Double Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson catches up with Australian sailing star Kyle Langford for an hour of revealing chat that covers much of his of his stellar career.
Langford rocketed into the spot light when just three days before the 2013 America's Cup he was announced as the Defender's Wing Trimmer on BMW Oracle's giant foiling AC72. It was a daunting prospect, controlling the power as the team learnt to race the largely untested beast throughout a regatta famous for the unlikely comeback from a seven point deficit against a fired up Emirates Team New Zealand. Langford's honest and open chat with Robertson here reveals the backstory behind that decision, a tribunal that saw the Defender docked points before the Cup, the build up to that dramatic turn around and the faith that skipper Jimmy Spithill had in the young Aussie.
As Oracle Team USA then went on to Defend the Cup in Bermuda Langford kept his seat on the downsized AC50 that would see them again face the Kiwis in the match up in 2017. Here he reveals how the team prepared for Bermuda but were out thought by the innovative Kiwi team, their grip on the Cup slipping away to the greater pace and adaptability of a New Zealand outfit hungry for sporting redemption.
Having been on the losing side in the Cup, Langford immediately took on a new and different challenge, turning to the Volvo Ocean Race to try and forget the disappointment of Bermuda. But it wasn't long before he realised that one of his team mates around the world would be the skipper of that winning Kiwi team. It's an interesting chat as Langford discusses the politics onboard, racing in the Southern Ocean and his tenacity in getting to grips with offshore sailing.
At just thirty years old, Langford is one of a new generation of stars in the competitive sailing arena, he's crammed an awful lot of high end sailing into a to date short sailing career, and is a revealing guest as he discusses the last decade and his stellar rise into the ranks of the sport's elite.
Shirley Robertson talks all things offshore with celebrated British offshore adventurer Sam Davies.
With a submarine commander as one grandfather and a boat builder as the other, it should be no surprise that Cambridge engineering graduate Sam Davies pursued a career that now sees her racing around the planet. But as she reveals in this illuminating chat, offshore sailing’s loss was very nearly synchronised swimming’s gain, after an early passion for life in the pool almost saw her follow a very different career path.
An early career spent racing with British sailing trail blazer Tracy Edwards soon saw Sam craving a life out at sea, and It was in those early days, chasing the illusive around the world record, the Jules Verne Trophy that Sam glimpsed the potential, inspired by the pro-active spirit and determination of Edwards, as she realised that if she really dug in, anything could be possible.
As her career took off, an early deviation towards the Olympic arena saw her team up with the podcast's very own Shirley Robertson back when she was campaigning for Athens 2004 in the technical keel boat, the Yngling. Robertson was drawn to the can-do professionalism of the young bowman, but it was a collaboration that wouldn’t go the distance. The pair here laugh over the early campaign days as Sam began to realise that the monotony of Olympic campaigning really wasn’t for her - that her sailing life lay further out to sea.
And so began her march to the forefront of Britain's considerable offshore sailing elite. Her career took the inevitable turn towards the solo marathon the Vendee Globe, and in 2008 she crossed the start line in one of the most recognisable boats the race has ever seen. It was a performance that would rocket her to household name status in France, as she resolutely sailed “Roxy” nonstop around the planet in just over ninety five days, one of just eleven finishers from a field of thirty. It was a remarkable achievement. Davies does reveal though the cost of her disappointment in the following Vendee, after a hard fought campaign to get to the start line lasted just five days out on the race course. But very quickly, she was back at the helm, the Vendee forgotten, as she took on a very different role skippering the all female ’Team SCA’ in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Sam is currently looking forward to her third Vendee Globe campaign, this time as skipper of the inspirational “Initiative Coeur” - a campaign actively saving the lives of disadvantaged children around the world - it’s an innovative approach to raising money, that Sam passionately explains, whereby the effect of her sponsors' donations, achieved through Sam’s interaction with her fan base, reveals very tangible results.
There's not much Sir Russell Coutts hasn't achieved in the sport of modern day yacht racing - from the Olympic Games, Match Racing and America's Cups, he's one of the sport's most successful athletes, but he's also one of sailing's big innovators, a man with a drive and determination to leave his sport in a much better place today, than where it was when he first started competing.
On the race course, Coutts was a fierce and ruthless competitor. His early career saw him win an Olympic gold medal and multiple Match Racing World Championships, before an inevitable move to the world of the America's Cup. He successfully challenged and then defended the oldest trophy in world sport for his home nation of New Zealand, but then shocked the sailing world by moving to Swiss challenger Alinghi. By the time Alinghi lifted the Cup in Auckland, Coutts had won it three times, but remarkably had never lost a Cup match. His Cup career then saw another move, to the American BMW Oracle Team, for whom he masterminded two further Cup wins, the last, in 2013, seeing the famous come back from an 8-1 defecit on 72ft foiling multi hulls out on San Francisco Bay, an event watched by millions world wide.
Away from the race course, Coutts is seen by many as one of sailing's real visionaries. His drive and determination behind the wheel have transposed to the boardroom, where he has been masterminding the advancement of sailing in a bid to increase it's appeal to a younger generation, and make it a truly viable spectator sport. Most recently Coutts has initiated the exciting Sail GP championships, a series of races held in the world's fastest race boats, but run with a view to the maximisation of broadcasting opportunity and spectator experience.
Robertson and Coutts discuss his past, his hopes for the future and his love of the sport in an honest and revealing hour of chat that sees one of the sport's most well known characters clearly demonstrate that after a lifetime spent out on the water, his passion for sailing today is as strong as it's ever been.
US sailing legend Paul Cayard is next up as Shirley Robertson sits down for an honest and truthful hour of chat with one of the biggest names in competitive sailing.
Paul Cayard is a true legend of the sport, a US Sailing Hall of Fame inductee, a World Champion, an Olympian, he’s competed in multiple America’s Cups and was the first American ever to skipper a Whitbread Round the World Race campaign to victory when his 1997/98 ‘EF Language’ won the gruelling predecessor to the Volvo Ocean Race.
His chat with Robertson is a candid and revealing one, discussing several aspects of his impressive career, with tales from both on and off the water. He was the perfect man to play the real life Captain Jack Sparrow, as Disney turned to him to front their "Pirates of the Caribbean" Volvo Ocean Race entry - Cayard skippered the boat to a dramatic second place in the race, and in doing so created a Volvo campaign that lives on in the memories of sailing fans around the world.
Cayard is an honest interview, he's qualified to discuss multiple aspects of the sport, and his self assured confidence allows him to truly speak his mind - the result, a fascinating, anecdote-rich discussion that sees Cayard reflect on almost forty years as a sailing professional.
Chris Draper is another of those guys that’s been at the sharp end of this radical change in sailing over the past two decades. Starting with the 49er, the Extreme40s, and then of course, all of the foiling America’s Cups, and now SailGP, he sails moths, he kites, has an intense passion for surfing, and we cram all of that, and a bit more into an hour of chat - it’s a revealing sixty minutes or so that sees Shirley Robertson look forward to the British leg of SailGP as she interviews the CEO and wing trimmer of the British SailGP team, Chris Draper.
Draper is no stranger to sailing fast boats, but has embraced the exciting new SailGP circuit with typical energy and enthusiasm.
“The noise they make is incredible, the foils whistling, and six of them careering towards you while you’re sitting on the shore, or on a spectator boat, well it really is difficult to get your head around, just how dramatic it is!"
Draper and Robertson have a degree of shared history - the pair were British Olympic team mates for the 2004 Games in Athens, where Draper won bronze in the 49er Class. Shortly after that they were opponents, both helming the exciting new catamarans of the fledgling Extreme Sailing Series, the birth of 'stadium sailing’.
The pair do, therefore, have much to talk about, and the result is a frank and honest discussion that looks into multiple aspects of Draper’s wide ranging professional sailing career. A favourite to win gold in Athens, Draper is audibly moved as he discusses the fact that to him, a bronze medal wasn’t what he went to Athens to achieve.
“It’s really sad now, in hindsight, when I think back at my Olympic memories, I guess I shouldn't think about it with remorse, it’s a shame, it was a tough one at the time."
But he also reveals how excited the Extreme Sailing fraternity became when BMW Oracle Racing won the 33rd America’s Cup, a win that opened up the Cup world to the experienced fast cat sailor.
“We watched Oracle win the Cup, all sat together in Oman, and realised that probably meant it was going to go to catamarans, and we all just thought ‘wow!’"
It wasn’t long before Draper was recruited into the America’s Cup world, eventually for Luna Rosa as they campaigned in the AC72s for the 34th Cup in San Francisco.
“That was an amazing time then, for all the sailors. We had all these different shapes and sizes of foils, and they all had nicknames…we had a Draper, and another we called CJ - one was quite stable and forgiving, risk averse, like myself, and the other was very fast, and very high risk, and could crash at any moment!”
Draper also talks openly and candidly as he reveals what life was like in the final days of Luna Rosa’s AC35 campaign the Italian team withdrawing from the Cup due to unsettled differences with the Defender, despite having spent a vast amount of time developing foiling mechanisms for the campaign.
Our last day of sailing at Luna Rosa was the first day that the auto-pilot beat the human. We were two-boating…myself against Bruni….and it was the first day the computer smashed the human, and we were all ‘oh my god, this is enormous!’"
It's a revealing listen - a great hour of sailing chat between two ex-team mates, good friends, with a shared sailing history.
Francois Gabart is one of the stars of the offshore sailing world - the youngest ever winner of the solo offshore marathon the Vendee Globe, Francois also holds the title for the fastest ever solo lap of the planet, achievements that have made him a household name in his native France..
Gabart set a remarkable world record in 2017 when he took just 42 days 16hours 40minutes and 35seconds to sail alone, non stop around the world, coming within just 2 days of the overall crewed world record. The landmark achievement was set sailing the giant 100ft trimaran ‘Macif’, a foiling trimaran capable of sustained periods of high speed out in the world’s toughest sailing conditions…:
“I love speed. I’m not afraid of speed and I have to say that sometimes I even think that speed is not dangerous, that it’s sometimes safer to go fast."
As a six year old child Gabart spent a year at sea with his parents, as on a whim they decided to take off to see the world. He attributes a degree of his success to these formative days spent enjoying the experience of being out at sea. His sailing career started well, he was national champion in the competitive Optimist class. Several national titles followed as Gabart set his sights on Olympic success, but admits to Shirley that even then, his horizons were slightly wider…:
“There was something missing when I would just sail around the buoys, and then go back to shore at night. I was thinking ‘why can’t we just try to go further, sail into the night and just go’"
And so began a search for something more. Gabart discusses the unique French pathway to becoming an offshore professional, and how he tentatively set off around the world on his one and only Vendee Globe race, aged just 29.
“I was so proud to be a winner. I had been dreaming about doing the Vendee Globe, but i never thought I’d be a winner….The day I arrived, I was just thinking I did something incredible but I didn't know exactly what I had done, I was so focused on what I was doing I didn't realise the consequences of that….It didn't so much change the way I was living, but it changed the way the world was looking at myself."
Looking to the future, Gabart is pushing the boundaries of the sport wherever he can - he's an advocate of collaboration between the different areas of sailing, keen to learn from the technological advancements of the the America's Cup as he searches for speed out in the world's toughest oceans - he's a man revelling in his time, an articulate and intelligent athlete delighted to be involved in the sport of sailing while it undergoes a radical and exciting revolution.
There aren't many people in world sailing that have as many strings to their bow as British sailing's Ian Walker. But this podcast isn't just a chat about sailing. Ian's success around the race course is well documented, but he is a remarkable man, a thinker, with a cerebral approach to the sport that has finessed throughout all his years out on the water. But he's also a man that's known tragedy, adversity, and sadness, and in this candid interview with a man that also counts as a very dear friend, we talk all manner of topics, as I spend an hour in conversation with one of British sailing's leading characters.
His competitive career started in the Olympic arena with campaigns that led to silver medals in both Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. And then for the Athens Olympics of 2004 Ian turned to coaching, guiding myself and my team to a gold medal in the Yngling class, my second consecutive gold, and a milestone in my career.
His Olympic experience though makes up but a fragment of Ian's competitive experience. Following the Sydney games of 2000 Walker was straight into the America's Cup arena, skippering Britain's first Cup challenge in over a decade down in Auckland, New Zealand.
And as if that wasn't enough, Walker has also skippered three Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, three times leading a team of sailors around the planet on sport's longest, most gruelling endurance event. By the third campaign, on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Walker's determination was relentless. As the race concluded, the team had enough points to win with one leg to spare, taking the illusive trophy in emphatic fashion.
Today, you can find Ian Walker behind a desk, nurturing Britain's Olympic sailing talent as Director of Racing at the RYA. It's a challenging role, the British Sailing team are the most successful Olympic sailing team of this millennium, a period of success that Walker himself helped kick off with those early silver medals. But as a former team mate, who's also been coached by Walker, I know our sport in the UK is in very good hands.
Nathan Outteridge has been at the cutting edge of our sport for over a decade. A multiple World Champion, he's well known within sailing as one of the very best at making fast boats sail..... faster..!!
With a history racing dynamic, zippy two man skiffs, Nathan was perfectly placed to step into the fast paced world of foiling, as the sailing world became obsessed with speeding about above the waves. From the exciting one man foiling Moth to the drama and jeopardy of foiling America's Cup giants, Nathan has been at the forefront of the progression of our sport.
A multiple Olympic medallist, an America's Cup skipper and multiple World Champion, Nathan is currently leading the charge on the exciting new SailGP racing series, while simultaneously campaigning for a spot at his fourth Olympic Games, this time in the foiling 18ft catamaran, the Nacra 18.
In this Edition Shirley Robertson spends an hour with Nathan Outteridge, discussing all aspects of the sport of sailing, getting a unique behind the scenes glimpse into the life of one of the sport's most accomplished athletes.