Portsmouth, R.I. (December 15, 2010) – As the top American finisher in the 2.4mR class at last week’s U.S. Disabled Sailing Championship, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Mark LeBlanc earned the title of National Champion. He talked to US SAILING about what he likes most about sailing the 2.4mR, what he’s doing to train for his Paralympic campaign, and shares his goals for 2011.
US SAILING: Congratulations on winning this regatta. Why was this event important to you?
Mark LeBlanc: This event is important because it is the Disabled Sailing National Championships as well as a 2011 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics qualifying event.
US SAILING: What do you like most about sailing the 2.4mR?
Mark LeBlanc: The best thing about the 2.4mR is how it levels the playing field for different physical disabilities. The boat removes most aspects of physical strength and conditioning and puts you in a tactical sailboat race. You still have to trim your sails correctly and be able to race all day, but you are not hiking out for 45 minutes for one upwind leg like in a laser race. There are also many able-bodied sailors racing in the 2.4mR class, in fact the majority of the sailors in Europe are able-bodied sailors.
US SAILING: What were your strengths in this regatta?
Mark LeBlanc: It ended up being a heavy-air event, and I think I sailed well in the breeze.
US SAILING: How important is your physical strength in handling the 2.4mR?
Mark LeBlanc: I do not need great physical strength to sail the 2.4mR, but it helps to be in good shape. If I am tired after the first upwind leg then I will probably make a mistake later in the race. I try to stay in shape and exercise enough so that I can be relaxed and comfortable for a full day of racing.
US SAILING: What’s your fitness regime off the water, when you’re not sailing?
Mark LeBlanc: I try to attend a CrossFit class three times a week and jog on my days off.
US SAILING: Any lessons learned last week that you’d like to share?
Mark LeBlanc: Make sure you are on the starting line at the start. It is much easier to get ahead and stay ahead if you start in the front row. When you start in the back you are always playing catch up and your choices are always limited.
US SAILING: How much competitive sailing do you do in a typical season?
Mark LeBlanc: As much as I can. This year I have been sailing less than usual because of work, but I try to race in at least one regatta each month, usually more though.
US SAILING: How do you combine your training schedule and work?
Mark LeBlanc: If the regatta is only on the weekend it is easy, but more often than not they are 3-5 day events. I try to work overtime before and after to get everything done that needs to be done. I also bring along my computer and try to get some work done when travelling or in my down time at the event.
US SAILING: What are your goals for 2011?
Mark LeBlanc: To qualify for the #1 spot on the 2011 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics; to qualify the U.S. for the 2012 Paralympics in the 2.4mR; and to place in the top 10 at the world championships.
US SAILING: Anything else you want people to know?
Mark LeBlanc: If you want to follow along with my campaign, go to my website at www.team-leblanc.com and sign up for my news letter. I send out updates whenever I can.