Let's 55 Virtual Experience - Sailing with OKADA Keiju and HOKAZONO Jumpei

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When Olympians and Paralympians showcase their incredible skill, what does it look like from their point of view? Many people probably wonder as they watch in awe as their favourite athletes compete for the biggest prizes. Tokyo 2020 introduces ‘Let’s 55 Virtual Experience’, a project that provides an innovative experience of what it actually looks like to compete as a top-level athlete, covering all 55 sports on the Tokyo 2020 Games programme.

Sailing

OKADA Keiji and HOKAZONO Jumpei became the first Japanese crew to win the World Cup in the men’s 470-class event at the 2018 World Cup Series in Enoshima, and they are the frontrunners for Olympic selection. But what do the surroundings look like from their eyes? Find out by trying the “Let’s 55 Virtual Experience”!

Okada and Hokazono tell us about how they started in sailing, what makes the sport so appealing and how to enjoy it as a spectator.

Okada: It’s fun, and interesting to steadily accumulate points

"Some sailing competitions may take place over four or five days, and some may be held for only two days. There may be as much as 15 races during the course of a single competition. Sailing is fun because you take your time as you eye your opponent and steadily accumulate points.

"I started sailing at a very young age. I’ve partnered with Hokazono since 2018. Good communication is the most important key to improving the combination with your sailing partner. Depending on the result, we would show our emotions of joy, frustration or disappointment; but once we’ve cooled down, we would reflect on our immediate reaction and discuss the result again calmly. We communicate twice about the same result and make sure we avoid saying to each other, 'Hey, that’s not what you said before.'

"I feel that I have grown and improved. At the same time, we haven’t been able to compete this year so I’m a bit anxious to know where we stand against our rivals. Competitions are beginning to resume so we must first get good results in the ones we race in."

Hokazono: Competing against nature, there’s never a race with the same condition

"I started sailing in high school. I was attracted because sailing uses the wind, not an engine, to sail across the water, and I became immersed in the sport. In sailing, we compete against nature and there’s never the same condition. The size of the waves and the wind velocity are always slightly different so each time I race, I learn something new [each time]. It definitely helps me improve my skills.

"After years of competing, I realise that there’s always a reason for losing. It’s not only stamina, but equipment and weather conditions affect our performance too. Sometimes I can make the proper adjustment right away during the race. Anyway, you learn and improve by focusing on the reason, and next time you sail faster. That’s also what’s appealing about sailing.

"When I heard that the Tokyo 2020 Games would be postponed, and then the competitions were cancelled one after another, I lost focus and wasn’t sure what to do next; but I’m motivated now because the Games will take place in 2021."