Two for one: Jesse and Zander Kirkland have spent three months training at the Olympic venue over the past three years so they feel they are prepared for the conditions they will encounter there. *Photo courtesy of the Kirkland brothers
Two for one: Jesse and Zander Kirkland have spent three months training at the Olympic venue over the past three years so they feel they are prepared for the conditions they will encounter there. *Photo courtesy of the Kirkland brothers

FRIDAY, JULY 27: Perseverance is a key to the Kirkland’s success. Brothers Jesse and Zander Kirkland were determined to qualify for the London Games and were not put off by a lack of results. Then things started to click for them, culminating with them finishing in the top 10 at the World Championships this year and booking their Games’ ticket. They are hoping to continue that good run when sailing gets underway on Monday.

How old were you when you started sailing and what got you involved in the sport?

Jesse: I was seven when I first sailed by myself. I started racing when I was nine.

Zander: I started sailing at 10 years old, racing at 12. Being an islander, it made sense to get involved on the water.

My Dad was a big part of my sailing development. He is a sailor and took me sailing from an early age. I had a blast doing it and it developed from there. For him, I think he believed, the root of it had to start with the fun factor. That certainly was the case for me, as I learned to sail in the beautiful waters of Mangrove Bay with a bunch of friends.

What do you enjoy about sailing?

Jesse: I love being out on the water.

Zander: I love the complex nature of the sport — a mix of physical, mental and wind — and because it gets you on the ocean, one of the most beautiful and a powerful entities on the planet.

When did you believe or what made you might be good enough to be an Olympian some day?

Jesse: Hard to say — it was always a goal from an early age, but probably after my last Optimist Worlds I thought I could do it.

Zander: After Optimists, I was mature enough and aware enough of Bermuda’s rich Olympic sailing tradition that if I continued progressing, the Olympics could be a feasible goal. It was at that point that sailing became a priority along with schoolwork.

What is it like being able to compete at the Olympics with your brother?

Jesse: It’s special. On top of just being able to sail with your brother, being through so much together in the last two years certainly enhances it. We both know exactly how much sacrifice and hard work it took to reach this point.

Zander: It means a lot. We are blood, we had a great childhood together and have always been close. He is a great sailor, the best I know, and I am proud to be in the boat with him. To be at the pinnacle of sport with him is amazing, we never could have imagined that as little kids playing in the punt, following our toy sail boats.

How has training in Weymouth helped for the final preparations?

Jesse: We had a great month of sailing in our final tranche of training. We got stronger, better in breeze and more comfortable just sailing in cold, rainy England.

Zander: It’s been important. We know it is pretty windy and raw. We have spent close to a combined three months there over the past three years. Also, all of our competition have been doing the same thing, so to keep up with them, we had to be there, working hard through all the gnarly conditions.

Besides the competition, what are you most looking forward to about the Olympics?

Jesse: I want to watch some of the best athletes in the world compete in the main Village in London. There are so many great, inspirational stories of athletes achieving their dreams through hard work and perseverance, and being able to witness them compete would be incredible.

What’s your goal for placement at the Olympics and why?

Jesse: Top 10. We are one of, if not, the most inexperienced team in the 49er, so we are being relatively modest with our goal. That said, we are going to be gunning for it, and hoping to turn a few heads.

Zander: This is a small, elite fleet, full of the top sailors. We will be focused on staying mentally disciplined and chipping away each day with solid, consistent scores. We know that mistakes will be costly and will do our best to keep them to a minimum and to try not and let them compound. We got top 10 at the recent World Championship, so we know we can do it. It will just be a case of doing it at the Olympic stage. Sailing is a hard sport to predict results, there is an element of luck involved. But the way to manage it is to bank the good luck and cut your losses when you feel like things aren’t working for you. The Olympic regatta is over a week long and often the best sailors over the course of the event will rise to the top.

Age: 24 (Jessie), 29 (Zander)
Olympics: This is the first Olympics for the brothers.
Did you know? Jesse and Zander have their own blog and it can be found at http://bermudabrothers49ersailing.blogspot.com
Schedule: Racing starts on Monday, July 30 at 8am and continues every day (except Saturday) through Monday, August 4. All races are at 8am. The medal race is slated for Wednesday, August 6 at noon.