Olympic sixth in 2012, European champion in 2008, world champion in 2014: Robert Stanjek is one of the most successful German sailors in the former Olympic Starboat class. In 2011, he was named Germany’s Sailor of the Year. He collected German championship titles in the Laser and the Starboat. The basis for a medal hunt at the Olympics was laid. But the decision by the World Sailing Federation to remove the Starboat from the Olympic programme for 2016 abruptly ended the Olympic career of the Berliner, who grew up in a successful rowing and sailing family and has sailing legends like Jochen Schümann as a role model in his club, the Yachtclub Berlin-Grünau.
Robert Stanjek switched to yachting after the 2012 Olympics and was able to celebrate successes in class rankings in the offshore classic Fastnet Race. “Besides the Olympics and the America’s Cup, the Ocean Race is the third Mount Everest of sailing,” says the 40-year-old. After the Olympics, Robert Stanjek has the chance to sail in the Nordstream Race with German greats from the formerly legendary Admiral’s Cup. “Those were the first steps in offshore sailing, but still a long way from the Ocean Race.”
He set another stone on the path towards world racing when he completed the Volvo Ocean Race training program with the Dutch Brunel team in 2014. “Bouwe Bekking’s drill school was a new chapter. It was tough, but it also taught me that it doesn’t kill you. After ten days at sea, you come ashore exhausted. But you regenerate quickly and the unforgettable moments carry you far,” says Stanjek.
Robert Stanjek has thus caught fire for offshore sailing in a team: “I could also imagine a solo circumnavigation of the world. But team sailing offers more security,” says the father of two young kids. “Besides, sailing in a team offers so much more. You can learn yourself and grow with the team. I have already enjoyed that in Olympic sailing: You sail alone or in pairs, but when you have a great coach, a great group, you develop. This team idea, the human setup is what makes this sport.”
As skipper of Offshore Team Germany, Robert Stanjek is now the one who can lead the team. With two-time circumnavigator Annie Lush, whom Stanjek has known for around 15 years, and fresh Vendée Globe finisher Benjamin Dutreux, he has two international offshore greats at his side. “I’m glad we managed to put the team together like this. We have always said that we want to bring together the combination of different schools of sailing: the experience from the Olympic classes, from the Ocean Race and from the Imoca class. It’s the right way, it’s showing now. Important input is coming from all areas. Annie and Ben have a much bigger mileage account. But they also can’t do without Phillip and me. The crucial thing is that the team functions egofree.”
And the combination of the German core, the British Ocean Race expertise and the young French Imoca star works. The distribution of tasks, the different competences ensure a flat hierarchy. “It’s like in a company: You hire the smartest people for the different areas,” says Stanjek, who also knows, however, that as skipper he has to give the final call in the decisive phases.
In the meantime, the training sessions are over and the race has started. “We only spent a few days together on board in preparation, but we worked intensively. The learning curve will still continue during the race. But that is true for many other teams, with the exception of maybe ’11th Hours Racing’. To set the bar to the other teams is difficult in the current situation. But we will fight officially in the race. That is promised.”