Sitting down with Mike Sanderson
Published on July 11th, 2021
In this edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, the double Olympic gold medalist host talks to 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 sailmaker, 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, and the pair kick things off with a short chat about the successful defense 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 Freemantle 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 21, he was on the crew of New Zealand Endeavour, off around the world on the Whitbread, and his career was well underway.
“What was unbelievable about that campaign was that it was only four or five years after Freemantle, and all my heroes from Freemantle 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 I” 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 their 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.
Shirley Robertson OBE made history by becoming the first British woman to win Olympic Gold Medals at two consecutive Olympic Games. 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.