The Cup is Next on Lewis’ To-Do List

Andrew Lewis, a 24-year-old veteran of both the Laser class and the Volvo Ocean Race, sets his sights on the America's Cup with Sweden's Victory Challenge

October 13, 2006


Courtesy Team Abn Amro

Before he turns 25 next July, Andrew Lewis will have completed two Laser Olympic Trials, a Volvo Ocean Race with ABN AMRO Two, and an America’s Cup campaign with Sweden’s Victory Challenge. Talk about a sailing career in hyper drive. He says he’s been enjoying playing at the upper fringes of the sport, but the affable, fast-talking Hawaiian knows there are more opportunities to be had down the road. For now, he’s absorbing all he can as the “low man on the totem pole” with the Victory Challenge, and seeing where it can take him next.When you showed up at the airport in Valencia in August, did you get the V.I.P. pickup?Nah. I got in so late I just cabbed it to the apartment I’m sharing with three other guys from the team. It’s a huge, pimping pad. We have pretty generous living stipends, so we’ve all chipped in and have this incredible place with a pool table and a ping-pong table-we each have our own room. What happened on your first day? They threw me in the mix right away, and just had me grinding because I know how to work the winches. At first the whole thing looked overwhelming, but all the time we spent on the 70s doinginshore racing makes a difference in understanding how the boats work.What exactly is your role onboard the boat?Basically, I grind the runner through the tack. It’s a position where I have to be involved with the tactics a little bit because I’m in the back of the boat with the tactician, watching other boats and feeding information. It’s a cool spot because I end up doing a lot-I move around like a floater. I have to be on with what’s going to happen next because the runners are so crucial.How did this Victory Challenge gig come about?Before the Volvo, I wanted to be involved with the Cup somehow. The Volvo happened to come up first, and that definitely let me get my foot in the door. Last year they were looking for young, motivated guys that could pick things up quickly, and what can be better than guys who had just sailed around the world? Guys that understand the work ethic involved in programs like these. Magnus [Holmberg] showed up in Portsmouth [England] after the transatlantic leg, laid out what positions were open, and we just negotiated our terms from there. They were looking for a smaller, all-around sailor with some tactical background, someone who could work the floater position.What was it like sitting down, at 24 years old, and negotiating with Holmberg, one of the Cup’s big players?Beforehand, I had to think a lot about what to ask for, knowing that I have to establish a name for myself. You sit there and be reasonable, and try to get what you want, but do it as politely and professionally as you can. I have to remember I’m young, and even though I’ve done the Volvo, I have to remain humble. He was open-minded about what I want to do after the Cup. I don’t want to bulk up to a 240-pound grinder and have no other career in sailing, and he respected that. He understood, and he knows I have much more sailing ahead of me.Let’s go back to the Volvo; how long did it take to wind down after finishing the race last June?I had signed up for the AC thing right away, but it took me forever to get my Visa. I was sitting at home feeling bad I wasn’t in Valencia. That was the hardest thing for me. I caught up with friends and it was good, but when I woke up in the morning and didn’t have a fixed schedule, that was difficult. It’s such a hard high to come off, that lifestyle of traveling around the world, dealing with the pressure of sailing and the media at each stop. It was nice going home, but weird in a way because all my friends are working, and they don’t quite understand that I get paid to race sailboats. I think the experience of the race sunk in a bit more on the transatlantic leg when we lost Hans [Horrevoets]. We’ve all thought about it a lot more since it happened, and people ask about it a lot because they think we’ve had closure on it. But that’s OK; it’s important for people to know what happened and what we learned from it.The look on your face during the press conference in Portsmouth was telling.It was hard for us to reopen everything again in Portsmouth. We had good closure on board after it happened, and then it was hard again when we had to unload Hans off the boat. Then we got to shore and had to deal with everyone there; the harsh questions from the journalists who don’t know anything about sailing. It wasn’t easy telling the story again, and listening to Simeon [Tienpont] talk about when George [Peet] and I were helping him perform CPR. It was a difficult time, but we’re comfortable talking about it now.What was the post-race assessment of the ABN youth team?Having done it, I think it can be done well, and ABN definitely did it right. Disney’s Morning Light Project is great, but ABN’s hiring of an experienced skipper [Seb Josse] to make the decisions when the time comes is the right approach. I know we surprised a lot of people. Sure, we had an unfortunate accident, but prior to that we rounded Cape Horn with 50- to 60-knot winds, and huge seas, and we had the 24-hour record. It was well into the race when something unfortunate happened, but we finished every leg of the race, and not everyone did.You said a long time ago that the ABN gig would get your foot in the door, but did you think you’d be doing the Cup so early in your career?It would have taken a lot longer if it weren’t for the ABN thing. When I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the America’s Cup immediately after finishing the Volvo, Magnus Holmberg made a point to me that I’ve done the Olympics, the Volvo, and the AC, and that’s a pretty powerful thing. At this point in your career there’s a value in promoting yourself, isn’t there?Yeah, to make a living this way you have to make a name for yourself, but in a humble way. That also means going to your junior sailing program and giving back. I know how hard it is for kids to go up to someone like me and ask, “How’d you win that regatta?” or “How do I get myself to where you are?” So getting out there and talking to people is good, and you have to do it in a way that people respect you; you can’t be arrogant. If people know you’re a good sailor and a good person they’ll hire you, but it is important to market your name. ABN did a good job showing us how to do that, to talk to reporters, and to be yourself.What do you see ahead for you beyond the Cup?I’ve been thinking about some kind of doublehanded Open 60 type stuff in maybe 10 years or so. Another Volvo maybe, but I fell in love with the canting keel, double-rudder sailing. It’s so comfortably fast, and it’s awesome how fast you can push them. The doublehanded Barcelona Race sounds to me like a perfect race. If I can get in my head that I can do it in three months with someone else, that’s cool, but myself alone for three months in a Vendee Globe-type of race-I don’t think so.


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