During his recent visit to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Buying Manager Martin McKinlay was lucky enough to meet up with sailfish founder and MD, Jan Sibberson and ask him some quick-fire questions.
Jan is a highly talented Ironman himself (a regular ‘first out of the water athlete’) and current sponsor of the newly crowned World Ironman Champion Patrick Lange.
Jan, you’re the brains behind Sailfish. What was the inspiration behind setting up the brand?
Swimming used to be my passion. When I finished university, I first started working in investment banking. It was super interesting, but it was not my passion. I switched to become a professional triathlete and when my second sports career ended, I saw the opportunity of turning something I was passionate about into a business idea. sailfish was born.
We know you’re a keen swimmer but which discipline is your favourite when you race triathlon and why?
It’s still swimming I must say. Second is the bike, I just love the feeling of a good day with good legs on my TT machine. Running is my least favorite sport of the 3, I am tall and relatively heavy, so running is quite hard for me.
How do you prepare yourself in the days leading up to a race?
At my age (42), I need a lot of physio work. I try to get good sleep, good food and I only exercise lightly.
What keeps you motivated while you’re out on the course?
Even if you’re not out to win on a race, there’s a lot of things that keep me motivated. Good rhythm on the swim, fast bike ride and that nice feeling when you run, everything hurts, but you know the finish line is coming, that makes me feel very alive!
You must be incredibly proud to see Sailfish athlete Patrik Lange win the Ironman World Championships in Kona. What words of advice did you give him before the race?
We are super proud of Patrick. What a champion and what a great person he is! As a fast runner, I knew it would come down to the last 10k on the run, the decisive part of the race. I only gave him one piece of advice: it’s only over when it’s over and this is the finish line. Do not stop racing until you’ve reached the line. He did exactly that, I am so proud of him!
You’ve been first out of the water 4 times at Kona, how do you feel this sets you up for the rest of the race?
Oh, it’s terrible, I am probably the guy who got passed the most in this race J! To be serious, I always knew I wasn’t going to win this race, so I enjoyed being in the lead as long as it lasted. It’s an amazing feeling to lead the biggest triathlon race on Earth.
Which are your favourite open water swims worldwide and why?
I haven’t raced too many open water events in my career, but the one swim that stood out was the Freedom Swim in South Africa from Robben Island to Cape Town / Bloubergstrand. It’s tough conditions, cold water, high waves, lots of current and a powerful historic site.
I like both, really. I design our wetsuits in a way that you hardly feel you’re wearing one, swimming comfort and speed is on top of our list. At the same time, if the water is warm enough, swimming in a swimskin is also a nice experience, it’s even more natural of course.
Do you have any breathing technique hints and tips for open water swimming - i.e. how to deal with waves and irregular water conditions?
I think the most important aspect of open water swimming is swimming in a straight line. I’ve seen it many times that fast pool swimmers are a lot slower in open water conditions only because they can’t swim straight. I alternate breathing to both sides, I think this is very important in order to swim straight. Regarding waves … don’t fight them, they are stronger than you. Let them do what they want to do with you and keep your cadence a bit higher than usual, this will help.
What’s your favourite swim session when you’re short on time. E.g. only got 45-60mins in the pool
400 drills, to get the body ready
1x800 rest 1 min
2x200 rest 30 sec
8x50 rest 15 sec
All freestyle, increasing speed for each set
4-6x100 IM, Rest 20 sec
200 warm down
What can we expect to see coming out of Sailfish next year?
Over the past 2 years, we have developed a new, top of the range wetsuit. It will come out in February and I can already tell you it’s by far the best suit we’ve made so far. Selected pro athletes have tested it already and did not want to return the prototypes because it was so fast. It’s going to be called sailfish ULTIMATE IPS.