You know that picture very well, whilst roaming the jetties and moorings in your marinas at home: The lack of young people on sailing boats is apparent. Grey haired Hallberg-Rassy sailors everywhere, which in itself isn´t a bad thing of course: Everyone should have the luxury to own a Swedish cruiser and enjoy his and her sunset years. But isn´t it a bit frightening, that there are virtually no real young people around? Well, let´s not paint it too dark: There are youngsters of course. I´ve met one: Nils Asendorf.

“I didn´t choose the Classic Way.”

NO FRILLS, Lars Reisberg: “Nils, I´ve met you on the Hanseboot boat show last week and we chatted a while. I was fascinated by your determination and knowledge of sailing regarded topics and was puzzled by the sheer amount of different things you do under canvas: Tell us more about your person.”

Nils Asendorf: “I am 18 years by now, living in Hannover. I am sailing since … well, since I can remember. That´s because my parents use to be sailors as well and I´ve been with them on cruises since I was a small child. I went to sail the Opti-class at the age of 10, which is pretty late of course, switched to the 420 class. But to be honest, I was never really into the classic sailing career: I always loved sailing the bigger yachts.”

Receiving the honor a winner deserves: Nils Asendorf after the Rio-Horta Race
Receiving the honor a winner deserves: Nils Asendorf after the Rio-Horta Race “So it have been your parents influencing you in that respect. Your preference of the bigger yachts is understandable, but you seem to never have lost racing ambitions, didn´t you?”

Nils: “That´s correct. I am member of the SKWB, the sailing companionship “Wappen von Bremen”, where I do attend most of the offshore races possible. I used to make my A-levels recently which made time a scarce resource, but I try to squeeze every day off out of my schedule to be part of the crew.” “I once saw the brand new WAPPEN VON BREMEN yacht at Helgoland (read about that beautiful boat here), did you sail with her?“

The BANK VON BREMEN ready to cast off in Horta/Portugal
The BANK VON BREMEN ready to cast off in Horta/Portugal

Nils: “No, not yet. I did sail on the old WAPPEN and the other racing yachts of the club, like the BANK VON BREMEN. That´s a 2006 built 50 feet thoroughbred one-off racer made by Knierim, a Judel/Vrolijk construction. The last real big offshore race I attended was the Rio-Hamburg regatta on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.”

“Sailing for me … well, the Main Thing is to cast off.” “Tell us more about your feelings while sailing. You are as a very young person in some ways “awkward” for not rushing from hobby to hobby, but to subordinate within a crew under a rigid regiment on board. That´s something special nowadays.”

Nils: “Well, I like it. Everybody has his special assignments, his duty to do. All together are trying to sail the boat as efficient and as fast as possible: That creates a very special atmosphere and team spirit. That´s a fantastic thing.”

Dashing upwind towards home
Dashing upwind towards home “What do you like most about sailing?”

Nils: “Well … nothing particularly special here. I love going out to the sea. No matter how the weather, no matter how the wind: The main thing is to cast off, let lose the lines and be out on the sea. I just love it.” “What´s the difference between cruising and racing for you personally?”

Nils: “I like racing most for the fact that you are constantly competing with others. Not just on the other boats, but also within the own crew. This pressure – a “good” pressure – motivates and makes the fun in sailing. Also, to try to sail the boat most efficiently, the fastest way you can, is great fun for me. Optimizing procedures, for example while gybing or tacking, standing watches, being responsible … in short: Adrenalin and thinking.”

“Landing as Winners in Hamburg was so much rewarding.” “Tell me more about Rio-Hamburg Race.”

Nils: “That was a regatta taking place to honour the Olympic Games. The Race is organized by the Hamburg Sailing Club HVS and is open for yachts of 40 to 60 feet. It was split into three legs of which I was able to sail the second and third – from Horta on the Azores back to Hamburg via Helgoland. I was offered a place in the crew for the whole race but due to my obligations in school I couldn´t afford to be off for more than a month. So it was Azores-Hamburg for me. Anyway, a great experience!”

Close hauled racing towards Europe
Close hauled racing towards Europe “Your BANK VON BREMEN has been the overall winner in the end although you arrived second in Horta and in Hamburg due to the race-regulations by having won the first and longest which ccounts most, how was the performance of the boat?”

Nils: “When the race started back in Rio de Janeiro on August 24th. Our boat arrived fastest in Horta on the Azores where some of the crew went and some came, like me. We casted off in Horta on September 30th at 1400 and if I remember correctly landed in Hamburg on October 13th at exactly 0254 in the night. We arrived second and as we have been second only to HASPA in Helgoland the overall place was second. Anyway, it was great to be back in Hamburg!”

Working in the bow was reserved for the young & flexible crewmen
Working in the bow was reserved for the young & flexible crewmen “Arriving here is always a great thing …”

Nils: “… it is! Everything was dark, no one on the streets. We landed at Hamburg Landungsbrücken and except representatives from our yachting club and the Hamburg Sailing Club the city seemed empty. Nevertheless, with all the lights on, the port and Hamburg skyline: It was marvellous!” “What was your function within the crew on board, you may have been one of the youngest crew members, haven´t you?”

Nils: “Yes, I was the youngest member indeed. Nevertheless, we all had received duties equally. The boat was running on a watch system consisting of 2 watches with 6 hours during daylight and 3 watches of 4 hours each at night. We all had to adjust to that system.”

Most beloved time of the day: Blue Water Sunset
Most beloved time of the day: Blue Water Sunset “Tell me more about the tasks on and off watch.”

Nils: “Well, most important of course is being at the helm. That was mostly one hour duty at the steering wheel, depending on one´s ability to stay focused. Of course, during night or hard wind conditions that steering time was reduced to 30 minutes or less. Then it´s of course work in the cockpit like controlling the lines or being at the mast and on the bow to change sails. That was a job mostly for us young, flexible and strong people. Very venturesome, as you might imagine. Below deck we had the tasks of cleaning up the boat once every 24 hours, preparing meals and drinks for the new watch and our own, getting the dishes done, heads and stuff, you name it. Don´t get me wrong, this job wasn´t as unpopular as it sounds. Being below deck meant to be warm and dry.”

“Sailing is my Life. But I don´t want to make a living of that.” “What was your most beloved moment of that particular race?”

Nils: “As I mentioned before, slowly arriving at Hamburg port was the greatest thing. We´ve had 25 knots of wind as we entered Elbe estuary and went the last 50 miles upriver to the finish line, but wind gradually died down to some 5 knots in the end. So we were able to tie up at the jetty with virtually the last puff of wind. The atmosphere was overwhelming because of the quietness and tranquillity. It was like we´ve had the whole city for ourselves.”

The beauty of steering the boat at night
The beauty of steering the boat at night “I was once arriving at Wedel harbour not far from Hamburg and I can imagine what you mean. Has there been an enthralling, even dangerous moment during the race?”

Nils: “Yeah, there has been. A quite difficult situation of certain gravity. Even the senior sailors became very serious. It was a situation during the second night after leaving Horta. Strong winds of some 30 knots. Darkness. We got a rip in the main sail. Which in itself was a pity but not too dangerous, but some half an hour later one of the two control cables of the steering wheel got broken. Now, those two things in combination provided for quite a hustle!”

Repairing the broken cables for the steering mechanism
Repairing the broken cables for the steering mechanism “What did you do then?”

Nils: “I was among the 3 man team responsible for repairing the broken cable. It was a tough situation: Almost no speed in the boat, no effective steering available and 3 meter waves. Darkness, cold and wet. Some of us had to stand on deck at the mast to sew up the main sail, another one had to spend nearly one hour upside down in the locker to fit the cable to the quadrant and helm again. We´ve been working focused and effectively, but afterwards I sensed my knees shaking. A really tough situation.” “Can imagine that. Listening to you and your determination, your fascination for sailing: Being now 18 years of age and your professional life ahead, what is it you are planning to do with your life?”

Nils: “It´s definitely not a life as a professional sailor. I figure, you must always be busy acquiring new sponsors and projects all the time, you need a certain staff based ashore to secure new “jobs” for you. A pretty stressful life. And I guess there´s the risk of losing one´s fascination. Passing my A-levels lately I am now planning to do a civil servant´s year as staff member of the SKWB-club in Bremen. Then I will probably attend university to begin business studies. My plan is to get a job where I could work half a year and be able to go sailing for the other half of the year. But that´s the future, we´ll see.”

Traditional beer after landing
Traditional beer after landing “Any further plans regarding sailing activities?”

Nils: “Oh of course, that´s pretty well scheduled. It´s the Nordseewoche (North Sea Week) next year, a week full of regatta sailing, then the race Helgoland-Edinburg. There´s a good chance of doing the Fastnet Race in 2017 and a leg of the AAR from Tenerife to Virgin Gorda. I am also planning to attend the RORC 600 and definitely one more northern cruise departing from Norway. Finally where I am especially looking forward to is the race New York City-Newport, secondly there´s a non stop race from Bermuda back to Hamburg which is also very attractive.” “Wow, that´s quite an agenda for such a young person. But it makes sense: Do it all before settling down in a profession and before wife and children arrive.”

Nils: “Maybe. I am determined to do that, but we will see. Until now it´s 2 years I was planning well ahead. Then as I mentioned, I will attend university. I guess I will have much less time for sailing during that time. Anyway, there is still my parent´s sailing boat I could take out for a quick ride.” “Nils, thanks a lot for this interesting interview and my best wishes to you. Be safe always and have fun sailing.”


Other interesting articles on that topic:

Interview with Lizzy Foreman on her first IMOCA 60 experiences 

Interviewing British pro-sailor Sam Goodchild on the Solitaire du Figaro

Building a Classe Mini 650 from Plywood