Cristina Silva is a Senior Software Engineer who's been with X-Team for just over a year now. When she posted about a sailboat competition in one of our Slack channels, I knew I had to interview her. In this interview, we discuss how she got into sailboating, how the sailboat competition went, and what she enjoys most about sailboating.

two people on a small sailboat

What attracted you to sailboating?

I don’t come from a family with nautical traditions. None at all. No sailboats, no speedboats, no rowing boats. I cannot say where or how my interest in sailing began. It has just always been there.

I spent my childhood in Spain. My father usually took me to walk nearby our home in Benalmadena. The city has a gorgeous marina, and the view of the sailboats there always delighted me. The same thing happens now when, I pass through the Flamengo and Botafogo harbors of Rio de Janeiro. The sight of the sailboats anchored there recharges me.

From a young age, whenever I was asked about the future, I said I wanted to travel the world in a sailboat. It is a vessel that can take you to wherever reachable by sea. A sailboat will treat you well if you treat it well. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else in my old age.

Finally, this year I had the conditions to take the first steps in that direction, break the longtime plan up into smaller pieces, and start to accomplish it.

That's really exciting! How many people are usually on a sailboat and what jobs do they have? What jobs do you have on a sailboat?

It depends on the kind of sailboat you are on, how many feet long it is, and the mechanical facilities it has. And, of course, if you are navigating a regatta race or for pleasure with family and friends.

The two main functions of the crew are the helmsman and the trimmer. One controls the direction of the boat and the other the position of the sails.

In small monotype sailboats, like dinghies and lasers, one or two crew members are enough to do both positions. In larger boats, like a cruiser sailboat, other functions pop up, like the bowman, the onboard reporter, the skipper, and so on.

A small sailboat in the mist

Tell us about the sailboat race you did last year. What was it like?

The Brazilian marine force organizes a regatta race in Rio de Janeiro every year, and it's open to any crew and sailboat that meets the requirements of the categories allowed to participate.

The school where I began my sailing hobby has a regatta course that takes advantage of these events. On these occasions, the student can enjoy the experience of a sailboat race and apply all the provided lessons taught in other classes that are not commonly applied to daily sailing.

We competed in a Fast 230, a 23" feet long sailboat. The crew was composed of a professor and four students. Our professor, in the skipper role, was responsible for providing instructions and managing the team. Two of us, myself included, were in trimmer and bowman roles, and the other two crew members took turns at the helm.

I remember telling the crew that crossing the finish line on time would be enough for me on my first attempt. But our time was 2:20:20 against the 2:21:35 of our main competitor in that category. We won—an unexpected result.

Winning the Regata (I'm 2nd from the right)

Congratulations! What’s the hardest part about sailboating?

The first challenge is simply to start. Brazil doesn’t have a well-developed maritime industry and ecosystem, so the sport can seem closed and out-of-reach hobby, but it is not. Sailing is more accessible than people think.

The second challenge is to continue. Again, it helps if you do some research to keep the practice going, through other courses, classes, making crossings, renting boats, and so on.

The third challenge is trying (and failing) to keep the addiction under control.

What’s the thing you enjoy most about sailboating?

Sailing is an outdoor activity that significantly improved my overall well-being after spending so much time indoors due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A sailing boat is a peaceful place. I cannot hear the noise of the city, only the sea, and I can appreciate the unbeatable landscape of Rio de Janeiro.

I have been actively expanding my interest in this field, learning other valuable topics to prepare myself to make long trips on the Brazilian coast. Recently, I spent four days aboard a sailboat in Paraty, taking a course covering crossing planning with meteorology and nautical charts, electronic navigation for visually limited conditions, like fog or night, or even using the engine, for when the wind leaves us shorthanded.

But I enjoy the nerdy side of the sport the most. I dedicate myself to reading and practicing sail tuning, which is the science of trimming the sails to get the best sailboat performance.

As a professor says, a speedboat goes fast but you only enjoy the arrival. In a sailboat, you can enjoy both the journey and the arrival.

What’s your number one advice to someone who has never done it before but wants to try it out?

The only way to form a sailor is at sea. And luckily for us, the ocean offers plenty of space to fail and to try again. That’s why, even in the first class, students go out to sea: to practice and learn. It’s an engaging and dynamic experience. Go ahead and call your nearest sailing school.

Or even if you doubt that you will like it, try a charter, search about it online, and try to meet people who see the world in a sailboat.

Look at the Bay of Ilha Grande, the Dalmatian Coast, and the Mopelia. Discover the Dodecanese Islands, the Auckland, and the Spitsbergen. Uncover the Andaman Sea and the British Virgin Islands. Or any of the thousands of destinations that the wind can take you to.

Will you take a chance and hoist the sails?

Do you want to join a company full of passionate explorers like Cristina? You can! X-Team is always looking for experienced software engineers. Send through your application today.