'Those times you get kicked in the teeth,' says Paul Larsen, 'they're not the end of the track but just leading you down a different path.' The ultimate dedicated speed-sailing enthusiast recently took some time out to talk with Jocélyn Bleriot

The Sailrocket pilot could certainly teach us all a thing or two about perseverance, along the way at times his efforts have seemed to border on sheer stubbornness – you'd be tempted to simply ask 'why so much pain?' That certainly was on my list of questions. But after five minutes sitting down with the man, I'd forgotten all about it and just enjoyed the company of this modern-day pioneer, someone defined by his journey and not summed up by a list of achievements.

Larsen grew up on a farm in Healesville in rural Victoria, on top of a hill where his postman father spent most of his free time 'pushing back the forest to build his dream house. There was no town water up there, but there were these little dams, which looked like lakes to me when I was a kid.'

It did not take the young man long to move from model planes – a taste inherited from his father – to sailboats: 'It fascinated me, I played around with proportions and sail sizes, length and beam ratios and so on. Looking back, I was simply learning all the principles… I even ended up ­making a self-steering system with Lego bits and a rigid wing, all that without even having set foot on a boat.'

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