For both of us, “That Feeling” is a combination of competing and cruising. Sailing brings us peace and freedom away from all civilization. When competing, your focus needs to be on every manoeuvre (in and outside of the boat). That Feeling of winning and finding your flow in a race is unlike anything else. It is a real sense of pride when you have put loads of hours into training.
Growing up in Brazil near the crisp blue waters, sailing team Martine and Kahena had a childhood filled with time by the sea - with both of their parents having owned boats and getting them into sailing.
Martine gave thanks to her mom who used to teach the youngsters sailing, and to her father (Torben Grael) who had participated in The Ocean Race and became Brazil’s most successful Olympic sailor. His hard work then led Martine to embrace competition and develop a passion for the seas.
Kahena had a similar upbringing, with memories of her dad showing her the ropes and letting her be the captain. Spending most of her childhood on their 30 foot boat helped build her passion of sailing and staying close to the ocean.
At that time, it was just fun spending time in the water, exploring new places, and learning how to rig up and store away the equipment.
However, they both found that seamanship is hard to teach. It’s a craft and you have to live it, have good examples or role models, and for them, nothing could be better than having their parents teach them.
All this time, the feeling they loved most was the competitiveness and the rush of excitement: There was always room to be better. Martine described it as, “I remember how good it felt to just get the work done and to feel the learning curve. Don’t we all like a steep learning curve?”
They both grew up to be professional sailors and developed a competitive edge through Olympic races, the Pan-American games and 49er Sailing World Championship.
Martine and Kahena have accomplished so much already, having won Olympic and Pan American medals. Kahena says: “Our proudest experience was winning our first Olympic medal at home around all of our family and friends and it’s something I will never forget.”
“The first time our medal race was covered live by one of the famous TV channels in Brazil, we got the chance to show Brazilians that not only footballers are the superstars in our country, but sailors are too! I was impressed to see so many people, especially children and girls cheering for us that day - it brought me lots of joy.”
Martine echoed the same feeling saying: “My proudest achievement was winning the gold medal in Rio. We had prepared so much for that moment and so much led up to us being there. And more recently being able to go back and get it again after Tokyo was so rewarding, after such hard Covid years.”
The pair started sailing optimist and then 420, 29er and moved to 49erFX to start their first campaign in Rio 2016. It was the first step towards a dream come true and today their dream still exists and their motivation to keep improving is huge.
For them, travelling the world to sail and compete is what they do for a living and is their biggest passion. Martine put it perfectly by saying: “When your job is sailing but also your hobby, you get many sailing vacations and other invites here and there to sail other boats. I always liked those invites as when you fully experience a task on a boat (especially with racing), there is a lot of teamwork, timing, and communication. And these skills are life skills … that’s why it is such an incredible sport.”
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Martine describes her most challenging moment while sailing in the feared Southern Ocean. She said: “The waves were as tall as high buildings and stretched from the tip of Africa looping around Australia and New Zealand before hitting South America. I was apprehensive before setting off, but the endurance needed to rise to the challenge was something I’d never experienced before. It was relentless. Thankfully with focus and teamwork we got through - but it was hard work.”
Not checking the forecast before heading out led to an equally challenging experience for Kahena.
“On a return leg, after a few capsizes, our top mast broke on a super shallow area. It then took the mainsail from the track (and it started sinking) and it got stuck on the bottom. We had to leave the mainsail to keep the boat safe and us alive! A good learning – better have a look at the forecast before you go out.”
Next on their agenda is campaigning for the next Olympics in Paris 2024, and that means a lot of sailing in the Mediterranean. They are also planning on spending time in the city of Marseille to start getting used to the culture and climate.
For Martine and Kahena, “it is all about finding balance and it’s important we have a program to commit to and a team who can help us prepare ourselves for the biggest competition and to equally know when to take a break.”
Now Martine and Kahena spend most of their time travelling on the Olympic Sailing Circuit, finding elsewhere to race boats, or travelling to find their next adventure.
The pair wants to continue inspiring others to enjoy That Feeling of being out on the water and around friends, and they ultimately want to continue embracing the competitiveness of Olympic sailing and all the joys that come with it.
Find out more about Martine and Kahena:
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