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Would you rather be sailing this week instead of managing the British team?

In many ways, yes. I don't find managing as satisfying. But, the reality of age and skills dictates that I do this job and the younger ones do the sailing.

What is your best memory?

Winning my first world championship in a half-tonner in Trieste in 1976. It seems always that one of your first wins is the best one.

What is the worst?

The Fastnet Race of 1979, when I was sailing for Ireland on Golden Apple of the Sun. We went into that race as leading team and with a clear advantage only to see 15 people lose their lives and two of our three boats did not finish. We lost our rudder and I went home in a helicopter.

And the most embarrassing?

That's easy. Losing King Harald of Norway's yacht almost outside my front door off Cowes. We ran aground and pushed the keel up through the bottom. I had to ring him up and tell him the boat was sunk.

What is your greatest indulgence?

That occasional rush of happiness, which is different to a sense of well being, and which is part of what is already a good day. It could just be a beautiful sunset.

And a private passion?

Much the same really. Many things are related to ambience, like walking in the hills and coming across a vista. Both my wife Lauren and I like rambling together, it brings us together again. And I tend to be a collector of people and moments.

What book did you read recently?

I read all the time, a couple of hours a day, but mainly magazines and newspapers. Books are for planes, and the last was a biography by Robert Harvey of Clive of India. I hadn't realised what an important figure he was. I think, if he had then been given the job he should have been, which was to sort out the United States, history might have been very different.

Do you have any heroes?

I was never much of a one for heroes, who are people you would like to be. You can admire or defer to people, but I am happy in my own skin.

Is there any unfulfilled ambition?

The America's Cup. I was Britain's last skipper in 1986-87. I have no immediate plans, but it is unfinished business.

Interview by Stuart Alexander