Photo by: ACI archive
A new career in sailing
When you have come out of the alley called Vu plavem trnaci, keep on going for a few hundred metres down the narrow country road, and voilà! You have come to the place where Ivica Kostelić, the celebrated Croatian skier, lives. Peace, nature and gentle green scenery. A true paradise. Kloštar Ivanić has been a new home of the Kostelić family for the past year. So close to Zagreb, just a 20-minute drive away, but far enough to forget all the downsides of a big city. Great ideas for the future are formed in the wooden cottage and on its porch overlooking the ponds. These plans and Kostelić’s new passion are just the right topic for ACI No. 1. Ivica Kostelić got hooked on sailing, and not just any type of it, but its authentic variety – offshore sailing. The goals are set – as they were during his ski career – very high: taking part in prestigious races such as the Jacques Vabre, Route du Rhum and Vendée Globe. But we will come back to this later.
The first question is, logically, why sailing?
Why not? I love vast open spaces in all their forms. And the sea is just that. Big, unrestrained and uncontrollable. Nowadays we are all controlled in a way, and these pockets of unspoilt nature are left as the only places where you can be in charge of yourself. When you’re in the wilderness, you don’t have a lot of demands, but they’re all very serious: where to sleep, what to eat and what’s the weather forecast. Desires for material things, such as a new mobile phone, car or something similar, just don’t matter. You’re only interested in elementary coexistence and battle with natural forces. I’ve always loved the sea, boating, fishing, diving. I started learning to sail in 2005 at the Oreb sailing school on Korčula. At the time, I have to admit, the sailing boat was too slow for me. I went to Malta in an RIB in 2010, and started catching the wind again some time later. I sailed on Seascape 18 and bought a small racing boat Transat 6.50, whose number was 508. That boat had participated in some serious races and it was fun to learn to sail on it. Then I switched over to Class 40, durable boats built for offshore racing. The first one was Akilaria RC1, named Pik As (Ace of Spade), and the one I have now is called Croatia Full of Life Ola. It’s also Akilaria, just the more advanced RC2 version. It’s a boat made for racing on the oceans’ vast open spaces.
Offshore sailing is a combination of adventure and sport. To what extent were you attracted to it because of this aspect of adventure?
I’m fascinated by the way in which a man manipulates nature and tries to find a balance between the sea, the waves and the wind. Races like these mean getting out of your comfort zone and, at the same time, escaping from everyday things you can’t change. On the ocean there is no conflict, there are no crowds, no greed and no people being mean to each other. You’re not left with that bad taste in your mouth… On deck, time loses its meaning. Day and night become relative categories and your only concern is how to establish the best possible dialogue with the wind. Nature waits for no one and it’s up to us to adapt to it. Adventures teach you humility because when the wind is 40 knots and more, you realise how great the power of nature is and how we, as humans, are small in comparison. Now, when you add the element of competing to those difficult conditions, things start to become even more interesting. When you have competition, you start thinking about other things as well. Would you rather be faster or safer; will you get a chance to sleep? Competitiveness makes you give 150 percent. It makes you want to push your own limits. Let me try to explain it in more vivid terms. The time of researchers on Earth has passed; people like Amundsen or Hillary don’t exist anymore. Everything has already been discovered. You can go on a cruise to the South Pole, and crossing the Atlantic has become normal. I need to spice it up a little bit, I need to turn the volume all the way up… That’s exactly what offshore sailing is for: understanding and pushing your own limits. I have the urge to go further and do more.