HomeINTERESTINTERVIEW: Sailing legend Santiago Lange reflects on extraordinary life

INTERVIEW: Sailing legend Santiago Lange reflects on extraordinary life

Argentinian veteran talks cancer recovery and future hopes in inspiring new book.

Santiago Lange is a naval architect and sailing legend whose incredible gold in Rio – less than a year after cancer surgery to remove part of a lung – inspired the world.

His new autobiography “Wind” shares the story of his extraordinary life, from his childhood in Argentina to his place on the world stage today.

Lange, 59, won his first World Championship gold medal back in 1985 on home water in Buenos Aires, then added three more in 1993, 1995 and 2004 before claiming the fairytale Olympic gold in Brazil which earned him the prestigious 2016 Sailor of the Year award by World Sailing.

Not only that, the San Isidro native has twice sailed the Volvo Ocean Race (2001–02/2008–09), sailed for Victory Challenge in the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup and was also a member of Artemis Racing, the Swedish Challenger for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco.

Here is what Lange had to say about the new book and his incredible life journey ahead as he targets gold again alongside Nacra 17 partner Cecilia Carranza:

Santi, what made you decide to write this?

I was approached about telling the story of my life and I always say yes to everything. Actually, when I was asked, I thought, “OK, yes. I have four sons, and it will be a great experience to write this book.”

Writing seems like a very different undertaking for you. How did you go about it?

I was entering a world that was unknown to me. So wanted to work with someone, but if I was going to explain my feelings, my whole life, I needed somebody who would understood Argentina and my spirit. I talked with several Argentinian writers, and then I found Nico (Nicolás Cassese) and we started to work together.

Did you like the process?

At first I found it really hard, because I am a curious person and I like to learn about others – I thought it was bloody boring to go over things I already knew about myself! But I talked to my friend Hector Guyot, who I’ve known since we were six years old. He’s a journalist and a university professor in writing and journalism, so I asked him to read the first chapters, and he liked them. I got him involved in making suggestions because he knows me so well, and we all developed great teamwork. I did really enjoy that process.

As you looked back, did you discover things about yourself?

Well, I wanted the book to be very honest and open. So I wanted to make sure it wasn’t only my thoughts about how I saw my life. To that end, I had really interesting talks with my sons and with other family and friends, and it brought back things I couldn’t remember clearly or had completely forgotten.

Such as?

Like for example, with my father (Olympic sailor Enrique Jorge Lange). I have great memories of my father, but I had a different view of him than my brothers and my sister did, because I was always at school during the week and at the club sailing on the weekends. It was very interesting to revisit all that. My father gave me a lot of freedom. I always loved him – and I loved the liberty he gave me to be free. I value that above everything. So I had learnings like that, which were really cool.

Do you think there will be surprises in the book for people who know you?

Yes, I’m already hearing that. I have some very close friends who appear in the book, and they didn’t know about parts of my life. There are things even my brothers didn’t know.

Is this a book just for sailing fans?

No, although that was one of the first things I considered when I set out to write it. I didn’t know whether it should be a book for sailors or people interested in sports. But it’s a book about a life. It’s about the life of a simple person who really loves life.

Including all the ups and downs?

Absolutely. All my big milestones. The successes but also the challenges, like my divorce.

And do you talk about what you went through with cancer?

Yes, certainly. Since day one I’ve been very open about what I was living during that period. Again, I wanted this book to be as true as possible, and that applies to my experience with cancer, for sure.

What do you want readers to take away from this book?

I don’t think I should answer that question, because I’d like to do the opposite – I’d like to ask that question to people reading the book. When I’ve done talks at companies or in public, I’ve discovered that sometimes people learn things from my story that I didn’t learn myself, and that’s so cool. I love it when people tell me, “My conclusions were this and that,” and many times, they’ve spotted things that I didn’t realise.

Your book is just coming out in German and English, but a Spanish version has been available for several weeks. What has the reaction been?

I’m really pleased – in Argentina the book has been very successful, and I’ve received messages that people are enjoying it. That’s a very good feeling.

So what is next for you?

Next is Tokyo. We are training in Italy full-time, and we are pushing and fully, fully focused. We have a big desire to progress and arrive at Tokyo in good form in this year’s strange, but very special, scenario.

Discover more about Santiago Lange’s new book.
Explore more Sailing content HERE.

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