“The most important lesson I’ve learnt in my sailing career is to enjoy it all, as these are pretty special opportunities and moments"
- Who inspired you to start sailing?My Dad
- First boat? Mirror dinghy
- First sailing club? Fremantle Sailing Club, Perth WA
- What do you love most about sailing? Just being out on the water
- What has sailing taught you? To do more of what makes you happy
- Favourite ever sailing race? Super Foiler Grand Prix
- How do you keep going when you're on the limit? Thinking of all the training and preparation that you've worked towards to reach this important moment
- Career highlight? Winning the Volvo Ocean Race
- Best advice? Love and live our sport then share it with others
- What other sports do you play now? Rugby, Windsurfing, Cycling
- Funniest team-mate? Joey Newton
28-year-old Luke ‘Parko’ Parkinson is a quintessential modern America’s Cup sailor. A two-times round the world sailor – and Volvo Ocean Race winner – he already has one Cup campaign under his belt. When he’s not sailing he’s still an extreme sports enthusiast; he surfs, windsurfs, skateboards, plays rugby and ‘explores’.“There’re definitely different elements you can draw from any sport, whether it’s the team atmosphere and camaraderie from the rugby field to the feel of the windsurf board or the chance to gain some extra fitness from being out on the bike. Whatever things you’re into I think it clears your mind and helps you improve skills that you can then transfer to other sports.”
Brought up in Perth, Western Australia, Luke’s father hails from Britain, his mother from Melbourne. Aged five, he started sailing at Freemantle Sailing Club following in the footsteps of his family. “Sailing was something that we all did together at the weekend, I started racing once I moved into Optimist dinghies, then sailed Mirrors for a little while, but my first real professional race was at the 2010 Flinders Island Race in Australia.”
Like most young sailors, the sport began as a hobby – he played rugby union alongside - but the more time he spent on the water, the more serious he became and with it came the competitive bug. “I wanted to see how far I could go with it, I did the Nationals and Youth Championships and it just made me want to pursue it further and further.”
“I guess when I was young, I really enjoyed the going-fast element and chasing the fastest possible speed I could. But I’ve always enjoyed sailing with other people, being in that team environment and atmosphere and working together to get the boat around the track. I had a little bit of a taste for international sailing doing some of the World Championships, then from there I started sailing the fastest boats I could get my hands on – 29ers, 49ers, Moths, 18-foot skiffs. It was just one after the after, to get as much experience as I could.”
It’s no surprise that his first real interest in the America’s Cup came around the time that the boats got a lot quicker – the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010. This was a Deed of Gift match between Alinghi and Oracle Racing where the only design parameter was a 90ft load waterline length. Alinghi built a huge catamaran, but were defeated by the Americans’ 100ft trimaran with a radical hard wing.
“The boats used during the AC33 were totally new and like nothing the sailing world had ever seen before. Shortly afterwards in San Francisco (the AC34) we saw the cats start to foil and push new barriers and I guess that’s when I thought that the America’s Cup is probably the highest pinnacle of sailing that you could do.”
His first taste of America's Cup racing came in the 2013 Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in San Francisco - through fellow Australian National Squad member, Jason Waterhouse. Jason offered Luke the opportunity to join Objective Australia as a trimmer. The young squad were based in San Francisco for just over two months, training and racing. After the RBYAC, Luke stayed on to watch the final between Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA, in what turned out to be an epic sporting battle and spectacle.
But, Ocean Racing beckoned with Luke winning a place aboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing for the 2014-2015 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. He was one of only two under-30’s onboard and it was his first round the world race – after ten months of intense racing, they came away winners.“When I was a young sailor living in Fremantle, I saw a lot of round the world boats coming into the port, especially after they got damaged crossing the Southern Ocean. It also used to be a stop on the Whitbread Round the World race, I remember watching the boats come in once with my Dad and I guess it was then it became something I wanted to do and experience - that sense of achievement to actually sail around the world.”
During the Volvo Ocean Race he signed up with Sweden’s Artemis Racing; as soon as it was finished, he joined them for their campaign for the 35thAmerica’s Cup in Bermuda. “ I knew Iain Jensen from training with him in the 49er class, but the opportunity came through our personal trainer at Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Pete Cunningham,who was also the fitness coach at Artemis Racing. The Cup last time was really physical, so I guess they saw my fitness stats and results and were interested in me.”
Artemis Racing progressed to the Louis Vuitton Cup finals, where they were defeated by the eventual winners, Emirates Team New Zealand. Luke then joined Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag for another Volvo Ocean Race.“My last trip round the world was quite a special one, it was with quite a lot of my close friends. I wouldn’t have predicted by any means that I would have done another [Volvo Ocean Race] but it was a fantastic opportunity and I’m so glad that I did it.”
“After the Cup in Bermuda, I was easily the fittest I have ever been. And then, essentially, I had to adapt that fitness into being a bit more resilient and more durable for the Volvo Ocean Race. Basically, instead of having a high cardio fitness you have to become used to moving a lot of weight and it’s a bit more strength conditioning. There was limited training time so I had to adapt a little bit between the two genres of racing and then throughout the race you try and maintain as much as you can. As you go round the world, your fitness slowly deteriorates and it becomes really hard to maintain. I’ve been building it back up since.”
On joining the British Challenge, “I knew some of the guys from INEOS TEAM UK and I started talking to them. My father is from the UK, so I will be extremely proud to race for GB and this team is a very strong contender for winning the Cup. I think amongst the team we have quite a diverse skill set, we’ve got people from various and previous America’s Cups, Volvo Ocean Race experience and through that I think we will pull together and have a strong challenge.
“I’m someone who can provide a good amount of power on the handles but as the boat is developed there is also quite a lot of input from the sailing team. A lot of us have different skills and interests so we try and find areas that we can input into and help the designers along the way. I’m personally quite interested in the mechanics and how the boat works, and the foils and what effects they have on the platform.
“When it comes down to it, we are all fierce competitors, we want to win and do well. The new boats are going to be pretty special, they will be like nothing that anyone has ever seen before, it’s a bigger boat, more crew, a better ‘team’ environment – you have a bigger sailing squad and it’s pretty hard not to be excited when you are going to sail a 75 ft foiling boat, it’s going to be interesting!”