Olympics-bound sailor: ‘I live for it’

Detroit's Bora Gulari headed to Rio games for Team USA

Bora Gulari, Olympics, Rio
Bora Gulari sails. (June 2016)

DETROIT (WOOD) — Bora Gulari’s name suits a sailor.

“My parents named me after a wind,” he explained. “In the Adriatic (Sea), there is what they call the black bora. It is a type of breeze that is hurricane-force. I’ve seen videos of up to 100 miles an hour, and it is a diabatic wind that comes down from the mountains and it just blows like stink, and that’s what my name is.”

He was born in Istanbul in 1975. His parents, both educators, came to the U.S. when he was 11 months old and eventually ended up in the Detroit area. They loved to sail, and by the time he was 5 years old, he did, too.

Now grown, he still finds himself yearning for the water.

“I get into a little bit of a nervous twitch if I don’t get into the water or see it or get on it,” Gulari said. “I think when I get ready to sail, I’m excited: Here we go again. It’s my favorite activity in the world. I live for it. It’s an endorphin rush. That’s all it is. It has turned into a drug for me.”

He’ll get his fix later this summer.

After his America’s Cup ride pulled the plug on its campaign, he was recruited by U.S. sailing to make a run for the Olympics. He teamed up with Louisa Chafee on a Nacra 17 catamaran. Despite limited time together, they qualified for the games in Rio.

“I’m extremely patriotic and to be sailing for the USA is important to me,” he said. “Wearing the red, white and blue — lots of pride.”

He thinks they can win gold.

“Hell, yes,” he said. “I wouldn’t go do it if I didn’t believe that.”

His confidence is backed up with a record: He has won two Moth world championships. In 2009, he was named Yachtsman of the Year.

That’s the same year he cracked the 30-knot barrier.

“It is at that point on the verge of control,” he said of the speed. “It seems like the thing wants to spin out on you. When you crash at that speed, it feels like a car wreck. I’ve gotten whiplash bouncing off the water.”

Crashing and burning, he said, is part of learning.

“It’s a big part of it. You almost don’t seem to learn where the limit is or how to push yourself at that limit, and that’s also part of the game until you do the crashing and burning,” he said. “There’s a sick side of me that really enjoys the crashing and burning.”

With his affinity for sailing on the edge, it’s imperative he and Chafee spend as much time on the water as possible before Rio. But that’s easier said than done. Unlike most Olympic sports, where everything are taken care of, sailors have to raise money to cover costs.

Those costs include boats and accompanying trucks and trailers in the U.S., Europe and Rio.

“We are spending way more money in eight months than I probably have spent in my entire sailing life, on the order of $200,000,” he said. “It’s staggering.”

He and Chafee have a team helping them fundraise.

“Please be patriotic,” Gulari said. “It’s a good thing to support your country.”

You can donate to Gulari and Chafee’s team online at their website.



2016 Olympic Games in Rio

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