Follow Sebastien Schneiter and Arno de Planta’s journey to Paris 2024 in a new web series. Check out Episode #1 HERE

It’s great to be fully into 2024, starting up a new phase of SailGP Season 4 and now into the year of the Olympics, says Switzerland driver Sebastien Schneiter.

The first Sail Grand Prix of the year was in Abu Dhabi last month. We came into the event very motivated and confident that the work we had brought to Dubai at the end of 2023 would pay off. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of the super light conditions, with hardly any foiling at all, and quite a new and special racing format, it wasn’t an easy event.

Season 4 // Sebastien Schneiter Blog // Switzerland and Emirates GBR

It was a bit of a single file after the start, with not many passing opportunities, with this looking like a slalom format where we couldn’t pull through and away from the pack. In addition, we made some small mistakes, like contact with other teams, that brought us quite a few penalty points. Which is really not ideal either. So overall it was a bad result in Abu Dhabi, but still a really good team spirit in the Swiss SailGP Team camp. Of course we were all frustrated, but we try to turn this frustration into motivation and we’re looking forward to heading to Sydney next week where we will have much breezier conditions. It could be quite strong wind and high speeds, if we have the same conditions as last year.

Season 4 // Sebastien Schneiter Blog // Swiss crew in Abu Dhabi

Alongside, Arno de Planta and I are mostly in a training phase regarding our 49er campaign, my Olympic project, and are following our program to be ready for the Games this summer. We are really happy with the work and our
progress in the boat. We are currently based in Lanzarote until the 49er World Championship which will take place in mid-March. We have been here since November, it’s a really great spot because there are always good conditions to train, and you can really accumulate the hours on the water. As soon as the World Championships begin, time will really speed up as following this we have the Palma regatta in April. Then we will continue with Hyères and the European Championships in April-May. Finally, we will return to Marseille, the Olympic sailing venue, for training. So, this phase now is kind of our last training period before a big block of competitions.

Season 4 // Sebastien Schneiter Blog // Arno and Sebastien on the 49er

Paris 2024 will be my third Olympic Games and I’ve been sailing in the 49er for almost 10 years now. Heading into this third Games I feel much more ready and better prepared than the last two. Rio and Tokyo were super important events to get me where I am today and it feels that the accumulation of these last 10 years of experience is beginning to pay off. Marseille is also a body of water that we love and know very well. It’s almost like sailing at home.

I still feel just as excited as I did at my first Olympics, Rio 2016. No Olympics are alike. The first is pure excitement because it’s the first time. Then with Tokyo, we had been waiting for these games for a long time; because of COVID, they were postponed for a year, so it was a relief they were able to take place!

Season 4 // Sebastien Schneiter Blog // Close up of Arno and Sebastien in 49er

Now, with the upcoming Games in Marseille, for me it is different again because it is really the first one where I feel that the goal of a medal is realistic. The previous generation of 49er racers [Nath, Pete and Blair etc.] left the class after Tokyo and the average age in the 49er fleet is very young on this campaign. I’m 28 and one of the most experienced while previously on other campaigns, I would have been one of the youngest. But I think a lot about those guys and what they did for the sport, looking to them as an example which inspires us. Having said that It feels like teams are pushing harder then ever before, with more and more days on the water and the level of the fleet rising. Experience, especially in a sport like sailing, plays a huge role, whether it’s at SailGP or the Olympic Games, crews who have been there longer are always going to be more confident. In SailGP we are still a fairly new team, compared to some of the others and every time we step onto the F50, it’s a learning curve.

Season 4 // Sebastien Schneiter Blog // Close up of Sebastien and Nathan on Swiss F50

In sailing, we often talk about 10,000 hours onboard a boat before being able to fully control it. I’m getting closer to those 10,000 hours in the 49er and starting to feel it. Still a long way to go on the F50 though!
However, the Australia SailGP will already be our 8th event of Season 4 and 19th SailGP event, so we’re not newbies anymore. Sydney is one of the best sailing venues to race at. The last few events were little wind, with a reduced crew onboard for racing, not much foiling and low speed regattas so we didn't get to use the F50 to its full potential.

Season 4 // Sebastien Schneiter Blog // Switzerland F50 in Sydney

So I’m really motivated to go back to Sydney, racing in this iconic venue with the team is always such a big pleasure!