Take a Walk on the Wild Side

We are all captivated by people that think outside the box, and places, ideas and products that make our imagination run wild. Totally individual, unique, and sometimes even eccentric, these are the people that we admire because they aren’t afraid to explore, reinvent, and go on an adventure to discover that truly great inspiration takes courage to turn into success.

Windward or Leeward, always looking forward: Professional Sailor Robert Stanjek

Professional Sailor
Berlin, Germany

“It gets harder the higher the pressure gets. That’s where the absolute top athletes differ.”

4SEE Profile Robert Stanjek, Photography by Bert Spangemacher
Professional Sailor
Photography by Bert Spangemacher

Concentration, intuition, and a spirit for adventure are three qualities perhaps essential to those who pursue the sport of Sailing. With ever-changing conditions, competitive success relies upon a fierce determination in a game of speed and tactics, navigating natural forces and pushing the limits of human (and boat) performance. A growing sport in Germany, sailing master Robert Stanjek’s ‘Stanjek Sailing Cup’ is fast becoming a regional highlight for young sailors, with more than 130 children and adolescents attending a two-day series on the Müggelsee in Berlin every year. Robert joined 4SEE to share a glimpse of his exhilarating world.

Describe yourself in three words

Enduring, optimistic, forward

How many regattas have you participated in? Which was your most memorable regatta and why?

I estimate a little over 1000. Becoming World Champion is very special. That’s a title you’ve got all your life, like a PhD. To beat everyone on the planet once is a very rewarding feeling.

How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically for regattas?

During Olympic times I worked continuously with a sports psychologist. To use your maximum capacity of concentration you must be able to put yourself intellectually completely in the present. It gets harder the higher the pressure gets. That’s where the absolute top athletes differ. Offshore sailing is about long, non-stop distances for days and weeks. The mental focus is a bit different. Here you have to be prepared for enduring time, strains and inconveniences. And of course physical training is the absolute basis for both disciplines.

Please describe a typical day on the ship during a regatta.

A day at sea during a competition is very simple. It’s all about keeping the ship at its maximum speed all the time. This is usually very exhausting and a job that you shouldn’t interrupt too long, because otherwise you lose distance. In total you sleep very, very little and always in small phases—sometimes 15 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. Food is very important to not burn out.

What is it like to race in the ocean, seeing nothing but water around you? There must be times when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re constantly wet, enduring many unpleasant situations. How do you cope with pressure or stress?

This has a lot to do with experience. Usually you know in advance where the competition demands everything and where it will be really hard. We talk about it and plan the energy management. If you shoot yourself blue once, then someone else on the team has to back you up or replace you.

4SEE Profile Robert Stanjek, Photography by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Profile Robert Stanjek, Photography by Bert Spangemacher

Have you been in danger? Please describe your wildest moment.

Wind and water can be pretty violent. Out on the ocean you definitely notice how small you are. Storms with high waves and the speeds of the modern boats are very special. All this goes on at night in total darkness. You must never lose your respect! I think to someone who doesn’t sail offshore, it sometimes looks very, very risky and suicidal. I never talk too much about it at home.

Lately you have been concentrating on the world-class offshore races by initiating the German offshore team with a massive 60-foot racing boat. Is it a challenge to look for sponsor(s)?

It’s almost 20 years since a German racing team concentrated on Transatlantic and Round the World Races. A global campaign of this size requires a budget of a few million euros. There are German companies that are successfully and consecutively sponsoring projects like this, but often abroad. I am optimistic because we offer a very innovative product: global, clean, renewable energies, high tech, intelligent, teamwork, adventure… it is a fascinating sport with great stories.

You’re constantly on the road and you have a newly born baby, Albrecht. How often are you away from home in a year and how do you keep the balance between work and life?

I’m pretty much half the year on the road. This has become much harder since I became a father. But if you are disciplined to put in the quality time at home, then you are also a good father and husband for 50% of the days.

Sports sunglasses—what brand do you wear, what do you like about them, and what improvements would you like to see? Are you interested in using smart glasses or augmented reality when it becomes available? If yes, what kind of AI glasses are you yearning to own and how could they be helpful to you?

My sunglasses are polarized. This gives me more contrasts in the sky and on the water surface. Reading the wind on the water is a skill that takes decades. It is like reading the putting green in golf. You can’t support much around here. And I like to keep things simple.

In ten years where do you want to be?

My next goal is to race around the world, the longest and biggest offshore competition. Maybe I do 2 or 3. For this chapter I need about 8 to 10 years. After that I will slow down a bit and spend more time at home.