“I love being out in the open air; I love the sea, the wind and the freedom sailing offers. It’s more than a sport, it’s a way of life!”
Adriatic Croatia International Club (ACI), the largest marina chain in the Adriatic, is not only the leader in nautical tourism, which is evidenced by a number of projects and partnerships that successfully combine several activities in ACI’s domain. A concrete example of this would be the support ACI lends to young athletes, fostering great relationships with them. Through its partnerships with promising individuals, ACI constantly affirms its slogan “The Best Support the Best”, joining all the segments that best illustrate the company’s postulates – love of the sea and sailing, investing in community progress and developing a stimulating environment for ambitious young people. One can definitely count among them the promising young sailor Palma Čargo, who just keeps on winning medals, both in Europe and at the world level. In our interview with the ambitious young windsurfer, we have found out her genuine story of the sea, filled with adrenalin and the love of the blue expanse.
Top results at the European and world level are only the beginning of a promising windsurfing career
In the latest competition, Lanzarote iQFOil Games 2023, which took place in the Canary Islands, you finished in the top ten, winning the ninth place among 65 female windsurfers from 26 world countries. This has been, at the same time, the first big sailing event of this year. What are your impressions?
That’s right, I placed ninth. I entered the medal race from the fifth place; however, points are counted from zero and I made a couple of small mistakes, which cost me a few places in the final ranking. I’m satisfied; this is a nice start to an important season, in which I’m attempting to make the Olympic standard.
What would you single out as the greatest success in your career so far?
Of my greatest successes I would single out the third place at the Mediterranean Games in Algeria in 2022, second place in the world ranking at the end of 2021, third place in the world ranking at the end of 2022, and sixth place in the European championship.
The IQFOIL class – in which you won the bronze medal at the Mediterranean Games in Algeria, and in which, thanks to riding in the air above the water, three times faster speeds can be achieved than in the conventional ones – is a new Olympic discipline. We will see it in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, for which you are now preparing. How demanding is the class and how is the training going?
This is the most demanding sailing class as far as motor and physical skills are concerned. It doesn’t put up with long breaks from training on the water, and the physical training on land is just as important and can’t be left out of the training process. I especially like this class and can’t imagine myself in any other. The training for the Olympics is going great. For a month, I have been on the island of Lanzarote in the Canaries because the training competition here is the strongest in the world. At this stage of top-level sailing, it is essential to train with your competitors, so I have to join the others and be where the majority decides to train. Although we have great training conditions in Croatia, unfortunately, there aren’t any sparing partners, so that’s another reason for me to go where the majority goes.
Coming from a sporting family, you have done sports from an early age. How come you have settled on sailing?
I trained sailing and gymnastics for a while and it was very hard to decide on one sport only. Although it was hard then to make up my mind, now I know that I have made the right decision. I love being out in the open air; I love the sea, the wind and the freedom sailing offers. It’s more than a sport; it’s a way of life. Also, I have been on the water with my father my whole life, and he has certainly contributed to my choice of sailing as a career.
Equipment and travel can be pretty expensive, but thanks to ACI, training is free from worries
Since sailing involves frequent travelling and requires a lot of equipment, it can’t be an inexpensive sport. What is the most expensive thing and where do you get the money from? How important are sponsors in all this?
Yes, last year I spent more than six months travelling, and this year will be the same. It’s definitely not a low-cost sport. We mostly travel in a van, pulling an inflatable boat, which costs a pretty penny. On the other hand, the equipment is rather expensive itself, and it’s necessary to replace parts of it at least once a year and to have no less than two of each piece in case something gets broken. In intensive trainings and races, the equipment wears out, breaks, and all parts eventually get replaced several times in a year. Luckily, I have the backing of the Croatian Olympic Committee, Croatian Sailing Federation, Labud Sailing Club and, of course, ACI.
Preparing for this level of competition requires hard work, a lot of time and good organisation. What does your typical day look like? Do you have time to go out and get together with your friends?
My day in Split looks like this: training at the gym from 9 to 10.30, followed by a windsurfing training at 2 p.m., which usually lasts two or three hours. After that I take the dog for a walk, have dinner and go to bed. I must say I like sleeping a lot, so I’m definitely in bed by 10 p.m. As far as friends are concerned, we sometimes go for a coffee between training sessions, but there are no nights out, especially those that go on until the small hours, which are a favourite with most of my peers. To be honest, I’m not keen on going out. Windsurfing is much more interesting!
With the celebrated Croatian Olympians, it is a pleasure to plan one’s sport route as well as life journey
After ending his skiing career, the celebrated Croatian Olympian Ivica Kostelić, who is ACI’s ambassador as well, replaced the skis with a sail and started mastering the art of ocean sailing. In view of your training for the Olympic Games, water sports that include wind in the sail and ACI as sponsor, you two have a lot of shared interests. Have you swapped experiences yet?
Ivica sailed with my father, Damir Čargo, in a few regattas, and that’s how I met him. Of course, every time I see him, I bombard him with questions, and he is always happy to answer them, to explain and help. When he was coming back from Route du Rhum (3000 NM), we welcomed him off Split in a thunderstorm and strong southerly wind. It was a beautiful and emotional moment to remember.
Windsurfing is a sport that largely depends on weather conditions. How does it influence your training regime?
Weather conditions have a great impact on my training regime. All trainings are planned according to the weather forecast, and all my friends know that if there is a strong southerly wind coming, all our plans to meet are going to be cancelled.
What are your future plans regarding sport and private life?
My sports plans are to win an Olympic and World Championship medal and, of course, to enjoy all this as long as possible. Since I’ve only started out on my professional sporting career, I don’t think about its end.
Photos: Sailing Energy