Sitting down with Glenn Ashby

Published on August 31st, 2021

Shirley Robertson

In this edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, the double Olympic gold medalist host talks to multiple America’s Cup winner and foiling multi hull pioneer Glenn Ashby. An integral part of Emirates Team New Zealand, Ashby has just won his third America’s Cup, and talked to Robertson after celebrating the team’s successful defense in March 2021.

Like many of Robertson’s guests, Ashby reveals that his early life in sailing saw him working in a sail loft, having left school at the age of sixteen, but by then he had already made a name for himself out on the water. Growing up sailing on a lake in Bendigo, Victoria, the first time Ashby sailed on the sea was at eleven years old, in a regatta that saw him become junior state champion.

From there, only a potential career racing motorbikes was going to stop the young Ashby becoming a professional sailor – motor sport lost the battle, for the teenage Ashby, Europe was calling.

“There was a French guy, I heard a bang bang bang on the window, he was throwing stones from on the street to wake me up, and I got down to the boat park and the whole fleet had left, my boat was the only boat on the beach with the cover on. If I hadn’t made that race I’d have lost the regatta!”

Glenn Ashby

That admission from Ashby from his first A-Class Worlds regatta win in 1996. He would go on to claim nine more A-Class world titles, three Formula 18 World titles and three Tornado world titles. His ability to sail fast cats fast soon saw him claim a spot at the Olympics where in 2008 he won a silver medal in the outgoing Tornado Class with fellow Aussie Darren Bundock.

Inevitably Robertson and Ashby turn to chat of the America’s Cup which was itself beginning to look at multihulls for the 2010 Deed of Gift Match. Once decided, Ashby’s inclusion was inevitable. Having joined BMW Oracle for the 2010 edition, Ashby then began a career with Emirates Team New Zealand, as they looked to win the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco.

What followed for Ashby has been a three Cup campaign with one of the most successful teams of the modern era, but as Ashby reveals, after the shattering defeat in San Francisco, things could have been very different indeed.

“Sitting in the board room with seven or eight people having to make a decision, with Dalts saying ‘it’s up to you guys, do we shut the doors, or do we keep them open, what do we do?’ The brutal reality of the doors of a team that had been around for twenty odd years, to have to be part of that decision making process to shut the doors after being so close, it just didn’t feel right.”

And so as Ashby reveals, the comeback began. It’s a revealing chat, as Glenn talks through the “clean sheet of paper” that saw Emirates Team New Zealand ultimately win the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda. It’s an inspirational tale told by one of the team’s pivotal members.

Robertson’s interview with Ashby is a fascinating discussion, looking behind the scenes of some of the modern era’s most talked about Cup moments, from trying to keep the foils of the AC72 a secret pre San Francisco to redemption in Bermuda and the foiling monohulls of AC36, all told first hand from one of the modern day sailing’s genuine pioneers.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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.

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