Sitting down with Kyle Langford
Published on December 3rd, 2019
British Double Olympic gold medalist and sailing broadcaster Shirley Robertson has launched her new monthly Sailing Podcast, and in her eighth episode she interviews next generation sailing star Kyle Langford.
The 30 year old Australian has crammed an awful lot of high end sailing into a very short period of time, beginning with his first win on the international stage as Tornado Youth World Champion, but since then he’s won an America’s Cup, an RC44 World Title, lost an America’s Cup, completed the Volvo Ocean Race, and won in the inaugural SailGP Series – as well as a several years racing on the Match Racing circuit and the Extreme Sailing Series. All in a single decade!
Aged just 24, Langford burst onto the international sailing scene as wing trimmer for Oracle Team USA as they tried to defend the America’s Cup of 2013.
It was a Cup that would re-define the sport, a Cup match that saw a punch drunk Defender climb back off the canvas, dodge a few knock out blows, and bounce back from an impossible seven point deficit to famously clinch the trophy in dramatic style. The young Langford played a key role in their success, and he’s very candid about how it all unfolded.
“It was hard to appreciate how awesome it was because there was so much going on you know,” said Langford. “We were perfecting or getting better at the upwind foiling we were 8-1 down in the Cup (to Emirates Team New Zealand) so the pressure was on, every moment of racing mattered and we couldn’t afford to make mistakes.
“So there was always that added pressure that it could be over in a moment’s time and so it was so much fun to come up with a new way to sail the boat and watch Team New Zealand try and react to that…..and when the momentum started rolling our way it was epic!”
Robertson has spent much of her broadcasting career following Langford’s career, and the chat between the pair reflects this. Langford is honest and insightful as he discusses the controversial build up to that 2013 Cup, and is then equally revealing as he reflects on the subsequent loss of the Cup, in Bermuda in 2017.
“The core of our sailing team were in San Francisco sailing the AC72, and our first test boat was an AC45, a completely scaled version of the AC72, so our design process was an evolution so every step we made was a small change from the starting point of the AC72, and so the AC50 that we ended up with… was starting from the AC72,” he reflects.
“Whereas Team New Zealand had a brand new sailing team without prior experience so they weren’t trapped in the mindset of the AC72 and how that beast was sailed, and they threw some paint at the wall and saw what stuck and absolutely hit it out of the park.”
Immediately after Bermuda 2017, Langford was one of three big name America’s Cup stars to surprise the sailing world with the announcement that they would be moving straight into the very different world of offshore sailing. Along with Cup victors Pete Burling and Blair Tuke, Langford announced he would be heading around the planet with the Volvo Ocean Race’s Team Brunel.
His revelations to Robertson about his first sorties offshore are revealing. Trying to get away from the loss of the Cup in Bermuda though, Langford ended up being team mates with the very man that had inflicted that devastating loss.
“I knew Pete (Burling) but we hadn’t really hung out much, and so he turns up and he’d been the enemy for three years, and suddenly he’s your team mate, and you need to get on and co-operate with this guy that you’ve wanted to beat up for three years, and so yeah, it was really strange,” admitted Langford. “That was at the first meeting and we then went sailing and I realized what a talent he was and it gets a lot easier when you see that potential, and how good he really is.”
Enjoy the complete podcast here:
Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.