Amazing Race participant, Laurence Sunderland | Teen Ink

Amazing Race participant, Laurence Sunderland

December 9, 2011
By TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
TheJust ELITE, Ellenton, Florida
254 articles 202 photos 945 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I feel that a hero is somebody who will stand up for their values and what they believe in and that can take any form. People that have values and have thought them through rather than those who just do what they’re told."-Skandar Keynes

"When it’

Laurence Sunderland is the owner and operator of Sunderland Yacht Management and one-half of the fan favorite to win season 19 of the Amazing Race.

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Mr. Sunderland for Teen Ink.

Rachel- Tell us a little about yourself.

Laurence Sunderland- Okay. My name is Laurence Sunderland. I am the 48 year old father of eight children. My two oldest are sailing enthusiasts. Zac is the youngest American to solo circumnavigate the world, and was the youngest and first under 18, back in 2009, when he came in for a short while. And Abigail was demasted in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which made the world's news headlines. She was the biggest story in the news for three consecutive days in the world.

RH- What exactly does Sunderland Yacht Management do?

LS- We manage yachts. Anything from, I'd say, 30ft and larger. The main length of boat that we have under management is over 50 and under 70ft. We basically control everything that goes on with the boats. We take care of wash-downs and the bottom cleaning; also all the mechanical alterations to the boat. We generally skipper the boats when the owners take them out.

So we basically take care of everything to do with the boat, from the top to the bottom. The owner of the vessel has one person to speak to, which makes it easier for them rather than dealing with 4 or 5 or 7 different subcontractors.

RH- So what is your specific job description?

LS- I guess, you know, I'm a boat builder. So I can actually build boats, and I have built boats. I can also pull apart any engine on just about any boat and put it back together, so it works. I also get involved with a lot of the marine electronics.

So basically, in a nutshell, I'm a yachting specialist. I span different trades, from plumbing to rigging to yachting engineer. The fortunate thing about what I've done over the years has meant that I can specialize in many different trades within the yachting arena.

RH- My family and I used to live in a marina, and we met some very interesting people there; who is the most interesting person you have ever met in the trade?

LS- Oh, my goodness gracious! That's putting me on the spot... You know, I can tell you, I'm going to hang up and then remember somebody else...

I could think of someone famous... my clients right now are Peter Greenberg from CBS, and a world renowned surgeon, David Lowenberg. They're two of my top clients right now.

But we've also had some very eccentric people over the years. Drug dealers and stuff... You don't know at the time. You engage business and find out. I've had all types of different people from every walk of life; some very professional and some very seedy. It takes a little while before you figure out who the person is and what they really do for a living.

Part of this business is being able to read people.

RH- Now, like you mentioned earlier, your son, Zac, was the youngest person to solo-circumnavigate the world; how did you help him prepare for that trip?

LS- Well, at the age of 16, Zac was limited in his knowledge of the yachting arena—Although he knew a lot more than most because of his upbringing. (He's lived over half of his life on yachts.)

Basically, I helped him in every arena from selecting the boat, doing the operations to the boat so that it would be suitable for the trip... We took an Islander 36, and basically took a Coastal Cruiser and converted it into a Blue Water Cruiser. We reenforced the whole topside, added a cutter rig, put a good electronics package on it, put an arch with solar panels and wind moniter.

RH- Before you and Zac were on the Amazing Race, you have sailed all over the world; where has been your favorite place to visit?

LS- Oh, you've got to stop asking these questions!

Gee, I've traveled for so many [years]. It would depend on the day! But some of my favorite places are in the South Coast of England; also, the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and the Whitsunday Islands in Australia.

Australia is one of my favorite countries to visit. Back when I was 19 years old (a little older than you) I went for a 6 month holiday to Australia and ended up becoming a citizen of the country. I spent 8 ½ years there. So, I really enjoyed Australia. I traveled around the whole country. It's got a lot of very, very diverse climates; you know, you go from Melbourne [where] it's cold, chilly and wintery to the sort of tropics of Queensland.

It's just a fabulous country!

RH- Why did you and Zac decide to participate in the Amazing Race?

LS- We actually were asked to go on the Amazing Race.

We don't watch TV. We don't have TV reception, so it was kind of interesting that we were asked by CBS. After we declined [to participate on a past season] and we declined again, and when we declined [the second time], they asked us, “Why did you decline?” I just said, “Look, I don't mean to be rude, but I'm a very busy person, and I don't really know what you're show is all about. I'm not sure if I'm even [able] to participate because I have a large family, and I've got a business.”

Anyway, they sent us season 15 to look at and Zac really liked it. He really wanted to do it. I was still a little indifferent. But my wife, Marianne, said, “It could be a good idea.” So, we ended up doing it!

RH- Where was your favorite place to visit while on the Amazing Race?

LS- Oh, I know! Phuket! I really liked Phuket, Thailand.

There are places that I would have liked to have gone, but [my favorite] was Phuket. They have all these islands off shore, and stuff. We had no idea that we were going to go there. It was a pleasant surprise when we did. I enjoyed that very much!

The only downside of that is when you're racing, you're not really there, enjoying the scenery. You try and sniff the roses, but the reality is you're in a race to win a million dollars. So, you're moving pretty quick!

RH- You know, I actually have a question about this: My family and I, we love the Amazing Race, and we always wonder how much time do you have between legs to tour the countries you're in?

LS- You know, there isn't any time. Once you hit the mat, you're not supposed to talk to any other teams. It's not like [you have] free reign. That was the part I didn't really enjoy, by the way, about the race. You're sequestered and you're basically confined to a hotel room. You might be able to go out for a cool swim, or something.

That's what happens between the legs.

RH- What was the most difficult task for you to complete?

LS- Ooh. I guess [the last leg] in Copenhagan. That proved to be the most difficult, just from a frustrating standpoint.

Physically, probably moving those tobacco bales. They were very heavy, very dusty and it was extremely hot in Africa!

RH- If you could go back and change anything that you guys did in the race, what would it be?

LS- {laughs} I guess, because we were eliminated, it would have to be something in [our last leg] that would have kept us in the race. I guess, if we could have changed being U-Turned, we would have been in the race for longer.

RH- Something I wanted to ask you about your last episode, you and Zac didn't really want to do the rabbit race, but when you got U-Turned, you had to go and do that; what was your opinion about it once you were finished?

LS- I think rabbits are better eaten and not jumping over steeples. (In England, you eat rabbits.) {laughs} Because you're working so hard to stay in the race, you don't have time for a lot of negativity. If you did, you end up getting overtaken with it and it doesn't serve you well to pursue the goals.

After the rabbits, I was glad that we chose to do the butter [churning] first and it was definitely the right task for us to do. Because what they didn't show you on the [episode] was we actually went through four rabbits before we got a rabbit to actually do what we needed it to. They showed it as a very short task, but we were actually there for quite a long time. I was actually rather frustrated.

The pretty, young lady would say, “Oh, your rabbit is tired. You must get another rabbit.” And I was like, “Well, how do you know?” {laughs}But you know, they're in charge of the whole exercise, and you've got to respect their bunnies. But it was rather frustrating, I must say.

And I love rabbits! We actually have one here. I haven't eaten it! It's my daughter's.

RH- {laughs}

Alright, since you two had no prior knowledge of what the race would be like, what advice do you have for anyone hoping to participate in the Amazing Race?

LS- If you think it looks hard on television, it's ten times as hard [in reality]. Train for it. I had done 20 mile hikes, 8 mile runs, 5 mile runs, and if you think television puts 10 pounds on you, it put 30 pounds on me.

Train very, very hard. Watch as many episodes as you can, so you can understand the rules and everything. 'Cause when you're exhausted, really exhausted, and you're being challenged by the various tasks that are thrown at you, it makes it easier to make a good decision when you're not exhausted and tired.

We were making decisions when I could barely stand up and it was bad. I mean, for an older gentleman, {laughs} I consider myself quite fit. [Still] I could have done with another two months of training before [the race].

RH- What was your overall take on the Amazing Race?

LS- It's a good experience. The actual racing and the challenges, you know, that was a lot of fun; a lot of the down time was frustrating because I would have liked to have visited a little bit and experienced more of the culture. But I did enjoy the race very much.

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