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Shirley Robertson talks with top skipper, professional sailor and sailmaker Mike Sanderson

by Shirley Robertson 14 Jul 15:13 NZST 14 July 2021
The signature shot of ABN AMRO 1 skippered by Mike Sanderson, as she passes Lizard Pt on the way to winning the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean race © Oskar Kihlborg

In this month's podcast, sailing maven Shirley Robertson talks with one of the world's leading offshore and Maxi yacht skippers, from New Zealand, Mike "Moose" Sanderson.

With tales to tell from the America's Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race and a host of successful Maxi yacht campaigns, Sanderson is a man who very obviously loves to talk sailing. Having left school early to pursue a career as a sail maker, he has spent his entire adult life immersed in the sport, and from his very first answer his enthusiasm and passion is there for all to hear.

Sanderson and Robertson sat down to talk just days after Emirates Team New Zealand's win at the 36th America's Cup, the pair kick things off with a short chat about the successful defence of the Cup, before moving on to Sanderson's early love of sailing and desire to make a living from the sport. HIs early inspiration was New Zealand's 1987 Fremantle America's Cup campaign, and of course Sir Peter Blake, and "Steinlager 2's" Whitbread win of 1990, both of which drove him to quit school and take to sailing.

Within a few years he had attracted the attention of some big names, in a country where big things were happening in the sport of sailing. At twenty one he was on the crew of New Zealand Endeavour, off around the world on the Whitbread, and his career was well under way.

"What was unbelievable about that campaign was that it was only four or five years after Fremantle, and all my heroes from Fremantle were actually sailing on the boat, these guys had literally all been on posters on my wall, and now I'm getting to sail around the world with them!"

That 1993/94 Whitbread Race was his first of many circumnavigations that made a big impression on the young twenty two year old.

"My first time around the world was like honestly, it was like reading a book about the round the world race...in the Southern Ocean we broke the mizzen mast, everything which I dreamt about, good and bad, it all happened. It was a very surreal time."

The 1993/94 Whitbread was the start of a career that would take in America's Cup campaigns, multiple Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race campaigns, and a World Sailor of the Year win in 2006, having become the youngest skipper ever to win the prestigious Volvo Ocean Race leading the famed "ABN Amro 1" campaign. Currently CEO of Doyle Sails in Auckland, his career spans the modern era of yacht racing, and has seen him sail with some of the biggest names in the sport, from early days with Grant Dalton, to America's Cup campaigns for Oracle's Larry Ellison.

Sanderson talks candidly about that Cup period in 2000 and then 2003 in Auckland when Alinghi beat Team New Zealand, and of the implications that had for the sport...:

"That 1989 to 2000 period was interesting times... post 2000 of course was probably the biggest turning point in professional sailing that we've seen....because it went from something that you could possibly live on to literally overnight salaries tripled, quadrupled, whatever you like, suddenly every man and his dog was putting up there hand. It was a great time to be a professional sailor"

As an insight into the modern professional era of competitive sailing, this honest and engaging interview opens the door on life as a professional in our sport, and takes the listener down a multitude of different avenues, as Sanderson opens up on a lifetime spent sailing at the highest level.

This edition of the podcast is in two parts and can be heard with the links above or listen via the podcast page of Shirley's own website, at shirleyrobertson.com/podcast or via most popular podcast outlets, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast and aCast.

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