XXIV - 2015

Time on the ocean gives Norwegian sailor Knut Frostad space to think


PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 5:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 December, 2015, 12:17pm

Norwegian sailor Knut Frostad could have been a musician. However, he fell in love with sailing when he was a child. "Actually, it was only when I discovered windsurfing that I absolutely fell in love with sailing," he recalls. "It was the feeling of having the wind in your hands."

He sailed smaller boats and windsurfers in the Olympics, and it wasn't until the '90s that he started following the ups and downs of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race. "I could see it could be an amazing adventure, and I was lucky enough to be selected."

He has been involved in the historic race as crew four times (1993-94, 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2005-6), skippering twice. He was chief executive for the 2008-09, 2011-12 and 2014-15 races. "I have spent 22 years in the Volvo Ocean Race," he says. "The race has shaped my life."

And that's a life that takes a dramatically primitive yet adventurous direction when on board. "What makes the Volvo Ocean Race unique is that you sacrifice everything that normal human beings are trying to achieve. You sacrifice comfort, good food, a nice bed, nice clothing, clean showers, your friends and family, everything you do in your social life. 

"What makes this particularly fascinating is that your relationship to time takes a very different direction too. On land most people in the Western world have everything they need; the only thing they don't have is time. On the ocean when you are racing, you have nothing; the only thing you do have is time. You are completely in tune with mother nature. If the wind dies in the middle of the ocean, your journey will take longer and you accept that. You have to be patient when sailing. I think this relationship with time is a very healthy one.

"One of the things I really loved was that on the boat you can be driving and trimming while in your head you have amazing time to think. I remember nights that were crystal clear, the sky full of stars. There was time to reflect and realise, 'this is amazing, what I'm seeing'."

He was very happy with the success of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race. "We had record numbers across the whole thing and we started in a difficult place during the financial crisis. We had some really interesting new developments too. The Chinese team did very well for the first time, which has opened the door to new angles on the sport. We had an all-female team, which hadn't happened for many years, and we had amazing stories coming off the boats from the on-board reporters."

In these days of social media, reporting is key and, as time and technology progress, this race benefits perhaps more than any other, he reckons. "You can't watch the race as it happens out in the ocean, so satellite technology and the use of smaller and smaller devices to cover the race make a huge impact for us."

His most recent work for the race involved negotiating with potential stopover cities for the next edition. "Asia and China are high on the list, including Hong Kong," says 48-year-old Frostad, who is stepping down as chief executive at the end of this year so that he can spend more time with his family. 

Frostad is hoping for up to 10 teams for the 2017-18 race. IWC Schaffhausen is also in discussions about sponsorship and Frostad particularly appreciates the company's passion for adventure and ocean preservation, both key aspects of the race. "I'm racing against other sports for sponsorship financially, but IWC knows there are no other races that go around the world and push it to extremes like we do."

Working mostly on land these days, Frostad is still intensely competitive, pushing time to achieve the maximum. "If they could control time, most people would like to stop it or slow it down to pack as much in as possible. A lot of us would like to run back in time," he says. "I'd probably turn time back to when I was 30. If I chose my life again, I wouldn't choose differently, but I would like a couple of lives. I wouldn't have minded being a musician, but you can't do everything - you can't have five lives at the same time." CN

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