Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen spend all but two weeks of the year together sailing and took out gold in the 49er skiff class at the London Olympics. They’re planning to do it again in Rio.
Nathan Outteridge is heading into his third Olympic Games; Iain Jensen his second. They picked up gold in London four years ago in the 49er skiff class, manage a second “full-time job” sailing with America’s Cup team Artemis Racing and first started racing together when Outteridge was 13 and Jensen (nicknamed “Goobs”, above left) was 11. Still, they just can’t seem to make their family and friends understand it all. “They keep asking when it will end, when we’ll come home,” says Outteridge, 30. “We have to explain that this is our home; the travel is our life.”
The duo, who are from Lake Macquarie in NSW but now live in Bermuda off the US coast, spend all but two weeks of the year together and estimate that 38 days in 2015 were spent on a plane. “If I could just live at home for six months I would be really happy,” says Jensen, 28. “But I’m sure after that I’d want to go travelling again.” With a set budget each year, the pair carefully select the events they participate in. “If we overspend, it comes out of our own pocket,” says Outteridge.
Adds Jensen: “If we stay in a nice place, it means we can’t buy a new sail but if we stay somewhere cheap then we might sail badly the next day. It’s a balancing act.”
Of course, their success relies on more than a five-star suite. There’s also the balancing act they’ve perfected with their roles; Outteridge as skipper and Jensen as crew. “On a 49er, the crew is trimming the sails and focusing on the boat’s speed; the skipper is looking outside the boat and plotting the big picture around the course,” says Outteridge. Ultimately, he says, it’s a specific dynamic that forms the backbone of their wins and will carry them through their Olympic schedule. “You need to have a huge amount of trust and respect for the person you’re sailing with.” ￼
Do you have any superstitions or pre-event rituals?
Nathan Outteridge: Typically, you get given clothing for all the different sailing events and it’s always been really bad luck to actually wear the event clothing until it’s over. It doesn’t really work well for the Olympics as you have to wear the Olympic uniform – so everyone gets bad luck!
Iain Jensen: Also, bananas and the colour green aren’t allowed on boats, which is bad because we are Australian. So we’re going to be unlucky all round at the Olympics!
What kind of music gets you fired up before a race?
IJ: Sailing is one of those sports where you don’t want to get too pumped up. The whole idea is to make clear decisions and be focused.
How long is a competitive sailing career?
NO: Usually, you get to your 30s and go from this selfish lifestyle, where it’s all about you and your sport, to things in your life starting to change. You can’t really have a family, doing what we do. You can sail into your 30s and 40s but most stop around their mid-30s.
Where do you like to go on holidays?
IJ: Lake Garda in Italy.
NO: I don’t like cities; there are too many people. I like where we’re living in Bermuda; it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour flight to New York and seven hours to London. Only 65,000 people live there so it’s very much an island life.
Besides a medal, what do you want to bring home from Rio?
IJ: A few pairs of Havaianas.
Interviewed by Jo Bainbridge
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