Riding the Mexican wave with Erik and the boys
On a mission to raise the profile of sailing among the Mexican people, Team México have goals that go beyond a podium finish.
Thursday 26th April 2018
Mexico is steeped in history, rich in culture and has breathtaking scenery. It is renowned for its colourful traditions and surrounded by beautiful blue waters with both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico lapping at its stunning coastline.
Yet despite a vast population and the recreational opportunity of having two incredible coastlines on either side, Mexico’s involvement in competitive sailing has historically been somewhat limited.
Enter Team México – a wildcard entry in Act 8 of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series™ - and returning to the fight this year.
Led by two of Mexico’s best sailors, it is skippered by Erik Brockmann - a J70 World Champion - with fellow J70 sailor Danel Belausteguigoitia Fierro on the bow.
On a mission to raise the profile of sailing among the Mexican people, these guys have goals that go beyond a podium finish.
“Danel and I are always talking about how we can make this experience in the Extreme Sailing Series reach the most people in Mexico, and take effect,” explained skipper Brockmann. “There are only a couple of us here at the event, but there are many ways that we should be able to make this project reach its pinnacle.”
Mexico’s involvement with the Extreme Sailing Series began in 2017 with the introduction of Los Cabos as a host venue. Located on the Baja peninsula, the stunning Mexican municipality made its debut hosting the season’s grand finale, treating sailors and fans alike to four days of stunning sailing against a beautiful backdrop. Thousands of visitors flocked to the race village to support the sport and the local team in Mexico, showing big potential for the future.
Cristobal Gonzalez-Aller, Team México Commercial Manager, feels strongly about Mexico’s involvement in sailing and is delighted that the Extreme Sailing Series has found a home there.
“It’s important not only for the sport of sailing in Mexico, but for the country, to be involved in major sporting events all around the world. It’s great that Mexico is now involved in the top level of the sport - for the sailing community, but also for our identity,” he said. “Following the success of the team and Los Cabos as a venue in 2017, we have gained the support of the country and the momentum needed to enable us to continue to showcase what we can do on and off the water.”
Bringing competitive sailing to the forefront of Mexican society hasn’t been an easy ride.
“Sailing in our country is still quite small, but we’re getting there,” Brockmann explains. “The main problem is that a lot of people live inland in Mexico City, so we have limited options when it comes to getting out on the water.”
Brockmann has one of two choices when it comes to sailing in his home country – either to head to Lake Avándaro almost two hours away, or to make his way to the coast, a lengthy four-hour drive from home. Still, he remains steadfast on his mission to raise the profile of sailing in Mexico.
“The idea of this team is that we want to get sailing into the heads of everyone at home,” he continues. “We have great places for sailing on both sides of the Mexican coast. We want to have local people involved in all the amazing sailing venues, and they should be the best sailors in Mexico.”
Although they grew up in a society where competitive sailing was a minority activity, the impact made by the sport on the lives of Brockmann and Fierro has been colossal.
“Sailing has been a family tradition on both sides of my family,” Fierro reminisces. “It was handed down to me and my brother from our parents and grandparents. We learnt to sail on a lake near Mexico City. Since then I’ve wanted to do nothing more than sail, from Optimists all the way up to the Extreme Sailing Series.
“So this is a whole new level of competition for me,” he continues. “I started racing a little bit more competitively in the Laser class when I was younger, but I still sailed dinghies and then went into J70s, J24s and big boats with offshore and inshore racing. As for foiling – well, my first experience was on a Moth but not in a race, just sailing around for fun. Then I foiled on a foiling board, but my first proper foiling experience was in Los Cabos in the Extreme Sailing Series. This ride has been something I can’t put into words.”
As relative newcomers to the circuit, the team has much to learn. But Brockmann is confident they can achieve great results, looking at the Series as an ongoing process with an end goal, rather than each Act as a one-off event.
“It’s a totally new boat for us, but we’ve secured some experienced sailors,” said Brockmann. “What we have is a mix of Mexican and international crew (Tom Phipps, Alex Higby and Tom Buggy). The idea is that in the future, as we get more experienced, we will introduce another Mexican to the team. We’re keen to do as much for Mexico as we can, whilst still managing to be as competitive as we can. The work seems to be going well – as the season continues, we’ll just get better and better.
“We have quite a different approach this year,” he added. “Our dream has always been to be here, but last year we saw it as a one-week event. This time we’re starting to look ahead to the rest of the season. We’re gearing up for the future and the longer term results.”
“We have to improve every day,” adds Fierro. “The learning curve has been exponential. We’re competing against experienced teams that have been in the Series for a long time – it’s hard to be at their level.”
Still, you have to look at the best and learn from the best to be the best. With some of the world’s most elite sailors as their competitors, Team México need not invent things themselves. Brockmann believes his team is in the best possible place to develop the skills needed to secure a place on the Series podium in the future.
“We have incredible sailors right next to us, there’s no better way to reach their level than to race against them. Hopefully, event by event, we’ll be closer to them,” he said. “We know we can be at the top in some races but it’s more about consistency. The consistent teams are the ones that win; they come back from being fifth to being third because they make one small change to their set-up. It’s so competitive that all those little changes make a big difference.”
For Erik and Danel, the Extreme Sailing Series has already been a huge stepping stone in their careers.
“It is a dream come true,” Brockmann admits. “I remember watching videos of the Extreme Sailing Series and seeing how amazing the sailing was. At that time, it felt like a different world. Mexico has never really been involved in these kinds of competitions. We’re here now and it’s amazing. A lot of work has been done but there’s still a lot of work ahead.”
Fierro agrees: “Sometimes I still wake up and I can’t believe we’re here. We’ve been amazed by the support we’ve received from the whole of Mexico. I think this is a great motivation, not only for us but for the whole country as well. This will have an impact not only on our team, but on every Mexican sailor – from Optimists to the Olympic classes to big boats. We’re doing this for Mexico.”