With a narrow one-point margin from finishing on the podium in Palma last week, 2.4mR sailor Mark LeBlanc talks about his performance, finishing in fourth, and his Paralympic Games preparation.
Describe your performance this week in Palma at the Princess Sofia Trophy.
Mark LeBlanc: I think my performance this week was OK. After coming off a good one month break of sailing 2.4mRs it took a little while to settle back into the race routine.
Are you pleased with your overall results?
Mark LeBlanc: Yes, I am happy with 4th, but not satisfied. I made some mistakes early on and lost a few points here and there, costly mistakes that added up and kept me in 4th overall. Moving forward the plan is to correct those mistakes and put together a regatta that looks like the end of the week rather than the beginning.
What are your takeaways from Palma?
Mark LeBlanc: I have a lot to work on both in my sailing and in my physical/mental preparation. I need to step up my physical fitness since what I thought was decent enough was not acceptable: my goal is not to get tired when racing. Sailing-wise I have some work to do on my starts, upwind/downwind speed and tactics.
How does this event, an ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta, prepare you for the Games?
Mark LeBlanc: This event, like all of the regattas before the Games, is practice. It is an opportunity to work on weaknesses and build strengths. It is practice for the only event that matters (in my mind) this year: the Paralympics.
Describe the relationship with Paralympic Coach Marko Dahlberg and how you work together.
Mark LeBlanc: Marko and I have been working together since I started sailing the 2.4mR six years ago and our relationship is very strong. We both have very strong-willed personalities and at times we clash, but I think that is because we both have the desire to be the very best. When it comes to sailing he understands my strengths and weaknesses as well as knows exactly how to get me to understand what he means.
Not only do you have a big year with the Paralympic Games coming up, but you’re getting married less than two months from the Games. Is there anything you’re learned about competition at an elite international level that helps with planning a wedding?
Mark LeBlanc: July 21 is the bid day. Yes, make a budget and stick to it, also planning ahead is much easier.
The 2.4mR is a wonderful boat. What would you tell folks who have never sailed one?
Mark LeBlanc: The 2.4mR is probably one of the most fun boats you will ever sail while at the same time one of the hardest. When you are sailing you are just a few inches from the water and even though you are just going 4 knots you feel like it is much faster. It is easy because it does not require a lot of physical movement so anyone can sail it from disabled individuals, to children, to the 70-year-old veteran sailors. The boat is also incredibly complicated at the same time because if your sail trim is half an inch off the correct spot, then you will be going slower than everyone else.
You have a lot of support from your hometown of New Orleans. What does it mean to you to represent the city?
Mark LeBlanc: I am very proud to represent New Orleans because my friends, family, and supporters have always been there for me and helped me succeed no matter what and I am honored by their support.
After a short break at home in New Orleans, Mark is headed to Hyeres, France for French Olympic Sailing Week, April 20-27. Photo courtesy Princess Sofia Trophy/Martinez