers it for, 26 years ago.

“We had an apartment in Barcelona for two years before the Olympics so we knew the city well by the time the Games arrived,” he says. “We trained in the race area and close by, it was great practice. So we had a two year lead up - quite a long lead up to the event really.”

You’d think the waiting game would have been frustrating, but Hagara remained grateful to be there.

“Barcelona was the second Olympics for us,” he reminisces. “The first time was in Seoul in Korea, but just as a spare crew or sparring partner for the other Tornado sailors. The 1992 Games were the first proper Olympics for me and my brother together.”

Hagara’s brother, Andreas, was Roman’s partner for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics before the two lightweights separated at the end of the year for weight reasons. They finished seventh overall in the Games that year.

“We started pretty well in the event and were in the top three going into the last day,” explains Roman. “Then we ended up missing out on the podium which was tough, but we still had such good memories there.”

“I think it was the first or one of the first Olympics for sailing where the Olympic village was together with all the other athletes,” he continued. “Normally the sailing was somewhere else near the sea and the Olympic village was in the main city, but this time it was all together.”

You can imagine the atmosphere as the throng of Olympians gathered together each day.

“There was such a buzz,” says Hagara with a smile. “When you went for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all the other athletes were around, it was really great. We were quite young so it was amazing to be with all of them.”

Whilst Barcelona holds such fond memories for Hagara, he is the first to admit that the Games there were hard work.

“Sailing is a technical sport and you have to be focussed on all aspects. It’s not just the technical side though, it’s also the athletics and the mental part. It can be quite gruelling sometimes.”

“We’ve learnt a lot over the years,” he continued. “Especially preparing for the Barcelona Olympic Games, and then preparing for the next Olympic Games after that. Barcelona definitely had a big impact on my sailing career and on myself as a person.”

Last year, Hagara returned to Barcelona to compete in Act 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series on his Red Bull Sailing Team GC32 catamaran. Feeling somewhat at home, his knowledge of the city and its conditions propelled the team through the ranks, finishing the Act in third place.

“The Barcelona Act last year was really good and we actually finished on the podium. We were very close on points with the first team. Going into the last race, we still had a chance to win.”

So, in the eyes of Hagara, Barcelona outdid itself once again. Unable to stay away, he returns this year to compete in the Extreme Sailing Series Act 3, determined to improve on last year’s third place result.

“We’re definitely looking forward to going back to Barcelona. It’s a beautiful city and the site for the Series is great. Going back there is good for the team and good for me especially as I know the conditions so well.”

But just as importantly as taking the Barcelona Act win, Hagara hopes to make more incredible memories with his team in a city that means so much.

“I’ve made some great memories there over the years, I hope we can do the same again this year – I’m sure we will.”

Roman Hagara will race on the waters in front of Marina Vela and the famous W Hotel Barcelona from 14-17 June. His Red Bull Sailing Team will compete against at least five other teams to take the Act win in the third stage of the 2018 Extreme Sailing Series. Spectators can watch the racing from the free-to-enter Race Village next to the W Hotel and Marina Vela, near the Barceloneta district.

For more information on the Barcelona event and the Extreme Sailing Series, visit our Barcelona event page.