KYLE LANGFORD SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE OF THE VOLVO OCEAN RACE
The results of this year's Volvo Ocean Race made it the closest finish in the race's 45-year and marked the first win for a Chinese-flagged team. After friend of Bremont, Kyle Langford, reached the finish line in third place with Team Brunel, we took a moment to celebrate his efforts in the competition and get some inside information from the man himself.
Tell us about yourself and your background in sailing.
I grew up on the east coast of Australia and started sailing at 4 years old, it was normal for our family to spend all our holidays on the water. When I was 15 I competed in my first international event and that’s when I decided I wanted to make a career of sailing. Following that I started racing in Europe on the world match racing circuit, gaining a world number 1 ranking. At the same time, I was competing in the Extreme Sailing Series and RC44 circuits and then signed up with Oracle for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. I then re-joined Oracle Team USA where we lost the 35th Cup in Bermuda. I decided to refocus myself on another area of sailing where I had no experience and immediately signed up for the Volvo Ocean Race with Team Brunel.
What is it about sailing that you love and do you have a favourite type of boat to sail?
Sailing brings non-stop challenges. There is no other sport in the world with so many variables, we are competing on a racetrack that is forever changing with the wind and waves and I really enjoy the challenge of having to constantly evolve your way of thinking as new technology is introduced and you develop the equipment to go faster. My favourite boat is the AC72, which was faced in the 34th America’s Cup. It was the first boat of its kind and changed people’s perception of what is possible in sailing as there had never been a boat of that scale foiling and the technology and engineering involved to get that boat to fly was seriously impressive.
As a former America’s Cup sailor how does the Volvo Ocean Race compare?
The Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup are similar in the sense that it’s simply a sailing race, the America’s Cup is Formula 1 and the Volvo is the Dakar Rally. The Volvo requires a lot more endurance and is a much tougher mental challenge. You learn a lot about yourself whilst battling the most extreme weather conditions on earth with sleep deprivation whilst trying to maintain the motivation to push the boat as hard as you possibly can. They are both very challenging in their own right, but ultimately, you’re trying to sail faster than your competitors and have a steeper learning curve than them.
In terms of physical fitness are there big differences?
The America’s Cup is really a sprint race, the fitness training was based on high intensity training and it’s common to see people at their max heart rate when racing. The Volvo, however, requires a different training approach, which is more focused on core stability and trying to maintain muscle mass as we were spending up to 3 weeks at sea on an unstable platform.
Did you have to do much preparation for the Volvo Ocean Race?
Team Brunel was a very late entry in the Volvo and we had very limited training time pre-race. We had to do several courses to meet the safety requirements of the race. There is no shore team to help repair the boat out at sea, so each sailor is in charge of different areas in case we have damage. On-board the yacht, I was in charge of the rigging, sail making and boat building and had to ensure we had adequate spares.
What was the toughest leg of the journey for you and why?
Leg 2 from Lisbon to Cape Town was the toughest leg for me. It took 20 days and was the longest time I had ever spent on a boat at that point. Everything was so new to me and I didn’t know what to expect, being relatively inexperienced at ocean racing meant I wasted energy at unnecessary times and was quite often cold and wet. We saw a large range of conditions on that leg which helped prepare me mentally and physically for the next leg through the Southern Ocean.
Presumably the conditions on the boat are difficult?
We have a watch system; we have 4 hours on deck sailing and 4 hours off. When we are off watch we are still on standby and you need to be ready to go and help if we need to change a sail or do a manoeuvre. It’s not uncommon to get zero sleep in a 48-hour period when the conditions are difficult.
Have you always wanted to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race and why?
I have always wanted to race the Volvo I just didn’t expect to do it so early in my sailing career. I think the feeling of accomplishment of crossing an ocean is amazing regardless of the result, but of course it’s better to finish at the front.
Before the last leg of the race, which team did you think would win?
With one leg to go in the race there were 3 teams on equal point, Dongfeng, Mapfre and Team Brunel. We had momentum on our side after winning 3 of the last 4 legs but after 40,000 miles the race was decided over 750 miles. Our confidence was high and we were feeling good about the way we were sailing the boat, but the other teams were very good so it all came down to the wire.
How has your Bremont S300 performed for you during the race?
The S300 has been great, we’ve sailed 40,000 miles around the world, seeing hurricane force winds and snow of the Southern Ocean to the light winds of the doldrums around the equator and a range of temperatures from 1 degree to 40. The S300 has stood up to all grueling conditions I’ve forced it through with no problems!
What does timekeeping mean to you for races such as this?
Timekeeping is crucial in a race like the Volvo ocean race. Life on-board and the way we race is all based around time, from monitoring watch timings, wind shifts and weather patterns to tracking our competitors to help gauge our performance, time is something that is observed every few moments.
What do you like most about Bremont?
I love the Bremont mentality of innovation and also the link to aviation. Sailing has a lot of similar principles to flying and the same spirit of adventure in aviation is very present in sailing, which make the two sports closely linked. The way Bremont was started by combining a love of engineering, aviation and watch making is a pretty cool story and it’s hard not to be impressed by!
What’s next for Kyle Langford?
I am headed straight to Germany for a single handed event then straight down to Australia for some more sailing, followed by a much needed holiday before getting into the next big project!