505 World Championships – Interview with Thomas Funke

The Funke brothers in action. pic by Sophie Thompson

The Funke brothers in action.
pic by Sophie Thompson

The Funke brothers in action off Durban. pic by Sophie Thompson

The Funke brothers in action off Durban.
pic by Sophie Thompson

by Sophie Thompson

Watching the sailing brothers Thomas and Peter Funke carve through the water offshore of Durban on their 505 is pure sporting artistry.

The young duo are about to tackle top international sailors at the 505 World Championships in Port Elizabeth at the end of this month. This will be their sixth outing at a 505 World Championship.

“Our Dad started us off young on his keelboat, when we were only a few months old at Hartbeespoort Dam. We grew up on the water. When I was old enough to sail solo, I jumped onto an Oppie for about a year and then moved to a Dabchick which I raced on until I was in matric.” older brother, Thomas said.

At the turn of the 21st century, the brothers joined forces to form a formidable crew racing in the 505 class. A 505 is a one-design high performance two-person monohull that is extremely exciting to sail as both crew members trapezes on a wire as they soar through the water.

“Racing 505s is a bit of an addiction at the start, and then you just keep going. The World Champs is like those big work conferences, it is just this group of crazy guys that meet all over the world every year for this event.”

“We last competed at the Worlds in Kiel, Germany last August. We struggled a bit, the average wind speeds were about 25 knots for the whole regatta and the boat we were racing wasn’t set up for the winds we experienced. We finished OK, 47th out of a 175 teams. We wanted a top 40 which we have done before, but it was not to be. In Barbados, the year before, we almost cracked the top 30s, but had a last bad day.” Funke explained.

With four national titles behind their name, Funke enthuses, “This year, we are feeling very good leading up to the regatta. We have just purchased a two year old boat that costs more than buying two cars, but we won’t talk about that.” he said with a wry chuckle.

“We took the plunge because for us, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that the Worlds is coming to South Africa, our home waters! The last time it was hosted here was in 2000 in Durban. It was a complete blow out and the organisers were very hesitant to host it here again.”

“We have managed to train a lot in PE; we competed in a regatta towards the end of last year. There were some visiting Germans who were here training and we managed to beat them in all the races which helped our confidence. We recently invested in a new set of sails, so the equipment is up to scratch now it is up to us. No more excuses!” he said laughing.

“Our performance is already showing signs of improvement, this boat that we are using now is a full carbon boat and you can feel the difference between our previous old reliable boat to this one. Every wave the old boat used to give a bit and the new one doesn’t give at all.”

Training together for the Funkes requires a lot of travelling. Thomas has been residing in Ballito for almost five years now and Peter lives up in Gauteng. “We usually meet half way at Sterkfontein Dam in the Free State. We plan on training in PE, in Johannesburg, all around the country really before the event. We try and make a plan to meet up every free weekend. Otherwise we rely on general cardio to keep fit.”

“Being brothers, we’ve had our challenges. We used to swop helming after every race but then we almost got protested out because you had to keep the same driver for the entire regatta. Then we started alternating after every regatta.”

“Campaigning in Europe and doing so many worlds, it wasn’t feasible to change all the time. After the Worlds in La Rochelle, France where I skippered, we decided to concentrate and perfect one role. Also with the last worlds so soon before this one, we decided it best for Peter to helm and build on the teamwork that we have been doing.”

“Peter is four years younger.” he states, “It is interesting, a lot of the 505 teams are family, either father and son or brothers.”

Asked what his most memorable moment is on the water, he said “There are many great moments, either flying across the dam or offshore. One that comes to mind was in 2010 in P.E., it was blowing about 35 knots and they canned the racing. We decided to get some video footage so we went out, put the bag up and absolutely screamed towards Bird Island. This motor boat with the film crew couldn’t keep up. That was on the edge.” a reminiscing Funke claims.

The Funke brothers will be returning to the scene of one of their epic moments on the water, and hoping that this is the year that they score big in the results.