Interview: Andy Meiklejohn

Meet 35-year-old Andy Meiklejohn, member of the HUGO BOSS sailing team. Currently the only New Zealand sailor competing in the Barcelona World Race, where he and his co-skipper Wouter Verbraak will race non-stop for 25,000 miles, crossing three oceans and two hemispheres across the toughest seas on the planet. asked Andy to explain what it takes to sail round the world and why he wouldn't do anything else.


1. How is the race going?

The race has been a vast mix of highs and lows.  From not starting with Alex (Andy was due to compete with skipper Alex Thomson but Wouter had to be pulled in as a replacement skipper just hours before the race start when Alex was admitted to hospital with acute appendicitis) the difficult time leaving the Mediterranean, to the great sailing in the trade winds and gaining miles, but then being hampered firstly by the mainsail, and then the mast track problem.

2. For anyone who hasn't experienced yacht racing  - how would you describe it?

The common analogy is, get into your sports car for a nice drive, lower the roof and leave your house. It then gets cold, starts to rain and you are tired and hungry. You can't find your wallet and your car has broken down, but at the same time you have found the best bit of windy road, you saw some amazing scenery, let it rip and finally you're home. In short, it's a roller coaster but incredibly fun and challenging. 

3. How did you get into your career and why did you choose it?

I began dinghy sailing in New Zealand and quickly gave up cricket, rugby and football.  I worked as a rigger and then off I went with a bag on my back and a few notes in my wallet - I hit the road and haven't looked back.

4. Only two of you sail the boat - how much of a role does the rest of the team play?

Two of us sail it but it takes an army to keep it functioning.  The shore team play a huge role not only with the technical support but also with motivation levels.  They are our link with the real world!

5. What's the technology like on the boat? How have you seen this develop during your career?

The boats have got so much faster so sail handling performance tools have taken a big leap forward.  You need to be not only fast and safe but also able to easily reproduce the settings day in day out.

6. What physically is the biggest challenge during the race?

Physically HUGO BOSS is incredibly hard to sail.  The sails weigh more than Wouter or I so every maneuveur is a huge undertaking.  A normal change between two spinnakers/gennakers takes 30 minutes when you are moving 100kg weights around, and grinding and jumping around the boat.  A brilliant work out!

7. How do you get fit for such a race?

The big thing you need is core stability so loads of sit-ups, balancing and mobility exercises.  Without a stable strong core you are not able to transfer your power day in day out.

8. What is the most dangerous thing you have encountered during your sailing career?

Falling over the side is the worst and being a bowman you are incredibly susceptible.  I have had my share of bangs, broken ribs, dislocations, knee injuries but when you end up in the water offshore you stand an incredibly small chance of survival!

9. What drives you to sail in such extreme environments?

High speed sailing is our tonic, there is nothing like the Southern Ocean and sailing fast, it is incredibly addictive!

10. What tactics do you use to stay well during the race?

You have to be healthy before the race then stay hydrated during it.  Also some people survive well, others don't, I am lucky!

11. Who is your inspiration?

Sir Peter Blake was every Kiwi kids’ hero.  20 years ago I told my high school coach that's what I would do and 15 years later I was doing it!

12. What's next for you after this race?

Hopefully the Volvo Ocean Race but this shorthanded sailing is fun, I would like to do the TJV, Route du Rhum and the Vendee globe, is that too ambitious?

To follow Andy’s progress in the race visit or follow him on twitter at

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  • Prettyboy says
    take my hat off to ya Andy, must be mentally and physically challenging doing something mad like this.

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