Lars Kyprian is no Sunday sailor. He has won major national regattas and even scored some good results in international competitions. About 20 years ago, however, he fell out of love with sailing – that is, until Rüdiger Böhm came along with his crazy idea.
Lars Kyprian could almost have been born on a boat. Even before he could walk, his parents would take him out on Lake Thun, but sailing was just a hobby for young Lars at first. It started to get serious when, at the age of 14, he and a friend joined the Oberhofen Regatta Club. The club is renowned throughout Switzerland and has produced a number of Olympic and world championship sailors. It wasn’t long before Lars started to notch up victories at national and international regattas, even qualifying for the junior world championships.
Lars enjoyed great success, but there isn’t really much money to be made in the sport of sailing. The amount of time that has to be invested is huge, but the financial rewards are modest. This prompted his sailing partner to concentrate on his career away from the sport. Then 22, Lars also had to think about his future: should he pursue further education or try something completely different? Having originally qualified as an electrician, he soon ended up joining the field sales team at an insurance company. “At the start, I couldn’t imagine working in sales at all, let alone for many years,” he explains. He continued sailing in his free time in the early days, but he enjoyed it less and less. “There came a point when all the international regattas got too much for me, and I could tell that I was burning out,” he freely admits.
From that point on, Lars gave up sailing to focus on his career. His initial skepticism gave way to a close affinity with sales. Since 2013, he has been bringing his experience to bear in training AXA’s sales force staff on pension issues. He likes being around people, be it in a professional environment or a sporting one. Even after his son Nico was born, Lars still tended to give sailing a wide berth. “On family vacations, I did sometimes get itchy fingers and rent a catamaran for a few hours, but that was all the sailing I needed,” he stresses. Sport remained a big part of the Kyprians’ lives, but golf took over from sailing. Lars is often to be found on the green, but it’s 22-year-old Nico who really impresses. Currently living and studying in the US, he’s aiming for a career as a professional golfer.
“With the GP Challenge 2020, I want to show them that they can achieve anything if they set themselves a goal and don’t give up, however unrealistic it may seem to outsiders.”
It was through his son that Lars met Rüdiger Böhm. “Rüdi” was training to be a professional mental coach and started coaching the 14-year-old Nico. Mental coaching is important in golf because a lot of decisions have to be made in the head, and this requires a high level of concentration. That was how the long-standing friendship between Lars and Rüdiger came about.
The two friends came up with the idea for the GP Challenge 2020 over a glass of prosecco at the end of 2017. “I hoped that he’d get a good soaking on our trial runs, swallow a load of water, and quickly lose interest in sailing. Secretly, though, I knew for sure that Rüdi wouldn’t give up sailing after just one week,” explains Lars. He was right. During their week of trials on Lake Garda, Lars realized that the sailing challenge with his friend might actually work out.
For more than 20 years, no one could persuade Lars to get back into sailing in a serious way. So why is the AXA pensions specialist getting himself involved in an adventure like this now? Lars isn’t an archetypal adrenaline junkie who pushes his body to the limit, come what may. “I’m not a loner, I love team sports. I could never run a marathon, I’d be beaten by my inner demon,” he says pointedly.
Lars says he can’t pinpoint one specific reason for agreeing to take part but explains it like this: “At AXA, I’m there to support my team. With the GP Challenge 2020, I want to show them that they can achieve anything if they set themselves a goal and don’t give up, however unrealistic it may seem to outsiders.” He’s also drawn to the mental challenge: “Every day’s going to be different, we’ll get up in the morning not knowing what the day has in store for us. We’ve got no control over the weather and the wind.” Rüdiger also played an important part in his decision. “Even though Rüdiger has no legs, so we have to be extremely careful on the boat, I wouldn’t attempt the GP Challenge with anyone else,” he says with confidence. He firmly believes that you can only push your limits as part of a functioning team, and the multi-talented Rüdiger is his ideal teammate.