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North Sails NEWS
NEW CLASS LEADER FOR THE 5.5 METRE
World Champion Christoph Burger Takes On New Role
Christoph Burger has sailed a lot of different one designs since childhood, including two Olympic campaigns in the Finn, but he’s always returned to the 5.5 Meter class. “My dad built one of the first modern boat in 1994, when I was 18. That was my first link and I never really stopped sailing this beautiful boat.” Taking over as 5.5 class leader for North Sails has been desirable, he says, because “it is one of my favorite classes to sail.”
Based in Switzerland, Christoph joined North Sails in 2013 and now combines professional sailing and coaching clinics with selling sails. “That’s often a win-win situation. When you introduce someone to sailing or help him to get better, then the orientation to North Sails is very helpful and simple.” He continues to sail other classes, including the Finn, J70, Dragon, and Star, as well as campaigning the 5.5 as middle crew on New Moon, a Bahamian team that won the 2018 Worlds. They also finished either first or second at the other big 2018 regattas.
“I’m always saying you don’t have to win every regatta to be a good salesman,” Christoph says, “but it helps now and then that you’re on top and people look up to you. I’m really happy that other North Sails clients are performing well; I think we won all the regattas in 2018 and all the podiums with our sails.” Which is easier to do when ninety percent of the top 10 during the 2018 worlds, of the fleet is using North Sails.
3Di is an “absolute rocket ship” in moderate to heavy winds, and Christophe says he’s quite happy with the current three jib designs (light, medium, and heavy air). “The designers just finished a lightweight jib and clients are buying.” The spinnakers are also fine up and down the range, so the next development project is to tweak the mainsail design to be more dynamic in light air.
“Only a year ago, we were the only team having 3Di sails,” Christoph reminds us. “We decided not to use them [at the 2017 Worlds] because they were not officially for sale yet and it would’ve been too much of a speed advantage. Now one year later, we’re already talking about new mainsails again!”
Technology unique to North makes it possible to continually improve designs, but that can be potentially confusing to his customers.
“I have to communicate really well what we have right now and where we want to go, and make a steady clever but sustainable development of the product.”
The 5.5M presents some specific challenges compared to other classes because it is not strictly one design in hull shape. Like twelve meters and other meter classes, “5.5” is the output number of a formula that includes hull displacement, waterline length, and sail area.
“So if the boat designer chooses to have maximum sail area, he has to build a heavier boat or choose a shorter waterline,” Christoph explains. “Each boat has its own sail plan; they all look the same but they’re optimized for each boat.” At the end it is still the crew that makes the biggest difference.
5.5 sailors like to be kept informed about sail developments, he says. “It’s not their profession like ours, they don’t have their heads 24/7 around sails. So whenever they see me, they’re really excited. What’s the new guy’s doing, what have I been doing, what’s the latest.” That’s a nice entry point for Christoph to explain the latest design tweaks.
On the boat
Christoph won the second title during the 2018 5.5M Worlds with a team that has sailed together for three years. “Basically I’m responsible for the boat setup,” he says. “Which sails and then what tuning, getting the whole setup ready to go sailing. On the water, I’m doing strategy and tactics and a little bit of everything. The helm focuses on the steering and the bow is calling wind and current.” Christoph adds “But at the end we are a team with equally importance. We stand and fall together”. His team is excited to compete at the 2019 Worlds, the 100th anniversary of the class, in Helsinki—where the very first Gold Cup was sailed.
Off the boat
Christoph isn’t home much during the sailing season, so he tries not to schedule any travel in December to January in order to have time with his wife and three kids—aged eight, six, and three. The family enjoys skiing, as well as all kind of sports.
“It’s very cool to see the little ones growing up,” he says. “I’m always the first one suffering when I’m going sailing for two weeks.” A few winter boat shows are also on the docket this year. “It’s always good to get to see clients in a different environment. At regattas, everyone is in their own focus.”
The sailing season starts up again in early February with a J/70 regatta in Monaco, which makes Christoph grateful for his access to other North Sails experts. “As soon as I have a question I shoot an email to a colleague and he responds normally within a day, so I have a perfect first-hand answer. I do the same with the others.
“You have to keep on working and do your homework so you can be better,” Christoph adds. “I’m trying to get better every year.”